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Power-Sharing Delays

Mugabe and his ZANU-PF demanding to hold onto key portfolios, despite provision in agreement for sharing them equally.
By Chipo Sithole
More than two weeks after President Robert Mugabe and opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed a power-sharing deal on September 15, they have yet to agree on how power should actually be shared.

Patrick Chinamasa, minister of justice, legal and parliamentary affairs in the previous cabinet, has said the new government will not be formed until the Constitution Amendment No 19 Bill has been enacted. But he said the proposed legislation will only be tabled when parliament meets in November. Meanwhile, it is not clear whether the bill has yet been drafted and approved by the three parties to the agreement.

However, IWPR understands that the prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the main MDC faction, may be appointed under the present constitution and allocated his duties by Mugabe.

In view of the numerous delays and the government hiatus since the March elections, analysts says they are astonishing that the agreement contains no time frame for implementation of the provisions of the accord – apart from the 18-month deadline for the finalisation of a new constitution.

Meetings between the two political gladiators to agree a new cabinet have ended in failure. Despite the fact that the agreement includes a clause stating that the important ministries should be shared equally between the participating parties, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF are demanding to hold onto the key portfolios of finance, defence, home affairs, local government and foreign affairs.

As one senior African diplomat put it, “We all know what real power-sharing looks like. You can’t give one side ministry of finance and the other ministry of goats.”

Mugabe, who returned on September 29 from New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly, has been castigated for undermining the negotiations.

In terms of the deal, he remains president, with overwhelming executive powers including the right to make war, declare martial law and dissolve parliament, while Tsvangirai, as prime minister, will run the government, inheriting a bankrupt and corrupt system built on cronyism and illegal foreign-currency trading.

The deal also splits executive authority between Tsvangirai and Mugabe, allowing the MDC leader to sit in on meetings of the newly formed National Security Council, a think-tank of army generals previously called the Joint Operations Command.

It remains to be seen whether this arrangement is workable, given the fact that the generals have not hidden their hostility to the power-sharing deal. According to a senior ZANU-PF source, they boycotted the signing ceremony and mobilised a revolt against Mugabe in the central committee meeting held in Harare on September 24.

There are three main reasons why procedural requirements for a constitutional bill are cumbersome and may delay the installation of the cabinet.

A constitutional amendment must be gazetted 30 days before its introduction into parliament. This has not yet happened.

The relevant parliamentary portfolio committee may consider the bill for 14 business days.

The constitutional amendment must be passed by both houses of parliament, a procedure which normally takes at least a week in each house, though if the houses vote to suspend the standing orders, the bill could be fast-tracked in four days.

The bill must then be printed in its final form and sent to the president for assent, steps which could be completed within two or three days. The final step is publication in the Government Gazette –

official confirmation of the new law.

“The shortest possible time in which the bill could become law is early November,” said Val Ingham Thorpe, of the legal service, Veritas.

While squabbling over the allocation of ministries appears to be inevitable, some civil society activists are angered by the size of the cabinet. They say the current composition of 46 ministers plus their deputies is wasteful.

Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional lawyer and chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, argues that instead of the hundreds of thousands of US dollars spent on hefty salaries and perks for unnecessary ministers, the money should be used to re-house the hundreds of thousands who were displaced by the state-sanctioned crackdown on the MDC prior to the June 27 presidential run-off election.

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

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