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

New Power-Sharing Hitch

Country’s political leaders are at loggerheads over constitutional reform required for unity government.
By Chipo Sithole
Zimbabwe's fragile power-sharing deal has suffered yet another blow, as the country’s political rivals have failed to agree on a draft constitutional amendment necessary to form a unity government.

President Robert Mugabe and the leader of main Movement for Democratic Change faction Morgan Tsvangirai have proposed two very different sets of amendments and neither side looks set to back down.

The country has been without an effective government since elections were held on March 29.

Negotiators from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the MDC met in South Africa on November 25 in a fresh bid to agree on the so-called Constitutional Amendment No 19 Bill.

Prior to the meeting, ZANU-PF had sent a proposed draft to the office of former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating negotiations.

However, this was rejected by Tsvangirai because it had had no input from either MDC faction. This goes against the terms of the September power-sharing accord, which states that all parties should contribute to drafting the amendment.

The president’s press secretary George Charamba said that the MDC would have a chance to have input into this working version.

However, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said that his party had formulated its own draft and sent it to Mbeki.

IWPR understands that there are stark differences between the two proposals.

According to Chamisa, ZANU-PF’s draft contains a clause giving Mugabe the power to cancel the power-sharing agreement, unilaterally – a condition which did not feature in the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, which was signed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai in July, and which laid the foundations for future power-sharing talks.

In a copy seen by IWPR, one clause of the ZANU-PF proposal states that the deal may be cancelled if “the president is satisfied that the circumstances are such that [its] continuance… is no longer possible for any reason”.

If passed, this amendment would allow Mugabe to cancel all the changes brought in by the power-sharing agreement – including Tsvangirai's appointment as prime minister – and the country would revert to an executive presidency.

The MDC draft bill, on the other hand, would extend the power of the council of ministers, which Tsvangirai will chair.

“The cabinet, and every member thereof, shall comply with any directions or recommendations given to it or him, as the case may be, by the Council of Ministers,” reads the draft.

With such different positions, analysts doubt the two sides will reach an agreement over the constitutional bill.

If the parties are able to agree, Zimbabwe’s new parliament will meet next week to debate the proposed legislation. In an attempt to speed up the process, parliament has proposed that the final version be approved within five days, instead of the usual two weeks.

As negotiations continue, there is growing unease that party leaders seem more focused on how to divide top jobs than on how to tackle the country’s dire humanitarian problems.

“Discussion on a new governance structure should not be about sharing power, it should not be about sharing the spoils, or about 'jobs for the boys' or 'eating together', it should be about sharing responsibility,” said Harare political commentator Ronald Shumba.

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR-trained journalist in Zimbabwe.