Zimbabwe political leaders begin work under SADC-brokered power-sharing deal

by Richard Nyamanhindi – SANF 08 No 63
Zimbabwe’s three main political parties have begun work under a historic power-sharing agreement signed at a ceremony attended by several regional leaders and international diplomats.

The agreement signed on 15 September by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

SADC appointed the South African President Thabo Mbeki in March 2007 to mediate in the inter-party talks and the African Union (AU) Summit this year endorsed Mbeki as the chief mediator and pledged to support him in his role.

Mbeki, who is the current SADC chairperson, said, “Negotiations on forming an all-inclusive government have started and they are underway.”

He said the new government of Zimbabwe should focus on the economic challenges facing the country, adding that South Africa, SADC and the entire continent of Africa are ready to assist the country to turnaround its economy.

Such a development, he added, would also show the rest of the world and critics that Zimbabwe, SADC and Africa are capable of solving their own problems without unwarranted interference.

In terms of the agreement, President Mugabe of ZANU-PF remains Head of State; Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) becomes Prime Minister while Arthur Mutambara of MDC-Mutambara (MDC-M) becomes the Deputy Prime Minister.

A cabinet comprising 15 ministers from ZANU-PF, 13 from the MDC-T and three from MDC-M will be created through the current discussions.

There will be 15 deputy ministers, eight nominated by ZANU-PF, six from MDC-T and one from MDC-M.

The two vice presidential posts that were created following the 1987 Unity Accord between ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU will remain as they are, while the second Deputy Prime Minister will come from the Tsvangirai-led MDC.

According to the agreement, the President will have responsibility for chairing Cabinet as well as the National Security Council, and will exercise executive authority. The President will appoint government and make key appointments and other decisions in consultation with the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will chair the Council of Ministers and becomes deputy chairperson of Cabinet. He will also exercise executive authority and oversee the formulation of government policies and ensure implementation, as well as having responsibility to lead government business in parliament. The Prime Minister will be a member of the National Security Council.

According to the agreement, the new government is “pending the enactment of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 19 as agreed by the parties”.

The parties also agreed that for one year from the signing day, there will be no by-elections. If or when parliamentary seats fall vacant, the party holding that seat prior to the vacancy occurring is entitled to nominate a candidate for the vacant constituency.

On the economic side, the parties agreed to prioritise stabilisation and growth through the creation of a National Economic Council. They also agreed “to give priority to the restoration of economic stability and growth… and committed to working together on a full and comprehensive economic programme to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s economy… and to endorse the SADC resolution on the economy.”

The SADC-brokered deal was concluded on 11 September after more than a year of negotiations.

Inter-party talks had produced a constitutional amendment that paved the way for harmonised elections in March this year. Tsvangirai led the other three candidates after the first round of the presidential election but fell short of the required 50 percent, necessitating a run-off on 27 June that was won by Mugabe.

After the elections, the talks resumed following signing of the MOU in July but stalled early last month after the parties failed to agree on sharing of executive powers.

The SADC Summit in South Africa last month “encouraged and appealed to the parties to sign any outstanding agreements and conclude the negotiations as a matter of urgency to restore political stability in Zimbabwe”.

Several heads of state and government from the region were present at the signing ceremony, including the African Union chairperson and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, King Mswati III of Swaziland.

Also in attendance were Presidents Ian Khama of Botswana, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, as well as Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho, Acting President Rupiah Banda of Zambia, and Angolan Foreign Affairs Minister João Bernardo de Miranda.