Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Finds A Face-saving Way To Agree To Join Government

Morgan Tsvangirai arrives at Harare International Airport on Wednesday, 28 January 2009, soon after he had told South African media that he had indeed agreed to join what he now calls the "coalition government."

The latest Zimbabwe news is all about the SADC Extraordinary Summit held on Monday in Tshwane, South Africa. 

Morgan Tsvangirai has finally spoken on whether he agreed to join government or not. He says he has agreed, telling South African Media yesterday that he "wanted to acknowledge" "concessions" made by Mugabe during the just-ended Extraordinary Summit.

Closer examination of the facts reveal that it is in fact Tsvangirai who is now  simply trying to find a face-saving way to give in to the immense pressure he has been under since the agreement was signed. 

He has effectively dropped two of the most important demands he was making:

  • the release of his activists from prison before a government is formed
  • the "equitable distribution of ministries"

First of all, Tsvangirai says in an interview with Basildon Peta that he "wanted to acknowledge" the "concessions made by ZANU PF on THREE of the FIVE MDC concerns."

Tsvangirai says Mugabe gave ground on three of the MDC demands, these being:

  • The appointments of Governors
  • The National Security Council Bill drafted by the MDC
  • Passage of Constitutional Ammendment Number 19
The truth of the matter, when we really look at it, is that the only issue on which we can say Mugabe gave ground is on the appointment of Governors, which will be discussed by the negotiators starting today in Harare, without the SADC mediator present.

Search back and you will find that Mugabe never objected to the Draft National Security Bill from MDC, which was presented AFTER the agreement had been signed. He considered it a new element being introduced by the MDC and was refusing to let it delay the formation of government. He has now agreed to discuss the Bill BEFORE the government is formed, hoping agreement will be reached on it before SADC's 11 February deadline for the swearing-in of Tsvangirai. Agreement on the Bill is almost guaranteed, because Mugabe never objected to its content.

On the third point, the enactment of Constitutional Ammendment Number 19, Mugabe has made no concessions at all, despite what Tsvangirai told the South African media. Instead, it is Tsvangirai who has now recognised the gazetting of the Act by Mugabe, something he was against and which, at the time it was done, he said was a breach of the agreement by Mugabe

Tsvangirai now simply agrees to pass the Ammendment in parliament as Mugabe was demanding. He has made no demands for the Act to be re-gazetted, which means that it will follow the schedule set by Mugabe when he gazetted it. And there are no demands from the MDC for the Act to be revised in any way. In fact, it is not up for discussion at the negotiations starting Thursday (today) in Harare.

This statement by Tsvangirai is simply a face-saver, a way in which he seeks to find grounds for justifying what is essentially a capitulation by him.

WHAT THEN IS THE BOTTOM LINE? It is this: Morgan Tsvangirai has recognised that going to the African Union is futile, as I have been saying October last year. He has also recognised that there is no chance of success at the United Nations as I have been saying since October last year.

Finally, and just as I said last year at the start of this impasse after the agreement was signed, he has come back to the table to accept the deal, with what can generously be described as "minor tweaks to it."

Crucially, we must all note that, all of a sudden, the other demands of the MDC appear to have now been dropped by Tsvangirai. THESE ARE: 

  • the release of the MDC activists currently held in prison on charges of banditry - Mugabe on this even refused outright to commit to the "stoppage of the abudctions" let alone the release of those already in custody.
  • equitable allocation of ministries - the MDC will indeed share Home Affairs with Mugabe and have the arrangement looked at in six months' time by SADC. The current allocation of ministerial posts remains in place and is what will be implemented as Tsvangirai goes into government.
To make matters even clearer on whether he has agreed to join the Inclusive Government, Tsvangirai said yesterday: "After all, the whole idea of these negotiations is to form a coalition government and I therefore agreed to that principle."

Tsvangirai may have found a face-saving way to climb down by shifting focus to the less contentious issues of the Security Bill, which he says ZANU PF "will input" in today's (Thursday's) negotiations, appointment of governors and the already agreed to enactment of Ammendment Number 19, BUT THIS IS STILL A CLIMBDOWN in that

  • His supporters remain in jail with no committment by Mugabe to release them.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs remains as a shared ministry and the allocation of ministries drafted by Mugabe will now be implemented without ammendment.
If this is not a climb-down, then I don't know what is.

Meantime, The Botswana government issued a statement through its foreign minister yesterday endorsing the SADC position that a government be formed by February 11 and urging Mugabe and Tsvangirai to "trust each other". The Bostwana foreign minister said, "We believe it will work this time around because there is a time-frame. What is important is for both parties to trust each other. The two parties should sit down and resolve their differences."

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  1. Definitely, Mr Magora, you got it right.It is indeed a face saver. He wasted a lot of precious time moving back and forward without getting a proper grasp of the waters, he was swimming in. I think this agreement should have been reached long back, had it not for the false comfort and support he was getting from some very green political novices like Ian Khama and the late Mwanawasa who had to dance to the tune of his paymaster the US who had increased their budgetary support.
    The moment SADC got the core issues aflicting Zim, they joined hands and a clear signal was sent to Tsvangirai.Now the problem is the decision that is going to come out of MDC National Council where there is the Biti and Tsvangirai divisions. Is Tsvangirai going to respect the National Council decision or he will pack and rush to his house in Strathaven, or may be this time to the Dutch Embassy and convene a Press conference where he will dictate the course his party will take, even if it means that the party will split, let it be, he said so during the debate on whether to participate or not in Senate elections.
    What position is Biti going to get, we know that has been one issue, that has been causing much of the dilly dallying. Will he agree to co-minister Home Affairs with a Zanu PF minister. Biti is now one very bitter man, he is expecting some very powerful position as the chief negotiator and with brains than Khupe and Tsvangirai himself.Where is MDC headed, lets wait and see? One more issue what is the position of the real powers behind MDC, the westerners UK and US, have they given Tsvangirai the green light to join, or has Tsvangirai severed the umbilical cord? Lets wait and watch as the drama unfolds. Tsvangirai's first assignment as Prime-Minister should be to address a military pass-out parade and read a prepared speach in which he condemns the sanctions and defend the Land reforms. Will he do that?

  2. Hi Denford

    Thanks for your latest contribution on my page.

    First off, I understand fully the trials and tribulations of living in Zimbabwe today - and I have nothing but admiration for the stalwart nature of the peoples’ determination.

    Not that life here in the UK has been a cakewalk for me either. Following the accident, I have struggled to find my niche - and have settled on what I can do on the internet.

    Perhaps Africa rubbed off on me… and I will never lose my Zimbabwean accent as it is part of me and my character traits.

    You and I, perhaps, should agree to disagree.

    I write what I feel, and feel what I write. You too, are subject to the words you write.

    I will state again, that I have no reason to argue with you - indeed, I happily stand with you in the fight for a true democracy in Zimbabwe.

    The fact the I am in the UK can be overlooked as I have so much information at my fingertips - and I do not have Mugabe’s goons looking over my shoulder (although I have been threatened by his ‘representatives’ here in the UK - and when I gave them my address and telephone number, they backed off – sharpish…) so perhaps my scope of opinion is slightly wider than yours can be.

    With reference to The Guardian, the point there was to highlight that my writings are actually read all over the world. I have been on various radio shows and have written extensively for various websites on request.

    The New York Times, the BBC - and many others - have quoted me, and I am happy that they do - even if they disagree with me.

    I have only been blogging for just shy of 4 years and run a total of five pages, whilst I have my book on offer and another page that offers customised graphic art… Perhaps not a lot given that there are 24 hours in a day, but my disability does dictate as to how much time I can spend in front of my machine.

    I may be in the UK, but my heart remains in Africa - and I long for the day that Zimbabwe is a true democracy.

    Your contribution is appreciated, and provokes much thought.

    Thank you.

    Take care.



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