CABINET ministers in the shaky inclusive government clashed in furious scenes on Tuesday in front of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Ministers Morgan Tsvangirai over a series of contentious political issues prompting the holding soon of a special cabinet meeting to resolve the matters.
Informed official sources said GPA principals, including Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, watched in horror as ministers slugged it out over unimplemented GPA issues as political tensions ran high and partisan hostilities exploded at Munhumutapa Building.
The cabinet session had been called to clear Global Political Agreement (GPA) issues and the future of the GNU. It however ended amid chaotic and acrimonious clashes as ministers engaged in heated no-holds-barred exchanges over disputed political issues.
This had necessitated a special cabinet sitting that would be decisive in many ways for the political direction and future of the country, according to a senior government minister.
“We are going to have a special cabinet meeting soon. The agenda of the meeting would in brief be the GPA, GNU and the way forward,” the minister said. “We are going to examine in detail the 24 GPA issues which have been agreed upon but not implemented. We are also going to examine operations of the GNU. In fact, this meeting will be a review of the inclusive government.”
The extraordinary cabinet meeting would determine the fate of the government of national unity (GNU) and the way forward following recent problems around the lifespans of the coalition arrangement, constitution-making process, referendum and elections.
Some of the contentious issues were on sanctions, the media, external radio stations, hate speech, rule of law, state organs and institutions, review of ministerial mandates, land audit and tenure system and electoral vacancies.
The gathering would also have a bearing on the country’s future economic prospects, particularly in view of Mugabe’s renewed threats to grab foreign-owned companies under the guise of indigenisation and empowerment.
Cabinet has now become a theatre of political battles, mainly between Mugabe and Zanu PF ministers and Tsvangirai and MDC-T ministers. Mutambara now reportedly cuts a lonely figure in cabinet after he was fired by his party and left it under Minister of Trade and Industry Welshman Ncube’s control. Mutambara and Ncube are fighting over the MDC leadership and the position of co-deputy prime minister. This has intensified tensions within the divided government.
“As you would be aware,” the minister said, “the negotiators of the three political parties in the GPA finished their negotiations last year after having been engaged since 2009 on a lot of disputed issues. After that, the principals took a long time to meet to resolve those issues which negotiators agreed they could not deal with. The principals resolved some of the issues but later there was a dispute about that as well. Principals met on many occasions since June last year and the end result of that was a commitment to implement the 24 items listed on the implementation matrix document which was approved by Sadc (Southern African Development Community) leaders in Windhoek last year in August.”
In early August last year the three parties in the GPA endorsed and formalised the implementation matrix which was approved and presented as part of the report to Sadc mediator, South African President Jacob Zuma. After that Zuma took the report to the Sadc summit in Windhoek. The report was approved by regional leaders who gave Zimbabwean parties timeframes and deadlines on implementation of agreed issues.
The implementation matrix envisaged some issues being tackled immediately; others within a month or two months; and a few continuously or on a periodic basis.
The issues also included cabinet and council of ministers’ rules, guidelines and procedures, transport arrangements of principals, security aides for the prime minister and deputy prime ministers, parallel government, external interference, national economic council, constitutional commissions, national heroes, role and position of permanent secretary of media, information and publicity, constitutional amendment No 19, interference with the rights of freedom of association, assembly and speech, role and funding of NGOs, multi-donor trust fund and selective funding of ministries by donors and electoral reforms.
Zimbabwe’s cabinet approved the implementation matrix but nothing much was done afterwards.
Another government minister said the next extraordinary cabinet meeting would “seek to revisit all these issues and enforce our own decisions and Sadc resolutions”.
“We must implement the GPA and that is what the meeting will be about,” the minister said. “We signed the GPA and now Zimbabweans and Sadc expect us to implement it in full. The GPA is the basis of this government and the roadmap to free and fair elections, so we can’t deviate from it unless we want to let the country slide back into a dark period of repression and economic chaos.”
Zuma’s facilitators have been in and out of the country to ensure the parties implement the GPA and define the roadmap to elections. Although the parties have been cooperating, Mugabe and his party have been trying to stampede the country into early elections at least by August. They have been doing this through efforts to rush the constitution-making process and referendum to pave for elections or threats to abandon the GPA trajectory and go back to the old constitution where Mugabe has powers to unilaterally dissolve parliament and call for elections. Under the GPA Mugabe does not have these powers.