Did Zuma find muscle to squeeze Mugabe?

WHAT are we to make of the apparent “breakthrough” deal which President Jacob Zuma pulled off in Zimbabwe last week?

Zuma announced only in very general terms that Zimbabwe’s three parties had agreed at last to fully implement their commitments under the global political agreement (GPA) which they signed in September 2008, to create the framework for the coalition government they launched in February last year.

President Robert Mugabe has not kept his word, thereby paralysing the government.

Zuma, the official Zimbabwe facilitator appointed by his regional peers in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), went to Harare with a new determination to sort out the problem.

He put a lot of effort into it, devoting more than two days to wide consultations with the leaders of the three parties in the unity government — Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara — and other key players.

Most notably he personally met the three officials whose positions have become contentious in the quarrel among parties.

These were Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and Deputy Agriculture minister-elect Roy Bennett who is MDC treasurer-general.

Mugabe had unilaterally re-appointed the first two in breach of at least the spirit, if not also of the letter, of the GPA. Conversely, Mugabe has refused to appoint Bennett to his government position because he has been charged with treason for allegedly trying to overthrow Mugabe’s government by force.

Though no one has divulged any details of what Zuma persuaded the parties to do, leaks to the media agree that Mugabe will now at least appoint several MDC officials as provincial governors.

The media leaks differ on Gono; some saying he is on his way out, others that the MDC has agreed he can stay because they no longer regards him as important because most of his powers have been transferred to Finance minister Tendai Biti of the MDC.

Some leaks also suggest that the treason charges against Bennett will be dropped and that he will be appointed to the government, but in a different portfolio.

And, apparently as a sop to Mugabe, the three parties will form a joint delegation to lobby Western powers directly to lift their targeted sanctions against him and his cronies. These would all be promising developments.

But of course Mugabe reneged on countless agreements to Zuma’s predecessor in the facilitation job, former President Thabo Mbeki, not least his signature on the GPA itself.

But power-sharing negotiations are like that.

Those conceding power, as Mugabe ostensibly is, generally resist every inch of the way.

Perhaps there is a difference this time because it was Zuma, not Mbeki, facilitating.

Perhaps he did at last put the squeeze on Mugabe. We shall see. But even if Mugabe does fire Tomana and others, we should not take our beady eyes off him.

He has been known to concede past battles while he redeploys his troops to a new front.

In this regard, why have we had no leaks about Mugabe’s unilateral transfer of substantial powers from several MDC ministries to his own Zanu PF ministers?

These included significant control of the electoral machinery.

Has Mugabe decided that Gono has already fleeced the treasury and Tomana has also served his purpose, and that all that counts now is to keep control of the electoral apparatus to ensure he wins the election due next year, which will end the unity government?

It would be unwise to conclude, even if he has conceded this battle, that he has also surrendered in his lifelong war to seize and hold power. — The Cape Times.

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