Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

New Dawn for Zimbabwe?

Surprise agreement between country’s rival politicians raises hopes of an economic revival.
By Meshack Ndodana
The power-sharing agreement Zimbabwe’s main political parties have secured will usher in a new beginning, enabling the country to try to steer itself away from years of economic misery, many here hope.

The parties have for years shared bitter rivalry, and the agreement has come as a surprise to many who have watched their internecine differences in a country which has fallen deeply and rapidly into a socio-economic decline which the World Bank says has never been seen in a country not at war.

Hope for any economic revival is being pinned on the coming into government of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, who won the first round of voting in the March 29 presidential election and has insisted on being given more powers than bitter rival Robert Mugabe, who won the one-man runoff in June.

While South African president Thabo Mbeki, appointed mediator by the Southern African Development Community, told the media that details of the power-sharing arrangement will be revealed on Monday, September 15, it is understood Tsvangirai agreed to the deal after Mugabe gave in to demands that the opposition leader be offered more powers in the proposed coalition government.

Mugabe had previously threatened to appoint his cabinet if Tsvangirai did not sign, but backed down after Mbeki made yet another visit to Harare.

Earlier reports indicated the talks had stalled because Tsvangirai demanded, among other things, executive powers that would see him chairing cabinet and controlling the home affairs ministry, where he would be in charge of the police.

The police have for years been accused of being partisan and an appendage of Mugabe's ZANU-PF. A senior MDC official told South African media this week that by controlling the police, the MDC would be able to prosecute those long accused of harassing opposition party supporters.

There are concerns that ZANU-PF hawks, who in the past have not hidden their hostility towards the MDC, will not be readily willing to work with a party which for years they accused of seeking to return the country to white rule.

While ordinary Zimbabweans have welcomed the news of the power-sharing deal, details about the allocation of posts remained sketchy, but many were upbeat that Tsvangirai’s coming into government could mean a fresh beginning for a country with the world’s highest inflation, officially pegged at 11.2-million percent.

For Theodore Dube, a teacher and former member of ZAPU – a liberation movement led by Joshua Nkomo, and eventually absorbed into ZANU-PF – the agreement comes after nearly all hope for the future had been lost.

“We have become a nation of pessimists, and with good reason,” Dube told IWPR.

“Life became increasingly difficult with the talks and I just hope that the signing will bring hope for the future. We cannot continue like this.”

For many, one disappointing aspect of the agreement was the inclusion of Arthur Mutambara, leader of the smaller faction of the MDC, in the power-sharing deal.

“We don’t know where he came from, but it is obvious he will do anything to have a post in the new government,” complained Saul Phuti, a high school teacher.

Mutambara did not contest the March 29 election, throwing his support behind independent and former finance minister Simba Makoni. According to media reports, he is eyeing the post of vice prime minister.

His role will only be revealed to the public on September 15. A robotics professor, he was accused of siding with Mugabe during the talks and adopted Mugabe's anti-West rhetoric.

Tsvangirai has reportedly said during the talks that Mutambara does not deserve any post in the power-sharing deal because he represents no one. Many analysts concur.

"I do not understand his inclusion in all this," said Herbert Zulu, who works with a yet-to-be-licenced community radio station.

"He has been the ultimate opportunist, but I suppose this is to be expected in politics. What Zimbabweans want right now is Tsvangirai to rule, as we believe he deserves it after years fighting to free us from Mugabe’s misrule."

Major donor countries have said they are ready to pour resources into the country in an economic rescue package administered by a government led by Tsvangirai. The economy has taken a major knock in recent months, with the latest announcement by the country’s central bank allowing the use of foreign currency sending the prices of basic commodities through the roof.

Despite presiding over the decline of what was once Africa's major food exporter, Mugabe shows no sign of willingness to leave office.

The ruler of Zimbabwe since 1980, he is one of the last of a generation of African founding presidents. Analysts say his reluctance to leave is based on fears that he may be prosecuted for crimes against humanity committed since the early 1980s.

As Zimbabweans wait with bated breath for the announcement of the finer details of the power-sharing deal, the official media continues to flight adverts in which Mugabe claims to be the legitimate president of Zimbabwe, based on the election re-run.

Meshack Ndodana is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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