Agreement between the Zanu-PF and the MDC

Compiled by Christian Palme, 16 September 2008

After more than 28 years in power, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe signed an agreement with the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday 15 September to share the responsibilities for running the country.

Many details of the deal are unclear, but Morgan Tsvangirai commented that the agreement “sees the return of hope to all our lives.” Robert Mugabe’s response was “We are committed to the deal. We will do our best.”

International media reported that opposition supporters at the ceremony in a conference center in Harare celebrated the signing and were jubilant when Mr. Tsvangirai appeared. In the audience were many opposition members who had gone into hiding in the run-up to the election in March or had been beaten in government-sponsored violence over the last eight years. There was still fear that that the repression could return and that the deal could no be implemented.

Western governments are still studying the text of the deal to see how power will actually be divided. Western nations are cautious about pouring funds into Zimbabwe for reconstruction unless they are convinced that Tsvangirai has the authority he needs to change economic policies. The initial message from the international community is that sanctions against Zimbabwe will remain in place.
The deal was reached after weeks of negotiations that opened in July. The negotiations followed a series of elections, which were made doubtful by campaigns of intimidation by the ruling Zanu-PF party and government forces. The MDC won the parliamentary elections in the first round in March. But Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential runoff in June, because of the political violence, leaving Mr. Mugabe as the sole candidate.

Despite the violence and bad feelings between the two sides, the sight of Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and a second opposition leader, Arthur Mutambara, holding hands and standing next to Thabo Mbeki, the South African president who mediated the deal, prompted some media commentators to suggest that Zimbabwe’s fortunes might have changed after years of economic chaos.

Morgan Tsvangirai said a sense of hope “provides the foundation of this agreement that we sign today that will provide us with the belief that we can achieve a new Zimbabwe.”

Robert Mugabe was far less positive, using a speech after the signing ceremony to renew his accusations that Britain, the former colonial power, and the United States were responsible for Zimbabwe’s problems.

“African problems must be solved by Africans,” he said. “The problem we have had is a problem that has been created by former colonial power. Why, why, why the hand of the British? Why, why, why the hand of the Americans here? Let us ask that.”

Mr. Tsvangirai, often labeled an agent for the British in the state media, said in his own remarks that it was time for Zimbabwe to open up to international donors — Britain and the United States among them — who were seeking to feed the multitude of hungry Zimbabweans.

The full details of the agreement were unclear. In his speech Thabo Mbeki referred to Mr. Mugabe as president, Mr. Tsvangirai as prime minister and Mr. Mutambara as deputy prime minister.

As the two sides have negotiated over power, Tsvangirai has sought control of the police, which he believes were involved in a campaign of violence against his supporters during the election. Mugabe apparently will remain in control of the military.

Key points of the deal

  • Robert Mugabe remains president with Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister. The leader of an MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, is deputy prime minister.
  • Mugabe will head the cabinet, which will set policy. Tsvangirai will head a “council of ministers” to oversee cabinet decisions and day to day administration.
  • Reviving the economy, particularly food production, will be a priority. The government will establish a “National Economic Council” of politicians and representatives of industry to advise on economic renewal.
  • There will be no reversal of the redistribution of white-owned farms. Britain is urged to fulfil its commitment at Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 to pay compensation to affected farmers. But the new government will carry out a land audit designed to prevent multiple ownership, after some Zanu-PF leaders seized several farms for themselves.
  • Parliament will oversee the drafting of a new constitution which will be put to a referendum.
  • The agreement assures free political activity and freedom of speech. Government institutions will be separated from the ruling Zanu-PF party.
  • The deal calls for an end to sanctions against Mugabe and senior Zanu-PF officials and the refusal of international financial institutions to offer loans and grants.
  • A “Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee”, representing all the political parties, will ensure the agreement is implemented.
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