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Tsvangirai Not Happy With Mugabe Offer

Sources say Tsvangirai not prepared to play second fiddle to Mugabe in a new government.
By Jabu Shoko
The contentious issue of who wields real power in a new government of national unity appears to be a key issue stalling negotiations for a solution to Zimbabwe’s political impasse.

Analysts say the ball is now in the court of the Southern African Development Community, SADC, meeting in Johannesburg this weekend.

People privy to talks claim Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, has rejected the post of non-executive prime minister in a new government in which Robert Mugabe would retain executive powers as both head of state and government.

According to the same insiders, the Arthur Mutambara faction, an MDC splinter group which is also participating in the SADC-sponsored dialogue, was in total agreement with proposals put forward by Mugabe and his ZANU-PF, including the appointment of Mutambara to the post of deputy prime minister under Tsvangirai.

Both Mugabe and Mutambara insisted on a five-year period and the use of the present constitution with its 18 amendments to run a government of national unity.

Tsvangirai and his team of advisers, according to the sources, dug in their heels, insisting on a people-driven constitution – echoing the demand by major civil society organisations – within a two-year transition that would eventually lead to free and fair elections by 2010.

There are allegations that both ZANU-PF and the Mutambara camp reneged on a constitution agreed to by all three parties during South African president Thabo Mbeki’s earlier stages as the SADC-appointed mediator for the Zimbabwean crisis.

“There has to be injection of new ideas,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist who has been following the talks since their inception in July 2007. “The SADC summit in Johannesburg should take a more active role in assisting President Mbeki to resolve the impasse.”

The Zimbabwe crisis will be top of the agenda for the SADC heads of state meeting at the weekend. Mbeki is expected to brief delegates on the progress of the talks, which stalled on August 12. “Mbeki has done so much and but I don’t think he can unlock the current logjam,” said Masunungere.

Mutambara told a press conference at his home on August 13 that his MDC faction was in agreement with Mugabe and ZANU-PF in the negotiations. He came short of blaming Tsvangirai for Mbeki’s failure to clinch a deal on the night of August 12.

“At this stage in the dialogue all the issues are agreed upon between the three parties. We are in agreement on everything except one aspect, just one aspect,” he said.

“On this one aspect Morgan Tsvangirai requested for some time to go and reflect and consult and then come back to the process. I must emphasise that three times in our discussions, Morgan Tsvangirai was agreeable to that aspect. And thrice he changed his mind. In the end, he said he wanted an opportunity to reflect and consult and then re-engage in the process.”

He said as far as his faction was concerned, the aspect on which Tsvangirai expressed reservations was a “non-issue” which should not have caused the talks to stall.

"The people of Zimbabwe demand a solution to their circumstances and as a political party we are trying to play our role in terms of providing leadership in pursuit of that political settlement," said Mutambara.

Tsvangirai, on the same day, said the MDC remained committed to participating in any meaningful and genuine dialogue that would urgently move the process forward.

“We are committed to a solution that ensures tangible deliverables are put on the table of Zimbabweans – a solution that must thus put the people first, not leadership positions and titles,” he said.

There are concerns, say insiders, about ideological differences between Tsvangirai, Mugabe and, to some extent, Mutambara, that have made it difficult for the protagonists to see issues in the same light.

They cite Mugabe’s fixation with the liberation struggle and his anti-imperialism rhetoric, Tsvangirai’s trade union background and Mutambara’s being still stuck “in student politics” as some of the dynamics that have failed to deliver a solution.

The Mutambara faction holds ten seats in the Zimbabwe parliament, where they had agreed to vote with the Tsvangirai faction, giving MDC a comfortable parliamentary majority.

However, warned Ernest Mudzengi, national director of the National Constitutional Assembly, the Mutambara faction could cede its advantage to ZANU-PF – although there has been speculation that at least seven of the ten legislators involved would be opposed to throwing their lot in with Mugabe. Indeed, some have publicly stated they would refuse to do so.

“The stalling of the talks was inevitable,” said Mudzengi. “It has never been an all-inclusive negotiation. The exclusion of other stakeholders such as the civil society organisations was a mistake. All this confirms that it was all about power-sharing between three political parties.

“What we are witnessing are politicians fighting for positions and posts nothing else. The way forward is to include everyone in finding a solution to the crisis.”

Gorden Moyo, the director of Bulawayo Agenda, said the inclusion of the Mutambara camp in the talks had presented ZANU-PF and Mugabe with many options to retain their executive powers.

“ZANU-PF went into the whole mediation with plan A and plan B. Plan B is now being put into place as Tsvangirai is failing to play ball. The Mutambara camp fits well into ZANU-PF’s political machinations.”

“The Mutambara leadership are emerging as the ZAPU of this generation,” he said, in reference to the ZAPU-PF leadership that negotiated with ZANU-PF in the late 1980s, leading to the 1987 Unity Accord – and, in effect, the end of ZAPU.

“The talks were never going to be smooth sailing,” added Moyo.

ZANU-PF officials are understood to be seething with anger after Mbeki failed to clinch a deal on the night of August 12. Some observers likened a deal between Mugabe and the Mutambara camp at the expense of Tsvangirai to the internal settlement reached between Rhodesia Front leader Ian Smith and Abel Muzorewa, Chief Jeremiah Chirau, Ndabaningi Sithole and other signatories in the 1970s.

“What you see happening now is that history is repeating itself,” said an MDC insider. “When Ian Smith was cornered in the 1970s by the intensifying liberation war, the South African prime minister advised him that it was time to negotiate with the nationalists.

“However, Smith was stubborn; he ignored the nationalists in Mozambique and Zambia and instead chose to negotiate with Sithole, Muzorewa and Chief Chirau, whom he considered black moderates.

“This is the similar deal that ZANU-PF wants to sign with Mutambara, but I predict that its fate will be the same. Most importantly, losers don’t sign treaties.”

He was referring to Mugabe’s loss of the March 29 presidential election which Tsvangirai won and Mutambara did not contest.

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

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