ZANU – MDC Deal Elusive

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[Global: Africa News]

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Summit ended in South Africa on Sunday without a deal on the Zimbabwean crisis.

There were high hopes before the meeting started on Saturday last week that the political parties from Zimbabwe would conclude their talks at the summit.
The ruling Zimbabwe National African Union (Patriotic Front) (ZANU PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been engaged in power sharing talks for the last four weeks.

The major issue which has stalled the power sharing deal is mainly on how much power each of the leaders would get from the talks.
ZANU PF leader President Robert Mugabe wants to give MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai limited powers as prime minister of the country. At the same time, Mugabe would retain executive powers as the president, with the leeway to appoint two vice presidents and the Cabinet.

This is the only solution which ZANU PF says is acceptable for the power sharing deal to succeed.

Tsvangirai is demanding that he be made the executive prime minister, with powers to chair Cabinet and to appoint and dismiss Government ministers.
He is prepared to let Mugabe control the army, but wants him to seek advice when making military decisions.

What has angered ZANU PF and Mugabe most is that the MDC wants a clause which states that elections would be called within 90 days if anyone pulls out of the coalition.

This has given ZANU PF an indication that the MDC intends to pull out of the coalition as soon as it starts to work.

But to understand the complications of the negotiations, it is important to get a little background to the Zimbabwean problem. It all started with the March 29 elections which saw presidential, parliamentary and local government elections being held on the same day for the first time since independence in 1980.
Zimbabwe has been holding elections since 1980, but they were being held at different times.

The March 29 election did not produce a clear winner for the presidential poll, with Mugabe scoring nearly 43.2 percent compared to Tsvangirai’s 47.9.
In the powerful Lower House, Mugabe’s ZANU PF got 99 seats, with Tsvangirai's MDC having 100.

But the situation becomes complicated with the presence of an MDC breakaway faction led by Arthur Mutambara, which controls 10 seats.
The 10 seats held by Mutambara, in addition to another one held by an independent candidate, means that no party holds the ultimate majority in the Lower House.

The vote can always swing to which ever party lures the Mutambara faction and the independent candidate. But most importantly, the results of the March 29 presidential election meant that no candidate held the majority vote. This necessitated a presidential run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, which was slotted for June 27.

Tsvangirai boycotted the run-off with a few days to go, citing violence against his supporters. But according the country’s Constitution, the boycott was too late and the election went ahead, with Mugabe garnering more than two million votes compared to Tsvangirai’s nearly 200, 000.

It was after the run-off that the idea of talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai was touted. What has now made the issue of talks complex is on which election to recognise. Mugabe says the people spoke in the June 27 presidential run-off, while Tsvangirai insists that the March 29 result should be used as the basis of any political negotiation.

Political analysts predict it would be almost impossible for the two to reconcile their positions, especially considering the issue of power and control which is at stake. The bottom line is that both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are under pressure from their parties not to give in on their positions. To Mugabe, ceding executive powers to Tsvangirai means the ultimate death of ZANU PF as a political party. The implications of such a move are too ghastly to contemplate for the millions of ZANU PF supporters.

At the same time, Tsvangirai has a clear mandate from the national executive of his party that he should come out of the talks with a deal that puts the MDC in total control. The argument is that any deal which does not give Tsvangirai executive powers means the MDC would be “swallowed” by ZANU PF. MDC supporters fear that the talks would result in them becoming part and parcel of ZANU PF, a situation which would have ended the opposition party’s political ambitions.
Some say it is impossible for ZANU PF and the MDC to work together in a government of national unity.

This is mainly because of the sharp differences in ideology that exists between the two political parties. MDC accuses ZANU PF of being rooted in liberation war politics which it says are not progressive.

ZANU PF, on the other hand, says the MDC is a creation of Western countries meant to destabilise the country and obliterate the gains of the liberation struggle.
Such gains include the land reform and the empowerment programmes which have seen the once marginalised blacks being given land and resources to start companies.

But if Tsvangirai pulls out of the talks, he runs the risk of being portrayed as anti-people and anti-Zimbabwe because he would be seen as unwilling to find a solution to the problems facing the country.

The talks have been popularised as the basis to find a solution to the economic problems facing Zimbabwe to such an extent that it becomes risk to publicly pull out. Zimbabwe is facing a difficult economic situation mainly charactersied by high inflation and shortages of basic goods.

The situation has been worsened by the imposition of sanctions by the Western countries which are eager to see Mugabe go. This further complicates the whole issue considering that Western countries have made it clear that they will not recognise any deal which leaves Mugabe in control.

The negotiating political parties have no control over the removal of sanctions, since this is at the discretion of Western countries which imposed them.
But Zimbabweans still remain hopeful that a solution would be found to end the economic problems which have condemned many to poverty.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was appointed by SADC to mediate in the talks, says efforts would continue to find a speedy resolution, “so that it indeed becomes possible to address the enormous challenges that face the masses of the people of Zimbabwe.”

Perhaps what is also important is that ZANU PF and the MDC still maintain that the talks have not broken down. The parties’ officials issued statements indicating that they will continue to talk until a solution is found and an acceptable power sharing deal is agreed.

Chikova reports for The Black Star News from Harare, Zimbabwe

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