PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last Thursday published 33 statutory instruments in an extraordinary Government Gazette outlining which minister is in charge of administering which Acts of parliament.
Though his move was in line with the constitution which states that it is the president who assigns functions to ministers, including the administration of Acts of parliament, it came as a shock to his partners in the inclusive government — Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara — and has further strained relations in the marriage of convenience.
Mugabe’s move also flies in the face of claims he made during a meeting with editors at Zimbabwe House, the very same day the gazette was published.
While the president was speaking to the editors like a statesman and assuring them that the coalition government was functioning well, the government press was working overtime printing statutory instruments meant to consolidate his power in government.
“There are no more doubts about each other’s honesty (between Mugabe and Tsvangirai). The inclusive government has built in us, within us, as we operate, that element of virtue, of trust,” Mugabe opined.
“There are no cracks at all. There might be voices of discontent, some criticism, but that happens. It is expected.”
But there can be little trust when he goes behind the back of his partners to rearrange ministerial functions in a way that subverts the GNU.
Mugabe exhibited complete disregard and disrespect for the new administration by unilaterally overturning the principle of consultation with his partners as outlined in the global political agreement signed in September 2008.
The president’s move also mirrored the power relations in government where Mugabe and Zanu PF still call the shots, make important decisions and are firmly in charge of key organs of the state despite losing elections.
In the reassignment, Mugabe relocated vital roles from ministries under the MDC formations to ministries controlled by his party in his unbridled quest to consolidate power and determine the direction of government.
Mugabe in one fell swoop unilaterally trimmed the functions of MDC-T ministries of Information Communication Technology; Constitution and Parliamentary Affairs; Science and Technology; Parastatals and State Enterprise; and the MDC-M’s Regional Integration and International Co-operation ministry.
This was not only a gross violation of the GPA, it was clearly designed to water down the spirit of power-sharing by Mugabe and Zanu PF who have taken a lackadaisical approach in fully consummating the unity government pact.
Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T spokesperson, was this week quoted aptly saying: “This is all trying to have the MDC as an accessory… a mere decorative element without necessarily being part of this government.
Failure to solve this would mean a disaster for the inclusive government.”
Mugabe’s intransigence confirms fears by the United States, Britain and its European Union allies that a lot is yet to be done in fully implementing the GPA to warrant the international community lifting sanctions and loosening their purse strings to bankroll the revival of the vegetative economy.
The reassignment came barely a month after another statutory instrument outlining indigenisation regulations was published by a Zanu PF minister without the consultation of the two MDC formations in cabinet. The statutory instrument discourages investment and encourages capital flight.
Besides the statutory instruments, Mugabe and Zanu PF have since the formation of the inclusive government declined to cooperate in the resolution of the outstanding issues of the GPA which include the rehiring of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, the appointment of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and the refusal to swear in Roy Bennett as deputy Agriculture minister.
Fears abound that serious repression will continue, since Mugabe has reassigned implementation of the Interception of Communications Act, which was under Chamisa’s ministry, to the President’s Office. The President’s Office houses the Central Intelligence Organisation which will now be empowered to intercept communications between individuals and organisations.
The President’s Office will also administer the Emergency Powers Act (previously with the Home Affairs ministry); Zimbabwe National Security Council Act, Procurement Act and the Commissions of Inquiry Act.
Adding salt to the wound, Tsvangirai and Mutambara’s efforts to resolve the issue were resisted by Mugabe on Monday when they met. What a slap in the face for their sanctions-lifting endeavours!
Is this not the right time to call in South African President Jacob Zuma to play his mediation role and end Mugabe and Zanu PF’s intransigence?