ZIMBABWE’S political troubles are intensifying as President Robert Mugabe struggles to form a functional government after losing control of parliament in the wake of faltering power-sharing talks with the opposition MDC.
Although talks are resuming today in Pretoria, no agreement is likely to be signed because Mugabe is said to be determined to resist pressure for him to surrender more power to Tsvangirai, while the MDC leader is also not willing to budge. Tsvangirai has refused to sign a power-sharing deal with Mugabe that regional leaders and his opposition rivals think is fair and realistic in the circumstances. Tsvangirai says it will make him a lame-duck prime minister.
Sources said South Africa president Thabo Mbeki, the mediator, who has called for today’s consultative meeting on the talks, would not reopen negotiations but ask the negotiators what is needed to break the deadlock.
If the talks collapse, Mugabe will proceed with his cabinet project which could however be paralysed by his party’s loss of parliament. Mugabe said on Tuesday he was in the process of forming a new government.
Deputy Information minister Bright Matonga said yesterday his boss was going ahead with plans to appoint cabinet despite ongoing talks.
“Nothing is going to stop us from forming a new government,” Matonga said in an interview with South Africa’s public broadcaster SA FM. “We need to move forward, we need to make sure that Zimbabwe regains its status, we need to work on the economy.” Matonga suggested that Sadc had given Mugabe the authority to convene parliament and appoint cabinet.
However, Sadc, which authorised Mugabe to reconvene parliament during its recent summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, said yesterday it had not given him the go-ahead to appoint cabinet.
Sadc defence director Dankie Mothae said the regional body had not given Mugabe any such authority.
Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao said Sadc only gave Mugabe authority to convene parliament. The Sadc communiquÃ© issued after the summit only refers to the convening of parliament. “Although we don’t want to comment on the talks, we don’t know where they are getting it (that Mugabe can appoint cabinet) from,” Salomao said. “Sadc specifically referred to the convening of parliament only.”
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for talks signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Mbeki on July 21 prohibits the convening of parliament and appointing a new cabinet before the conclusion of the talks.
Tsvangirai’s MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti said they would today lodge a formal complaint with Mbeki on these issues, including the arrest of five of their MPs and senior party official this week.
Whatever government Mugabe forms alone will be paralysed as it cannot pass laws or a budget without the support of the MDC in parliament.
Zanu PF was defeated in parliament on Monday by the leading MDC faction led by Tsvangirai despite trying to strike a coalition deal with MPs from the smaller MDC group led by Arthur Mutambara in a fierce battle for the post of Speaker of the House Assembly.
This dealt a heavy blow to Mugabe and Zanu PF who lost in the March 29 elections.
Mugabe however reversed his defeat on June 27 via a campaign of violence, killings and intimidation, according to the MDC.
After being outmanoervred on Monday, Mugabe was further subjected to humiliation by jeering opposition MPs on Tuesday while he was opening parliament.Â
Mugabe said on Tuesday he was proceeding to form a new government excluding the MDC, a move which would compound the political impasse at the heart of theÂ economic meltdown.
Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said if negotiations collapse, Mugabe would have a torrid time trying to govern without a majority in parliament. He however said Mugabe’s real problem is the economy, not loss of parliament. He said Mugabe’s fate in power would largely depend on what the MDC does or fails to do after a break down of talks.Â
“Mugabe will have a difficult time running governing without a majority but that is not his real problem. His main problem really is the crumbling economy. The day to day running of government does not need the control of parliament, so he can manoeuvre,” Madhuku said. “However, there is no room for manoeuvre in dealing with the economic crisis.”
Madhuku said if parliament blocks Mugabe’s proposed laws, he would have no choice but to abandon his legislative agenda and perhaps resort to Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act which empowers him to make regulations dealing with situations that have arisen or are likely to arise and require urgent attention. However, the problem is that the Act only allows him to introduce measures that last for six months.
Madhuku said declaring a state of emergency as some people had been saying would not help because it would only be able to suspend “certain provisions of the constitution mainly relating to the Bill of Rights, not parliament”.
“The real problem in terms of parliament will be when it comes to the passing of a budget,” Madhuku said. “If MDC MPs block the budget, Mugabe would have no option but to dissolve parliament. However, this is problematic because if he dissolves parliament his term of office also comes to an end at the same time in terms of the current constitution as amended.”
By Dumisani Muleya