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We Did Not Get Less Power: Chamisa

THE all-inclusive government agreement signed last week by the country’s main political parties has since run into difficulties regarding the sharing of key ministries between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations.


To understand the impasse and other issues related to the deal, our Political Editor Constantine Chimakure this week interviewed the spokesperson of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, Nelson Chamisa. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Chimakure: Honourable Chamisa can you tell us the meaning and significance of the power-sharing agreement signed on September 15 between President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister-designate Arthur Mutambara?

Chamisa: Given the political impasse, economic haemorrhage, collapse of social services and the deadening impoverishment in the country, the September 15 compromise represents an important platform and opportunity for rebirth, reconstruction and national healing. In short, it marks the beginning of a new era and charting of a new course to achieve prosperity, freedom, peace and justice for our country. The agreement is a full stop to hate, polarisation, divisions, plunder of our economy and the suffering of our people and a beginning of what is best for Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans

Chimakure: Tsvangirai went into the negotiations having set some demands, among them, a pact based on the outcome of March 29 elections. He also wanted to be head of government, to have the power to appoint and fire ministers and above all to chair cabinet.

If you look closely at the agreement, Tsvangirai did not get what he wanted, what happened?

Chamisa: The central strategic objective of us entering into this dialogue was to give Zimbabweans a chance. In particular, there were five things that were ideal to us namely:

*Giving our people the opportunity of writing a constitution written by them for themselves;

*Embarking on a democratisation agenda that will see, among other things, the repeal of all laws that affect the right to freedom of movement, association and assembly of our people. Laws that suppress freedom of speech, media and expression.

*The rehabilitation of our economy and more importantly the transformation of the same to a people-centred dynamic tiger-economy;

*The opportunity for our country to undergo national healing and national integration and the character of ensuring that every Zimbabwe is an equal citizen and

*The obligations to ensure the professionalism of state institutions and that they are in full compliance with the constitution and in particular the rule of law, serving the people of Zimbabwe.

By way of clarification, we wanted a prime minister who has both the responsibility and the authority to transact the business of government. We got that in the agreement. The agreement gives the prime minister authority to formulate and implement policies as well as supervising all ministries to ensure accountability and effectiveness in the discharge of government business.

True, the agreement does not give us all we wanted. But what we got, in the spirit of compromise, is sufficient to enable us to start activating the democratisation and economic stabilisation agenda.

The agreement is a bridge to the attainment of these objectives. In short, we have remained loyal to the founding principles and values of our movement and indeed to the working peoples’ aspirations and fundamental ideals as articulated at the historic formation of the peoples’ movement in 1999.

Chimakure: What is the party’s position regarding President Mugabe’s pronouncement to the central committee last Thursday that he and Zanu PF were still in charge?

Chamisa: The executive authority resides within three pillars namely the president, the prime minister and the cabinet. There is no dominant party to the other. It is a partnership of equals premised on the spirit of collective leadership and cooperative partnership.

There is no veto power residing in any one pillar. This agreement is not about who is senior to the other. It is about the opportunity to bring food, jobs, health, prosperity and satisfaction to the people of Zimbabwe. Contestations about who is in the driving seat are not going to feed the people of Zimbabwe. Arrogant party positions are not going to restore our economy nor are they going to make our businesses viable. Partisan interests undermine our national capacity to respond to bread and butter demands of our workers and their families.

Chimakure: Is it a correct analysis that the agreement implies that Mugabe will be more powerful than Tsvangirai? Mugabe has the final decision having consulted Tsvangirai? Who has “real” power between the president and prime minister?

Chamisa: Within the context of the agreement whenever the word consultation is used, it is a simple way of saying the prime minister and the president should agree on every issue. This, therefore, means that the president cannot act without the prime minister’s consent. However, the prime minister has an unfettered power in administering, controlling and supervising government. The question of who has real power misses the point by a significant margin. Granted, the arrangement is complex, but certainly workable. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to make a difference.

Chimakure: What are the problems in forming a new cabinet? Is it not a sign of insincerity on the part of Mugabe to insist on retaining key ministries?

Chamisa: There is a deadlock arising from Zanu PF’s insistence on all key ministries motivated by the grab-and-take all mentality. We believe in genuine power-sharing on an equal basis on all the agreed key ministries in a give-and-take spirit consistent with the dictates of an all-inclusive arrangement. The biggest problem in this regard remains a residue of denial in some quarters that things have changed in Zimbabwe. There are some in our midst who are caught in a time-warp.

The strategy is an attempt to make the MDC a junior partner in the government by allocating it junior ministries. We refuse to be mere accessories to a body of government that is principally Zanu PF. An inclusive government should reflect the wishes of the people as expressed on March 29 2008.

Chimakure: Which key ministries does Zanu PF want to retain and which ones do you think you should have and why do you think you deserve them?

Chamisa: Negotiations are currently underway on the allocation of the ministries. It is not possible for us to negotiate in public. It will be an act of bad faith.

Chimakure: Why was the issue of parceling out ministries not dealt with before the power-sharing deal was signed?

Chamisa: The substantive issue was around executive authority. After settling the issue, we were hoping to deal with ministries and the appointment of governors, but the mediator requested and pleaded with us to deal with the two issues after signing the inclusive government agreement.

We didn’t anticipate an impasse over the outstanding matters. We were motivated by the fact that good faith would prevail.

Chimakure: If the impasse continues, what will be the next move?

Chamisa: The agreement is underwritten by Sadc and the African Union. As the situation obtains, there is a deadlock already. In the event of the impasse continuing the facilitator can unlock it.

Chimakure: Why did the MDC agree to have 31 ministers when in your March 2008 elections manifesto you promised to have a cabinet of 15? Can the inclusive government sustain such a huge cabinet given Zimbabwe’s bleeding economy?

Chamisa: We believe in a small and efficient cabinet. As you are aware this is a compromise set up. It is just a stopgap measure to deal with the unprecedented crisis in the country. It is not what we believe in as a matter of conviction.

The large cabinet is a strain on the economy, but it is what is practicable under the circumstances. We have not abandoned our conviction of a small cabinet. Mind you this is not an MDC government, but an inclusive government.

Chimakure: On the economy, can Tsvangirai insist that he has the key to unlock international funds and technical aid given the cautious optimism the US, Britain, the European Union and multilateral financial institutions have adopted on the deal?

Chamisa: Prime minister Tsvangirai with the support of the entire cabinet has the ability to unlock the international support that is required to prevent the economic decline. The economic policy the inclusive government will pursue will be the major determining factor.

Another factor will be the distribution of key ministries among the parties. The ministries should be shared equally and genuinely to build confidence and create an appetite for business in the country so that we boost local and international investment.

Chimakure: Are there areas of potential conflict between the two MDC formations and Zanu PF, especially on the powers and functions of the president and prime minister in relation to the cabinet and council of ministers?

Chamisa: The key priorities are to feed the people, fix the economy, heal the nation, democratise our country, restore the dignity and freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe and getting business back to business. On these priorities, we believe there is no conflict and in fact there is a shared understanding that makes our competencies complementary rather than competing.

Chimakure: Why is it that the deal has no timeframes on implementing most of its provisions, except on the new constitution?

Chamisa: The deal presupposes urgency in respect of each issue covered by the pact. That is why there is an annual review mechanism captured in the agreement. The agreement is a fire-fighting construct, a crisis-soft landing mechanism. In short, a catharsis to enable national healing and reconstruction of our country.

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