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

Top Harare Bureaucrats Oppose Power-Sharing

They are reported to feel betrayed by Mugabe and still consider Tsvangirai an enemy.
By Nonthano Bhebhe
A number of senior civil servants are said to have no intention of cooperating with those members of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, who will be appointed to join the new inclusive government.

Sources at Munhumutapa Building – which houses the offices of the president, the two vice presidents and the ministries of foreign affairs, finance, and information and publicity – told IWPR that some partisan senior civil servants are uncomfortable with the deal signed between ZANU-PF’s Robert Mugabe and the leaders of the two MDC factions.

Mugabe signed the power-sharing agreement last week with Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leaders of the larger and smaller factions of the MDC respectively.

In the new government, while Mugabe would remain as president, Tsvangirai would be prime minister and chair a council of ministers which would be responsible for the day-today management of the country’s affairs. Mutambara would be one of one of the deputy prime ministers.

The sources said top government officials were still to embrace the deal, but from discussions amongst themselves it seems they were not prepared to see the agreement succeed.

A source from the office of one of the two vice presidents said it was going to take a very long time for his colleagues to accept the new situation and transform into non-partisan civil servants. He said the problem with some civil servants was that they had benefited immensely through patronage from the land redistribution programme and were used to getting cheap fuel, seed, fertiliser and other agricultural inputs. They were counting on this situation continuing.

“There is a big problem which has to be dealt with if the deal is to succeed. My colleagues don’t want this deal to work and have vowed to sabotage it. They want to make sure that Tsvangirai gets so frustrated that he pulls out of the deal,” said the source.

“When you talk to them, it’s as if the signing ceremony never happened. They have not seriously considered the possibility of the power-sharing agreement working. They feel betrayed by the president and cannot imagine reporting to Tsvangirai, whom they still consider as an enemy.”

One of those opposed to the deal is the information and publicity permanent secretary George Charamba.

According to sources at the state-run Herald newspaper, Charamba summoned editors and political reporters to his office to tell them that their editorial policy had not changed despite the signing of the power-sharing deal.

One source said Charamba was angry at some stories published in state newspapers praising the deal and giving coverage to the prime minister-designate. Some articles in the public media for the first time acknowledged that Mugabe was surrounded by corrupt ministers whom one writer accused of looting and gross inefficiency.

“Charamba was fuming and he told us that nothing had changed and we should disregard the agreement and continue operating as we had in the past. This was quite a shocker, considering that the president had just signed an agreement with Tsvangirai,” he said.

The journalist said following the meeting, The Herald refused to run an MDC advertisement.

Writing in the Herald at the weekend after the political leaders sealed the deal, Nathaniel Manheru – thought to be a pseudonym for Charamba – said the MDC was now an “embedded” enemy and that ZANU-PF should be on guard.

“For a party that has always relied on government and intellect for policy incubation, it [ZANU-PF] now has to learn to govern in a new environment where the enemy is now within, well embedded,” wrote Manheru.

“The West will now have an eager listening post, right up to cabinet. There will be lots of policy pre-emption.”

Manheru wrote that prior to last Thursday, September 18, when the deal was sealed, he had been very angry at ZANU-PF for doubting itself and being too anxious for peace.

“Until Thursday, I was very angry, very angry with the ruling party, ZANU-PF. The ruling party was viewed as beginning to believe that it depended on MDC’s collaborative goodwill for its own legitimacy, never on the people of Zimbabwe who gave it the mandate to form the next government on June 27,” he wrote.

Manheru questioned why ZANU-PF, which he described as a liberation movement with a “spectacular” history, would give Tsvangirai’s party so much power.

A senior MDC official said there was a need to transform the civil service into a non-partisan body.

He said it might be necessary to retire or fire some civil servants, who would try to frustrate efforts to make the deal a success.

“You can tell by the language of some senior civil servants that they have not accepted that things need to change. It is going to be very difficult to work with such persons. To balance things, some might have to be fired,” he said.

The power-sharing deal is supposed to open the way for international donors to help to revive Zimbabwe’s economy, where inflation is more than 11-million per cent.

Zimbabwe has not been receiving financial and technical assistance from international organisations like the International Monetary Fund since 2006.

Nonthano Bhebhe is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.