Zimbabwe Parties Break Off Impasse Talks: Reality Check

Harare, Zimbabwe, 26 November 2009

I did say yesterday that the talks between ZANU PF and the two MDCs were on the verge of collapse and it now emerges that the negotiators have "suspended" the marathon talks (they started on Monday) and will only meet again on Saturday.

The reason, officially, is that some of them have to travel outside Zimbabwe on government business.

The negotiators say that all this time, they have been talking about the same issues: Gono, Tomana, pirate radio stations and sanctions.

I wonder if anyone else sees the futility of this exercise. The MDC-Tsvangirai, especially, must make up its mind whether it is serious or not here.

You see, they AGREED to include the issue of sanctions and "pirate radio stations" in the Global Political Agreement. They willingly signed off on that GPA. Yet we know, they know, everyone knows: they can not shut down radio stations based in democratic countries overseas.

They can not compel the USA and the European Union to lift sanctions.

It can not happen and it will not happen.

Yet they are sitting there entertaining talk of the removal of sanctions and closing down businesses they do not own?

The problem now is that SADC has accepted Mugabe's grievances as "genuine" (the language used in the Troika Ministerial Report). Which means Tsvangirai has to meet those demands otherwise Mugabe will still be able to say that the GPA has not been implemented in full and SADC will agree with him.

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister hanged himself with those clauses. Why on earth did he agree to them at all? He had the upper hand and no one forcibly took his hand and forced him to sign.

The talks that led to the Inclusive Government we have now did not start after the March 2008 elections. They started in 2005. Through all that time, Tsvangirai was holding out in negotiations with Mugabe.

Things were not good for Tsvangirai back then, because Mugabe had "won" the previous elections. Tsvangirai and the MDC had then decided that they could not rely on the electoral process to get them into power and in 2005, they opened talks with Mugabe.

In fact, when Mugabe called for elections in March 2008, Tsvangirai told a press conference that the move was unacceptable. He did not want the elections at all. He said they broke the spirit of the negotiations that had started in 2005.

Mugabe, on the other hand, called them simply because he believed that he would win first time again and then go back to Tsvangirai with a strengthened hand. It is the old Ian Smith style, where, whenever the Rhodesian leader started getting grief from his opponents (in the Rhodesia Front or opposition parties), he would call a snap election and win it resoundingly, silencing his critics.

This was genuinely Mugabe's frame of mind when he called those elections.

He was beaten black and blue.

Then he had to go back at a disadvantage, having lost an election.

At that time, Tsvangirai had him. African Union and SADC both effectively refused to recognise Mugabe's win and they clearly asked Tsvangirai what he thought the solution should be. Tsvangirai volunteered that he thought a coalition would be best, a power-sharing arrangement.

At this, the African Union declared in Egypt that an Inclusive Government be formed in Zimbabwe. They then delegated the process of mediating the talks leading to the Government t SADC.

So, in fact SADC and African Union were supportive of Tsvangirai after the Marh 2008 election. Look at it this way, it was as though SADC tied Mugabe down and asked Tsvangirai to beat him up. Instead of beating him up, during the negotiations, Tsvangirai untied Mugabe and asked him to lead the way home.

Now we are here.


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