Agreement may not be ideal but it was the best negotiators could come up with

The agreement reached in Harare on September 15 for an all inclusive government that will see Robert Mugabe remain president with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and fellow opposition leader Arthur Mutambara as his deputy may not be the ideal agreement that Zimbabweans wanted but negotiators say it was the best they could come up with.

Mugabe was prepared to go ahead with his lone rule despite the worsening economic deterioration which has seen inflation soaring to as high as 334 million according to MDC-T policy advisor Eddie Cross.

It will be a hard sell though for Tsvangirai because his supporters wanted Mugabe to go. Though he is now executive Prime Minister Tsvangirai will still have "to report regularly" to Mugabe and to Parliament.

Tsvangirai will be responsible for the day-to-day running of government, chairing the council of ministers which will be responsible for making sure cabinet decisions are implemented. He will also be deputy chairman of the cabinet, which surprisingly will consist of the same people as those in the council of ministers.

The Prime Minister shall oversee the formulation of policies by cabinet and ensure that the policies are implemented. The cabinet shall consist of 15 members from Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), 13 from Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and three from Mutambara's MDC.

The seats were based on the number of votes each party got in the parliamentary elections, another thing Tsvangirai supporters might find difficult to understand because his party has more seats in parliament.

Though seeming to play second fiddle, Mutambara's party seems to have gained most in the agreement. The party has 10 seats in the lower house and six in the senate, but it has a deputy Prime Minister, a deputy speaker of Parliament, three ministers and one deputy.

What is interesting about the agreement, and another thing that could lead to greater disgruntlement among Tsvangirai's supporters, is that it bars any elections or by-elections in the next 12 months. If Mugabe goes or decides to resign within that period, he will therefore be replaced by a ZANU-PF candidate. If something happens to Tsvangirai, the Prime Minister will come from his party. The same applies to Mutambara. This seems to confine Tsvangirai to the post of Prime Minister with half the powers that his supporters wanted him to have.

The three parties will not contest each other in the next 12 months but independent candidates and members of other parties not part of the agreement can contest the seats, which could reduce the number of MPs for the parties.

The agreement is silent on the post of Speaker which means that the challenge by independent Member of Parliament Jonathan Moyo that MDC-T chairman Lovemore Moyo was improperly elected as Speaker because the voting was not secret will go ahead. This could cost Tsvangirai a powerful post because the Mutambara faction wanted its candidate, Paul Themba Nyathi in. ZANU-PF did not field a candidate.

MDC-M secretary for legal affairs David Coltart says there is evidence that the ballot was not secret because MDC-T members were forced to show party vice-President Thoko Khupe who they had voted for. He says there is video evidence of this and argues that the whole negotiation exercise was aimed at bringing about democracy and freedom of choice, so the new government cannot kick off on a false premise.

Moyo might not win the second round because MDC-M legislators who had been misled into believing that their leadership had sold them out, have been brought into line and have signed an undertaking of loyalty to the party leadership. This was after a meeting in Kadoma during the 6-7 September weekend at which they were drilled into realising that though they are few, only 16 in total, they wield the balance of power especially in Parliament because MDC-T or ZANU-PF cannot do anything without their support.

MDC-T has 100 seats and ZANU-PF 99 seats in the lower house.

National interest would have to be paramount for the next year or so because all decisions would be made by consensus. There will not be any voting in cabinet or council of ministers because this would divide people along party lines. Mugabe would not have any casting vote therefore.

The sticking point seems to have been the powers of the Prime Minister. Tsvangirai wanted executive powers with Mugabe as ceremonial president, but it was finally agreed that they share 50-50, a suggestion that came from the African Union. But even then, the balance of power is still tilted in favour of Mugabe.

Some people even argue that Tsvangirai had been given a lot of responsibility to turn around the economy but very little real power. Tsvangrai's hands will also be tied because the agreement will be monitored by a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee comprising four senior members from ZANU-PF, another four from MDC-T and two from Mutambara's party.

He could turn the tables around. The civil service is going to be depoliticised. Some of the senior civil servants are likely to opt for retirement rather than take orders from Tsvangirai. The same applies to security chiefs.

But what Zimbabweans need most is food, money and medicines. And Tsvangirai has promised to deliver all three. This will make him popular. People voted for him because of the suffering they were going through and the realisation that things would not change under Mugabe.

But Tsvangirai will have a tough time cooling tempers among his supporters because they wanted total change- a clean sweep of everything that had to do with Mugabe. He knows he cannot do that. He needs to start from somewhere and that will have to be with some of Mugabe's men.

Restoration of economic stability and maximising food production in the 2008-9 season are top priorities. A good harvest could help curb inflation officially put at 11 million percent. A National Economic Council that will comprise all sectors of the economy and academics will be set up to map the way forward.

MDC policy advisor Eddie Cross said according to his own calculations inflation currently stands at 334 million percent. It was 3.2 million in June and 32 million in July.

The parties agreed that there would be no reversal of the redistribution of land. Instead Britain is urged to fulfil its commitment at Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 to pay compensation to affected farmers. But there will be a land audit to check on multi-ownership.

A new constitution is to be drafted in the next 18 months but will have to be brought to the nation for a referendum. It is most unlikely that the rigorous exercise that the new constitution would have to go through would be completed in 18 months. Besides, there is a feeling that the nation needs healing because elections are disruptive and create more animosity and violence.

It will not be surprising if the present set-up lasts the entire term of parliament, that is up to 2013. Experts say it will take at least three years to turn around the economy.

The parties all agreed to call for an end to sanctions which the West has denied exist except for targeted individuals. They have agreed to promote equality and to stop all political violence.

The agreement is also going to foster freedom of expression and will allow private radio stations and newspapers to operate but calls on all governments hosting or funding external radio stations to stop and encourage Zimbabweans working for such stations to return home.

 

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