‘Talks’ Can’t Go On Forever – Tsvangirai

MEDIATION in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing talks should be brought to an end and alternative ways found to stem the deteriorating social, political and economic situation, political analysts have said.


The analysts said the stalemate between President Robert Mugabe and the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai on the distribution of cabinet portfolios and other outstanding issues under the September 15 inclusive government deal were threatening to plunge the country into a deeper crisis.
The MDC rejected the ruling by Sadc last week that it share the Home Affairs ministry with Zanu PF and has since said it would not join the unity government before the enactment of Constitutional Amendment No 19.
The party argued that Sadc and the African Union (AU) –– the guarantors of the unity deal –– must move in to ensure fair and equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
The party also wants Constitutional Amendment No 19 enacted, provincial governors’ posts distributed in terms of the outcome of the March 29 elections, the composition and functions of the National Security Council outlined, and how permanent secretaries and ambassadors should be appointed.  Political analysts said there was a “real risk” that the mediation process could become “a never-ending political soap-opera; a tragic one” because the social and economic situation in the country was deteriorating and people were dying.
“There must come a point when both parties agree to disagree and either decide to move on together or to go their separate ways,” said Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean lawyer based in the UK. “At present neither of the parties seems  sure as to what exactly they want to do. It’s a ship where the captains are squabbling, but none of them knows exactly how to avoid the iceberg in front of them.”
Magaisa said even if the impasse was to be taken to the AU, there was little the union could do to resolve it.
“I have very limited hope that the AU can achieve anything beyond what Sadc has done,” he said. “If they were hard enough and resolute enough to speak frankly to Mugabe, try to get him on-side, they could do better. For as long as they tolerate what has happened and what is happening, they will end up in the same cul-de-sac as did the Sadc leaders.”
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure concurred with Magaisa, adding that the power-sharing talks were now “hopelessly confusing”.
He said mediation in the talks would not achieve much given the entrenched positions of Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
“Initially, it was Zanu PF that had deliberately adopted stalling as a strategy, but it’s now desperate to get the process moving at precisely a time when MDC-Tsvangirai has borrowed the same strategy,” Masunungure said. “MDC-Tsvangirai appears in no hurry to implement the global political agreement, perhaps counting on the prospect of the economy, society and Zanu PF itself imploding. In short, it is MDC-Tsvangirai that is now stalling without explicitly withdrawing from the deal.”
He said neither the AU nor the United Nations (UN) had mechanisms to force the implementation of the September 15 deal.
“This can only be done if Sadc elevates the matter by referring it to these bodies. Otherwise, they are impotent to act on their own account,” Masunungure, also director of Mass Public Opinion Institute, said.
He said Tsvangirai now appeared to want the whole “pie and not fragments” of the inclusive government pact.
He said the MDC-Tsvangirai no longer thinks that the deal was a viable pact and were now “stealthily” withdrawing.
“The MDC-Tsvangirai is also no longer keen on further internationalising the dispute by going to the AU or UN and would now rather domesticate the dispute by taking it to parliament where they believe they can fight better,” Masunungure said. “It seems they have realised that no matter how strong the lion is, it cannot hope to effectively fight the crocodile in the water and now wants to take the struggle to where the MDC thinks it is strongest — parliament.”
A two-thirds majority is needed in parliament to pass Constitutional Amendment No19, which would create the office of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. Under the unity government deal Tsvangirai would be prime minister while the leader of the other formation of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, will be deputy prime minister. The other deputy would come from the Tsvangirai formation.
Political scientist John Makumbe said mediation should not be allowed to go on indefinitely.
He said the MDC should stick to their demands, with Sadc and the AU putting pressure on Mugabe to agree to equitable power-sharing.
“The deal was a bad one from the outset,” Makumbe, a strong Mugabe critic said. “The party that lost the election ended up with more power in government. The MDC demands should be met and they should not waver. On the other hand, regional and continental bodies must force Mugabe to cede power to the winner of the elections. The mediation has to come to an end.”
Even Tsvangirai this week said the negotiations with Mugabe should not be allowed to drag on.
“It can’t be forever,” Tsvangirai said in Strasbourg, France, during a visit to Europe. “We cannot go on and on and on.”
Tsvangirai said the MDC still had confidence in African institutions to assist in unlocking the deadlock.
“It is not lack of sincerity but lack of leverage (on the part of Sadc to unlock the impasse),” Tsvangirai said. “Sadc lacks the leverage to bring to a conclusion the problem in Zimbabwe.”
He said he did not believe that the deal was heading for death, adding that it would take time to implement.
“We are not walking away from the deal as it provides the best possible means to address the current economic decay that our country is going through,” he said. “But we will not take part in the government until it reflects equitable power-sharing because we believe the deal is the only logical process to deal with our situation.”

 

By Constantine Chimakure