SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma arrived in Harare last night for make-or-break talks with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in a bid to settle intensifying struggles among leaders of the inclusive government.
The critical talks will determine whether the coalition government is able to put the divisive issues crippling its operations behind it and focus on rebuilding the country. The alternative is an ugly battle ahead of the forthcoming Sadc summit in the DRC.
Battle lines were already drawn before Zuma arrived in Harare – his first visit to Zimbabwe since he was sworn-in in May – as officials traded tough remarks in a bid to do agenda-setting. Hard-hitting statements came from key allies of Mugabe and Tsvangirai who appeared geared for a take-no-prisoners encounter, while ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has said South Africa will be more vocal in its attempt to curb what he called “deviant behaviour” in the Mugabe camp.
Zuma was expected to meet Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara last night after a state dinner. Zuma is also expected to meet the three leaders collectively today after officially opening the Harare Agricultural Show although the official agenda of the visit does not indicate exactly when the talks will take place.
Tsvangirai told journalists during his tour of the Show that he was optimistic Zuma would crack the disputes within the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
“The meeting will take place as the South African government has indicated,” said Tsvangirai.
“ThereÂ isÂ anÂ opportunityÂ forÂ President Zuma to meet the principals of various political parties and try to evaluate the implementation of the GPA. Tomorrow we will meet (with him) as principals,” Tsvangirai said.
“President Zuma is not coming here as a prosecutor or a judge but as chairman of Sadc and guarantor (of the GPA). All he wants to see is the agreement being implemented and on that score I am optimistic.”
However, indications were that the meetings would be heated as the disputes have been steadily escalating.
The talks will show whether Zuma has the political leverage to clear the stubborn outstanding issues and turn around the fortunes of a country ruined by a decade of misrule.
Zuma recently met Tsvangirai in Johannesburg to discuss continuing problems about the political arrangements in Harare.
“The fact of the matter is the prime minister had come here to raise certain issues,” Zuma told reporters in Cape Town before his departure. “Certainly I will also have to raise those issues with the leaders in Zimbabwe.”
After meeting Tsvangirai in Johannesburg, Zuma promised to contact regional leaders, including Mugabe, on the issues in dispute.
In his capacity as Sadc chair, Zuma will hold meetings to sort out a series of issues which could explode into a crisis in the DRC if left simmering.
The issues include the dispute over the sharing and swearing-in of provincial governors, the appointment of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, the swearing in of Deputy Minister of Agriculture Roy Bennett and the arrests of MDC-T MPs.
There is also a dispute over the constitutional reform process and appointment of members of constitutional commissions, especially the media one. The quarrel over the mandate of the ministries of Information Communication Technology and Transport is another matter.
Then there is the review of the six months of the inclusive government which might open the floodgates to complaints.
While a few issues such as the appointment of permanent secretaries, diplomats and the meeting of the National Security Council have been dealt with, the remaining matters have a potential of driving a new wedge between the parties in government, creating a fresh crisis.
Zuma will also have to push to break the deadlock on the issue of constitutional reform which has run into an impasse over the process and leadership. This is a critical issue because if the process stalls, or worse still collapses, there could be no elections perhaps until 2013. It had been hoped they would come soon after a new constitution had been produced.
Mantashe said two days ago his boss would be out to curb Mugabe’s “deviant behaviour” and work together with his power-sharing government.
If Zuma tackles Mugabe firmly, his approach would be a departure from his predecessor Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” which was denounced as weak and ineffective.
Mantashe was widely quoted as saying Zuma would be tougher than Mbeki in his stance.
“President Zuma will be more vocal in terms of what we see as deviant behaviour,” Mantashe said. “We will be more vocal but we will still engage.”
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said his party would raise a number of “GPA and toxic issues” which needed to be dealt with urgently.
“We will raise GPA issues such the Gono and Tomana matter, the governors, the Bennett issue, selective application of the law, slow progress and lack of progress on reforms, especially on things like the media and absence of compliance with the rule of law,” Biti said.
“We will also deal with the constitution-making process. Our view is that the people must write their own constitution and all draft constitutions must be considered. The problem we have now is the impasse on the constitution-making process and lack of leadership. There is a kwashiorkor of leadership on that issue.”Â Â
Biti said the review of the six months of the inclusive government would have to touch on the “skewed ministerial allocation” and the issue of disputed mandates of ministries.
Biti said on the issue of sanctions, the GPA did not place the responsibility of getting the “restrictive measures” lifted on the shoulders of one party. He said the lifting of sanctions was linked with the implementation of the GPA.
Zanu PF has said it would raise the issue of sanctions and foreign radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe as the “outstanding issues”.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Zanu PF’s key negotiator, yesterday said the MDC concerns were a distraction, saying Western sanctions were the real issue as they were undermining the inclusive government.
“Our position is very clear. We hope our principal, President Robert Mugabe, tells President Zuma that the outstanding issues are that of sanctions and external interference,” Chinamasa told AFP.
“The so-called outstanding issues, which are the issues of the (Reserve Bank) governor and the Attorney-General are nowhere in the GPA,” he said. “This is meant to distract attention of the inclusive government.”
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa also said the Gono and Tomana issues were “not for negotiation”. He said Mugabe has in terms of the constitution “power to appoint the governor of the Reserve Bank and the Attorney-General” without consulting Tsvangirai and Mutambara. Â
“The MDC must grow up. What they are saying is absolute nonsense. They are behaving like small babies,” Mutasa said. “There will be no negotiations on those appointments.”
Dumisani Muleya and Faith Zaba