Zimbabwean parties endorse cabinet deal

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Leaders of the three Zimbabwean parties that signed Thursday’s unity deal have agreed the allocation of cabinet posts ahead of Monday’s formal signing ceremony in Harare.

By Tony Hawkins in Harare

Heads of government or foreign ministers from the 14 members of the Southern African Development Community will attend the ceremony, after which full details of the agreement will be announced.

Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for the government of President Robert Mugabe, said the ruling Zanu-PF’s top decision-making body, the 30-member politburo, endorsed the agreement at an emergency meeting on Saturday.

Both wings of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have also endorsed the deal, although there are many dissenters. The MDC’s minority wing, led by Arthur Mutambara, seems delighted with the agreement because it has emerged with more power than merited by its performance in the March 29 general elections, in which it won just 10 seats.

The breakaway wing will have Mr Mutambara as a deputy-premier and three other cabinet posts. Of the remaining 28 posts, 15 will go to Zanu-PF, which has 99 MPs, and 13 to the main MDC wing, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, with 100 MPs.

Party sources say the MDC has been allocated the ministries of justice, which has been split into two with a new ministry of prisons, home affairs, which controls the police, and finance. The existing Ministry for State Security is said to have been abolished, although it is unclear where the Central Intelligence Organisation, fiercely loyal to Mr Mugabe, will be located and which party will control it.

There is no clarity yet on the fate of the governor of the central bank, Gideon Gono, who has been singled out by the MDC for dismissal. Mr Gono says he will retire quietly if he is not wanted, but he is close to Mr Mugabe and many in Zanu-PF would see his removal as public humiliation for the president.

The relationship between the Council of Ministers, to be chaired by Mr Tsvangirai as prime minister, and the cabinet, chaired by Mr Mugabe with Mr Tsvangirai as his deputy, is still unclear, as is whether service chiefs have been granted immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes against humanity.

Analysts will scour the agreement to see whether it provides for the repeal of some of Mr Mugabe’s more pernicious legislation, such as that covering the media and state security. They question whether Zanu-PF will retain control of the electronic media and the daily newspapers.

George Charamba, Mr Mugabe’s chief spokesman and a columnist in the state-controlled Herald newspaper, wrote in his column on Saturday that Zanu-PF had “to learn to govern in a new environment where the enemy is now within, well embedded. The west will now have an eager listening post, right up to cabinet.”

If this reflects government thinking there will be a difficult times ahead.

The Financial Times

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