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No Agreement yet on Outstanding Issues

THE inclusive government’s executive committee last night failed for the third time within a week to resolve outstanding issues of the global political agreement (GPA) despite reports that there was progress in the negotiations.


Sources said the committee, made up of President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai together with the two vice-presidents and deputy prime ministers, would meet on Monday and hopes were high they will reach an agreement.

“There was more progress than in the last two meetings although no resolutions were made,” one of the sources said. “We hope to resolve the issues on Monday.”

The sources said the principals were expected to brief their respective parties on the talks at the weekend.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson James Maridadi said the principals had discussed 11 issues and made progress on them.

“I am informed that 11 issues came under discussion, but I am yet to be briefed on the issues,” he said. “I am told there was tremendous progress. Prime Minister Tsvangirai will report back to the party’s standing committee on the progress tomorrow (today).”

The committee, also known as the Top Six, met on Thursday last week and on Monday, but failed to resolve the issues in dispute, which include governors, permanent secretaries and diplomats. The rehiring of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono last November and the appointment of Johannes Tomana as Attorney-General in January are two of the most vexing.

There is also the issue of detained political activists, renewed land invasions and Mugabe seizing the department of communications from MDC Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa and giving it to Transport minister Nicholas Goche.

During the Monday meeting, negotiators of the unity deal, Ministers Welshman Ncube and Emmerson Mnangagwa, took the principals of the GPA –– Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara –– through the paces of the deal.

Ncube and Mnangagwa told the principals that none of them had the “unilateral power to alter or vary the mandates of ministries without the consent of the other two principals”.

The appointment of permanent secretaries and ambassadors, Mnangagwa and Ncube said, could only be made through negotiations.

On Wednesday Tsvangirai said outstanding matters would be resolved through negotiation and that there was no stalemate.

“They will be addressed and we are in the process of addressing them. We cannot go on for ever and ever, we have to address those issues,” Tsvangirai told journalists after officiating at an International Labour Organisation function in Harare.

Yesterday’s meeting, sources said, started after lunch and lasted close to six hours, contrary to international media reports, one of the facilitators of the GPA, South African director-general in the Presidency Frank Chikane, who jetted into the country on Wednesday, did not attend.

Chikane arrived in Zimbabwe amid reports he was in Harare to help resolve a series of contentious issues threatening the government.

The MDC-T has been calling for the return of South Africa’s mediator Thabo Mbeki after reaching deadlock with Mugabe on a range of issues.

Sources in the party said it was considering writing to Sadc –– the guarantor of the GPA –– requesting it to intervene. Maridadi said Chikane was not part of the meeting.

“We gather that Chikane is in the country on private business. As we have said before, at the moment there is no stalemate or need for intervention,” Maridadi said.

The series of executive nettings followed last Wednesday’s cabinet where it became apparent that the outstanding issues could not be left unresolved for long without risking internal paralysis.

Last night’s meeting, prompted by power struggles in the unity government and a range of unresolved issues now deteriorating into open conflict, was a litmus test for the coalition’s ability to weather the gathering storm.

Failure to resolve issues in dispute, analysts said, could leave the government further weakened and divided, signalling the beginning of an unravelling process which could eventually lead to collapse.
Chamisa was reportedly on the verge of resigning over the seizure of the department of telecommunications from his ministry.

The outcome of last night’s meeting was expected to determine whether or not Chamisa would quit, sources said. Leaders have however been anxious to avoid any fallout which might destabilise the government and trigger more resignations.

Chamisa is said to have indicated in his consultations with Tsvangirai and Mutambara that he would go unless his ministry was left intact.

He was only prepared to compromise if his ministry was combined with Transport and then co-chaired as in Home Affairs, sources said.

Chamisa is also said to be prepared to stay if only the administration of the Interception of Telecommunications Act was removed from his ministry, leaving the original portfolio as it was.

The fight over the telecoms department is fuelled by Mugabe and his allies’ need to administer the Interception of Telecommunications Act which enables government to intercept and record individual and corporate communications.

Mugabe and his allies are claiming that telecoms is not part of Chamisa’s ministry. They say it should have gone to Media Information and Publicity.

Chamisa is saying this was not the original arrangement when the ministries were gazetted last year. They said Khupe then issued an internal government memo saying Chamisa’s ministry would remain intact and the matter was now closed.

Sources said this riled Mugabe who summoned  Khupe and Mutambara to an urgent meeting where he declared he was unilaterally transferring the telecoms department to Transport and Infrastructure which is headed by former State Security minister Nicholas Goche.

Sources said this issue was on the agenda for last night’s meeting. Other matters which were discussed included the unresolved issue of governors, permanent secretaries and diplomats.

In terms of the political agreement which led to this inclusive government, Mugabe can only make senior government appointments in consultation and concurrence with the other leaders, Tsvangirai, vice-presidents Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru, Khupe and Mutambara.

Sources said the leaders were also expected to tackle the contentious and controversial dispute around the continued detention of MDC activists, although Tsvangirai on Wednesday said the matter was now being resolved through the courts.

“We are just pursuing that in terms of the agreed procedures,” Tsvangirai said, adding that the inclusive government was committed to ensuring the upholding of the rule of law. “Without investor confidence, we cannot attract investment or access lines of credit necessary to kick-start our economy. Therefore, the government in general, and my office in particular, are dedicated to ensuring that the laws of this land are applied consistently, impartially and fairly.”

When he came into office in February Tsvangirai promised to secure his supporters’ release immediately but this has not happened. The issue of deputy Agriculture minister Roy Bennett’s controversial arrest and release was also expected to come up in the context of Mugabe’s refusal to swear him in, sources said.

Sadc leaders in Swaziland last month said Bennett must be sworn-in, but that has not  been done.

The leaders were further expected to confront the issue of political and economic reforms focusing on the rule of law, human rights and democratic deficits.

The continued land invasions had become a thorny issue and Tsvangirai has also been tested over it after recently promising to crack down on farm-grabbers.

Land invasions — a manifestation of continued lawlessness, and prosecution of the few remaining white farmers — has of late been featuring prominently in government discussions. Sadc urged government during the summit in Swaziland to deal with the problem.

The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, which was mandated to supervise implementation of the political agreement, has been receiving many reports on land invasions and other violations of the accord.

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE

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