10 November 2008

Zimbabwe: Regional Leaders Decide Against Tsvangirai

Photo: MDC
Morgan Tsvangirai.

Southern Africa's leaders have told Zimbabwe's two main parties to form a unity government and to share control of the ministry which supervises the country's police force, but Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected their decision.

Tsvangirai told a news conference at the end of a regional summit early on Monday that in view of the "utter contempt" with which his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was treated by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF, sharing control of the Home Affairs ministry "cannot work."

He went on to accuse Southern African heads of state of not having "the courage and the decency [to] look… Mr Mugabe in the eyes and tell… him that his position was wrong." It had been agreed earlier in negotiations that Mugabe would retain the Defence ministry, which controls the army and air force.

Zimbabwe's leaders have been deadlocked for two months over the composition of the power-sharing government agreed to during September. Regional leaders represented by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) called the extraordinary summit on Sunday in an attempt to resolve the deadlock and to discuss the crisis in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At the end of the summit – attended by five of 15 heads of state – SADC issued a communiqué saying it had "decided that the inclusive government be formed forthwith in Zimbabwe [and that] the Ministry of Home Affairs be co-managed…" It said the arrangement should be reviewed after six months to see if it was working. It also told the parties to implement constitutional changes to form a government.

Defending SADC's position, its executive secretary, Tomaz Salomão, repeatedly told a news conference after the summit that it was dealing with an "above-normal situation."

"We cannot afford to postpone the formation of an inclusive government because there is a difference on who appoints the Minister of Home Affairs," he said. "The view of the summit is probably, with the appointment of two ministers, we can pave the way to build some trust between the parties… This may be a good starting point, who knows?  Let's give them a chance and we will see in due course."

According to transcript of Salomão's remarks issued by South Africa's foreign ministry, he said Zimbabwe's parties had asked SADC for a ruling on their deadlock, and its ruling now had to be implemented whether the parties agreed with it or not.

"The parties must, without any further delay, I repeat without any further delay, introduce the Constitution of the Zimbabwe Amendment 19 meaning… meaning that the implementation of the decision is a matter of urgency," he said.

Asked how "co-managing" would work in practice, Salomão said: "I have been a minister for 22 years and I have not had an experience of how you co-manage a ministry, but if you take the Ministry of Home Affairs, you have the police, immigration and probably many other matters of concern for Zimbabwe and it is up to them, to the two ministers, to agree on how they are going to manage the ministries and if they differ, they go to Cabinet that 'we agree here, we differ here' and Cabinet can make the ruling."

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