THE signing of the power-sharing agreement yesterday was largely described as an epoch-making event in the country’s checkered history in which major conflicts have ended on the negotiating table.
There was pomp and ceremony at the signing event as the principals in the agreement, President Mugabe, prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy premier-designate Arthur Mutambara shook hands and spoke of their commitment to the common good of Zimbabwe.
The historic event yesterday ushered in a largely untested system of government in which Mugabe will be head of state and chair of cabinet and Tsvangirai the leader of a council of ministers and deputy chair of cabinet. The system is a product of compromise by the triumvirate and as Tsvangirai said, it was a “painful compromise”.
The pain of the compromise and the taste of things to come from our new brand of democracy —— a hybrid of the French system of cohabitation and the novel dual cabinet was evident in the speeches delivered by each of the leaders at the signing ceremony.
What was apparent at the signing ceremony that the three leaders who have committed themselves to work together are very different characters whose actions are also informed by history and the ideologies of their political parties. In speeches after signing the document, the three leaders exhibited different traits which provided some insight into their possible interaction in the unity government.
Mutambara who spoke first, exuded loads of bombast but was clear on the task to hand.
“We came, we fought very viciously among ourselves, now, President Mugabe, President Tsvangirai, let’s walk the talk and deliver on the promise… let’s make sure we deliver and make the conditions of our people better conditions,” he said.
Tsvangirai was forthright and forward-looking in terms articulating the challenges to be tackled; food on the table, mending the economy, reviving the health sector and the education system. In a prepared speech, he also reminded his colleagues at the top table of his “scars” from the struggle. He described his MDC party as a people’s party and Mugabe’s Zanu PF as a liberation party.
Mugabe, who spoke off the cuff in a rambling epistle, sank his teeth into his favourable subject of colonisers and the regime change agenda of the West. He largely dedicated his almost hour-long speech to defending a legacy which no longer reverberates with popular sentiment. Mugabe should be reminded that officials from the new government will soon be heading to Western capitals for assistance, which the country badly needs.
But there were nuggets to pick up from the speech, especially his view on democracy and oppositions politics in Africa. “Democracy, democracy. Democracy in Africa is a difficult proposition,” he said.
“Because always the opposition will want much more than what it deserves. The opposition will want to be the ruling party and will devise ways and means of getting there, including violence.” There were jeers to this. He was quick to mention that he was talking of the opposition in general and not specifically at the MDC.
The event was all the same feted as a success story but there remains evidence of tension and uneasiness among the leaders, which has to wear off quickly for them to achieve positive results quickly for Team Zimbabwe. This was also evident at the photo shoot when the three stood ramrod straight with little interaction, just like total strangers.
Zanu PF and MDC supporters meanwhile clashed outside the conference venue with Mugabe’s supporters coming out worse off from the skirmishes. A band of Zanu PF supporters chanted that they would go back to the June events in reference to the violence that was unleashed in the period before run-off election. The evil ghost of violence must be exorcised immediately by the political leaders.
We however want to take heart from Mugabe’s sentiments that the leaders had areas of common understanding, hence the signing of the deal. The areas of common understanding should however go beyond political rhetoric and PR exercises designed to demonstrate unity among the parties and the leaders.
There must be agreement on value systems and national identity that includes the definition of freedoms, the rule of law, how to execute the indigenisation process and the issue of sanctions. The agreement mentions these issues but there are still vast areas of contention to convince the nation that the leaders are working for the common good.
“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,” was Mugabe’s call.
Mutambara made a “clarion call for an economic revolution in our country”.
“We must deliver on the promise of the agreement,” he said.
Tsvangirai said he had signed the agreement because he believes “it represents the best opportunity for us to build a peaceful, prosperous, democratic Zimbabwe”.
Indeed, the agreement was long overdue but people of Zimbabwe want to see results soon so that they start living normally again. It’s time to get to work for the nation and not score political points.