Zimbabwe deal faces Parliament test
Zimbabwe’s Parliament resumes work on Tuesday for a session that could test a power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party goes into the new Parliament stripped of a majority for the first time since independence from Britain in 1980, and needing to work with the MDC to run an effective government.
MDC parliamentarians jeered and booed Mugabe when he officially opened Parliament on August 26 after an election in March that the opposition says he rigged to retain power.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki is in Harare to hold talks to try to rescue the power-sharing deal he brokered, which analysts say is Zimbabwe’s best hope for ending an economic crisis.
The pact, which Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed last month, is in danger of collapse because of disagreements over the Cabinet. Analysts say the convening of Parliament may open a public quarrel on the issue.
“It’s going to be interesting to see whether the two parties are able to engage in a constructive way or whether there are some who want to slug it out,” said Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of political pressure group National Constitutional Assembly.
“But I think both parties are under pressure to demonstrate some maturity, to show that they are fit for office because any kind of delinquency will be politically costly,” he said.
Lawmakers are due to prioritise a constitutional amendment allowing the creation of the prime minister’s post, which the power-sharing deal agreed would be filled by Tsvangirai.
Mugabe was re-elected unopposed in a June vote condemned around the world after it was boycotted by Tsvangirai.
Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesperson, said he hoped Mbeki, who arrived in Harare late on Monday, would break the Cabinet impasse after Mugabe handed key ministries to his Zanu-PF party.
“We are still placing our faith in the efforts of the mediator, and that Zanu-PF has to be persuaded that it has to share and not grab power,” he said.
Analysts say that although the political talks look doomed, the rivals are under intense pressure to reach a settlement.
Spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said Mbeki would start talks on Monday evening and meet all sides.
Analysts say Parliament is expected to meet briefly and may adjourn until an agreement on Cabinet posts is reached.
A new government will have to tackle the world’s highest inflation rate of 231-million percent and severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages.
Meanwhile, Simba Makoni, a former finance minister and the third place candidate in Zimbabwe’s presidential vote, warned on Monday the country risks falling into deeper international isolation if the power-sharing deal collapses.
“If the deal fails we will remain a pariah,” Makoni told reporters,
Makoni quit Mugabe’s ruling party to contest the presidential polls in March as an independent candidate. In the first round vote, he landed third behind Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
“Since the deal was signed, the suffering of the people has actually become worse,” Makoni said, announcing plans to form a new opposition party.
“The people are suffering immensely, they are angry and frustrated and they feel hostage to leaders who seem uncaring and insensitive to their plight. We share the people’s anger,” he said.
“We wonder what compelled the leaders to sign an incomplete agreement, if there are major issues unresolved. They raised the people’s hopes and expectations, whetted the national appetite for progress, only to dash the hopes and expectations,” he added.—Reuters, AFP