Mixed Reactions To Power-sharing Deal

REGIONAL leaders have expressed optimism in Zimbabwe’s power–sharing agreement signed yesterday, while the international community said it will study the deal first before making a decision.

 

President Robert Mugabe and leaders of the two MDC formations Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed the deal brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki at a colourful ceremony in the capital.

The regional leaders made a passionate appeal to the international community to recognise the agreement and provide financial assistance to the country for its economic revival.

King Mswati, the head of state and government of Swaziland and chairperson of Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, appealed to Britain and its Western allies, and the United States, to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe. “I wish to request the international community to support this complex process by for instance considering the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe and avail all possible financial assistance for rebuilding Zimbabwe,” said King Mswati after Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara signed the deal.

Britain and the European Union (EU) said they wanted to study the deal first before considering lifting of sanctions and re-engaging Zimbabwe.

The EU, which met yesterday, said a decision on the lifting of sanctions was postponed to next month.

Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said he expected the deal to open “a new page” for Zimbabwe. The US government expressed cautious optimism about the deal, but stressed that it was “anxious” to see the full details. “Our number one priority is that you have a legitimate government in Zimbabwe that represents the will of the people,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband said he would want to see the unity government make significant progress before his country could consider lifting sanctions.

Opposition political parties in South Africa expressed hope in the inclusive government that would see Mugabe retaining the presidency while Tsvangirai and Mutambara would assume the role of prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively.

SA opposition Democratic Alliance former leader Tony Leon, however, said although the agreement ushered a ray of hope, the allocation of key ministries could be contentious. “Of particular concern is the indication that the security ministries — which have been used by Zanu PF as instruments of political violence — will by-and-large remain under Mugabe’s control,” Leon said.

“We hope, however, for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, whose country has been crippled by years of socio-economic turmoil and political violence at the hands of Mugabe’s repressive regime, that the signing of today’s agreement, however flawed, will signal the beginning of a new era of peace, stability and prosperity in the country.

We also hope that today’s deal will be the last in a series of political solutions in Africa, which ignore the democratic consensus and threaten to undermine our chances of seeing true democracy take root and flower on the continent.” Ben Skhosana of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) also gave thumbs up to the new deal.

“The IFP further commends the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki and his team, His Majesty King of Swaziland King Mswati III and the representatives of the African Union and Sadc, for their sterling efforts in bringing these negotiations to the agreed power-sharing deal,” Skosana said.

Political analysts and commentators in Zimbabwe expressed reservations to the deal, saying it could widen the divisions between the protagonists if not fully implemented.

University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said although the new deal gave an “air of promise” to the country’s political and economic woes, more was required to ensure the sustainability of the agreement.

“Because of the deep-rooted mistrust and suspicion, it may be difficult for the three principals to work productively and cooperatively,” said Masunungure. “This deal could mark the institutionalisation of a gridlock that is difficult to unlock.

It could be a recipe for deadlock due to the deep-rooted ideological differences between the two leaders. It will be a learning experience to overcome challenges and it is really up to Tsvangirai and Mugabe to embrace this agreement.” He said what was needed, however, was an oversight mechanism that would make the leaders committed. “This entails all parties playing in accordance or compliance with the rules.” Masunungure said. He said Mugabe’s call on Western countries not to interfere in the country’s internal affairs was “grandstanding”. “The deal at the moment is expected to stop further deterioration but the actual picking up should not be expected anytime soon,” Masunungure said. Lovemore Majongwe, the secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said although the landmark deal was progressive, the development was a wake up call for civic society.

“What we need to understand is that this is a landmark development from erstwhile irreconcilable parties,” said Majongwe. “The civil society, however, should not go into bed with any one of the three political parties like what happened at independence. In 1980 they got into marriage with Zanu PF and became pregnant, they failed to provide the relevant checks and balances required in a democracy.

We are going to remain committed in providing these checks and balances.

Mugabe’s remarks on the foreign policy were matters of principle. What however matters is the implementation of the policies by the technocrats.” The clergy also endorsed the power-sharing deal saying it could turn around the country’s fortunes. “We see this as a seed of a bigger tree that will provide shade not only in Zimbabwe but for Africa as a whole,” said the Christian Alliance yesterday.

“As the church we didn’t fight for any party and now we are excited that we now have a political platform for other things to follow.” The alliance added: “This momentous event breaks a culture of political intolerance, where people will freely associate on equal levels without fear.

It should however be observed that it (the deal) is not perfect, we have rough edges that still need to be dealt with, we need to prioritise because people have suffered so much, we need to look at things that come first in life.”

By Bernard Mpofu/Jeslyn Dendere