Tsvangirai vs Mugabe In One Of The Longest Cabinet Meetings In History

A surprised-looking Mugabe listens to President Guebuza of Mozambique in Maputo last week as the SADC Troika met to deliberate on the issues of Zimbabwe and two other Southern African countries. Mugabe is said to be unhappy that he is set to eat to humble pie on the issue of Governors, on which he was now seeking to backtrack, but which, according to SADC has to be resolved as per their resolutions. Yesterday's Cabinet meeting had to cover ground that had already been covered unilaterally by Mugabe and his ministers in the absence of the MDC-T from cabinet in the last three weeks.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 12 November 2009

Yesterday's cabinet meeting was one of the longest in the history of Zimbabwe, lasting as it from 8a.m. when Mugabe opened the meeting with words of welcome to his "prodigal sons" until dusk.

The length of the meeting was a reflection of the number of things that had to be covered, with Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T insisting that ground covered in the previous two cabinet meetings they boycotted had to be revisited, especially if it concerned the portfolios of MDC-T Ministers.

Top of the MDC-T worries was the unilaterally decisions taken by ZANU PF ministers with regards to IMF money. In the last cabinet meeting, boycotted by Tsvangirai and his ministers, Mugabe had leaped at the chance to debate and decide on the disbursement of the money and he tried yesterday to railroad the process saying that the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, had to simply implement what had been decided in his absence.

That would have meant killing the coalition, and over a matter that was of no real significant political gain to Mugabe and ZANU PF. This is what led to Mugabe agreeing to revisit some of the deliberations. The approach he took, however, was to ask the MDC-T if there was anything in the minutes from the meetings they missed that they objected to. 

Obviously, there were things they objected to.

Mugabe refused to discuss anything that had any bearing on the "outstanding issues", saying cabinet was not the forum to discuss these. His position was that Cabinet is a government body and the dispute between the MDC-T and ZANU PF is a partisan one.

"Here we discuss government business. There will be time to discuss politics later," he is reported to have told Tsvangirai and Biti, the two most vocal members of the cabinet in yesterday's meeting.

It is typical of Mugabe, a stickler for protocol when it suits him.

The length of the Cabinet meeting yesterday meant that Tsvangirai was unable to convene the Council of Ministers meeting, which is normally held on Wednesdays. Today, that meeting has also not been convened, although the Prime Minister is said to have indicated that he would move the meeting to today.

I understand that Tsvangirai is meeting with Mugabe and Mutambara today and this may explain why the Council of Ministers meeting has also been canceled. You will notice that Mugabe has now taken the position of not speaking to the media since the SADC meeting ended in Maputo, amidst reports in ZANU PF that he thinks that SADC have changed tack and are siding with Tsvangirai.

Mugabe is now said to be very unhappy with the clause in the SADC position that effectively bars him from putting conditions to the fulfillment of clauses in the GPA. Mugabe. whose position has been that the MDC should call off sanctions before he appoints ambassadors and governors, has now been told effectively that this is not acceptable to SADC leaders.

Also getting up his nose is the fact the SADC Troika has accepted the SADC Communique of January this year as part of the GPA. 

As a result of these misgivings Mugabe has, he has now started speaking to SADC Heads of State one by one, trying to get clarification on the Communique. The January SADC Statement simply said that the issues f the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Attorney-General and Governors would be discussed by the Inclusive Government once it was formed.

Only on the Governors is the SADC position clear, since it explicitly states that "the formula for the distribution" of Governor posts would be discussed by the Inclusive Government and decided by it.

It means that, as far as SADC is concerned, Governors from the MDC-T have to be appointed. It is part of the GPA. Mugabe has now been trying to back out of that one, saying Governors are the president's personal representatives in the provinces and are appointed by him and him alone.

Unless Tsvangirai puts his foot in it again and gives away his advantage, it appears that one the issue of the Governors at least, he is set to win a victory. On Gono and Tomana, he might as well forget.


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