End for unity govt in Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe’s main rivals head into Monday’s emergency regional summit hoping for the same outcome—a formal declaration of an end to efforts to force them into a unity government.

But outside of a power sharing agreement that is unpopular on both sides, neither Robert Mugabe nor his rival Morgan Tsvangirai appears to have a workable ‘Plan B” in place.

Mugabe will go into the coming regional summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) hoping for an express green light from fellow Southern African leaders to form a new government without the opposition.

But the economic crisis is worsening and the once-assured bastions of his support are waning.

This week it was reported a group of soldiers had raided a farm owned by Gideon Gono, the central bank governor, claiming he ‘owed them money”.

Mugabe needs a large financial injection to pay thousands of civil servants, who have stayed away from work, demanding salaries in foreign currency to survive Zimbabwe’s ‘dollarised” economy.

Should there be no deal on Monday, fresh elections appear the most likely next step in the protracted search for a solution out of the country’s political impasse.
But, in that event, it is likely that Mugabe would once again use the violent tactics of the past to cling to power, while the opposition would once again seek recourse with international assistance to rein him in.

The MDC has long been seeking an escape route out of a deal it signed in the face of opposition from both its grassroots supporters and its powerful external backers.

But it has precious little leverage over Mugabe. Its slim parliamentary majority has been whittled down in the past year and could yet disappear if Mugabe presses on with six planned by-elections. New elections would benefit the MDC only if they were monitored by international agencies, the involvement of which Mugabe would never allow.

Following the failure of this week’s 12-hour meeting to resolve the impasse about the implementation of the September power sharing agreement, diplomats in Harare say patience with the Zimbabwe crisis has almost run out.

The diplomats believe the SADC will be called upon to make ‘a final declaration” on the matter should, as is now widely expected, there be no resolution to the deadlock at the emergency meeting.

Tomaz Salomao, the SADC executive secretary, said South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, chair of the regional body, would table his report on the collapse of the process at Monday’s meeting, following which the SADC would make a public statement on the matter.

Mugabe hopes the region will grant him some legitimacy by allowing him to go ahead and form a new government without the MDC.

‘It would be a bit much to ask the region to say: ‘We wash our hands of Zimbabwe’. But the feeling appears to be that it’s time the SADC came out with a firmer decision on where this is leading,” a senior Southern African diplomat told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.

Mugabe had vowed to continue talks with Tsvangirai after negotiations failed on Monday. But attempts to re-establish contact were quickly abandoned this week, said officials on both sides.

Despite the abductions of opponents Mugabe has sought to portray himself to the region as the more reasonable leader. ‘We are for the SADC proposal and abide by it to the full,” Mugabe said as he left Monday’s meeting. His lead negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa, also said Zanu-PF would not take any unilateral decisions before the region makes its decision at the coming SADC summit.

Tsvangirai said the failure of the talks amounted to ‘the darkest day of our lives”. His party entirely rejected a SADC proposal that would have seen a new government in place by this Saturday.

The SADC proposal tabled by Motlanthe and Mozambican President Armando Guebuza would have seen Tsvangirai sworn in as Prime Minister within days. But Tsvangirai put forward a sharply different proposal, one which seeks far-reaching security and legislative reforms before any deal is reached.

Tsvangirai will only enter into the unity government on condition that;

  • Mugabe agrees to the ‘equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios”, giving the MDC control of key security ministries;
  • A law governing the role and composition of the security apparatus is enacted;
  • Key appointments, such as provincial governors, the Attorney General and the reserve bank of Zimbabwe governor, are reversed; and
  • Detained activists are released.
    Chinamasa said Tsvangirai cannot expect to be consulted on key government appointments before being sworn in to office.
    MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara declared it ‘a sad day” for the country and said Zimbabwe ‘deserves better leaders than Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai”.

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