The End Of The Unity Government?

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, flanked by Deputy PM Arthur Mutambara at a press conference this afternoon where he announced that he was nullyfying President Mugabe's appointment of Permanent Secretaries.

Morgan Tsvangirai was summoned to State House today by Robert Mugabe about an hour after the Prime Minister  issued his statement nullyfying all appointments of Permanent Secretaries announced by Mugabe yesterday.

Tsvangirai, during his press conference at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, said the PermSecs who were in the jobs on September 15 should stay in their posts and also directly challenged Mugabe by declaring the appointments "null and void".

The meeting at the State House is still going on, I am told.

Tsvangirai's statement was particularly noteworthy for the pains it took to avoid Mugabe's name and even the Office of The President. Tsvangirai merely said "no civil servant" has the power to unilaterally appoint Perm Secs. He also stated that the move was in contravention of the Global Political Agreement signed last year.

It is not clear whether Tsvangirai sought clarification from Mugabe before going public, but the fact that he was summoned soon after the Press Conference would suggest that he had not.

It is a grave and delicate time for this government, because Mugabe is likely to refuse to budge. He still lives in the world where his powers are intact and the Presidential Prerogative still in play.

Of course, this is not what we were told by the MDCs as they went into the this government. They said the Agreement had managed to clip Mugabe's wings, hobbling the president for the rest of the life of the coalition government. This move from Mugabe, agreed, certainly is not a move that is within the spirit of the September 15 agreement.

But what is Tsvangirai going to do about it. (Which reminds of that time in 2007 when Tsvangirai was badly beaten by the police. Mugabe, addressing an Independence Day gathering later, said, "Tsvangirai ran off to the British and the Americans and told them, "oh look, I have been beaten". And what are going to do to us? What are they going to do about it?" asked Mugabe back then.)

The question is back and stares Tsvangirai in the face. What are you going to do about it?

If Tsvangirai sticks to his guns, the only option would be for him to pull out of the GNU. But I hasten to say he is very unlikely to do this. The language of his statement today suggests that he will take this on the chin and continue in government.

Betraying this mentality, he announced that he had tasked the two Ministers of Home Affairs to look into the isue of the prisoners and detainees, Jestina Mukoko, Roy Bennett and others.

Another sign of just how powerless Tsvangirai is in this government comes through in his statement on the "former Department of Communications". This was a department in the Ministry of Information and Publicity under the old Mugabe cabinet.

But that Ministry has now been split, with Mugabe retaining the Ministry of Information and Publicity and the MDC picking up the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications.

Apparently, in reference to the meeting held in Harare last week between ZANU PF minister of information, Webster Shamu, and the telephone companies, Tsvangirai said the Telecommunications sector falls under the MDC ministry and not Mugabe's Webster Shamu. 

About right, I should think. Because if the Teleohone companies were to remain with Information and Publicity, what would Nelson Chamisa's ministry be in charge of? Right now, Mugabe Information ministry has power over the state broadcasters (and also any other broadcasters that may come into being later, a highly unlikely event seeing as it is still Mugabe's party that is charge of issuing licences), the State newspapers (Herald, Chronicle, Manica Post and so on) as well as all government communications.

This would leave Nelson Chamisa in charge of what exactly? Internet Service providers and computer vendors? You can see how Tsvangirai would not accept this, because it would mean Chamisa's ministry is nothing but a shell, a public expense with no job to do at all.

The heads of the telephone companies recieved calls from the President's Office this week advising them that they will still report to the old ministry. This was after they called for clarification following communication from the MDC that they should take instructions from the new minister, Nelson Chamisa.

So, nice bit of confusion there.

I suppose all these could be called teething problems, testing strengths, seeing how far one can push back the boundaries, but we know from bitter experience in Zimbabwe that this could explode into a full-blown crisis at any time.

Unless Morgan Tsvangirai's outward softening towards Mugabe is real and he accepts to continue being frustrated in the belief that it is Generals doing it without Mugabe's knowledge, then he certainly has no option but to walk away from this insult.

It does not look or sound like the Prime Minister will walk away from his new-found position of some power and comfort.

To answer the question then, despite the gloomy reports I am hearing tonight, I do not think this is the end of the Unity Government.


There are also other issues cropping up tonight, to test this government. In a demonstration of who is in the driving seat in government, nine MDC supporters were arrested in Mbare this week after the tried to move back in their homes, which were forcibly taken over by ZANU PF supporters during last year's farcical run-off presidential election.

The group of MDC supporters were given short shrift and told to bugger off by the new owners. They took matters into their own hands, as any person trying to reclaim stolen property would, and running batles ensued.

Both ZANU PF and MDC supporters involved in the running battles were arrested, but the ZANU PF supporters (Mugabe's party) were immediately given bail. The MDC supporters have been sent to remand prison until 9 March!

Ponder this: The MDC is in charge of the City Council in Harare. They control the whole thing and have been hiring their supporters for city jobs. They are, indeed, in charge of the council houses taken away from their legal owners/tenants, the MDC's own supporters.

Yet they have not been able to do anything at all to help their supporters. These Mbare supporters (Mbare is a very poor and overcrowded township on the edge of the city centre), are the forgotten footnotes for whom justice has been denied (delayed?) in a world whose eyes are fixed on the Big-name detainees and prisoners.

There are many, who say that they have been forgotten by the MDC. I am sure the Prime Minister is aware of this. 

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  1. Denford,
    do you see any possibility that MDC will finally get a clue, and remove anyone blocking their governance ?

    this willy nilly game of who's in charge is due to end soon - because the country will run out of money and no one will approve the purchase of additional ink nor paper to print more comic notes.

    somebody just needs to bitchslap both of them till their noses bleed. they are causing alot of needless tribulation for zimbabweans and the world is watching, waiting for any sign on hope. as of yet - there is none.

    such a sad state of affairs in a former model of African Democracy.

    Bob Marley would be so ashamed..

  2. is there any news on Jestina Mukoko since the trial sighting ?

  3. @Ausetkmt - The deal was botched up Morgan Tsvangirai from the outset. He rushed to sign and now wants to continue the negotiations from within government.

    Mugabe is refusing to accept this.

    In fact, there is pyschological warfare going on right now against opposition supporters, who get arrested just to show them that their man is in office but not in power

  4. I think the Prime Minister’s move on acting as surety for Bennett’s bail prompts fundamental questions namely (i) What happens if Roy Bennett somehow skips bail? If Zanu abducts Bennett and he misses the court case, what will happen? (ii)Given the possibilities (though slim chance of Bennett running away) of negative consequences to the Prime Minister, does than not compromise the office of the Prime Minister? Should the office of the Prime Minister offer itself as a surety at all? (iii) Is it not undue influence for a superior such as a Prime Minister or President to offer themselves as surety? When Tsvangirai wrote that letter, there was already an expectation that the magistrate would listen to his office as a superior civil servant? Why did Tsvangirai offer himself as a surety if him, Mugabe and Mutambara had already agreed those charged would be freed on bail?
    Such moves by Morgan would be called abuse of power under normal circumstances and someone needs to “talk to him” about it. I mean the moment he offered himself (or was it the Prime Minister) as a surety in a legal case, he automatically and legally become an interested party in the case. Now we all know the charges against Bennett were politically motivated, but by offering to act as surety, Tsvangirai tacitly agreed with the legal status/aspect of the case. Then when a Prime Minister comes out the next day to talk about a case and try to influence its outcome in any way, that is abuse of power.

  5. The problem is that Morgan and should I add, the whole opposition, are not up to it, and it is pointless for us to encourage them to do anything else because it will only result in disaster and worse conditions for the rest of the population. What we have been doing is like encouraging a blind person to go to take up arms in the battle field. You can initially point them in the right direction, but any changes and there is no guarantee he will not shoot his own people.
    The MDC made their bed and they should sleep in it. The MDC even concluded the negotiations while its own chief negotiator was under treason charges. And now because Bennett is the one in jail, everything must stop? The MDC gambled and went in knowing full well what might happen. Unfortunately the world is not fair…the country needs to move on…tozozvibata pa second round!

  6. We should practice, what we preach, Democracy, rule of law, transparency, fairness etc. It is not fair to use those in detention as a bargaining chip. It is an affront to the rule of law, to employ non legal means in dealing with legal issues.
    Those who have committed crimes should be prosecuted without the interference of Politicians. Citizens should get their protection from the law and not Politicians. No one should be above the law, whether male, female, black, white, MDC or Zanu Pf. The concept of justice should be viewed in its total context, there should be, deterrence, reformation and restitution.
    Once we allow these political games, That is setting a dangerous precedence. Some were widowed, some orphaned, some lost their only means of livelihood, one good case is the widow of Tonderai Ndira, now living in South Africa in conditions close to destitution, in Mrewa a Village herd was shot, Police Officers where also petrol bombed. Perpetrators of such crimes should be brought to justice, and there should be no substitution for that. Instead of fighting to have those already in custody released, we must fight to have those still out, to be arrested and brought to court, whoever they are.


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