PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and his opposition MDC rivals yesterday ran into a deadlock over the allocation of ministries to pave way for the appointment of a cabinet after clashing over portfolios.
The move stalled the process which would have led to the appointment of cabinet ministers and formation of a new government of national unity to tackle the economic and social problems buffeting the country.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s party spokesman Nelson Chamisa confirmed the deadlock.
“The outstanding issues were not resolved during yesterdayâ€™s meeting among the political leaders. The matter was referred to the negotiating teams for further discussion,” Chamisa said.
Zanu PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said the portfolio allocation task proved to be “too laborious” for the political leaders and they passed it over to the negotiators.
“The meeting took place, but the principals found the task too laborious and referred it to their negotiators. The task is to allocate ministries to the parties and not assign individuals to particular ministries,” Chinamasa said. “I donâ€™t know when we are going to meet as we are still trying to find each other and arrange the meeting.”
Mutambara however yesterday told a foreign radio station that: “We have agreed on most allocation of ministries, only a few are remaining. Consultations are continuing.”
The impasse, sources said, was over key ministries such as finance, home affairs, local government, foreign affairs, justice and information. There was no clash over defence and state security, now a department under Mugabeâ€™s office, as Tsvangirai was prepared to concede the two in exchange for finance or home affairs.
However, Mugabe wanted all important portfolios for Zanu PF. This was rejected by the MDC, forcing the deadlock.
The sources said the impasse developed after Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to compromise on their lists. The other MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara is said to have largely watched as the main rivals slugged it out.
Mugabeâ€™s wish list of 15 key ministries included defence, home affairs, finance, foreign affairs, information, local government, national housing, mines, lands and agriculture, tourism, higher education, justice, SMEs, women affairs and youth development.
It is said Mugabe had a rigid position on defence, home affairs, foreign affairs, justice, lands and information.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s list had the ministries of finance, economic planning, industry and commerce, mines, local government, information, home affairs, justice, labour, higher education, women affairs, health and lands.
It was not clear which ministries Mutambara preferred but it has been widely reported that his chief negotiator Welshman Ncube would prefer constitutional and parliamentary affairs.
The 31 ministries in full include defence; home affairs; foreign affairs; finance; public works; public service; health and child welfare; education, sport, arts and culture; higher and tertiary education, local government, urban and rural development, mines and mining development and transport.
There are also ministries of small and medium enterprises and co-operative development; youth development, indigenisation and empowerment; industry and commerce; lands, agriculture, resettlement and energy and power development.
The other ministries are science and technology development; water resources development and management; regional integration and international trade; labour and social services, constitutional and parliamentary affairs, environment, natural resources and tourism; justice and legal affairs; prisons and correctional services;, gender and community development; economic planning and investment promotion; information communication technology; media, information and publicity; state enterprises and parastatals and national housing and social amenities.
The stalemate will delay the creation of a new government, while prolonging anguish among the despairing wider populace. The impasse came as it emerged Mugabe and his party were out to frustrate Tsvangirai in his new role to ensure he does not seize control of the government and gain hegemony over its affairs.
Mugabe has since last Saturday been uncooperative on the issue of ministries and cabinet, leaving Tsvangirai frustrated and dispirited, sources said. It is said Mugabe refused on Saturday to finalise the restructuring, allocation and naming of ministers, saying the issue was “too sensitive” and needed to be handled with care. Sources said he indicated it would have to be done in phases.
A meeting was scheduled for Monday to deal with the issue but Mugabe cancelled it, saying he was attending his partyâ€™s politburo gathering. This left Tsvangirai and Mutambara dismayed. The meeting failed to occur on Tuesday and Wednesday and when it happened yesterday it ended in a deadlock. Mugabe is likely to be leaving today to attend a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York next week. If the dispute over the ministries is resolved, he would announce cabinet upon his return.
It understood that the negotiators, Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche for Zanu PF, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma for Tsvangiraiâ€™s party and Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga for Mutambaraâ€™s faction, would first meet on their own without South African mediators.
If they are also unable to resolve the issue it might then be referred to South African President Thabo Mbeki for mediation.
Mbeki said on Monday there were a few outstanding issues and he was certain the negotiating team would finalise them soon. However, the stalemate could take long to resolve unless Mugabe and Tsvangirai compromise.
The optimism surrounding the signing of the power-sharing agreement on Monday is fast fizzling into widespread frustration as Mugabe drags his feet apparently to manage serious divisions and infighting within his party which flared-up during politburo and central committee meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mugabe told sulking party members that if they had won their seats Zanu PF and himself would not be facing such â€œhumiliationâ€.
Mugabe is also trying to contain Tsvangirai by exasperating him, while regaining control of the process which he had almost lost during tough and long negotiations that culminated in the deal signed on Monday.
The false start of the new government raised fears that the arrangement, reached after a drawn-out engagement process led by Mbeki since last year, could collapse unless Mugabe and Tsvangirai compromise.
Mbeki said last week the process took him 10 years to produce a deal and there was an urgent need to implement the agreement quickly. But prospects of a speedy implementation of the agreement were slim as the three parties have not even yet formed the proposed Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee recommended in the agreement.
The committee would be composed of four senior members from Zanu PF and four senior membersâ€™ from each of the two MDC formations. It would ensure the implementation â€œin letter and spiritâ€ of this agreement; assess implementation of the agreement from time to time and consider steps to be taken to ensure a speedy and full implementation of the deal in its entirety.
By Constantine Chimakure/Dumisani Muleya