INTERVIEW: A weekend Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit in South Africa failed to broker a deal to end the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe despite spirited efforts by
Â regional leaders to get the negotiating parties in Zimbabwe to close ranks.
Basildon Peta caught up with two of the key negotiating parties soon after the summit ended.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the larger formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who has refused to sign a deal currently on the table, explains in detail why a deadlock remains.
QUESTION: There were a lot of expectations that a deal would be signed by the end of the Sadc summit on Sunday. That did not happen and it seems we are back to square one. Why?
ANSWER: Well, we have not made much progress because the expectation was that President Mbeki would use the collective leadership wisdom of Sadc to bring the parties to some form of an agreement. Now it would appear that on the other outstanding issues, we are still as far apart as at the beginning. The only fortunate thing is that both parties realise that they cannot walk away from the negotiations.
Q: What are these issues that still hold this dialogue back?
A: The real differences arise out of the roles and powers of the two critical positions in this proposed government, which is the powers of the president and powers of the prime minister, especially in terms of authority, in terms of who is responsible for what.
Q: There is a view that you are overplaying your hand in these negotiations since you did not win an absolute majority in Parliament on March 29 to justify claiming complete executive power. Only one seat separates you from Zanu PF minus the 10 seats that Arthur Mutambaraâ€™s faction holds?
A: We are not claiming complete executive power. We are talking about shared executive power. Anyone who claims that we are overplaying our hand doesnâ€™t understand the mandate given to us by the people on 29 March. The thing that is fundamental is that the people of Zimbabwe spoke. Fifty seven percent of the people who voted said they no longer had any confidence in Mugabe. If you then consider the events of June 27 (the run-off election) which was not accepted by anyone, then you can ask where Mugabe derives his legitimacy.
Itâ€™s Zanu PF which is therefore overplaying its hand. He (Mugabe) can only get legitimacy by saying that he is the caretaker president until another election is held. Thatâ€™s why there is need for a transition. Thatâ€™s why Mugabe cannot continue to enjoy the same powers he had before.
Q: We understand that Sadc tabled a last minute compromise deal that you and Mugabe rejected. Can you let us in on that?
A: No Sadc proposal was given to us. All we were told is that we have to be part of the process in order to influence the process without specifically defining how that process is going to work in real terms. And that is the difficulty we have got.
Q: Who is the stumbling block in this whole process?
A: From what we see and when you analyse the powers of the president and the prime minister, and you see that there is no shared responsibility and authority, you then have to say itâ€™s Zanu PF who is the stumbling block.
Q: But Zanu PF says you are the stumbling block?
A: Let them demonstrate what powers they have ceded to the prime minister or to the other party. Identify those areas and you will easily see who is the stumbling block.
Q: The deal on the table that you refused to sign stipulates that executive power will reside in the president, prime minister and cabinet. Itâ€™s an all-encompassing arrangement . . . which Zanu PF says will foster collective responsibility rather than try to make a distinction between president and PM?
A: There is no such thing as collective executive authority. Somebody is responsible. Why are they afraid of pinpointing that you (Mugabe) is responsible as head of state for these functions and you (Tsvangirai) is responsible for government with these functions? That demarcation of responsibility is very important for accountability purposes, for authority purposes. You cannot expect the MDC to be tasked with turning around the mess in Zimbabwe without being given authority. Does that make sense?
Q: Your stance is that the prime minister should chair Cabinet, appoint Cabinet ministers, and generally be in charge of running Cabinet. Do you foresee yourself compromising and negotiating that position?
A: That is our fundamental position. Itâ€™s very very fundamental and non-negotiable. It would be unprecedented to have a president with a ceremonial prime minister . . . We have said to them we donâ€™t want to have a ceremonial president. But we also donâ€™t want to have a ceremonial prime minister.
Q: If Zanu PF thinks that they have given much power to the position of prime minister, why donâ€™t you tell them to have that position and your party assumes the presidency?
A: We told Sadc that. We said letâ€™s swap roles. If they donâ€™t want to concede the facts, we said the other solution is for them to take the prime ministerâ€™s role and we take the presidentâ€™s.
Q: And what did Sadc say?
A: I donâ€™t think they said anything on it.
Q: And what about Mugabe?
A: I donâ€™t know what his response is to that.
Q: There is also a view that progress is stalled because the style of President Mbekiâ€™s mediation, deemed by some to be pro-Mugabe, is part of the problem?
A: I am in the negotiations as one of the parties and it would be improper to start besmirching the mediation effort.
Q: Another view is that you havenâ€™t adequately reached out to Arthur Mutambaraâ€™s faction of the MDC which is now allegedly siding with Zanu PF in the talks to your disadvantage?
A: Itâ€™s in the public domain that we announced to the whole world that we have a coalition agreement. So what kind of reaching out is needed, other than to observe the conditions of that coalition agreement? If the Mutambara group have decided to align with Zanu PF, thatâ€™s their choice. But they must also know that in terms of that coalition agreement, there is a breach.
Q: Are you speaking as one with Mutambara in the negotiations? At his press conference last week, he said you ought to put Zimbabwe first, implying that he disagrees with your positions?
A: I thought we were all playing in the same court . . . But it would appear that that is not the case. They (the Mutambara faction) have other views. And I think we need to revisit the coalition agreement and ask them whether we are still together insofar as these negotiations are concerned.
Q: Sadc has said Parliament can now be reconvened. What effect will this have on the negotiations in view of the fact that the MoU had said convening of Parliament and appointment of Cabinet ought to be delayed until the negotiations are completed?
A: It will have no effect. As far as we are concerned, we donâ€™t see anything wrong with that. Let Parliament be reconvened.
Q: What about Cabinet?
A: Parliament is the expression of the will of the people. Cabinet is another thing. Convening Parliament does not necessarily mean that a Cabinet should be appointed. If Parliament is being reconvened to deal with this dispute, then let it deal with the dispute. But that does not mean Mugabe unilaterally goes to form a government and have Cabinet ministers. If that is the intention, then it will be a breach of the MoU.
Q: So where do things stand now? When are these negotiations resuming and where and for how long?
A: I am not the mediator. That is the responsibility of President Mbeki, the mediator, to manage. We have not heard anything from him as yet.
Q: What happens if this deadlock remains? It looks like Mugabe is not going to budge and you will not budge?
A: Leadership is not just about compromise, itâ€™s also about principle and about the people. Itâ€™s not about an elite pact or position sharing. Itâ€™s about peopleâ€™s expectations. The peopleâ€™s expectations are clear. They want a democratic government to take them out of this crisis caused by mismanagement. Achieving such a government will remain our goal.
Q: Zanu PF keeps on alleging that a deal with you remains difficult because you are reporting and taking instructions from Britain and the United States who have said they will not fund any government in which Mugabe remains powerful?
A: Well I am sure that you know the Zanu PF rhetoric, and line and lies. They always say that the MDC does not think for itself. We are even being accused that the position papers we are presenting are being written by the British and the Americans. Itâ€™s very unfortunate. They continue with this paranoia of a conspiracy. But if they were honest, they would go out and try to find out what are the peopleâ€™s expectations. If they can build confidence in us, we will build confidence in them. Thatâ€™s the only way to move forward.
Q: Whatâ€™s next if nothing is resolved in Mbekiâ€™s mediation?
A: This is a conflict of emotions and not principals. The sooner Zanu PF realises that they have no monopoly in determining the future of the country and that they have to accommodate MDC as partner and not as an enemy, the better.
Q: What is your Plan B if the dialogue fails?
A: Ah! We canâ€™t start discussing plan Bs, plan Cs, plan Ds, and plan Es . . .
Q: One of the army commanders is said to have told a meeting of the Joint Operations Command that the only way to get the MDC to agree to a deal is to kill you. Are you afraid?
A: Well they have all the guns, and I canâ€™t prevent them from planning to eliminate me. But if they succeed, they would have my blood on their hands. â€“â€“ ZimOnline.