PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is slowly clawing back power he lost during the March elections by dictating the pace on the implementation of the unity government deal he signed with the two MDC formations leaders, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara on September 15.
Mugabe last Friday parcelled out ministries between his Zanu PF and the two MDCs despite having met Tsvangirai and Mutambara earlier the same day and agreed that the pact broker, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, return to Harare to unlock the deadlock on the cabinet. Mbeki was in the capital this week in a bid to resolve the cabinet impasse.
The 84-year-old veteran leader allocated ministries of defence, home affairs, foreign affairs, local government and media to Zanu PF, portfolios the Tsvangirai-led MDC insists are key and should be shared equally.
Tsvangirai argued that if Zanu PF retains defence and foreign affairs, his party should be in charge of home affairs and the police. At the weekend he threatened to pull out of the inclusive government if the home affairs ministry is not given to his party.
Besides the issue of ministries, Mugabe’s central committee resolved on September 17, two days after the unity government deal was inked, that a clause in the pact barring by-elections for 12 months be repealed.
The central committee, the party’s highest decision making body outside congress, also resolved that the two MDC formations would not benefit from the 10 provincial governor posts because the pact did not cover the matter.
Mugabe, a former guerilla leader, told the same meeting that the marriage of convenience with the two MDC formations was a “humiliation” because a divided Zanu PF lost parliamentary elections in March, resulting in a hung parliament.
The octogenarian leader, political analysts said, wanted to regain power to assuage growing discontent in Zanu PF, amid reports that hardliners have accused him of having sold out by conceding too much power to Tsvangirai.
The political analysts said Mugabe and Zanu PF were manipulating the fragile deal to reclaim the power the party lost in the March polls. Even if the issue of ministries is resolved, the analysts warned, Mugabe would continue to frustrate Tsvangirai in a bid to regain complete authority of the government.
The analysts said Mugabe’s unilateral decision to parcel out ministries was largely informed by the system of intelligence he built in the last 28 years that sheltered him from the truth.
The system, the analysts argued, informed him that the ascendancy of the MDC meant the negation of the principles of the revolution particularly in terms of land reform and empowerment.
Mugabe, the analysts further said, was convinced that a regime change agenda was at play and the March 29 election results did not reflect the will of the people.
“He genuinely believes that Tsvangirai withdrew from the June 27 run-off because he knew he was going to lose badly,” Zimbabwean-born South Africa business magnate Mutumwa Mawere said.
“By framing the negotiations in his favour, you can appreciate that he believes that to the extent that he has been entrenched as the head of state and government, he is entitled to form a government of his choice. He believes that he is the one accommodating a loser and does not buy the concept of power-sharing. The thinking of Mugabe is evident in the construction of the cabinet.”
By clawing back power, Mawere argued, Mugabe was being antithetical to change. He warned that such a stance would prove disastrous for Zanu PF and the nation as it battles challenges to restore relations with the international community.
“The decision to allocate ministries in a unilateral manner shows the contempt with which Zanu PF regards the negotiations. What is required is credibility and this must start with an acknowledgement that a new beginning is required,” he said.
Mawere argued that Mugabe was using his party to regain power because he still thinks that the unity pact with the two MDC formations was capitulation and a reward to the whims of the West, who in his opinion were responsible for the economic crisis.
“I believe that Mugabe had agreed to MDC taking some of the critical ministries and this was made known to Mbeki hence the request by the opposition that Mbeki be recalled,” he averred.
“Mugabe is backtracking because he is using his party to get back the power and credibility that he lost on March 29.”
Political scientist Michael Mhike said the dispute on ministries had revealed that a future working relationship between Mugabe and Tsvangirai would be difficult because the Zanu PF leader holds certain views on how Zimbabwe should be governed that will not change.
“On policy grounds, it is clear that the two men will not work well together hence the need to clarify upfront which party will hold which ministries so that conflict is minimised,” Mhike argued.
“If the key ministries are held by Zanu PF then all Zimbabwe will get is more of the same for the next five years. In this case, the country would benefit more if a fresh election is held, but as long as Mugabe is the candidate violence will be part of the election.”
He suggested that the MDC-Tsvangirai must extract the maximum from the negotiations so that “Mugabe can be gently made irrelevant and redundant”.
“Mugabe is still toxic and can be lethal if not properly handled. Accordingly, fresh elections may not be the best answer given the history and the characters concerned,” Mhike added.
Alex Magaisa, a law lecturer at the UniversityÂ of Kent at Canterbury, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Mugabe started to claw back lost ground when Zanu PF knew that it had lost the March elections.
He said the claw-back was a process rather than an event.
“It started with the violence and displacement of voters, which led to Tsvangirai’s withdrawal, which in some ways was a piece of cake for Zanu PF because it allowed Mugabe to retain the presidency unopposed in June,” Magaisa argued.
“The negotiations themselves were part of the claw-back process because if you look at the substance and technical details, Mugabe and Zanu PF got more out of the negotiations than the election had given them.”
He averred that the allocation of ministries by Mugabe was, therefore, a culmination of a long process of clawing back much of the power lost through the ballot box.
“When you look at it holistically, it is the MDC, the winning party, that was forced to deal because it had limited options. I suspect that going forward, when it comes to the business of government and the key policy issues, Zanu PF will continue to seek lost ground in order to more fully establish its dominance.”
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe said Mugabe and Zanu PF’s actions were meant to regain power using the fragile deal. He said Tsvangirai and Mutambara should have refused to sign an inconclusive agreement.
“The deal has holes Mugabe and his party are manipulating to get ‘real’ power,” Makumbe said.
By Constantine Chimakure