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SADC Fails to End Political Stalemate

Latest regional initiative to resolve impasse over new government falls flat.
By Jabu Shoko
A Southern African Development Community delegation has failed to break the deadlock between Zimbabwe’s political leaders which is preventing them from forming a government.

SADC representatives met ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, leaders on October 27 to try to help them bridge their differences over the allocation of key ministries. However, the meeting ended 13 hours later with no deal in place.

Mozambican president Armando Guebuza, Swazi prime minister Sibusiso Dlamini and Angolan foreign minister Assuncao dos Anjos were unable to persuade either President Robert Mugabe or MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to climb down from their demands that certain ministerial posts be given to their respective parties.

The political leaders have been unable to establish a government following the signing of a power-sharing agreement on September 15, because they cannot agree on who should control each of the country’s ministries.

SADC officials told journalists that the latest talks stalled only over the home affairs ministry – which controls the country’s controversial police force.

“The only outstanding issue is the one related to home affairs,” SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao told reporters at a press conference on the morning of October 28.

However, Tendai Biti, MDC secretary general and chief negotiator, told IWPR that the parties had disagreed over several critical issues.

These included the allocation of ministries; the composition, functions and constitution of the country’s National Security Council; the question of the constitutional amendment which will create the post of prime minister to be assumed by Tsvangirai; as well as allegations that the power-sharing deal has been altered fraudulently.

“It is regrettable that the [SADC] could not narrow the gaps between Zimbabwe’s parties,” said Biti, following the meeting.

“In our view, an urgent summit towards the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis is paramount. Zimbabweans are suffering and dying.”

However, Biti maintained that Tsvangirai would not accept a flawed deal, saying, “A bad deal is no deal at all.”

Before the talks, Guebuza, Mbeki, and South African president Kgalema Motlanthe expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached.

However, in a communique issued afterwards, the SADC delegation urged its leaders to convene a summit “to further review the current political situation in Zimbabwe as a matter of urgency”. It also urged the rivals “to genuinely commit themselves [to] finding a lasting solution to the current deadlock”.

“The people of Zimbabwe are faced with difficult challenges and suffering that can only be addressed once the inclusive government is in place,” said the communique.

Last week, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who brokered last month’s power-sharing agreement, recommended that the opposition leaders accept whichever ministries Mugabe decreed they should have – a recommendation he is thought to have repeated to the SADC delegation.

However, analysts who spoke to IWPR this week say the stalemate shows that the power-sharing agreement was flawed, as it failed to outline how the ministries should be divided. They also questioned the effectiveness of Mbeki’s mediation attempts, which Tsvangirai has argued are biased in favour of Mugabe.

John Makumbe, a political scientist and government critic, described the agreement as “highly defective”, and argued that the text of the deal should have detailed the way in which the ministries were to be allocated.

“The ministries are the levers of power [in the country] and the way they are allocated determines how the power-sharing deal is going to be implemented,” he said.

Ernest Mudzengi, a Harare-based political analyst, agreed.

“The deadlock indicates that the agreement signed by the three principals [Mugabe, Tsvangirai and leader of the MDC breakaway group Arthur Mutambara] is not perfect,” he said.

Mudzengi said that there should have been a wider consultation during the mediation process, which led to the signing of the power-sharing agreement, and added that civil society organisations should have been consulted.

The analyst said he doubted whether a further SADC summit would make a difference, pointing out that past talks had not produced results.

“There is no guarantee that another SADC summit will break the impasse. We have had a lot of them, with the facilitator claiming there is work in progress,” he said.

He said that the SADC lacked political will to push for change, “We will still have Mbeki presenting a report which will most likely be supported by the regional grouping which wants to protect the status quo.”

Eldred Masunungure, professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe, said the SADC had failed to use its leverage to force Mugabe to share power with Tsvangirai.

The opposition leader won the presidential election on March 29 with 47.9 per cent of the vote to Mugabe’s 43.2 per cent, although he did not muster the minimum 50 per cent share of votes need to be declared the new president of Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai boycotted the presidential run-off on June 27, leaving Mugabe to stand unopposed, after a campaign of violence by ZANU-PF supporters left more than 100 of his supporters dead.

Masunungure said he found it hard to believe that the current deadlock would be resolved unless both Mugabe and Tsvangirai shifted significantly from their entrenched positions over the disputed ministry or ministries.

“There is mutual hardening of positions by the two main protagonists,” he said. “The prospects of the deal succeeding are getting dimmer and dimmer.

“Unless one or both of the two protagonists is prepared to climb down, we should now start writing the obituary of the power-sharing deal.”

Jabu Shoko is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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