Tsvangirai Consults On Economic Crisis

ZIMBABWE’S Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai is on a whirlwind consultation tour on policy issues before he is sworn in — possibly next week after resolution of the deadlock on the allocation of ministries.

 

The stalemate over the distribution of ministries will almost certainly be resolved when President Robert Mugabe returns home from the United Nations General Assembly. Sources said only four government ministries — finance, home affairs, local government and foreign affairs — remain contested.

There is also a dispute over prisons and water resources ministries. This means effectively 25 ministries have been agreed upon.

Mugabe is entitled to appoint 15 ministers, Tsvangirai 13 and the deputy prime minister-designate Arthur Mutambara three.

The negotiating parties met last week after their leaders failed to resolve the issue to try to break the impasse.

However, the negotiators decided to refer the issue back to their principals whom they said were better placed to deal with the matter. Sources said a compromise could be found on the matter by dividing contested ministries between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Once the deadlock is broken, Mugabe will announce the new cabinet next week to pave way for the inclusive government.

Tsvangirai’s spokesman George Sibotshiwe confirmed his boss was meeting various economic and social groupings as part of his consultations. As prime minister Tsvangirai will be responsible for policy formulation and implementation.

“The main purpose of his meetings is to consult with various sectors of the economy and different groupings to get their views on reconstruction and recovery of the country,” Sibotshiwe said.

“He is going to give a comprehensive briefing about the outcome of his consultations at the end of this process.”

Tsvangirai is accompanied on his tour by his advisers Ian Makone, Eddie Cross and Wellington Chadehumbe.

Tsvangirai’s consultations indicate his optimism about the power-sharing agreement signed last week between Zanu PF and the MDC under the aegis of former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

There are reservations about the deal, which leaves Mugabe as president. “The deal as far as we are concerned is the best thing for the country,” Tsvangirai said last week. “We will be able to work within the deal to achieve the necessary transformation.”

Mugabe, who remains the head of state and government, commander-in-chief of the defence forces and chair of cabinet and the national security council, also said this week the agreement would work.

‘’Every one of us is actually positive about the agreement, or the need to cement the agreement and make it work,’’ Mugabe said in New York at the United Nations General Assembly before his address last night.

‘’I don’t see any reason why we can’t work together as Zimbabweans,’’ he said. ‘’We are all sons of the soil, as we say, and the differences arise purely from your own conceptions of what Zimbabwe should be and what the government of Zimbabwe should be.’’

They said Tsvangirai wanted to ensure that he is fully informed about the dire economic and social conditions before taking office soon.

Sources said Tsvangirai has so far met business leaders and captains of industry, the farming community and players in the agricultural sector, the mining sector, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups and the labour movement. He is also expected to meet more players in other sectors of the economy and various interest groups including the media.

Some of the specific groups he has met are the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Chamber of Mines, NGOs including the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, from where he launched his political career. Late yesterday, he met farmers’ representatives.

He has asked the Chamber of Mines and the CZI to draft policy documents for their respective sectors. Sources said business representatives wanted to know how Tsvangirai would proceed with the contentious issue of indigenisation.

The MDC leader is said to be also focusing on the resumption of food aid to deal with the current humanitarian crisis.

According to the United Nations, over 5,1 million people — approximately 45% of the population — would have no access to food by year-end.

Tsvangirai is trying to get an appreciation of the food crisis, especially in rural areas.

He would also focus on the revival of the ruined agricultural sector to restore production to avert food shortages next year.

Tsvangirai’s economic policy document drawn up before the March elections states that the basic objectives of reconstruction would be to “stabilise the national economy, restore macro-economic fundamentals and initiate a process of economic recovery”. It says there would be a need to tackle inflation, interest rates and exchange rate problems as fast as possible to create a stable macro-economic environment.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said in a report this week Zimbabwe needs about US$5 billion in foreign aid over five years to re-build its shattered economy.

The report, compiled after the signing of the power-sharing agreement, said US$1,6 billion of the financial aid would be needed immediately to facilitate recovery.

By Dumisani Muleya

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