PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, together with the vice-presidents and deputy prime ministers, on Thursday held a crisis meeting in Harare which failed to resolve outstanding issues of the global political agreement.
Impeccable sources said the meeting was held to resolve a series of issues fuelling divisions within the inclusive government.
The sources said Mugabe, Tsvangirai, vice-presidents Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru, and deputy prime ministers Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara held an urgent meeting to deal with the issues which have created tensions within the government.
Thursday’s gathering followed a volatile cabinet meeting on Wednesday where it became clear that outstanding issues could not be left unresolved for long without risking internal paralysis.
The sources said the meeting dwelt on reports of farming disruptions throughout the country which have resulted in Tsvangirai appointing a ministerial team headed by Mutambara to probe the matter.
“The deliberations on outstanding issues were adjourned to Monday,” one of the sources said. Â
The source said “all outstanding issues were considered but were not comprehensively dealt with”.Â
The meeting, the source said, brought to the fore the differences on fundamental issues between Zanu PF and the MDC formations, especially on the distribution of power.
The meeting – prompted by power struggles in the unity government and a range of unresolved issues now deteriorating into open conflict – was a litmus test for the coalition regime’s ability to weather the gathering storm.
Failure to resolve issues in dispute, analysts said, could leave the unity government further weakened and divided, signalling the beginning of an unravelling process which could eventually lead to collapse.
Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa is reportedly on the verge of resigning over the seizure of the department of telecommunications from his ministry.
The outcome of yesterday’s meeting was expected to determine whether or not Chamisa would quit, sources said. Leaders have however been anxious to avoid this fallout which might destabilise the government and trigger more unceremonious departures.
Chamisa is said to have indicated in his consultations with Tsvangirai and Mutambara that he would go unless his ministry was left intact.
He was only prepared to compromise if his ministry was combined with Transport and then co-chairing as in Home Affairs was introduced, sources said.
Chamisa is also said to be prepared to stay if only the administration of the Interception of Telecommunications Act was removed from his ministry, leaving the original portfolio as it was.
The fight over the telecoms department is fuelled by Mugabe and his allies’ need to administer the Interception of Telecommunications Act which enables government to intercept and record individual and corporate communications.
Their desire to keep on spying on citizens mainly for self-serving political agendas is said to be the driving force behind the fight for the telecoms portfolio. It has been described as a snooper’s charter.
Mugabe and his allies are claiming that telecoms is not part of Chamisa’s ministry. They say it should have gone to Information, Media and Publicity.
Chamisa is saying this was not the original arrangement when the ministries were gazetted last year.
The dispute around Information Communication Technology and telecoms recently seized from his portfolio and transferred to Transport and Infrastructure Development without mutual concurrence among parties in government was said to have raised the problems in cabinet.
Sources said Chamisa recently wrote to Khupe when she was acting prime minister in Tsvangirai’s absence after the death of his wife Susan asking her to resolve the issue of his ministry urgently.
They said Khupe then issued an internal government memo saying Chamisa’s ministry would remain intact and the matter was now closed.
Sources said this riled Mugabe who summonedÂ Khupe and Mutambara to an urgent meeting where he declared he was unilaterally transferring the telecoms department to Transport and Infrastructure which is headed by former State Security minister Nicholas Goche.
Sources said this issue was top of the agenda for the meeting. Other matters which were discussed included the unresolved issue of governors, permanent secretaries and diplomats.
In terms of the political agreement which led to this inclusive government, Mugabe can only make senior government appointments in consultation and concurrence with the other leaders, Tsvangirai, Msika, Mujuru, Khupe and Mutambara.
Sources said the leaders were also expected to tackle the contentious and controversial dispute around the continued detention of MDC activists.
When he came into office in February Tsvangirai promised to secure his supporters’ release immediately but this has not happened.
The issue of deputy Agriculture minister Roy Bennett’s controversial arrest and release was also expected to come up in the context of Mugabe’s refusal to swear him in, sources said.
Sadc leaders in Swaziland last month said Bennett must be sworn-in, but that has not yet been done either.
The leaders were further expected to confront the issue of political and economic reforms focusing on the rule of law, human rights and democratic deficits.
The continued land invasions had become a thorny issue and Tsvangirai has also been tested over it after recently promising to crack down on farm-grabbers.
Land invasions – a manifestation of continued lawlessness, and prosecution of the few remaining white farmers – has of late been featuring prominently in government discussions. Sadc urged government during the summitÂ in Swaziland to deal with the problem.
The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, which was mandated to supervise implementation of the political agreement, has been receiving many reports on land invasions and other violations of the accord.
BY DUMISANI MULEYA