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article imageZimbabwe accord a house of cards?

By Nicole Broome     Sep 21, 2008 in Politics
Zimbabwe's historic power sharing accord signed on Sept. 15 hangs in the balance and is dealt a further blow with the resignation of its broker, President Thabo Mbeki.
Zimbabwe's main political rivals - President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutumbara - signed a power-sharing deal on Sept. 15 that, it is hoped, will turn around the economic and political misfortunes that have plagued the country for nearly a decade.
But can it last? The two main players have polemic ideologies and Mugabe has squashing all opposition in his path since he took up the Presidency in 1980. SADC, led by South Africa's President Mbeki has been working tirelessly to bring both factions to a power sharing agreement after the recent failed elections.
With Mbeki's forced resignation by the ANC announced on Saturday, this is a major setback for what is already a highly tenuous agreement.
According to an article in the Sunday Times Mugabe has reneged on an agreement that the parties share key ministries, and deadlocked the process by demanding all six of the top portfolios and hardliners in Mugabe's Zanu-PF have refused to back the deal arguing that it cedes too much ground to the MDC.
And the deal has been thrown into even more jeopardy, with Mugabe – who cancelled and stalled a series of vital coalition meetings this week – jetting off to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. This has delayed talks for another week.
Daniel Shumba, president of Zimbabwe's minority United People's Party, told the Sunday Times:
Mugabe has fooled everyone again. Officials within the European Union have told me this agreement is a non-event; they do not see it as power sharing. It is undemocratic so it cannot last.
Just days before the agreement was signed, Mugabe's bitter politcal rival of nine years, Tsvangirai, who has been intimidated, beaten and jailed by Mugabe's Zanu-PF thugs, said that no agreement was better than a bad agreement. Zanu-PF ministers, the day before signing, said they would never work with Tsvangirai.
The deal sees Morgan Tsvangirai appointed Prime Minister and splits executive authority between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. Ironically Tsvangirai, who has been a prime enemy of the security forces, even gets a seat on the newly formed National Security Council intended to replace the much feared Joint Operations Command.
Tsvangirai inherits a government with a bankrupt and corrupt system built on cronyism and illegal foreign currency trading. He has a huge task ahead of him. He will need to bring down the inflation rate (estimated at more than 11 million percent), increase growth rates, improve the value of the currency and bring in foreign investment and donor funding.
The deal acknowledges that the core problem which set off Zimbabwe's downward spiral was Mugabe's seizure of white farms, which were then distributed to war veterans and his cronies.
Unemployment now stands at 80 percent; electricity is down to six hours a day in most places; businesses are close to collapse; schools, hospitals and institutions are barely functional; water supply is down to two hours a day in most places; cholera and water-born diseases are rife; shops are empty of of all basic goods and bank queues run into thousands as daily withdrawals are restricted to the equivalent of US 5 cents per customer; hospitals have no drugs and teachers earn less than street cleaners.
At the signing Tsvangirai gave a moving address, promising reconciliation and urging restraint and tolerance as the price to pay for a better tomorrow for all Zimbabweans.
The agreement we sign today is a product of painful compromise. It does not provide an instant cure for the ills that pervade our society and our country. The first priority is to unlock the food already in the country and distribute it to the people. We need doctors and medicines back in our hospitals, teachers back in our schools. We need electricity to power our businesses and homes. We need to stabilize our economy and restore value to our currency.
In contrast Mugabe was full of resentment. He blamed the Britain, the U.S. and the evils of colonialism for Zimbabwe's woes. He did not mention the agreement he had just signed and did not offer any words of hope for his people. He declared that he would deal with the country's severe economic problems while accelerating the process of demanding compensation from Britain for white-owned farms seized by his thugs.
In an article in The Zimbabwean it was reported that John Makumbe, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said that the MDC had devised a very promising economic recovery and rehabilitation programme for the transitional period which he hoped would kick start the economy.
It is my considered view that if that programme is effectively implemented, the Zimbabwean economy could recover within as short a period as two to three years.
Callisto Jokonya, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries told the Mail & Guardian that more than two million skilled people have left Zimbabwe resulting in poor performance of businesses.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the deal could "open doors for the international communtiy to pull the country out of its rock-bottom economic crisis". IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn encouraged Zimbabwean leadership to show clear commitment to a new policy direction that could attract the international community to lend a helping hand.
The EU and US are now cautious about committing economic assistance, the MDC's main lever in the settlement talks. Donors are said to be adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude.
Wilf Mbanga, Editor or The Zimbabwean says the power sharing deal itself, is hardly the best way to implement the will of the people of Zimbabwe concerning its leadership.
It is hardly democracy. But we will need to dwell on the future - not the past. We have not had a good start. Mugabe is refusing to accept responsibility for plunging our country into the mess it is in.
The Zimbabwean reported that the head of a coalition of churches, civic centres, civic groups, political parties and students has slammed the 18-month timeline set by Zimbabwe's political parties to deliver a new constitution and threatened mass protests against politicians' attempts to unilaterally write the constitution.
Action for South Africa (ACTSA) said that the government must be acceptable and accountable to the Zimbabwean people.
Zimbabwe needs an effective government, which tackles the humanitarian crisis, based on need political affiliation. The constitution must be based on widespread consultation and participation.
A referendum on a new constitution will be held in 18 months and this will be the true test of the commitment of the ruling party.
The weeks ahead, both in Zimbabwe and South Africa, are set to be fraught. We can only hope that despite the odds, recent developments in both countries have positive outcomes for the countries involved, the SAC region and the world at large.
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