SADC chairperson President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo has intervened in the current dispute between the three political parties in the inclusive government over outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement which regional facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, has been grappling with.Kabila sent an envoy to Harare to press President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to implement the agreement which led to the formation of the inclusive government last year and resolve outstanding issues.
His intervention brings to a head Sadc’s diplomatic efforts to resolve Zimbabwe’s decade-long political crisis which has seized regional leaders for years now.
Kabila’s intervention came as the Zanu PF politburo rejected a proposal to appoint deputy Agriculture minister Roy Bennett to another ministry to resolve the current dispute over the issue.
Kabila dispatched his envoy in charge of special Sadc affairs, Leon Jean Ilunga Ngandu, to Harare yesterday to step up pressure on the parties to finalise negotiations and implement the GPA in full. Ngandu yesterday met separately with MDC-T and Zanu PF negotiating teams and is today expected to meet with the MDC-M to discuss the current GPA situation.
Sources said Ngandu is here to find out what progress has been made in implementing what the three parties in the unity government have agreed on and also to push them to bring to finality the outstanding issues.
During yesterday’s meetings, sources said, he indicated that Kabila was concerned with the slow pace in implementing the GPA and concluding the outstanding issues. Kabila, whose tenure as Sadc chair ends in September, is keen to see the three parties quickly resolve all the remaining issues.
“They discussed the current situation in government and issues agreed upon and those that are remaining. President Kabila is not happy with the current slow pace of negotiations and implementation of GPA issues,” said a source.
Ngandu and the Zanu PF and MDC-T negotiators discussed outstanding issues including the swearing in of Bennett, appointments of provincial governors, the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, Mugabe being the only chair of cabinet, criteria for determining heroes, Tsvangirai’s transport arrangements, security reforms, and review of ministerial allocations and mandates.
Also discussed extensively was the removal of sanctions by the West. The three parties have set up a government delegation to plead for the removal of sanctions. The delegation had to postpone its meeting with the European Union last month after flights were grounded because of the Iceland volcanic ash.
Meanwhile, the Zanu PF politburo rejected the proposal to move Bennett to another ministry ahead of a High Court ruling on Monday on whether to put him on his defence or acquit him on charges of illegal possession of arms for the purposes of committing acts of terrorism, banditry, sabotage and insurgency.
The politburo agreed at a meeting last week after chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa presented a report on the inter-party talks that it would never compromise on the Bennett issue as long as he is facing criminal charges and he would only be allowed to join government if he is cleared by the courts.
It also did not move from its hard stance on issues including the appointments of Gono and Tomana, chairing of cabinet, criteria for determining heroes and Tsvangirai’s transport arrangements.
MDC-M had proposed as a compromise that Bennett be moved to another portfolio, which MDC-T accepted but Zanu PF indicated in a report presented to the Principals and South African facilitators early last month that it would consult the party on the matter.
According to the report, MDC-M negotiators Professor Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga suggested that Bennett should be sworn in as deputy minister of any other ministry besides agriculture and lands without having to wait for the outcome of the criminal trial.
However, after extensive discussion by the politburo, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that: “We discussed the Bennett issue and took a position that since he is facing criminal charges, he should not be sworn-in until these charges are cleared. There was a suggestion that he should be moved to another ministry. We shot that recommendation down. It is not right to swear him in when he is facing criminal charges.”
Zanu PF’s position is that MDC-T should nominate an acting deputy minister until such a time as Bennett’s criminal charges are finalised and that if he is cleared he could then be sworn in.
On the other hand, the MDC-T had always said there was no legal or valid reason for Mugabe to refuse to swear in Bennett as Deputy Ariculture minister.
In its argument, it said the GPA did not give any party the power of veto over a nominee of another party in a ministerial appointment.
Bennett, who returned to Zimbabwe in January 2009 after spending nearly two years in exile in South Africa, was arrested on February 13 last year, the day he was supposed to be sworn in.
The politburo also rebuffed calls by MDC-T for a motorcade with police escort for Tsvangirai, arguing that he was junior to Vice-Presidents John Nkomo and Joice Mujuru, who did not have motorcades.
“The issue of the Prime Minister’s motorcade was brought to the politburo and our view was that the Prime Minister could not have a motorcade because the Vice-Presidents, who are in terms of structure above him, do not have. It can cause problems – so that was shot down,” Gumbo said.
Currently, Tsvangirai’s motorcade has five cars, three Toyota Landcruisers, a Mercedes Benz S340 and Double Cab Toyota Hilux, while Mugabe moves around with a convoy of more than 10 cars, an ambulance that is equipped to be a mobile hospital, two truckloads of heavily armed soldiers with AK47s and assault rifles.
On the Land Audit, the politburo also rejected a proposal by the European Union to provide experts for the constitution-making process and land audit.
“The EU wants to send experts for the constitution-making process and land audit, which we shot down. The constitution-making process must remain Zimbabwean and we have not asked for any experts and we will not allow experts from the EU to come here. We have our own experts,” said Gumbo.
On the chairing of cabinet by the premier when Mugabe is away, Gumbo said it was not an issue because the acting president chaired in his absence and not Tsvangirai, who chairs the council of ministers.