PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected a circular emanating from President Robert Mugabe’s office directing ministers to report to his two vice-presidents –– Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo –– instead of to him as cracks in the shaky inclusive government continue to widen.
Tendai Biti, who is Finance minister, MDC-T party secretary-general and a lawyer, yesterday dismissed the circular as illegal and a wilful breach of the September 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave birth to the unity government last February.The circular written on January 25 by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent, implied that cabinet ministers should stop reporting to Tsvangirai and be answerable to Mujuru and Nkomo instead.
It was copied to all cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries.
The Independent is reliably informed that Tsvangirai’s office, through permanent secretary Ian Makone, has since written a counter circular to ministers and heads of ministries telling them to ignore Sibanda’s communication and continue reporting to the premier.
Biti yesterday said Sibanda’s circular was “unconstitutional and unlawful, thus null and void”.
“No one has powers to rewrite the GPA,” Biti told the Independent yesterday before leaving for Zambia on government business. “The GPA defines the powers and the functions of the president and the prime minister very clearly. It would be unconstitutional, unlawful to have such a circular because it would be null and void.”
Under the GPA, executive authority of the inclusive government is shared between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and cabinet. This is captured in Constitutional Amendment No 19.
While Mugabe is head of state and government, Tsvangirai is given a wide range of powers including the responsibility of overseeing formulation and implementation of government policies by cabinet; ensuring that ministers develop appropriate implementation plans; and in this regard the ministers must report to the premier on all issues relating to putting into effect such policies and plans.
Sources said the MDC saw Sibanda’s circular as an attempt to usurp Tsvangirai’s powers.
In the controversial circular, Sibanda said he was directed to inform ministers and permanent secretaries that Mujuru and Nkomo would assist Mugabe in the “supervision and management of the administration of government business just as the Honourable Prime Minister is assisted by Deputy Prime Ministers”.
Sibanda said Mujuru would continue to be responsible for the “general supervision” of social, agriculture and infrastructural ministries.
He said Mujuru’s particular focus would be on overseeing implementation of programmes to enhance productivity in the agriculture sector, ensure consistent activation of the indigenisation and empowerment programme, including women’s empowerment and gender equity programmes, and overseeing the coordinated and optimal functioning of the country’s strategic public utilities.
“In addition, Hon Vice President Mujuru will continue to chair the Cabinet Committee on Honours and Awards, the Cabinet Committee on State Occasions and National Monuments, and Cabinet Committee on Parastatals,” reads the four-page Sibanda circular.
Mugabe wants Nkomo to be responsible for economic ministries –– Finance, Economic Planning, Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development, Mines, Industry, Energy, Regional Integration, and Environment and Natural Resources Management.
Nkomo according to the circular, should supervise the implementation of the land reform programme and ensure policy consistency, the effective resolution of the issue of bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements, and the implementation of land-based policies on conservancies.
“To enhance this supervisory role, the vice president will continue to chair the Cabinet Committee on Rural Resettlement and Development,” wrote the chief secretary.
Nkomo was also mandated to supervise the implementation of policies ensuring preservation of the environment, overseeing the development of sport and recreation, and providing oversight of developments in the local government arena.
“To ensure effective supervision of their areas of administration of government business, the Honourable Vice Presidents will each be assisted by a Minister of State and by a team of officials headed by a permanent secretary,” Sibanda wrote. “Members are thus requested to take note accordingly.”
The fight to control government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai erupted ahead of the resumption on Monday of talks between Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the two MDC formations aimed at resolving outstanding issues of the GPA.
The negotiations have been limping on with little success. The MDC-T wants the talks to be declared a deadlock and the issue referred to Sadc — the guarantors of the GPA.
But Zanu PF resolved it would not concede more ground on the outstanding issues until sanctions are lifted.
The MDC-T this week expressed frustration at Zanu PF’s intransigence in fully consummating the GPA.
Biti said Zanu PF had become more obdurate since its congress last month.
“In the last four weeks, following the Zanu PF congress, we have seen an acceleration of destruction and insanity on the part of the former ruling party, he said. “We have seen an increase in the decibels of destabilisation and recklessness. This has been manifested in unlawful farm invasions, disobedience of lawful court orders, (and) vitriol against the president of the MDC.”