Zimbabwe moves forward

The new Zimbabwe: (from left) President
Robert Mugabe new, Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai and deal negotiator South
Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki.
Image: Department of Foreign Affairs

MorganTsvangirai has high hopes for
the future of Zimbabwe.
Image: Irinnews

Khanyi Magubane

A landmark power sharing agreement in Zimbabwe signed on 15 September 2008 will formally establish a government of national unity in that country.

After several weeks of hard talking, mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe will finally move forward in what potentially signals the end of political and economic instability in the southern African country.

According to the agreement, Robert Mugabe (Zanu-PF) remains president of Zimbabwe; Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai is to become prime minister and MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara will hold the post of deputy prime minister.

President Mbeki was tasked by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate talks between Zimbabwe’s three main political leaders.

When the three leaders attended the signing ceremony at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare, they received a standing ovation.

In attendance were hundreds of party members, diplomats and African Union (AU) and SADC representatives. There were cheers all around when the leaders signed the agreement, which has been eagerly awaited, not only on the African continent, but around the world.

Under the new deal, the MDC, along with another MDC breakaway faction, will together have 16 seats, while President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF will hold the remaining 15.

Mbeki told the delegates they had travelled a long road to reach such a stage. He was thanked by the leaders present at the signing, for his patience and effort in seeking to bring together the country’s political bigwigs after they had a major falling out in the contentious presidential election earlier this year.

The Southern African Development Community’s chairman for Organ of Politics, Defence, Security and Co-operation, Swaziland’s King Mswati thanked him for his part in successfully clinching the peace deal.

“Mbeki has worked tirelessly to make this day possible and it is for this reason that the parties must make this government of national unity work.”

The agreement ends a six-month deadlock that followed elections on 29 March.

While Tsvangirai won the March elections, he did not win more than 50% needed to avoid a second round.

Run off-elections were then scheduled for June 2008. Due to what Tsvangirai termed as insurmountable political intimidation by state police on him and his party members, he withdrew from the elections, leaving Mugabe as the only candidate. Several leaders in Africa and further abroad rejected his “one man” victory.

Bringing Zimbabwe back from the edge

The signing of the agreement is widely seen as a historic moment in African politics, as less than three months ago in June, political tension in Zimbabwe had reached a boiling point and the country was on the brink of collapse.

In August startling figures were released by that country’s Central Statistical Office, which revealed that inflation was at 11.2 million percent, the highest in the world.

As a result of poor living conditions, millions of Zimbabweans fled the country to find employment in other countries. A third of its 12 million citizens no longer live in the country, and those who remain live below the breadline, some surviving on mealie-meal (corn) porridge.

The economic crisis, which severely dropped the value of the Zimbabwean dollar, made it almost impossible for Zimbabweans to buy basic commodities, electricity, fuel and medicines.

Commenting on the signing of the historic deal, South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad said, “What we see today is Zimbabweans finding a solution for themselves.

“It shows that Africans can find their own solutions, and as South Africa, we call on the international community to join in, support and help rebuild Zimbabwe.”

Other leaders who have praised the deal signed between the political parties includes

Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Jean Ping, who described it as further inroads made at achieving stability on the African continent.

“The accord marks a turning point in the efforts aimed at promoting reconciliation, stability and fostering conditions conducive for the recovery of their country.”

Ping also called on the international community to support the implementation of the agreement.

Shortly after the signing, Mutumbara, Tsvangirai, and Mugabe addressed delegates in attendance.

Tsvangirai, the country’s new prime minister, said he was pleased with the process leading up to the signing of the deal, “The truth is that we are facing a crisis, and we will have to work together to resolve It … and yes, we will face challenges but we are ready for them.”

Tsvangirai added that the most urgent need right now was to rebuild Zimbabwe to its former glory and beyond.

“We need electricity, water, petrol for our vehicles; we need to access our cash from banks,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Mutumbara, also addressed delegates, where he admitted that it was a painful compromise that the parties had to make to reach an agreement.

“We must make sure the healing is cascaded right from the top to the villages … our country has gone through a painful experience and we have to heal from the top to the bottom.”

Taking to the podium and delivering a lengthy address, President Mugabe remained defiant.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign country, only the people of Zimbabwe have the fundamental right to govern it. They alone will set up government, they alone will change it.

”People will want to see if what we promise is indeed what we strive to do … We are committed, I am committed, let us all be committed.”

Mapping a way forward for Zimbabwe

The 31-page agreement signed by the three parties, detail the way forward for Zimbabwe, from issues concerning the economy, food stability and land restitution.

According to the Declaration of Commitment section of the agreement, the parties agreed to, gave their commitment to, “work together to create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation and in particular to implement the following agreement with the aims of resolving once and for all the current political and economic situations and charting a new political direction for the country.”

The deal stipulates in detail, how the country aims to undertake restoration of economic stability and growth. Under this section, the parties commit themselves to urgently addressing the issue of food security, poverty and unemployment and the challenges of high inflation.

A National Economic Council (NEC) will also be established with representatives from the country’s manufacturing, agriculture, mining, tourism, commerce, financial, labour and academia sectors.

The main objective of the NEC will include advising government on economic issues and formulating economic plans and programmes to be approved by the government.

Under land redistribution, the agreement states that while parties disagree on the methodology used in the acquisition and redistribution of land in Zimbabwe, they agree that it was necessary to have a land reform programme.

Moving forward on the land issue, the parties have now taken a number of agreements including the need to conduct a comprehensive and transparent land audit for the purpose of eliminating multiple farm ownerships by one individual.

The parties have also agreed to secure international support and finance for the land reform programme in a bid to compensate the former landowners and support the new farmers.

The parties have also agreed there is a need for women to access and control land in their own right as equal citizens.

A new constitution is also underway for Zimbabwe.

A Select Committee of Parliament (SCP) will set up subcommittees chaired by a member of parliament and composed of members of parliament and representatives of civil societies as may be necessary to assist the Committee in performing its mandate.

Public hearings will be held in a bid to include public consultation over the making of a new constitution.

A draft constitution is expected to be tabled three months after the Select Committee of Parliament has held all the necessary consultations. The draft constitution will then be tabled in parliament.

After it’s debated in parliament, the necessary changes will be made and a referendum to approve the constitution will be held. If it receives the thumbs up, it will then be gazetted within one month of the referendum.

Under the new agreement, the freedom of political activity, which in the past led to many deaths and the torture of hundreds of citizens, is now protected.

Do you have any queries or comments on this article? Email Khanyi Magubane on khanyim@mediaclubsouthafrica.com

Related articles

Useful links