- Southern Africa
Tendai Biti: "It is a miracle that we are here"
Chief negotiator for MDC gives his impressions
Zimbabwe Parliament on Thursday unanimously passed constitutional amendment no. 19 Bill in less than two hours, paving way for the formation of a new inclusive government. In the high-turnout sitting, the Bill had support from all the 184 Members of the House of Assembly and 72 Senators in the Upper House.
The Bill now awaits President Mugabe’s assent before it becomes law. Under the power-sharing deal, Mugabe will remain as head of state, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, will become Prime Minister head of government.
The amendments that were passed as Mugabe and Tsvangirai were meeting secretly at State House, will see the MDC-T leader and the rest of the unity Cabinet sworn in next week. The government will bring together members of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and a smaller opposition party.
Approval of the amendments marks a key step toward in forming the government that was agreed to on September 15 but left in limbo amid fractious negotiations on how exactly to divide power between the parties.
Tendai Biti, the lead negotiator for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said it was a “miracle” that the parties had managed to agree on the unity accord at all. “Everything has happened on the negotiating table other than physical confrontation. It is a miracle that we are here,” he said at the start of the session. “We go into this government knowing that for this to work there has to be commitment,” he said, “It is important to establish trust from the word go.”
In elections last March the MDC seized a parliamentary majority for the first time and Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a first-round presidential vote. The result sparked a wave of political violence, which Amnesty International says left more than 180 dead and targeted mainly MDC supporters.
Hoping to quell the violence, Tsvangirai pulled out of a runoff election in June, leaving Mugabe to claim a challenge-free victory, which was instantly denounced by the international community.
South Africa has mediated between the parties in the hope of sealing a power-sharing deal, which Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed in September but which stalled almost immediately.
Months of bickering over the division of cabinet posts and control of security forces ended only last week, after the rivals agreed to a compromise backed by regional leaders.
But they have still struggled to agree on who will control key cabinet posts, with Tsvangirai jetting to Cape Town on Wednesday for last-minute talks with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Still, the bitterness remains clear. “It has been a long, frustrating, quarrelsome journey characterised by animosity and name-calling, but notwithstanding this, what is important is we have reached this path,”
Mugabe’s lead negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said at the opening of the session.