10. November 2008

SADC Fails to Salvage Unity Talks

In spite of SA saying it would take a tough line in a weekend summit to salvage Zimbabwe's power-sharing negotiations, the parties failed to put aside their differences at heated talks in Sandton last night.

President Kgalema Motlanthe opened yesterday's proceedings expressing his "disappointment" at the lack of progress, yet the parties still failed to make any breakthroughs on the vexed question of the division of cabinet posts. SA was hosting the make-or-break summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in its capacity as chair of SADC.

However, the SADC leaders failed to come up with a solution, except to support a suggestion of having two home affairs ministers to break the deadlock, which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rejected.

The outcome of the meeting was bound to determine the fate of the faltering agreement between Zanu (PF) and two opposition MDC factions signed on September 15. The parties have been fighting over the distribution of ministries and other matters related to the implementation of the deal ever since. The leaders wanted the parties to agree on ministries and go back home to form a government and address outstanding issues later.

Motlanthe set the ball rolling with a strong opening address, a departure from the usually indirect and mild approach by SADC leaders. Motlanthe said it was "disappointing" to realise Zimbabweans leaders were still haggling over ministries and other issues two months after the signing of the agreement. "The historic power-sharing agreement signed on September 15 remains the vehicle to help extricate Zimbabwe from her socioeconomic challenges," he said. "It is, however, disappointing that it is now two months since the signing of the agreement and the parties have not yet been able to conclude the discussions on the formation of an inclusive government."

Indirectly attacking President Robert Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the other smaller MDC faction leader, Arthur Mutambara, Motlanthe said the leaders needed to show "political maturity" to resolve the issue. "The political leadership in Zimbabwe owe it to the people of Zimbabwe and the region to show political maturity by putting the interest of Zimbabwe first," he said. "We urge the three parties to build on the achievement made thus far and reach an agreement on the outstanding issues, including the ministry of home affairs."

Apart from ministries, there was still the issue of sharing 10 provincial governors' positions, the appointment of ambassadors and permanent secretaries, the role, function and composition of the national security council, the amendment of the constitution to facilitate the agreement, and the arbitrary changing of the original agreement by Zanu (PF) under Mugabe's orders.

Mugabe is said to have insisted on his position of having two home affairs ministers shared between his Zanu (PF) and the MDC. But Tsvangirai rejected this, saying he wanted "fair and equitable" allocation of ministries based on "clusters and functions" of the portfolios. Mugabe argued he would not give home affairs to the MDC because the party was allegedly training militias in Botswana to destabilise Zimbabwe. Several MDC activists were arrested and detained last week in connection with the issue, which the opposition says is a fabrication to divert attention from real issues. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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