Power deal

Published : Oct 24, 2008 00:00 IST

WHEN THE ACCORD was signed in Harare, (from right) Thabo Mbeki, Executive Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutmbara.-WHEN THE ACCORD was signed in Harare, (from right) Thabo Mbeki, Executive Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutmbara.

WHEN THE ACCORD was signed in Harare, (from right) Thabo Mbeki, Executive Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutmbara.-WHEN THE ACCORD was signed in Harare, (from right) Thabo Mbeki, Executive Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutmbara.

After prolonged negotiations, Zimbabwes ruling group and opposition sign a power-sharing agreement.

THE power-sharing accord in Zimbabwe may well turn out to be one of Thabo Mbekis lasting legacies. The painstaking diplomatic efforts of the former South African President to broker peace between the ruling ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front) and the opposition in Zimbabwe succeeded despite widespread cynicism. Mbeki, who was mandated by Southern African Development Council (SADC) leaders, spent 18 months to bring about a negotiated settlement. On September 15, a power-sharing accord was formally signed in the presence of leaders of the SADC and another regional grouping, the African Union (A.U.). President Robert Mugabe and the newly appointed Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, shook hands and vowed to work together in order to pull the country out of the economic and political quagmire.

Mbekis untiring efforts to find a solution to the political crisis that had paralysed Zimbabwe were portrayed as appeasement by Western governments. However, the SADC was determined that there could only be an African solution to the Zimbabwean impasse. Mbeki said that he was never deterred by criticism of his quiet diplomacy. All diplomacy is quiet; if it is not quiet then it is not diplomacy, he said and pointed out that South Africa, as a neighbour, had been involved in Zimbabwean politics since 1998.

In his speech at the signing ceremony in Harare, Mugabe said: African problems must be solved by Africans the problem we had was a problem created by a former colonial power. Britain had reneged on its commitment to help Zimbabwe solve the worst legacy of colonial rule the land problem. Half of Zimbabwes land was owned by white farmers. After Mugabe belatedly introduced land reforms, the British were quick to orchestrate international sanctions, which contributed significantly to the economic meltdown.

There is reason to be optimistic about Zimbabwe as similar power-sharing deals have worked elsewhere in Africa. In Angola, the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and the former rebel group UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) shared power for over a decade. The arrangement ended only in August after the MPLA won a resounding election victory. Earlier this year, a power-sharing arrangement was cobbled together in Kenya after a round of rigged general elections. The post of Executive Prime Minister was created and the real winner of the elections, Raila Odinga, is now the Executive Prime Minister.

Zimbabwe needs emergency financial aid. Inflation is running at an astronomical 11 million per cent. Most of the population is unemployed. To rein in inflation, the country will have to opt for tough austerity measures. Outside help will be essential to take care of the unemployed and the hungry, at least in the short term. In his speech at the United Nations in the last week of September, Mugabe made an impassioned appeal to Western governments to lift their economic sanctions. At the same time, the President emphasised his commitment to the power-sharing deal. He said that there were only some minor hurdles, pertaining to a few Cabinet portfolios, to be crossed.

In a statement issued while he was in office, Mbeki urged the international community to respect the accord, which he said reflected the wishes of the Zimbabwean people. From available indications, some countries, led by the United States and including Britain, the Netherlands and France, are likely to announce the resumption of aid. According to reports in the Western media, the American Ambassador to Harare, James McGee, was kept in the loop by the opposition on all aspects of the accord. It was only after his approval that Tsvangirai signed the agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Mugabe will hold on to the top job and continue to chair Cabinet meetings. A new post, that of Executive Prime Minister, has been created for Tsvangirai. Mugabe will retain control over the armed forces and much of the security apparatus, while Tsvangirai will have a decisive say in the countrys day-to-day running, including control of the police. The powerful State Security Ministry has been abolished and replaced by a National Security Council that will reflect the new political realities. This is a significant concession as the ZANU-PF leadership had expressed its reluctance to allow Tsvangirai full control over the state machinery. Tsvangirai is viewed by many in the ruling party as an agent of the West and white landowners.

The Cabinet will have 31 Ministers 15 from the ZANU-PF, 13 from Tsvangirais Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and three from smaller opposition parties. A Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee has been set up to ensure that all aspects of the deal are implemented. Under the deal, a new Constitution will be drafted and put to a referendum within 18 months. After that, if all the coalition partners in the unity government are happy with the arrangement, the government can complete its five-year term. Otherwise, they have the option of going in for snap elections.

On the emotive issue of land ownership, the agreement categorically states that the land reforms are irreversible and that it is the duty of the former colonial power, Britain, to compensate the 5,000 white farmers whose land was taken over.

A question mark hangs over Mbekis future role as a mediator in Zimbabwe. The former President has not spelt out his plans yet, though the SADC has requested him to continue monitoring the agreement. President Mugabe has said that Mbekis resignation as South African President was devastating news for him. The influential trade unions in South Africa had come out in support of Tsvangirai and the MDC. Jacob Zuma, who is expected to become President of South Africa next year, may not be in a position to exert the kind of influence that his predecessor did. The trade unions had provided him valuable political support in his fight to succeed Mbeki as ANC leader and president.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment