|25. August 2008
Why Tsvangirai refused to sign
The lid on the power-sharing agreement between Zanu PF and the MDC was blown off yesterday as a leaked document revealed for the first time that President Robert Mugabe would have remained both as head of State and head of government in a new arrangement sanctioned by SADC leaders. The regional leaders, led by South African President Thabo Mbeki, reportedly pressured MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to sign "the deal", and after failing to do so, gave Mugabe the go-ahead to convene parliament.
Their blessing, which allows Mugabe to preside over the opening of parliament on Tuesday, ran contrary to the spirit and letter of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the negotiating parties.
Both parties pledged the convening of parliament would only be done through consensus. Leaked documents and information gathered from various sources show that the unsuccessful deal, far from ensuring a changing political landscape favouring Tsvangirai who polled the most votes in March 29 elections, would have entrenched Mugabe’s grip on power.
The documents show this 50-50 power arrangement was clearly in favour of Mugabe who would remain Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and head of government as well as head of state.
Tsvangirai refused to sign the agreement nearly two weeks ago in order to "reflect and consult".
Sources have revealed that top among Tsvangirai’s worries was paragraph 2 of the document titled Role of the Prime Minister.
While the paragraph stipulated that the prime minister would carry the responsibility to oversee the formulation of policies by the Cabinet, it also spelt out that Tsvangirai would not be the man in charge — he would only be "a Member of the Cabinet and its Deputy Chairperson". This arrangement left Mugabe, in accordance with the Zimbabwe constitution, as the head of Cabinet. To make matters worse for Tsvangirai, who had insisted that he heads the cabinet, according paragraph 11 he would "report regularly to the president".
Sources say Tsvangirai is said to have strongly disagreed with such a provision that would have left him without adequate authority to engineer economic recovery and overcome repression. Tsvangirai would find himself undermined if his authority is not spelt out because if things go wrong, he would be blamed. Tsvangirai also could not discipline ministers under such an arrangement, as he could only “make recommendations on such disciplinary measures as may be necessary.”
The president and the prime minister, say the documents — confirmed as authentic by different sources close to the talks — “will agree on the allocation of ministries between them for the purpose of day-to-day supervision”. That also meant that Tsvangirai would not be in effective charge of government. The president, our sources said, would retain broad powers to declare a state of emergency, declare war or make peace and to grant amnesty. Mugabe would also retain control of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) which would remain in place, save for a change in name. Tsvangirai would play second fiddle to Mugabe. “The prime minister shall serve as a member of the National Security Council and this will ensure his participation in deliberations on matters of national security and operations pertaining thereto,” say the documents.
Sources say Tsvangirai decided to take time to reflect on such an arrangement after failing to ensure that Mugabe would take a back seat in governance issues. “Tsvangirai wanted an additional paragraph that would have effectively made the president (Mugabe) ceremonial,” said the source.
“The other negotiators however turned down his request, arguing that this was a 50-50 power-sharing deal.”
Sources close to the talks said yesterday under that agreement, Tsvangirai felt he would be more a senior minister in Mugabe’s cabinet than a prime minister. “He noticed that Mugabe remained the head of the chain of command in cabinet, so why should he agree to be prime minister under these circumstances? A prime minister should simply be in charge,” said a source. Another source said Tsvangirai had hoped that both the prime minister and president’s powers would be drawn from a transitional constitution but was dismayed after noting that Mugabe would remain with his old sweeping powers intact. Tsvangirai would in that situation find himself undermined at every turn.