Tsvangirai Attending Cabinet Today

Roy Bennett arrives at the High Court in Harare earlier today for the ruling in the applications brought by his lawyers as well as those brought by the Attorney-General. As Bennett arrived at court, Morgan Tsvangirai and his ministers were trooping into the Cabinet Room at Munhumutapa Building, which is just opposite the High Court. The MDC-T has now started attending cabinet meetings again ahead of a 30 day deadline given to them and ZANU PF to resolve all outstanding issues (including Mugabe's own issues) by Southern African leaders.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 11 November 2009

Morgan Tsvangirai is, as I write this, attending a Cabinet meeting in Harare with all his ministers, after calling off his "disengagement from ZANU PF, Cabinet and Council of Ministers".

Things have not changed, however, because the holding of cabinet today instead of the usual Tuesdays shows again that Mugabe is still firmly in control. Mugabe was out of the country attending a China/Africa Summit in Egypt and only returned home yesterday.

Instead of allowing Tsvangirai, who is nominally the Deputy Chairperson of the Cabinet, to chair cabinet in his absence, Mugabe routinely postpones the meeting of ministers until he is back in the country.

The failure to allow Tsvangirai even a single Cabinet meeting to chair dovetails with Mugabe's strategy of ensuring that all decision-making powers continue to rest with him.

It is a bad start to things and shows that there is no shift in mindset at all from Mugabe. Yet Tsvangirai has accepted this now as a fact of life, as Mugabe's ministers continue even this week to refer to him in state media as "just another minister".

The absence of Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti, the Finance Minister, from cabinet, has already allowed Mugabe and his ZANU PF ministers to sit down and decide on how to use the US$500 million the country recently got from the IMF. The decisions taken a week ago, while the MDC-T was still boycotting Cabinet is said to still stand by Mugabe's government.

Tendai Biti will now simply have to implement that cabinet decision. The areas targeted to get the money heavily favour ZANU PF. It is simply another way for them to buy votes and the loyalty of their supporters, with token amounts going to business capacity-boosting.

The decision to re-engage ZANU PF and stop boycotting government business also means Tendai Biti can now present the budget that he is supposed to present this month. Mugabe had previously used the MDC absence from cabinet to say that Biti would not be allowed to present it, since he would have not been able to bring it before cabinet for approval before presentation to parliament, as is required by laws governing budget-crafting in Zimbabwe.

It is unlikely that much will come from the re-engagement since ZANU PF continues to insist that there is no deadline for them to do anything, despite SADC being clear on that point. The issues that ZANU PF and Mugabe are worried about are issues that Morgan Tsvangirai can do very little about. Yet SADC endorsed those concerns from Mugabe as genuine, hence the deadlock is likely to continue.

Today's cabinet meeting is the first time that Mugabe and Tsvangirai are meeting after the Summit in Mozambique which convinced the MDC to pick up their tools and troop back into government.

As Morgan Tsvangirai sits at the round oak table in teh Cabinet Room today at the Presidential office complex in Harare, his closest adviser and MDC-T Treasurer-General is in court facing terrorism charges that can lead to a death sentence. The decision from that trial, in which the Attorney General is seeking to have defence applications thrown out and save the prosecution of Bennett, will be known later on in the afternoon.


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