How SADC and Mugabe Have Boxed In Morgan Tsvangirai

Diplomatic Headache: The Prime Minister Has to Think of A way Out of This

In the rush by most commentators, editors and others to listen only their own voices and consider only their own misgivings, they have missed perhaps the most important aspect of the impasse currently engulfing the power-sharing deal.
It appears that Morgan Tsvangirai has been tricked into breaking this deal, with all the consequences that this will entail. So far, we remain the only ones to have given you a full analysis of how the MDC may seek to extricate itself from its Suicide Pact with ZANU PF.
Concerned only with urging the MDC to withdraw from the bad deal (of course it's a bad deal, but one that Tsvangirai signed, witnessed by several SADC Heads of State) most people have not stopped to think of the consequences of that withdrawal, especially if the subsequent death of this deal is placed squarely at the feet of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC by SADC and the AU, as it surely will.
On November 16 I wrote here that the only crafty way in which the MDC may seek to withdraw would be by ensuring that Amendment No 19 is defeated in parliament by their parliamentarians. This, I thought, would be an extremely clever way in which to put pressure on Mugabe to agree to the demands being made by the MDC.
It turns out to be more complicated than that. Part 24.1 of the agreement signed by the principals in September states quite unequivocally that such a move would be a naked breach of the agreement by the MDC. It states: The Parties undertake to unconditionally support the enactment of the said Constitution Amendment No 19. This, please remember is an agreement which Tsvangirai still says he is committed to and about which he says, "there is nothing wrong with....".
It still remains true that, legally, Mugabe has done nothing at all to breach this agreement. And that's no kind word for the dictator. Morally, it's entirely another story. Mugabe has been abysmal. Respecting the spirit of the Agreement has been most wanting in the president. But as SADC looks at this agreement, they will do so legally and technically. "The Spirit Of The Agreement" is not written in black and white and will not matter as much as the legal and legalistic provisions in it. This makes the MDC strategy of rerouting the process back to the mediation road by precipitating a new crisis (which is what voting against the agreement would achieve) very risky, perhaps even fatal.
There is now a lot of bluster about with regards to SADC and the African Union, but people are forgetting that this deal and the negotiations took place only because those two organisations put their foot down, assenting to Morgan Tsvangirai's request for a negotiated settlement to the impasse caused by the June 27 farce that masqueraded as an election. The Agreement signed by the three parties makes this clear and acknowledges the fact. The mediation efforts of Thabo Mbeki were specifically endorsed for this purpose by the AU Summit held in Egypt immediately after that farce of an election run-off.
Still, I think the MDC are determined to try their luck. If they do, I foresee chaos. SADC would then immediately declare the MDC in breach of the contract. (And please, no short memories, I don't want to get comments here about Mugabe's clear lack of respect for the spirit of the Agreement, I have addressed that above). What would be the consequences of that for the democracy project in Zimbabwe? It would mean that SADC would feel under no obligation whatsoever to put pressure on Mugabe. Put pressue on him for what, they will ask, as Mugabe is busy wailing that Tsvangirai has breached the agreement.
The ministries issue does not come into play because Tsvangirai rushed to sign an agreement that clearly states that the president shall appoint ministers "after consultation with the Prime Minister." It does not even say "in consultation with..." which would have been open to argument. It certainly does not say "in agreement with the Prime Minister", which would have made Mugabe's dash for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs and Defence an unequivocal breach of this Agreement.
Morgan Tsvangirai should not have put his signature to that agreement until he was satisfied with it. His signature on that accursed piece of paper will cause untold headaches to the democracy project in Zimbabwe. If he had held out on signing, there would still be something to talk about today. He could have demanded a clear separation of ministries before sign-off. He could have insisted on cabinet being the first matter up for discussion after the principle of power-sharing had been agreed to, before signing. By the time he signed the agreement, there would have been a clear position on the allocation of ministries. And if Mugabe had tried to pull a fast one, there would still have been an effective threat to hold over his head, the refusal to sign and hence, refusal to bestow legitimacy on his presidency.
Could have, should have. Yesterday's dinner does not stop today's hunger pangs.
Perhaps the mistake was making the principle of power-sharing the focus of this whole thing. It reduced the issues Tsvangirai now considers paramount to a bridesmaid's role.
The disappointment for some of us is that this was an opportunity for Mugabe to be pushed to the wire. Tsvangirai had him. The dictator's back was up against the wall. But, admit it, deny it, the truth is that Mugabe has escaped yet again. The behaviour of the MDC now in trying to wiggle out of the agreement is only strengthening Mugabe's position with SADC and the AU. Gordon Brown, Desmond Tutu, Ian Khama and a few others may have the right ideas, but as things stand right now, they are shaking their fists at the wind.
SADC and the AU, whom everyone agrees have the power to bring Mugabe to heel, have locked themselves into this power-sharing deal process. While it is okay for some to simply come out with words of condemnation before retreating into Number 10 or Bishopscourt, SADC and the AU must decide what to do next if these talks collapse.

To be honest, Tsvangirai hasn't given them much to work with. It will be even worse if he stymies the agreement. Yes, we would all dearly love to simply see the back of Mugabe so that we can get on with the job of saving lives and a country. But of course, Tutu's call for an armed invasion is impractical and will not happen. Reading the riot act to Mugabe as Brown called for over the weekend? On what grounds when Tsvangirai has appended his signature to an agreement that confirms Mugabe as president? Oh yes, it does. Read that agreement again. It says "this agreement shall enter into force upon its signature by the Parties...." Which means, as of now, Mugabe is president and Tsvangirai is Prime Minister. The agreement is in force, all it awaits is implementation. The "designate" surnames are only a technicality.

I get very surprised at the number of politically illiterate people who are commenting on this whole thing without having read the agreement itself. It explains a lot. Such as, for instance, why Mugabe is staying his hand with regards to the appointment of cabinet. He is an arrogant old man and would have done so in a snap. What he is waiting for is for Tsvangirai to hang himself, basically, either by voting down the amendment in parliament or by walking away finally and irreversibly from the SADC mediation as he is in the process of doing now. After that, just to ensure that there is no more talk of even more impasse-breaking talks, Mugabe will then kick his "mutiny/insurgency/Khama" plan into action. That would effectively put SADC into a corner and, whether it stands to reason or not according to our own politically illiterate "man-in-the-street" reasoning, the legalities would be the only thing that matter, the only thing left on the table. That is to say the legalities of the agreement signed in September. Based on that, SADC would feel compelled to put pressure on Tsvangirai, not Mugabe.

Remember that Tsvangirai gave away the only trump card he had: Mugabe's legitimacy. He signed an agreement which killed that argument because it recognised the fraudulent hoax of June 27 and confirmed Mugabe as president. That argument can not be reopened by Tsvangirai again at the SADC and AU level without him losing some face. Or worse. It still holds water elsewhere, yes, in London, in our own homes in Houghton Park, Harare, Klein Windhoek and Bishopscourt. But this argument is being held at SADC and AU level, which now both consider the legitimacy question closed by the consent of Tsvangirai. He saved them on that one. Even as he struggles to get an equitable deal now, do you hear him talk about Mugabe's legitimacy? Search back from the day after the signing to today and see if Tsvangirai has once, even once, brought up the legitimacy question, his biggest trump card. Why not? Exactly.


  1. on top of what you are saying, Khupe & company are busy telling their supporters that bob is trying his best to see that GNU doesn't reach fruition, but they are forgetting that they signed a flawed document. The plot is thickening while people are dying because of this man-made crisis. My question is which way forward? Obviously, bob has the upper hand & looking at how the drama is unfolding, SADC & AU have no reason not to back him.....that means many more of suffering at the hands of this dictactor.

  2. I really don't think it will matter anyway.

    SADC will always support Bob for a number of reasons.

    First of all, Tsvangirai is a lot more vulnerable and easier to apply pressure to. He doesn't even have a passport and last week the South Africans prevented him from flying out of O.R.Tambo because "his documents were not in order". As it was, Tsvangirai managed to drive to Botswana where he was able to catch a flight to Europe.

    But he can probably only try that trick once. The next time they will probably alert the Tlokweng border post or deport him back to Zim.

    In contrast there is not a lot that SADC can do to Bob, even if they had the political will.

    Which they don't; which of the SADC heads of State has impeccable democratic credentials? Not many, when you look.

  3. But we were so close, Dave. That's the irritating bit, you see. SADC and especially the AU were in a quandry. They could not endorse Mugabe's little play-acting of an election in June. After that run-off, Mugabe was basically on his own. Even now, do you realise that Motlanthe has surprised everyone by not recognising that "victory"? He made a comment the other day along the lines "An agreement must be reached so that the President and Prime Minister can be sworn in...." But Mugabe had already had himself sworn in before Sharm Al Sheik, just after that "win" of his.
    So the patience was wearing a bit thin. If you look through this blog, you will see that I really had started praising Tsvangirai, telling the world that the man had finally come up with an unbeatable strategy, but it appears he has let that one slip...Still I think Mugabe had painted himself into a corner and, once he had agreed to take part in negotiations, we had him. It was a matter of refusing to sign until all matters of importance had been sorted out. Again Morgan let one slip.
    Another thing, why did Bob agree to the negotiations? Last time this happened and Morgan called for talks, Mugabe's response was, "Let's talk through parliament". He had a very, very slim majority there. ANd he thought he did not need to listen to anyone. But this time it was different.
    So, to answer your point, I do not think it is a given that SADC will support Bob. Morgan should be a bit cleverer, they are also impatient with Bob, but they deal with legalities and he always ensure that they have something on which to hang their coats on that score.
    Either way, this is the end game, Mugabe is on his way out.

  4. As a matter of fact, Tsvangirai's track record is dominated by pot holes. His open rebuke of SADC was not really an intelligent approach. Who ever advised him on that did not realize that emotions in politics are a fatalistical strategy. In fact, that is no strategy at all. Tsvangirai has been very much opposed to Mbeki as facilitator. Yet he signed the GPA days before he knew Mbeki was going to be kicked out of office. He should have not signed and used that incident to force Mbeki off the facilitator table. Furthermore, some elements in Tsvangirai's camp think that time is on their side, and they can afford to play audience to the deteriorating situation. If you ask me, the people already see them as part and parcel of the government. And they are impatiently getting frustrated by the MDCs failure to assist them. Frankly, the technicalities of the situation are either unknown or irrelevant to the bulk of the people who voted for Tsvangirai. These are people who had (those who died) and those who do not have (those who will likely starve) time on their side. The MDC thinks that they will win another election that easily. They should think hard about that myth. People know they have voted them twice and each time they have failed to use those vote to help the people. What will make the next election any different? With the rising ZAPU, they will almost lose Matebeland. And the growing Mavambo Project is set to get more than 8% on any coming election. If i put this short list, i think the MDC by signing that GPA sacrificed themselves for the nation. They cannot back out of it. And with the failure of that unity government in alieviating people's gross suffering, so does MDC die.

  5. An astonishing summation, Mimicy, and very erudite.

    Expect to be shouted at, insulted and called all manner of things for this very correct reading of events.

    I still dearly love to think that Morgan Tsvangirai should and WILL have a place in a new government that does not have Mugabe abd ZANU PF at its helm.


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