Tsvangirai’s tragic role : Does a piece of paper count?

Reading time 4 min.

The jury is still out in Zimbabwe about how effective the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, will be in the role of prime minister.

The beleaguered country, which is experiencing a cholera pandemic that has claimed the lives of well over 3,000 people and has 7 million people receiving emergency food aid, is divided about whether Tsvangirai will have any meaningful power.

According to the power-sharing deal signed on 15 September 2008, which will begin to be implemented on 11 February 2009, when Tsvangirai is inaugurated as prime minister, Robert Mugabe will remain president, as he has been for the past 29 years.

In terms of the deal, executive powers and authority will be shared by the president, prime minister and cabinet. Wellington Chibhebhe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), has indicated that a casual glance at the power-sharing pact only gave the MDC “administrative work”.

“There will be no power-sharing and the deal only seeks to confer a winning status on a loser, and a losing status on a winner. The policy and executive authority will be with Mugabe, while Tsvangirai will be an administrator,” he said.

“There is no period, according to the agreement, that Tsvangirai will act as president in the absence of Mugabe, as that would be done by one of the two vice-presidents. If there was power in the office of the prime minister, ZANU-PF would have insisted on having a representative in that office.”

Chibhebhe said the fact that there would be an acting president during Mugabe’s absences meant that Tsvangirai would not chair any cabinet meetings.

Power does not lie in a piece of a document

However, political analyst Raymond Majongwe said Tsvangirai’s decision to go into government could turn out to be strategic. “Power does not lie in a piece of a document, but depends on how Tsvangirai will deliver – based on the needs of the people – using charisma, intellect and hard work,” he noted.

“I think he will be pleasantly surprised that he will be welcomed by ZANU-PF supporters, who are clamouring for relief after almost a decade of hardships. The most strategic way to neutralise Mugabe could be for the MDC to get into his kitchen,” he said.

According to the deal, power will be exercised in the following manner:

The President:

 chairs cabinet and exercises executive authority

 chairs the National Security Council – a committee comprised of security force chiefs

 allocates ministerial portfolios after consultation with the vice presidents, the prime minister and deputy prime ministers

 acting in consultation with the prime minister, may dissolve parliament.

However, the parties to the inclusive government are already arguing over the small print. The MDC allege that sections of the power-sharing deal were altered to dilute Morgan Tsvangirai’s powers on the eve of the signing ceremony.

Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for the ruling ZANU-PF party, attributed the changes to “typographical errors”.

The MDC claim the original power-sharing document made provisions for the president and prime minister to implement policy “after agreement” and not “in consultation”, as later reflected in the signed document.

The Prime Minister:

 chairs the Council of Ministers and is deputy chairperson of the cabinet. (The Council of Ministers comprises cabinet ministers to ensure the implementation of cabinet decisions)

 oversees the formulation of government policies by the cabinet

 ensures ministers develop appropriate implementation plans to give effect to the policies decided by cabinet

 ensures legislation necessary to enable the government to carry out its functions is in place

 ensures policies so formulated are implemented by government

 is a member of the National Security Council

 exercises executive authority

 may be assigned such additional functions as are necessary

 is assisted by deputy prime ministers to ensure the effective execution of these tasks

 reports regularly to the president and parliament.

Monitoring body

To ensure full and fair implementation of the 15 September agreement, a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) will be established with representatives from the deal’s three signatories (ZANU-PF, MDC and the MDC section of the party led by Arthur Mutumbura), with the facilitator of the deal, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, ensuring compliance to the agreement.

Although the agreement states: “The president and prime minister will agree on the allocation of ministries,” Mugabe has already allocated key ministries to himself. He has also appointed a new attorney-general, who told the state controlled newspaper, The Herald, that he was “a proud ZANU-PF supporter”.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, also known as Mugabe’s personal banker, has been given another five-year term of office, despite a monetary policy that has led to hyperinflation estimated in the trillions of percent by independent economists.

Mugabe has refused to relent on his position not to reappoint provincial governors, even in those provinces won by the MDC during the March 2008 elections.

However, while all the political parties have drafted their negotiators into JOMIC, the chief negotiator for Tsvangirai’s MDC, Tendai Biti, has chosen to stay out in the cold.

Biti was one of the “hardliners” opposed to the formation of an inclusive government because Mugabe had reportedly flouted many of the terms of the power-sharing agreement. Irin.

Zimbabwe  Read latest news and features from Zimbabwe : business, politics, culture, life & style, entertainment and sports
Support Follow Afrik-News on Google News