New Government Beset by Power Struggles

Ambiguous separation of powers between president and primier said to be part of problem.

New Government Beset by Power Struggles

Ambiguous separation of powers between president and primier said to be part of problem.

Wednesday, 4 March, 2009
Power struggles between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are intensifying as they size each other up in the shaky month-old inclusive government.

The two former protagonists have for the past few weeks been issuing conflicting statements regarding government policy, much to the delight of critics of the new government, which is battling to secure financial lifelines to bankroll itself.

Mugabe irked Tsvangirai only a fortnight after the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, was sworn in as prime minister and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller MDC faction, as deputy prime minister, by unilaterally appointing permanent secretaries without consulting the other principals as per the global political agreement, GPA, signed on September 15 last year.

Rubbing salt in the wound has also been Mugabe’s sanctioning of fresh farm seizures, which have seen ZANU-PF militia and state security agents kicking out the few remaining white farmers from their properties, despite a ruling by the Southern African Development Community, SADC, tribunal ordering the invasions to cease.

Mugabe has also refused to revoke his unilateral appointments of senior personnel, especially central bank governor Gideon Gono and attorney general Johannes Tomana.

Political analysts who spoke to IWPR this week said the GPA which led to the inclusive government had created two centres of power, one in Mugabe’s office and the other in Tsvangirai’s, which had become a source of infighting in the government.

Mugabe told his supporters during celebrations on February 28 to mark his 85th birthday that white farmers should vacate the farms.

In an apparent snub to the SADC regional court, based in Namibia, Mugabe stated that it could not rule on disputes over land in Zimbabwe, saying Zimbabwe had competent courts to determine the rights of its people.

“It does not matter that the white farmers went to the SADC tribunal. That is nonsense. A foreign court in Namibia cannot decide the issue of land. The white farmers must vacate the farms,” he said.

But his remarks appeared to be in sharp contrast to those of Tsvangirai, who told a press conference on February 25 that the new wave of illegal land invasions were in contravention of agreements signed with Mugabe and Mutambara.

“The new wave of illegal land invasions are undermining our ability to revive our agricultural sector and restore investor confidence,” said Tsvangirai. “I have asked the ministers of home affairs to bring the full weight of the law down on the perpetrators who continue to act within a culture of impunity and entitlement. No person in Zimbabwe is above the law.” Home affairs has two co-ministers, one from each party.

Tsvangirai also lashed out at Mugabe’s appointment of permanent secretaries, describing the move as unilateral. He added that the appointments had “no force of law” and were therefore null and void.

“The announcement of the appointments of permanent secretaries is in contravention of the GPA and Constitutional Amendment Number 19, which states that all such appointments can only be done with agreement between the prime minister and the president. The permanent secretaries who were in position as of September 15, 2008 will remain in [their posts] in acting capacity until the matter is resolved,” he said.

But Mugabe told party supporters at his birthday celebrations he would not be forced to remove Gono and Tomana.

The power struggles have also seen clashes between ZANU-PF and MDC ministers regarding the overlapping of duties.

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC minister of information and communication technology, and Webster Shamu, the ZANU-PF minister of media, information and publicity, for instance, on February 26 nearly exchanged blows at a meeting meant to address workers at a parastatal.

Tsvangirai said he was aware of disputes over mandates of various ministries and that his office would resolve issues of overlap and duplication.

According to Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe, the battle between Mugabe and Tsvangirai was expected. “It was bound to happen because the GPA created two bulls in one kraal,” said Masunungure. “You know two bulls in one kraal cannot cohabit. We are likely to have these power struggles during most of the lifespan of the inclusive government.”

Masunungure apportioned part of the blame for the power struggles to the GPA, which he said was ambiguous on the separation of powers between the president and the prime minister, “Some of the decisions and statements Mugabe is making are due to political dynamics in his party, ZANU-PF. For instance the appointments of the permanent secretaries and the refusal to dismiss Gono and the attorney general – I see them as part of a mission to appease hardliners in ZANU-PF. He wants to pacify the hardliners so that they don’t violently upset the all-inclusive government.”

Ernest Mudzengi, a Harare-based political analyst, concurred. Mudzengi, national director of the National Constitutional Assembly, a major non-governmental organisation, said that “these clashes and contrasting statements are symptoms of the impediments that are there in the functions of the new government.

“The whole process [regarding the power-sharing deal] was not transparent. It was not in the true spirit of power-sharing.”

Mudzengi said the MDC should push Mugabe and ZANU-PF to honour the power-sharing agreement by ensuring that they respected the ethos of the GPA.

“It is clear to all that the problem is ZANU-PF, but the MDC must push and shove the intransigent former ruling party. Unless it does that, the MDC will allow itself to be abused by the other party in the power-sharing deal and the power struggles will continue,” he said.

“If people think that the power struggles will end soon, it is a mirage. In fact we are going to see more of these squabbles.”

Jabu Shoko is the pseudonym of an IWPR-trained journalist.
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