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Zimbabwe: Talks inconclusive
Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By Mabasa Sasa and Sydney Kawadza
January 20, 2009
The Herald

EFFORTS to finalise the broad-based agreement appeared to have irretrievably collapsed yesterday after MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai rejected Sadc proposals that would have seen an inclusive Govern-ment being formed by the end of this week.

President Mugabe and MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara assented to a proposal that would have resulted in a Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and Cabinet ministers being sworn into office starting from January 24 in line with the agreement reached by the three political parties in September last year.

Instead, another Extraordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government will be held either in Johannesburg or Gaborone on Monday next week where the chair of the regional bloc and President of South Africa, Cde Kgalema Motlanthe, will give a full briefing on yesterday’s meeting.

At a Press conference in the early hours of this morning after hours of negotiations, Sadc executive secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao said the talks were inconclusive and Presidents Motlanthe and Guebuza and Cde Mbeki had recommended that a summit be held next week.

Early this morning, President Mugabe expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which Tsvangirai had frustrated the implementation of the agreement and the proposals brought forward.

"It didn't go well. We had a proposal from Sadc that would have brought us to a situation where the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers would have been sworn-in.

"We agreed to it, as did Mutambara's MDC but MDC-T did not agree. They instead came up with their own counter-proposal that naturally was in conflict with the position of Sadc which would have seen us move forward and that is where the talks broke down.

"We will continue to discuss here at home. There will be a meeting of Sadc in a few days time where a report will be made to Sadc. We are for the Sadc proposal and abide by it to the full," President Mugabe said.

(The full text of the Sadc proposal.)

President Mugabe added that Government would continue discussions in a bid to find common ground over the Sadc proposal.

Though Tsvangirai insinuated that it was Zanu-PF's fault that the talks had not yielded a positive outcome, he conspicuously refrained from mentioning to the Press that Presidents Motlanthe and Guebuza and Cde Mbeki had laid a proposal on the table.

Tsvangirai simply said: "The chairman of Sadc has suggested a meeting next week."

Initially, Tsvangirai is said to have given indications that he would support the proposals if President Mugabe and Prof Mutambara would also do so.

However, after both Zanu-PF and the MDC made it clear that they had no reservations on the proposals, Tsvangirai turned around and said he needed to "consult" on whether or not to proceed.

In an interview afterwards, one of Zanu-PF's negotiators to the talks, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, said Tsvangirai's latest U-turn had surprised everyone.

"We as Zanu-PF told the Sadc chair, Cde Mbeki and Cde Guebuza – who is the acting chair of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security – that we had no problem with the proposal put before us.

"In essence, the proposal was that the three parties issue a statement declaring that we would all support Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill when Parliament resumes sitting on 20 January, 2009 (today).

"This would be followed by the swearing-in of the Prime Minister and the two Deputies by January 24, 2009, after which Cabinet ministers would be appointed.

"MDC-T would make an undertaking to submit a Draft Bill for the National Security Council by January 24 because this is essentially something that they have demanded today.

"On the issue of governors, the parties would agree that these would be shared as and when vacancies arose according to a formula that the parties would agree on and that the allocation of ministries would be reviewed after six months.

"We agreed with all of this in the spirit of the agreement that we all signed and Professor Mutambara also assented to this proposal.

"However, Tsvangirai suddenly, and to everyone's consternation, said he needed a bit of time to consult after initially saying he too would go with it if the other parties agreed.

"But as you know, and has become the norm with him, the little bit of time he asked for turned into hours and when he came back he said he had a counter-proposal and this was contradictory to the Sadc proposal.

"It is obvious that this is a delaying tactic meant to frustrate the implementation of the agreement in line with instructions from his handlers and advice from God-knows-who," Cde Chinamasa said.

Zanu-PF, Cde Chinamasa said, would welcome MDC-T's Draft Bill on the National Security Council, pointing out that the structure had always been in existence albeit in an administrative capacity and the opposition now wanted it reconstituted as a statutory body.

Cde Chinamasa added that Tsvangirai's demands for the rescinding of the appointments of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor and the Attorney-General were misplaced.

According to the agreement, he said, President Mugabe was only required to consult Tsvangirai after he became Prime Minister but since the opposition leader had refused to be sworn-in the Head of State had been left with no option but to proceed for the good of the country.

He said the President had no legal obligation to consult anyone from any party over a State appointment.

"If you read the agreement and Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill, it is very clear the President Mugabe makes such appointments after consulting with the Prime Minister.

"There is no Prime Minister right now for the simple reason that Tsvangirai has refused to join Government and so President Mugabe has made the appointments in line with the Constitution and the laws governing the country.

"There was an urgent need to fill in the two positions in question. The Governor of the RBZ has been playing a leading role in fighting the illegal sanctions that Zimbabwe is wilting under and there is no way we can allow a vacancy in that office.

"In the case of the Attorney-General, there has been an increase in banditry and insurgency and there is no way we can operate without such an appointment because that office is the chief crime fighter in the country."

Cde Chinamasa said it was clear that Tsvangirai wanted key offices to remain vacant so that the country would become ungovernable and this would advance his cause.

"MDC-T's intention is to create a vacuum so that they can advance their agenda to illegally and unconstitutionally remove Zanu-PF from Government.

"It is to everyone's knowledge that MDC-T was recruiting former soldiers and police officers for military training in Botswana with the intention of removing the Government. Without substantive people in crucial positions, they would create havoc and there would be no one to deal with the perpetrators of this insurgency."

On Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill, Cde Chinamasa said it has to be made clear that this was a tripartite undertaking and not a Zanu-PF project and as such the opposition had to fully support it.

"We have learnt our lessons from the 2000 Constitutional Draft that was made to appear as a Zanu-PF project when it was a national one.

"Zanu-PF will not want to be ambushed by a rejection from a party acting in bad faith. So our position is that the Bill should be pushed through Parliament by the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, which has been allocated to MDC-T according to the agreement.

"They should play a leading role and Zanu-PF would give all its support as we always honour our commitment to the agreement."

Insiders revealed that yesterday's proceedings started with a meeting between President Mugabe and Tsvangirai in which the latter presented a list of grievances.

Among them was a demand that all people arrested for politically-related crimes be released and that virtually all senior Government appointments be annulled.

"Tsvangirai wanted governors' appointments to be terminated, for all ambassadors to be recalled and for permanent secretaries to be dismissed.

"President Mugabe flatly told him that this was just not going to happen because this would cripple the country.

"Furthermore, he pointed out that he had no obligation to consult Tsvangirai on these appointments because the agreement and the proposed law only made room for the Head of State to work with the Prime Minister."

President Mugabe reportedly told Tsvangirai that there was no way he could consult him when he was not in Government and, therefore, not bound by the oaths of loyalty and secrecy.

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