TIME is up for President Robert Mugabe and the MDCâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai to seal a negotiated political settlement to end the countryâ€™s 10-year crisis, political analysts have said.
The analysts said Tsvangiraiâ€™s utterances at the weekend that he would not sign a Sadc-brokered deal with Mugabe because he had “time and people” on his side were misplaced.
Marking the partyâ€™s ninth anniversary in Gweru on Sunday, Tsvangirai said: “Mugabe should be head of state and I (should be) head of government. If he does not accept that, let it be. We have time on our hands and we have the people on our side. We would rather have no deal than a bad deal.”
He also called for fresh elections, supervised and monitored by international organisations, if problems in power-sharing negotiations persist.
The talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai were deadlocked in mid-August after the two failed to agree on what power the 84-year-old nationalist and the opposition leader would wield as president and prime minister respectively.
The talks, being brokered by South African president Thabo Mbeki on behalf of Sadc, resumed on Monday amid optimism that a breakthrough could be found between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Political analysts said Tsvangiraiâ€™s reckoning was that the countryâ€™s economy would deteriorate further to his advantage if a deal for a unity government was not reached.
The countryâ€™s economy has been flagging in the past 10 years and has been characterised by high inflation, scarcity of foreign currency, ballooning domestic and foreign debt, low industry production capacity, over 80% unemployment rate and shortage of basic commodities.
The free-fall economy has resulted in more 70% of Zimbabweans living in abject poverty.
As a result of the political situation, Zimbabwe has been isolated by global multilateral financial institutions and the international community at large, though the government argues that the move is meant to remove Mugabe from power.
The crisis, analysts said, should prompt political protagonists to reach a negotiated political settlement soon, that would in turn see the country returning to the league of the international community and start accessing lines of credit and other financial assistance to revive the economy.
Michael Mhike, a political scientist, said suffering Zimbabweans wanted Tsvangirai and Mugabe to strike a deal like yesterday and questioned how the opposition leader intends to rule once the countryâ€™s infrastructure and economy have completely collapsed.
“My reading is that Tsvangirai hopes that the economy will continue to slide to his advantage, but he is forgetting that the people he is purporting to represent would be suffering and may dump him,” Mhike said. “Does he want to lead a country where the economy has totally collapsed and there is no infrastructure to talk about?”
He said Tsvangirai should not hold the country to ransom, but should instead continue with the talks until an agreement is found.
“Certainly the time is not in his hands. He might have the people at the moment, but once they discover that he is the source of their suffering, they will abandon him,” Mhike said. “Tsvangirai and Mugabe must compromise now than later. We cannot afford to stay a day longer without a compromise between the two.”
Another political analyst and Mugabeâ€™s rabid critic John Makumbe disagreed with Tsvangirai that he had time on his hands.
Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, said the opposition leaderâ€™s utterances revealed that he had become a stumbling block in coming up with a pact to end the countryâ€™s decade-long crisis.
“The time Tsvangirai was referring to, in my view, is the meltdown in the economy and the problems associated with it,” Makumbe said. “He was saying all problems Zimbabweans will go through will be blamed on Mugabe, not him.”
He said Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the leader of the smaller faction of the MDC Arthur Mutambara, had no time on their hands and should have reached an agreement by now.
“Our crisis should have been resolved during the March 29 elections. Anything beyond that is timeout. The people of Zimbabwe do not have time on their hands,” Makumbe argued.
“Tsvangirai should not be a stumbling block. He should realise that without compromise there is no solution. There must be give and take, not take alone.”
He continued: “In these talks time is of essence. No one has time on his hands. People of Zimbabwe cannot continue to suffer because of procrastination.”
Mutumwa Mawere, a Zimbabwean-born South African businessman, was of the opinion that Tsvangirai has the people on his side and his decision not to append his signature has demonstrated that his “cause was far greater than his personal” ambitions.
He argued that the deal being negotiated was meant to accommodate Mutambara, Mugabe and Tsvangirai as individuals.
“It turns out that Mutambara may not enjoy the support of his constituency to give him a credible standing in any negotiations,” Mawere argues.
He said if this was the case, there should have been a realisation by Sadc and interested parties that no pact that places Tsvangirai in a subservient position to Mugabe would be credible.
“By refusing to sign the deal, Tsvangirai has earned himself not only the respect of democratic forces, but a unique place in the history of the country,” Mawere argued. “He was indeed under immense pressure from Sadc, but he managed to prevail knowing that the people were with him and his cause was far greater than his personal ambitions. This takes leadership and he has demonstrated to all who doubted the justice of his cause to begin to think seriously about who he is.”
Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor, argued that Tsvangirai had time on his side.
“The economy is deteriorating on a daily basis and this is the greatest source of pressure for Mugabe,” he said. “While Mugabe is in a hurry to arrest further decline and even collapse, Tsvangirai can afford to watch and wait. What the ballot may have failed to deliver to Tsvangirai, the economy may very well do. Tsvangirai has the advantage of time and all he needs is patience.”
By Constantine Chimakure