Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fresh demands by MDC caused Zim talks collapse

Fresh demands by MDC caused Zim talks collapse
Written by Kingsley Kaswende and George Chellah in Harare, Zimbabwe
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 7:07:28 PM

FRESH demands tabled by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday caused a potentially irretrievable damage to the hopes for an inclusive government in Zimbabwe. The new MDC demands, which conflict those agreed upon by SADC leaders last November on how the Zimbabwean leaders must proceed to form an inclusive government were met by a stern rejection by ZANU-PF, throwing the parties worlds apart as far as constituting an inclusive government is converned.

It was the sixth meeting held over forming an inclusive government since September 15 when the leaders agreed to form a unity government, but it still failed to yield positive results.

Zimbabweans and the region had hoped Monday's talks would find a solution to the political wrangling and allow Zimbabwe's leaders to focus on ending an economic crisis that has half the country's people in need of food aid.

At a press briefing following the 13-hour marathon meeting, SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao said the meeting had “unfortunately failed to yield anything positive.”

Dr Salomao said the talks were inconclusive and Presidents Motlanthe and Guebuza and facilitator Thabo Mbeki had recommended that a summit be held next Monday either in Johannesburg or in Gaborone. Speaking to journalists in the early hours of yesterday, President Mugabe confirmed the breakdown of the talks.

"It didn’t go well. We had a proposal from SADC that would have brought us to a situation where the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers would have been sworn-in. We agreed to it, as did Mutambara’s MDC but MDC-T (Tsvangirai) did not agree. They instead came up with their own counter-proposal that naturally was in conflict with the position of SADC which would have seen us move forward and that is where the talks broke down. We will continue to discuss here at home. There will be a meeting of SADC in a few days time where a report will be made to SADC. We are for the SADC proposal and abide by it to the full," President Mugabe said.

However, Tsvangirai accused President Mugabe of being "a stumbling block" and said the president's party had "disappointed" Zimbabweans who were hoping for an end to the "roller-coaster" of problems they face.

“The same issues that have always caused a stalemate are the ones that are still sticking the talks. The chairman has organised another meeting next week...We came to this meeting so that we would be able to resolve the outstanding issues and conclude the power-sharing agreement. Unfortunately, there has been no progress made," he said. "This has been one of the darkest days of our lives."

Prior to the meeting, President Mugabe had warned he would not give any more concessions that he had already given.

Last November, SADC leaders meeting in Johannesburg had recommended that ZANU-PF and MDC co-share the Ministry of Home Affairs, which was the main stumbling block to the implementation of the agreement. The proposal of co-managing the ministry had earlier been proposed by the MDC.

Dr Salomao, at the time, said SADC’s position was final and would not be changed.

“Whether the political parties agreed or not, that’s the position of SADC. The parties came to SADC and now SADC has made a ruling,” he said after the November meeting.

“The parties themselves presented proposals… of co-sharing, rotation and here they differed on who starts the rotation and also towards the end the position in case of MDC was that, for them the bottom line should be the ministries of finance and home affairs. Some progress was made and the parties agreed that the portfolio (minister of finance) be presented by MDC and so the outstanding issue now was home affairs. In practical terms you have two ministers of home affairs appointed by ZANU-PF and the other by MDC. The view of the summit was we are dealing with an above normal circumstance and we cannot afford to postpone the formation of an all inclusive government because there is a dispute on who appoints the minister of home affairs.”

However, the MDC rejected the proposal and on Monday presented a fresh set of demands, which were rejected by ZANU-PF.

Among the MDC’s fresh proposals as contained in a confidential document accessed by The Post, the opposition party demanded that the envisaged National Security Council should be appointed by an Act of Parliament and not appointed by the president.

“The question of the composition, function and constitution of the National Security Council is a critical issue in view of the dangerous and partisan role that has been displayed by the security services in Zimbabwe,” the document reads.

“In this regard, our position is that an Act must be enacted by Parliament which will regulate and oversee all State security and intelligence agencies. This Act must seek to balance the need for accountability and transparency with the competing principles of national security and sovereignty.”

The MDC also demanded to take control of the ministries of Home Affairs; Finance; media, information and Publicity; Local Government, Rural and Urban Development; and agriculture while demanding that ZANU-PF should get Defence; National Security; Foreign affairs; Justice and Legal affairs; and Lands and Resettlement.

“The issue of the equitable allocation of ministerial portfolios has unnecessarily delayed the consummation of the global political agreement to the detriment of resolving the other outstanding issues. Therefore, unless the above allocation is accepted we see no point in any further discussions on this matter,” the party’s document reads.

The opposition party also demanded that the ruling party must consult the opposition party before appoint provincial governors, an issue which ZANU-PF says will be dealt with after the inclusive government is formed.

The MDC also demanded that President Mugabe should reverse the appointment of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr Gideon Gono and that of the Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

“The reappointment of Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono on 26th November 2008 contravenes both the Reserve Bank Act and the GPA. A Central Bank Governor should play an essential role in the economic stabilisation of Zimbabwe and therefore, in terms of the GPA no one person should make such an appointment. It is our firm position that this appointment be reversed and that the

Prime Minister designate and President designate agree on his replacement prior to the consummation of this agreement,” MDC stated.

“Similarly, the Attorney General was appointed unilaterally by Mr Mugabe on 17th December 2008.”

In an interview at the end of Monday’s meeting, one of Zanu-PF’s negotiators to the talks, Patrick Chinamasa, said Tsvangirai’s latest U-turn had surprised everyone.

"We as ZANU-PF told (then) SADC chair, Comrade Mbeki and Comrade Guebuza — who is the acting chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security — that we had no problem with the proposal put before us. In essence, the proposal was that the three parties issue a statement declaring that we would all support Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill when Parliament resumes sitting on 20 January, 2009 (yesterday),” he said.

Chinamasa said that would have been followed by the swearing-in of Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and the two Deputies by January 24, 2009, after which Cabinet ministers would be appointed.

"MDC-T would make an undertaking to submit a Draft Bill for the National Security Council by January 24 because this is essentially something that they have demanded today. On the issue of governors, the parties would agree that these would be shared as and when vacancies arose according to a formula that the parties would agree on and that the allocation of ministries would be reviewed after six months. We agreed with all of this in the spirit of the agreement that we all signed and Professor Mutambara also assented to this proposal,” Chinamasa said.

"However, Tsvangirai suddenly, and to everyone’s consternation, said he needed a bit of time to consult after initially saying he too would go with it if the other parties agreed.”

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