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Leaders Meet Over Cabinet

ZIMBABWE’S political leaders who signed a power-sharing agreement in Harare yesterday meet today to allocate ministries to their parties and assign ministers to relevant portfolios as they prepare for a new cabinet to be announced any time from now.


President Robert Mugabe would meet Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai and the deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to sort out ministries and ministers after they agreed on Saturday to rebrand and rename the newly-created 31 new ministries. At the weekend they did not discuss the distribution of ministries and appointment of cabinet ministers. That will be done today.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Mugabe’s chief negotiator, confirmed the meeting which would push forward the process of the formation of a new government after the signing of the agreement yesterday.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, the facilitator of the negotiations, said the three parties’ negotiators were now working on how to constitute a new government.

“Some discussions have already started about the constitution of this inclusive government, (but) they have not yet concluded,” Mbeki said. “I am confident that they will do so as soon as possible.”

Mugabe would appoint Tsvangirai the Prime Minister and two deputy prime ministers who would include Mutambara and Thokozani Khuphe, Tsvangirai’s deputy in his opposition MDC formation before the current constitution is amended to faciliate the agreement.

Negotiators say it would take them at least 60 days for the constitution to be amended to incorporate the agreement to facilitate a smooth running of the government. It is expected a draft constitutional amendment proposal would be done by Friday next week. It would be officially gazetted and then publicly debated for 30 days before being introduced to parliament for about two weeks.

After that it would go for presidential assent and then published in the government gazette after signing to become part of the constitution.

A Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee would be formed to ensure implementation of the agreement. A process for a new constitution would start soon and end in 18 months.

Mugabe would appoint 31 cabinet ministers and 15 deputy ministers.

His ruling Zanu PF would have 15 ministers, Tsvangirai’s faction 13 and Mutambara’s group three. Zanu PF would get eight deputy ministers, the MDC Tsvangirai faction six and one for the Mutambara camp.

“The president shall, pursuant to this agreement, appoint the Prime Minister pending the enactment of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 19 as agreed by the parties,” the agreement says.

“The president shall also formally appoint deputy prime ministers, ministers and deputy ministers in accordance with this agreement.”

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara yesterday formally signed a power-agreement amid pomp and fanfare in the capital Harare, raising hopes of ending the country’s decade-long political and economic crisis.

The move set a tough credibility test for the new government of national unity between Zanu PF and the MDC which has now collectively taken control of parliament to ensure the country’s recovery from a catastrophic economic collapse.

Governments of national unity have a dismal record in Africa. They have been tried and failed in Angola, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. They have also been unsuccessful in South Africa and Zimbabwe shortly after independence from Britain in 1980.

The latest all-inclusive government in Zimbabwe would be the third one in 28 years of Mugabe’s rule. The first one all but collapsed after two years after the sacking of Joshua Nkomo and PF Zapu ministers in 1982, while the second one, which came in 1987 after a low intensity civil war and massacres in the western region, presided over the current political and economic problems amid internal bickering and lack of cohesion.

In terms of the agreement, Mugabe effectively remains as the head of state, head of government, chairman of cabinet, the primary policy and decision-making body, and commander-in-chief of the defence forces. He would also chair the National Security Council (currently JOC), his pillar of strength.

However, Mugabe’s powers have slightly been curtailed as he would now make key appointments “on the advice of” cabinet, “after consultation with” the prime minister and “in consultation with” the prime minister.

“After consultation with” means he has discretion to act alone, while “in consultation with” means he can only act by consensus.

Tsvangirai will become prime minister chairing a Council of Ministers, deputy cabinet chairman and head of government business in parliament.

He will supervise all the ministers and report to Mugabe, while ensuring the formulation and implementation of policies.

The agreement has sections on restoration of economic stability and growth; land; sanctions; constitution; national healing and unity; respect for national institutions; external interference; free political activity; rule of law; freedom of assembly and association; freedom of communication and expression; traditional leaders; state organs and institutions; national youth training; humanitarian food assistance; legislative agenda and framework for a new government. It also has a provision on executive powers.

Local and regional political leaders expressed optimism that the new government would succeed.

Mugabe, whose address was full of rhetoric on the past and usual attacks on western countries, said he was committed to the deal even though he admitted he was unhappy some of its aspects.

“We are committed, I am committed, let us all be committed,” Mugabe said. “We will do our best.”

Mugabe was intermittently jeered throughout his speech by a crowd that cheered Tsvangirai to the rafters. He unsuccessfully tried to fight hecklers who taunted him when he claimed sanctions and western nations caused the suffering in Zimbabwe.

The crowd was rather unenthusiastic about Mutambara’s address.

Botswana President Ian Khama competed with Tsvangirai in popularity ratings among the crowd, which chanted “Khama, Khama, Khama” when he arrived and during proceedings.

Khama was cheered for opposing Mugabe’s recent disputed electoral victory. Mugabe tried to make amends by calling Khama a “close friend and a relative even”.

President Thabo seemed popular with the crowds for facilitating the deal. Mugabe described Mbeki was a “heroic facilitator”.

Tsvangirai said the new government could not afford a business as usual attitude and needs to tackle economic and social problems immediately.

“This new, inclusive government will introduce a new way of governing. I call on all supporters for Zanu PF and MDC to unite as Zimbabweans. Divisions, polarisation and hatred belong to the past,” Tsvangirai said.

“Party divisions no longer matter. Safety must be restored to our community, our state institutions must serve the people. Our lives begin now. Let us not be divided by our past, but be united by hope for the future.”

While Tsvangirai and other leaders were claiming “divisions are a thing of the past” their supporters were fiercely skirmishing outside the hotel grounds where the signing ceremony was. Zanu PF and MDC activists threw missiles and chased each other around as political tensions erupted.

Police had to intervene to disperse the marauding band of angry political combatants.

However, there was a carnival atmosphere among signing the Zanu PF and MDC supporters at venue who greeted and mingled freely as they chanted party slogans and sung at full volume to celebrate the agreement.

Mutambara said the power-sharing agreement was a “compromise and limited document” which “must be used to extricate our country from a humanitarian, economic and political crisis”.

Sadc organ on politics, defence and security chairman, King Mswati III of Swaziland, said parties had agreed to “change the political landscape for the benefit of their country”.

He said there was an urgent need for reconstitution and reconciliation. Mswati urged the international community to provide financial aid to Zimbabwe and lift sanctions to facilitate the rebuilding of Zimbabwe.

The European Union said yesterday it was adopting a “wait-and-see attitude” to the power-sharing deal, leaving its sanctions intact but ready to reconsider them next month.

Britain said it stood ready “in principle” to support the new government in Zimbabwe, although a lot would depend on events on the ground.

United States ambassador to Harare James McGee would not comment, suggesting Washington was sceptical about the agreement. “I have no comment,” McGee told the Zimbabwe Independent. “I need to consult and we will make our position known later.”

Sources said the Americans were irritated by Mugabe’s hostile rhetoric.

“The problem that we have now is a problem that has been created by a former colonial power wanting to continue to interfere in our domestic affairs. Zimbabwe’s land belongs to Zimbabweans,” Mugabe said.

“They interfered with our processes, they wanted to reverse them and still want to reverse them. They (Britain) spoke of regime change and they are still speaking of it. They imposed sanctions.

We had not attacked Britain, we had not done anything to Britain. We had not attacked America. Why, why, why the hand of the Americans here? Let us ask that,” Mugabe said amid jeers from MDC supporters.

African Union chairman President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania said the agreement marked a “momentous day for Zimbabwe and the dawn of a new era”.

By Dumisani Muleya/Constantine Chimakure

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