15 September 2008

Zimbabwe: Pact Sets Up Finely-Balanced Coalition

Cape Town — Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement signed on Monday sets up a finely-balanced coalition government. The combined opposition will have a one-person majority in the cabinet, but it will be chaired by President Robert Mugabe.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will be deputy chair of the cabinet, but he will also chair a Council of Ministers, which will "oversee the formulation of  government policies by the cabinet" and "ensure that the policies so formulated are implemented by the entirety of government."

The full text of the 30-page main agreement was released by the South African government late on Monday.

In other notable features of the document, the parties - Zanu-PF and the two wings of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC):

  • Accepted the "irreversibility" of Mugabe's seizure and redistribution of land but will carry out a land audit to eliminate "multiple farm ownerships";
  • Called on the British government to take primary responsibility for compensating former land owners;
  • Agreed to give priority to restoring economic stability and growth, and called for the lifting of international sanctions;
  • Set out a mechanism and timetable designed to place a new constitution before the electorate for approval in a referendum within the next 18 months;
  • Froze party representation in the legislature for a year, by stipulating that vacancies should be filled by a member of the party currently holding a seat;
  • Encouraged Zimbabweans broadcasting from outside the country to return and set up independent radio stations within the country; and
  • Resolved to take steps to ensure the public media provided balanced and fair coverage to all parties.

The agreement said that the executive authority of what it called an "inclusive government" would "vest in, and be shared among the president, the prime minister and the cabinet." The cabinet would "evaluate and adopt all government policies and the consequential programmes," allocate funds for their implementation and prepare legislation for parliament.

The document provided that Mugabe and Tsvangirai will agree on the allocation of ministries between them for day-to-day supervision. The powers of both Mugabe and Tsvangirai include the phrase "exercises executive authority," but Tsvangirai has the additional responsibility of overseeing the drawing up of policies by the cabinet.

All ministers will have to report to Tsvangirai on the implementation of cabinet policies. The Council of Ministers which he will chair will "assess the implementation of Cabinet decisions," help him to co-ordinate government and make progress reports to the cabinet. The agreement also establishes a monitoring committee, comprising four members from each of the three parties in government - Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations - to "ensure full and proper implementation of the letter and spirit of this agreement."

Mugabe will chair, and Tsvangirai will be a member of Zimbabwe's National Security Council.

Mugabe will appoint the country's two vice-presidents from the ranks of Zanu-PF. There will be two deputy prime ministers, one of them Arthur Mutambara and the other from Tsvangirai's MDC. Fifteen ministers will be nominated by Zanu-PF, 13 by Tsvangirai's MDC and three by Mutambara's MDC. Of 15 deputy ministers, eight will be nominated by Zanu-PF, six by Tsvangirai's party and one by Mutambara's.

In key sections of the preamble to the document, the parties agreed "to accept, cherish and recognise the significance of the liberation struggle as the foundation of our sovereign independence, freedoms and human rights," and dedicated themselves "to putting an end to the polarisation, divisions, conflict and intolerance that has characterised Zimbabwean politics and society in recent times."

The parties resolved that Parliament would pass interim constitutional amendments necessary to implement the agreement.

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