Zimbabwe: The True Position of The Talks

Morgan Tsvangirai arrives at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, for talks on Monday 26 January 2009. There is massive confusion and even anger in Zimbabwe about the conflicting statements coming from within the MDC about whether they have agreed to go into government or not

There is massive confusion in Zimbabwe at the moment surrounding whether the MDC has agreed to go into government with Mugabe or not.

The Mugabe newspaper, The Herald, says in today's edition, on its front page: MDC-T Agrees To Join GNU. Yet the very same MDC has been sending out conflicting signals. First we had the statement issued just after the talks in South Africa, which only says that the MDC is disappointed at the outcome of the talks because this outcome "falls far short of our expectations". Crucially, this statement does not say whether the MDC therefore will not go into government. It is also silent on whether it will go in.

Then there are the reports that Eddie Cross told people on the internet last night that Tsvangirai will join the government and be sworn in as Prime Minister. Cross is reported as saying that the concessions made by Mugabe so far go a long way towards meeting our demands.

The confusion on the streets of Harare, which I saw and heard first-hand today as I walked about town, has quickly turned into anger.

But people need to calm down because the truth is very straightforward and it is this: Perhaps used to the Mugabe way of simply decisively acting on his own and then whipping his party into line, people expected Tsvangirai to say where he stood as he came out of the talks. But Tsvangirai has remained silent even as this confusion reigns. There is a good reason for this:

THERE IS NO OFFICIAL MDC POSITION RIGHT NOW. And there won't be until after their Executive Council meets on Friday. Tsvangirai may have his own personal views but he is loath to state them in public (in private, I can state with absolute authority that he thinks he should be sworn in and take part in the government, even if this is only so that he can show SADC that Mugabe is not sincere about forming a government with the MDC-T).

Officially, Tsvangirai is still to be guided by his Executive Council when it meets on Friday. No amount of spin by the factions within the MDC will change that. 

Why then do we have the conflicting statements? Well, the factions in the MDC (there are two, pro and anti-GNU) are simply positioning themselves before the Executive Council on Friday, trying to present the Council with a fait accompli when it does finally meet.

It is an old trick: The ones that are opposed to participation in the GNU hope that, if they present their side of the story as the position of the MDC, then those who were not in Pretoria on Monday will go into the meeting thinking this is the position agreed to in South Africa and will vote for it. Same applies with the other faction.

It is pointless and a waste of time to try and speculate now whether the MDC will or will not join. There are so many interests to which this question is tied within the MDC itself and Tsvangirai has proved not to be a decisive enough leader for his views to always carry the day in this Council. He is more of a consensus person.

If his opponents carry the majority on Friday, then he will announce he is not joining. If, however, he stamps his authority and swings the majority behind his position, then he will announce that he is ready to be sworn in.

Before then, all attempts to try and analyse this thing or predict the position of the now famously flip-flopping Tsvangirai will be an exercise in monumental futility.

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  1. her Morgan agreed with SADC or he did not. In other words was SADC lying that it was a unanimous decision or not? Everything else is really not relevant. Agreeing with grievances is still agreeing. Taking the matter to the Executive Council is mere formalization. What “personal” position did Morgan take at the SADC meeting? That is the only one that matters!

    In as much as the Executive Council has the final say and reserves the right to actually refuse, it is the one which gave Morgan the mandate to negotiate on the party’s behalf. Meaning that they are bound by whatever decisions their representatives made. Whatever position he had in that SADC meeting might have been Morgan’s own personal position, but its legally binding to the whole party whether they agree with him or not! Also Morgan himself once used his executive powers to overturn the same body’s vote on taking part in previous elections…an action which led to its split. The main thing is Morgan’s position at the summit. Everything else is fluff including whatever statements send out so far. Would SADC then have to mediate on internal party disagreements?

    Nhasi warasika papiko? An analysis of MDC’s positions can not be futile. After all you have correctly analyzed and predicted SADC’s positions before. Tinouya pano because of the analysis yaunoita kwete zvekumirira zvinozoitika mangwana.


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