PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is now demanding all key ministries – except finance – in a move which has left incoming prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai disturbed by the renewed clashes with his soon-to-be boss.
Mugabe’s demands are also jeopardising the prospect of the power-sharing agreement signed last month with opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction leaders. The quarrel over cabinet portfolios has left the country without a new government almost three weeks after the deal was signed and three months after Mugabe was controversially sworn in after his disputed victory in a one-man election race on June 27.
Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off after defeating Mugabe in March. Zanu PF also lost the election and control of parliament to the MDC. Zimbabwe has not had a legitimate cabinet since March when Mugabe dissolved his old team.
However, prospects of a new cabinet and government are receding as Mugabe wants to get all key ministries after securing the positions of head of state and government in the deal. He also managed to get chairman of cabinet, a position which Tsvangirai initially demanded. Mugabe is also commander-in-chief of the defence forces and chairman of the influential National Security Council (currently Joint Operations Command).
Sources said Mugabe on Tuesday told Tsvangirai he was not going to concede any of the important ministries to him, except probably finance. The move to let Tsvangirai get finance is said to be strategic in the interests of economic revival. Tsvangirai has argued that he can’t resuscitate the economy when he is not in charge of vital economic ministries.
The sources said Mugabe is prepared to concede finance although he is under pressure not to let go from hardliners in Zanu PF and government who fear that the MDC would use the portfolio to conduct “forensic audits” of government’s appalling financial record and hold to account those found to have been involved in financial misappropriation and corruption.
The sources said Mugabe also told Tsvangirai that apart from principal ministries in Mugabe’s original wish list that includes defence (as well as state security which is now only a department in the president’s office), justice and information, Mugabe now wants to grab foreign affairs, local government and home affairs which were at the heart of the dispute two weeks ago.
Although Tsvangirai’s group said all ministries were in dispute, Mugabe and the smaller MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara say only finance, local government and foreign affairs are being contested.
Sources said Mugabe indicated to Tsvangirai that he was taking local government because his party would like to exercise oversight on local authorities by controlling central government. The MDC controls most municipalities in the country.
It is also said Mugabe has refused to let go of home affairs, saying it belonged to former PF Zapu in terms of the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and Zapu. Former PF-Zapu bigwigs, including vice-president Joseph Msika and Zanu PF chair John Nkomo, recently held a meeting in Bulawayo where it was said the current agreement undermined the Unity Accord and ex-Zapu leaders need to fight to keep their original gains. It was resolved that Msika must engage Mugabe on the issue and this seems to have paid off as home affairs now appears destined to remain under Zapu control.
The sources said there was a gentlemen’s agreement in terms of the Unity Accord that home affairs would remain under Zapu.
“It was agreed during the unity talks that Zapu will control home affairs as part of maintaining internal security after the Gukurahundi debacle,” a politburo member said. “Mugabe will not let go of the ministry to the MDC.”
The MDC is said to be disturbed by such arguments since Zapu was never an issue during negotiations and in terms of the agreement.
Sources said it is also Mugabe’s contention that foreign affairs cannot be given to the MDC because the “president needs to appoint his own foreign minister”. A source said Mugabe would not accept having a foreign minister from the MDC because that was not in sync with the logic of the agreement which leaves Mugabe as head of state and government.
“As head of state Mugabe wants to appoint his own foreign minister and not have one from the MDC who may not articulate policies and issues the way he wants,” the source said.
It said Mugabe might finally yield finance to the MDC although Zanu PF thinks it has a better candidate in Sylvester Nguni compared to the MDCÂ for finance minister. Sources said the MDC had rejected this because “in any case it’s not about that but more about who would be able to re-establish financial relations with the outside world rather who did finance at college”.Â The MDC thinks Elton Mangoma is a good candidate.
The MDC says this situation has created a deadlock, although Zanu PF claims there is no deadlock “because initially there were four ministries in dispute but now there is only one — finance”.
The MDC has sounded out Sadc on the stalemate. Sadc on WednesdayÂ asked South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to request his predecessor Thabo Mbeki to continue as Zimbabwe’s mediator in the allocation of ministries between rival political parties.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai met on Tuesday but failed to resolve the issue.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the leaders had reached an impasse and were likely to refer the issue to Sadc-appointed mediator, Mbeki.
Informed sources said that Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao had telephoned Motlanthe on Wednesday and indicated to him that regional leaders had asked Mbeki to continue as the mediator and that Motlanthe should communicate this to him. Motlanthe yesterday endorsed Mbeki as mediator.
By Dumisani Muleya/Constantine ChimakureÂ