DIVISIONS have emerged in the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC ahead of today’s national executive meeting on whether or not to be part of a unity government with Zanu PF in line with Sadc’s decision last weekend.
Sources in the party said there were “two bodies of opinion” on the course of action to take after the extraordinary Sadc summit in Sandton, South Africa, decided that Zimbabwe should institute “forthwith” an all-inclusive government.
Other sources said while a heated debate was expected in the meeting, the national executive and council would not honour the Sadc decision.
The MDC parliamentary caucus on Wednesday recommended that the party leadership should not join the government.
Innocent Gonese, the party’s chief whip, last night confirmed the meeting but declined to discuss their recommendation.
“We are supportive of the stance our leaders took on the Sadc decision. We want genuine equitable and fair portfolio allocations,” Gonese said. “We have made a recommendation on whether or not to join the new government and we cannot discuss it in public.”
The Sadc summit ruled that the MDC and Zanu PF should co-manage the Ministry of Home Affairs – a decision that was rejected by Tsvangirai but welcomed by President Robert Mugabe. After failing to reach agreement on the issue two weeks ago, Tsvangirai agreed that the dispute over the ministry should be referred to a full Sadc summit for adjudication.
Arthur Mutambara, the leader
of the smaller formation of the MDC, said he respected the Sadc decision, but said his party would be happier if Tsvangirai was part of the government.
The sources in the MDC said there were camps in both the national executive and council that want the party to join the new government in fulfillment of the power-sharing deal signed between President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara on September 15 in the capital.
Tsvangirai’s “kitchen cabinet”, the sources said, wanted the MDC to fight Mugabe from within government.
Last month, the Zimbabwe Independent reported that senior MDC officials and “kitchen cabinet” members were “scrambling with indecent haste” for cabinet posts to access “S-Class Mercedes Benzes, free fuel and other benefits”.
This group was reportedly pushing for a quick resolution of the deadlock on ministerial portfolios.
“Some (senior MDC members) argue that it is better to get in (the inclusive government) and sort out the constitution as envisaged in the global political agreement,” one of the sources said. “They also argue that joining the inclusive government would allow all democratic forces to work on the humanitarian crisis, cholera, education and food, which is getting out of hand.”
The sources said there was a strong opinion that if the MDC becomes part of the unity government, Zanu PF could split given the MDC’s intellectual advantage, its dynamism and its “way of strategic thinking”.
Moreover, the sources said, fear of Zanu PF would diminish.
There is also an argument that MDC will get breathing space within which to rebuild the party in time for the next elections,” another source said. “Boycotting would be tantamount to fighting Sadc after many years of excruciating diplomatic donkey work to penetrate Sadc.”
The sources said there were fears among party leaders that if the MDC declines to join the unity government and take its case to the African Union, the continental body was likely to match the Sadc decision.
But hardliners in the MDC like secretary-general Tendai Biti, the sources said, were adamant that the party could not get into bed with Zanu PF unless and until there was “genuine power-sharing”.
Speaking after the Sadc summit, Tsvangirai said the regional bloc had not addressed the MDC concerns regarding power-sharing.
He said the contentious issue between the MDC and Zanu PF was not only on the Home Affairs ministry, but on 10 “key” cabinet posts, crafting of Constitutional Amendment No19, appointment of 10 provincial governors, composition of the National Security Council, appointment of permanent secretaries, ambassadors and senior government officials and the doctoring of the September 11 unity agreement.
Tsvangirai said if these issues were not addressed, his party would not join the inclusive government and wanted the matter taken to the African Union for arbitration.
It is this stance the hardliners in the MDC wants adopted at today’s meeting.
The sources said they argued that without recognition of the government by the international community, the MDC would be unable to bring about the changes desired by Zimbabweans, which the party has advocated.
“In the event of joining the government, Biti and company argue that people will reject the MDC and look for another alternative,” a source said. “Moreover, Zanu PF is not willing to share power so the MDC will be become a junior partner which is being handled like a poodle by Zanu PF.”
The hardliners reportedly argue that the MDC would seal its fate as a party if it joined the gravy train and betrayed the people.
Mugabe has since been given the green light by his politburo to appoint a new cabinet with or without Tsvangirai.
The new government is expected at the weekend or early next week after Mugabe invited Tsvangirai to submit names of his party members he wants appointed ministers.In terms of the power-sharing deal, Mugabe will have 15 ministers, Tsvangirai 13 and Mutambara 3.
Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesperson, said his party would make a decision on whether or not to join the unity government today, but insisted that they needed power-sharing not grabbing.
“We believe that we have a compelling case in that a genuine power-sharing arrangement should be based on equity and not power grabbing,” Chamisa said. “We believe that a real and genuine inclusive government should enable us to effect change in the lives of the people of Zimbabwe and not simply to legitimise a predominantly Zanu PF government which was rejected by the people on March 29.”
By Constantine Chimakure