PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to a power-sharing arrangement on Monday during intensive meetings at the Rainbow Towers Hotel ahead of marathon inter-party talks that started in Pretoria yesterday.
A government of national unity deal is resultantly expected soon after the breakthrough private meetings.
Informed sources said the current constitution would soon be amended to facilitate the envisaged agreement. They said Amendment No. 19 would be a transitional mechanism between the old and the envisaged new constitution expected down the line. The amendment is largely designed to accommodate Tsvangirai and other MDC officials in the new government.
It is said the number of appointed senators would be increased by six from five to 11 to create space for appointees who would include Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara as leaders of the two MDC factions.
Currently Mugabe can only appoint five senators and this room is not enough to accommodate losing Zanu PF candidates and unelected MDC officials.
No one can be a minister without being in parliament. Out of the six, two appointees would be from each of the three negotiating parties. The Upper House would thus have 99 senators in the end. Zanu PF lost control of parliament to combined MDC factions, but retained control of senate.
Zanu PF and MDC negotiators who began delicate power-sharing talks in South Africa yesterday are expected to reach a final agreement promptly in a deal that is set to retain Mugabe as executive president.
The negotiating parties have already settled a wide range of issues on the agenda, which explains the short and seemingly unrealistic two-week deadline with effect from Monday that negotiators set themselves after their leaders broke new ground by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for substantive negotiations.
Sources privy to the details of the power-sharing deal said Mugabe and Tsvangirai had agreed on who would take which post in the new government. The sources said Mugabe would remain as executive president while Tsvangirai is poised to become either a third vice-president, prime minister or senior minister in charge of several portfolios.
The sources said the talks were also likely to be concluded speedily because South African President Thabo Mbeki wants to have a final settlement to Zimbabwe’s political impasse by the time he takes over as Sadc chair next month.
Mbeki was appointed Zimbabwe mediator by Sadc leaders in March last year. It is said that Mbeki, who reportedly lobbied China recently to block Western-sponsored United Nations sanctions on Harare, while leaning on Mugabe to accept a deal, views resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis as a major prize to enhance his chequered legacy before he quits next year.
Sources said the private meetings between Mugabe and Tsvangirai marked a breakthrough in the talks as critical issues were settled there.
They said Mugabe and Tsvangirai met before and after the signing of the MoU for lunch and dinner to clear up issues. Their most significant meeting was for about 90 minutes over dinner at the Rainbow Towers Hotel after the signing of the MoU where they held talks about the type and structure of a new government. It is said they agreed on how to share executive power, including positions in the new cabinet and other crucial government departments.
The sources said Tsvangirai wants 10 cabinet posts, while a similar number could go to Zanu PF and two to the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara. After his controversial June 27 victory, Mugabe avoided appointing a new cabinet or allowing the swearing in of parliament to give the talks a chance. He had initially planned, it is said, to have a new cabinet just before or after the recent AU summit in Egypt but was persuaded by Mbeki to wait.
The sources said Mugabe told Tsvangirai he could accommodate him at the level of vice-president but he would want to keep his current deputies, Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru, to preserve the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and Zapu and also to keep his party intact.
Tsvangirai is said to have indicated he was not necessarily fighting for a top position for the sake of power, but a senior post which he could use to influence positive change.
“Mugabe and Tsvangirai met before and after the signing of the MoU to sort out key issues,” an informed source said. “They went over a lot of issues during the face-to-face meetings. Mugabe was pleasantly surprised as they had an unexpectedly good discussion in which they basically agreed on the way forward.
“The negotiators are now expected to finish quickly,” the source added, “as they will be mostly putting final touches to most of the issues already agreed on and dealing with implementation and transitional mechanisms.”
Tsvangirai’s confidants told senior local journalists this week he had a “very good” meeting with Mugabe, although he denied agreeing on positions and matters of detail. He said he maintained that he wants a transitional government led by him. Mugabe wants a government of national unity led by himself.
The ongoing talks, which started on July 10, resumed at an undisclosed venue in Pretoria yesterday and are expected to end on August 4, sources said. “Talks have resumed in earnest and they are underway here (Pretoria),” a source attending the dialogue said.
Zanu PF is represented by Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, while Tsvangirai’s faction deployed Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma. Mutambara’s group has Welshman Ncube and Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga as negotiators.
Sources close to the talks said most of the issues on the current agenda – including a new constitution – had already been agreed on because the envisaged final agreement would be based on a document approved, but not signed, by the parties in January.
By Dumisani Muleya