IDEOLOGICAL differences between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations may threaten the inclusive government deal signed on Monday in a bid to end the countryâ€™s decade-long crisis.
The differences were apparent in the acceptance speeches by the pactâ€™s principals, President Robert Mugabe and the leaders of both formations of the MDC â€“â€“ Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.
Under the agreement, Mugabe remains president, Tsvangirai will be prime minister and Mutambara one of the two deputy prime ministers. The other deputy prime minister will come from the Tsvangirai-led MDC.
Political analysts and commentators said Tsvangirai and Mutambara spoke about hope and the future, but Mugabe was unable to move away from the past and perceived enemies.
Alex Magaisa, a law lecturer at Kent University, Britain, said while there was no doubt that the country cannot ignore the gravity of history, it was also necessary to look to the future and the possibilities that it offers.
“It seems to me that those speeches may be harbingers of a difficult future because if others try to build bridges with external partners, especially in the West, it may be that they could be destroyed by other members of the team,” Magaisa said in written responses to questions by the Zimbabwe Independent. “I think Mugabe needs to appreciate that Tsvangirai and Mutambara understand the problems that Zimbabwe has faced and the challenges of dealing with the external parties, but also that they can bring in a new perspective and direction that is mutually beneficial.”
He noted that despite the agreement endorsing the irreversibility of the 2000 land reform programme, Mugabe on Monday spoke angrily about the issue.
“If the rhetoric of antagonism continues, it will ultimately affect the positive perception of unity and common purpose that they have been trying to build collectively,” Magaisa observed.
“There is a risk that such differences could work against the success of the inclusive government.”
Political scientist Michael Mhike said it was evident at the official signing of the deal that there still exist transitional challenges, arguing that Mugabe was yet to accept responsibility for the comatose economy.
“Rather, he still believes that the ascendancy of the opposition is nothing but a direct consequence of the machinations of the West,” Mhike observed.
“He is still bitter and it will probably take some time for him to be convinced that the opposition truly represents the wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans.”
He said land and empowerment issues were likely to test the deal.
“Equally, the economic turnaround options are limited and Mugabe has set views on what should be done and he appears unlikely to be flexible,” Mhike argued.
“To what extent the opposition comes up with a united front that can also attract reform-minded people in Zanu PF to see that the country is bigger than their individual egos will determine the pace and direction of changes to come.”
Zimbabwean-born South Africa businessman Mutumwa Mawere said the implementation of the deal could be scuttled by Mugabeâ€™s stubbornness.
“It is safe to say that people must fasten their seat belts,” Mawere said. “Mugabe can be stubborn and the need to manage him cannot be overstated. His stubbornness is born out of his contention that there exist forces bent on subverting the sovereignty of the country and he is not satisfied that the country is safe without his custodial input.”
He suggested that it would be up to Zimbabweans to show Mugabe “what time it is”.
“Indeed, it is time for change and time to look forward and stop dwelling on the past, however painful that may be. Tsvangirai set the tone for the future and together with Mutambara they provided a framework within which the new administration ought to function,” Mawere added.
He argued that Mugabeâ€™s speech was significant in that many people expected to hear a different voice, but ended up hearing the “tired and bitter voice” even after he acknowledged the defining nature of the signing ceremony.
The analysts said the inclusive government agreement, as a compromise document, was fairly messy and left some grey areas whose resolution will depend on the political will of the signatories.
The analysts said the deal provides that executive authority shall be shared among the President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and the cabinet, but does not clearly demarcate the boundaries of the powers of the president and the prime minister.
This, the analysts added, was a source of potential conflict between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in implementing the deal.
“Nevertheless, there is a crucial provision, which states that in exercising executive authority, the parties must have regard to the â€˜principles and spiritâ€™ underlying the agreement to form the inclusive government,” Magaisa said.
“This is very important because it creates a second tier beyond the constitution, so that when exercising executive authority, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and his senior counterparts do not simply resort to a legalistic interpretation of the constitution.”
He observed that they must at all times attempt to uphold the values underlying the agreement.
“If they do that, which requires great political will, I like to think that they might just be able to find a way through the legal labyrinth,” Magaisa argued.
The analysts said Tsvangiraiâ€™s council of ministers is no more than a special committee of the cabinet to be chaired by Mugabe despite the deal not specifying which organ takes precedence over the other.
One of the analysts noted that the council of ministers is composed of the cabinet and argued that in some cases there could be a “bizarre scenario whereby the cabinet may be required to report to itself, where the agreement says the council of ministers shall report to cabinet”.
“They are effectively the same animal by different names,” a lawyer who asked for anonymity said.
“A lot will depend on the practicalities, such as which of the two meets more frequently.”
He added: “If I were to use an analogy from corporate organisations, the council of ministers is more like the management committee which is involved in the day-to-day management of government business under the supervision of Tsvangirai, with the cabinet as the board of directors, meeting periodically under the supervision of Mugabe and his vice-presidents who, to take the analogy further, are effectively non-executive directors.”
Tsvangirai, the lawyer argued, would have the management power on a day-to-day basis while Mugabe has supervisory authority.
Mutambara told the Zimbabwe Independent that while there were areas of potential differences and conflicts, the parties had a common agenda to address the countryâ€™s humanitarian, political and economic crisis.
“There will be differences, but that which unites us is much stronger and much more fundamental than that which divides us,” Mutambara said.
“This means we have a common agenda to provide solutions to the political crisis, humanitarian crisis and political crisis in our country. What we need to do is to craft and define a shared value system, some co-principles that are invariably acceptable to the three players.”
By Constantine Chimakure