Sunday, September 21, 2008

How Morgan got conned

A hard look at Zimbabwe's settlement agreement shows that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai succeeded in winning none of the demands he initially insisted were deal breakers.

On paper the agreement looks fair enough. It splits executive authority between Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe and even gives the former -- long the nemesis of the security forces -- a seat on the newly formed National Security Council (NSC), intended to replace the much feared Joint Operations Command.

While Tsvangirai initially demanded the right to chair Cabinet, the agreement now gives him the post of deputy chairperson.

He wanted the majority of Cabinet ministries, but the agreement gives Zanu-PF 15 Cabinet seats, Tsvangirai's faction 13 and Arthur Mutambara's MDC splinter faction three.

Mugabe's major concession was that, for most of his functions, he must work on the advice of Cabinet or Tsvangirai -- but nothing compels him to take their advice. Mugabealso chairs the NSC, retaining full control of the army, with the right to grant pardons and suspend sentences.

He may even dissolve Parliament if he wants to, but must "consult" the prime minister.

The agreement remains vague about what will happen to rank-and-file Zanu-PF members who ran amok in communities displacing and killing people.

For his meagre slice of the executive pie Tsvangirai is left with all the work. He runs government and therefore inherits a bankrupt and corrupt system built on cronyism and illegal foreign currency trading.

His success will be acutely measurable in terms of the inflation rate, growth rate, value of the currency, foreign investment and donor funding.

Failure to put Zimbabwe on the course to fiscal stability will be there for all to see.

It is his first go at power and, with an eye on the next elections, he will be anxious to appear competent at running government.

In contrast the only thing Mugabe needs to do is ensure political stability, a less daunting task.

The deal acknowledges that the core problem which set off Zimbabwe's downward spiral was Mugabe's seizure of white farmland, which was then distributed to war veterans and his cronies.

The status quo will persist with the duty of compensation imposed on Britain. A land commission will audit ownership, ostensibly to guard against multiple farm ownership.

Justifying the arrangement Tsvangirai said this week he does not support the wholesale return of land to white farmers. "Land should not be about white farmers or black farmers," he said.

The wholesale return of white farmers would meet with stiff resistance from the estimated 400 000 families and war veterans resettled on formerly white-held land.

One major coup is the prominence the agreement gives to women's rights.

It states that women should have equal access to land and representation at Cabinet level.

A mechanism is to be set up to advise the authorities on how to achieve "national healing".

Given that the agreement skirts the issue of perpetrators of violence -- assigning "joint liability" for the violence -- this may be the only opportunity for victims to confront the horrors of the Mugabe era.

Tsvangirai resisted pressure to prosecute Mugabe, but he has not ruled out the prosecution of lower-level perpetrators of violence.

Tsvangirai said: "I don't think Mugabe himself, as a person, can be held accountable. But there are various levels of institutional violence that have taken place and I'm sure we'll be able to look at that."

A referendum on a new Constitution will be held in 18 months and this will be the true test of the commitment of the ruling party to the deal.

After Mugabe lost the constitutional referendum of 2000 he unleashed the full power of the state to ensure Zimbabweans did not defy him again.

A national youth-training programme is also provided for, presumably to keep the violent youth militia occupied.

The only provision on the media, which Mugabe has subjected to stringent curbs, is a clause requiring the closure of radio stations funded by foreign governments.

Although it says all applications for media licences must be "processed immediately", the agreement does not explicitly guarantee the unfettered operation of the media.

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