SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma yesterday managed to squeeze a raft of concessions from Zimbabwe’s rival political parties and their leaders in a bid to resolve the country’s decade-long political crisis.
Zuma, who spent two hectic working days holed up in a Harare hotel engaged in marathon meetings, told journalists after long hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations that the parties had agreed on “a package of measures” to be implemented soon.
“The parties have agreed to a package of measures to be implemented concurrently as per the decision of the Sadc Troika in Maputo,” Zuma said. “I believe the implementation of this package will take the process forward substantially.”
Zuma said President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara had agreed to set their negotiators to pull out all the stops to resolve the outstanding issues.
“The leaders have instructed their negotiating teams to attend to all outstanding matters during their deliberations on 25, 26 and 29 March and to report back to the facilitator by 31st of March,” Zuma said. “I will present a comprehensive progress report to the chairperson of the Sadc troika, President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.”
Informed sources within the negotiating teams and facilitators said the package of measures referred to proposed solutions of the dispute over the appointment of provincial governors, appointment of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, swearing in of Deputy Agriculture minister Roy Bennett and sanctions.
The sources said negotiators are tasked to put in place implementation mechanisms and final touches on how to specifically share the governors’ positions and when they would be sworn-in, when Bennett should be sworn-in, whether Tomana and Gono should both go and when, in the “national interest”, and the procedures for removing the limited economic sanctions and travel bans that remain.
Zuma met with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, deputy Agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett, Defence Forces minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, he first met with two negotiating teams — represented by Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche of Zanu PF and Nelson Chamisa and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T — and then he later met the teams separately before meeting the three principals.
Meanwhile, sources in government close to Zanu PF told the Zimbabwe Independent that the package included an undertaking to intensify efforts to have sanctions removed.
They said the ministerial committee on sanctions set up in June last year will visit Brussels on April 21 to lobby the EU for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has formed a ministerial team to re-engage the EU on sanctions. The committee is chaired by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and comprises of Chinamasa, Welshman Ncube, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Mangoma and Finance minister Tendai Biti.
On governors, there are currently two options to choose from — either through popular vote or by the number of total seats in the House of Assembly and Senate.
Both formulas favour Zanu PF, which is likely to end up with five governors and MDC-T with four. It has been agreed that MDC-M would get one even though it did not deserve any using the proposed formulas.
The sources said the swearing in of the governors would depend on when the current governors’ terms of office expire in August this year.
One source said: “Check when the current terms will end and that will give you an indication on when the governors will be sworn in, otherwise we incur costs for their compensation. Tsvangirai anomboti mari yacho anoiwana (Tsvangirai says he will get the money for compensation).”
On the swearing in of Bennett as Deputy Agriculture minister, the source said MDC-T has recommended that “if the Ministry of Agriculture was too sensitive for Zanu PF, they are proposing that they give Bennett another ministry. This will have to be agreed on at the meetings next week. Zanu PF is still to debate this.”
The source, however, said there has been no movement on the Tomana issue.
“We are not going to sacrifice Tomana but the Gono issue is no longer an issue after Parliament passed the RBZ bill (which reduces the governor’s powers),” he said.
There were suggestions at the talks recently that Gono had agreed to resign and that issue was no longer as difficult as the Tomana issue. Zuma is said to have appealed to the two to “put their country first and at heart” in their consideration of issues.
Chinamasa refused to disclose details of the package but said the negotiators would be working out implementation mechanisms next week.
“We are going to pursue certain possibilities after we meet next week when we will conclude the matter. We will come up with an implementation matrix. We haven’t concluded any of the issues,” he said.
Faith Zaba/Dumisani Muleya