MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai did not sign the final agreement to share power with President Robert Mugabe but instead demanded his role as the de facto head of government be guaranteed in writing as part of the deal, it has emerged.
Tsvangirai, who on Tuesday refused to sign the agreement, has said he remains committed to the talks and is understood to have demanded that the pact should clearly state in writing that he is head of government instead of leaving it unspecified.
Tsvangirai feared that if it was not written down his powers could be usurped along the way by Mugabe and his cronies in a bid to undermine him.
Sources said Mugabe and MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara were ready to sign because Tsvangirai had managed to extract significant concessions which gave him powers similar to those of a prime minister who is head of government.
An outline of Tsvangiraiâ€™s role in government is contained in a document titled Functions and Powers of the Prime Minister that would have been part of the final consolidated document forming the final agreement to be signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara and President Thabo Mbeki.
Zanu PF and MDC faction negotiators had virtually agreed on everything on the agenda of the talks, except a few contentious issues. Negotiators have agreed and signed several documents covering economic stability and growth, sanctions, land, promotion of equality, national healing, unity and cohesion, external interference, free political activity, the rule of law, state organs and institutions, legislative priorities, security of persons and prevention of violence, media, and external radio stations.
These separate agreements were signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Mbeki.
Mbeki and Mutambara indicated this week there was only one unresolved issue, but MDC negotiator Tendai Biti yesterday said there were “three outstanding matters”, although he did not specify them.
An MDC source confirmed Tsvangirai did not sign because of a stalemate over three things.
“As far as we are concerned there was a deadlock over three things,” the source said. “There was no agreement on the distribution of powers between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the tenure of the transitional government and adoption of a new constitution.”
The MDC wants an interim government for 30 months, while Zanu PF wants five years. The opposition also wants last yearâ€™s draft constitution adopted immediately, while Zanu PF wants it after three years. Leaders were all but agreed on a transitional government for five years and a new constitution after 18 months.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s MDC faction spokesman Tapiwa Mashakada said to resolve the impasse would require aÂ â€œproper distribution and balance of powerâ€ to ensure political stability.
Sources said Tsvangirai wanted more specific powers. The Functions and Powers of the Prime Minister document gives Tsvangirai the authority to supervise all government ministers and their ministries. He would also be responsible for the formulation and coordination of government policies.
This basically makes Tsvangirai a de facto head of government. However, he also wants the de jure position of head of government. It is said Mugabe is not willing to have the agreement specifically mention that Tsvangirai would be head of government because that effectively reduces him to a ceremonial head of state.
â€œTsvangirai wants it written as part of the agreement, but Mugabe argues this would be a back-door way of making him a non-executive president,â€ a source said. â€œThe agreement is that Mugabe is an executive president and Tsvangirai an executive prime minister.â€
Sources said the talks in the end were focused on a hybrid proposal which has elements from Zanu PF and MDC inputs. The proposal resembles in some respects a French-style system that Zimbabwe almost got during the constitutional reform process between 1999 and 2000.
By Dumisani Muleya