MDC holds paper over cracks

Morgan Tsvangirai is struggling to hold warring allies together and this week moved to win over critical Western diplomats ahead of a crucial decision by the MDC national council on the power-sharing agreement.

The MDC appears divided after a communiquè from Monday’s Southern African Development Community (SADC) extraordinary summit said all three Zimbabwean parties had agreed to a time table to implement a unity government.

In a statement rejecting the SADC resolution an MDC spokesperson called the announcement “malicious”. Tsvangirai was non-committal upon his arrival in Harare on Wednesday, but a senior MDC adviser added to the controversy by saying Tsvangirai would join “government next week”.

The MDC’S economic adviser, Eddie Cross, said: “I have had a look at the agreement and think it goes a long way to meeting our requests.
I think MDC will accept this deal and that MT [Morgan Tsvangirai] will go into government next week.”

Spokesperson Nelson Chamisa was vague about what Tsvangirai had committed to at the talks. He said Tsvangirai did not “necessarily agree” with the SADC resolution. Ahead of Friday’s meeting, Tsvangirai—who faces internal resistance from a group led by his secretary general, Tendai Biti, and Roy Bennet, the MDC’s treasurer—scheduled talks with key allies and diplomats opposed to any deal with Robert Mugabe. In meetings with senior MDC officials this week Western diplomats put further pressure on Tsvangirai, saying they will not back any government that includes Mugabe.

This message was further shored up by fresh European sanctions and suggestions of a tougher American stance on Mugabe under the new Obama administration. Susan Rice, Obama’s UN envoy, was reported to be planning a new bid to bring Zimbabwe to a Security Council vote.

Although many in the opposition fear that serious divisions within the MDC could undermine its stand against Zanu-PF, there is doubt the conflict could lead to a new splinter movement from the party; the poor fortunes of a faction that split from Tsvangirai in 2005 would likely discourage any rebellion. While the original MDC constitution would have seen Tsvangirai’s second and final term end at this year’s March party congress—which will mark the MDC’s 10th anniversary—his allies argue he received a fresh mandate at a special congress in 2006, extending his term until 2011.

But while the focus has been on reported pressure from regional leaders on Tsvangirai, the SADC communiqué suggests Mugabe was pressured by his peers into yielding some significant ground. Key positions taken by SADC effectively demand that:

  • A “Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee” be appointed immediately.

  • The two parties immediately agree on a “new formula” for the distribution of provincial governors, a central demand of the MDC.

  • The government of national unity review the disputed appointments of the governor of the Reserve Bank and the attorney general.

  • A National Security Bill, proposed by the MDC, is “considered immediately”. The Bill aims to ensure joint monitoring of Mugabe’s security apparatus.

Mugabe said he hoped the agreement would “open a new chapter in our political relations in the country and in structures of government”. Outstanding issues raised by the MDC would be “looked into” by the new government, he said.

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