Statement regarding MDC negotiations(10-07-07)

We have noted the comments attributed to Morgan Tsvangirai this past weekend, in particular the following statement:

“On our part, there have been calls across the board for unity within the MDC. I have argued against elite pacts. I have argued against attempts to pick-up indi

viduals for specific party positions. That process cannot be regarded as uniting the party. Such a process is insincere and leads to fresh political setbacks. Whatever we seek to do must be comprehensive and honest.”

We believe that it is now important to put the record straight regarding the state of the negotiations between the two formations of the MDC.

In the aftermath of the assault of Trudy Stevenson last year it was agreed that there should be negotiations between the two formations of the MDC to formulate a functional working relationship between the two political entities. Accordingly in August each formation of the MDC appointed a for person negotiation team; the Tsvangirai formations team was led by Tendai Biti and the Mutambara formations team was led by Welshman Ncube.

In the first meeting held in August the two negotiating teams drafted a code of conduct which amongst other things we stated both formations commitment to non-violence and which set up the mechanism to reduce tensions between the two formations. In the meeting it was agreed between the two negotiating teams that all the code of conduct to be successful they needed to be by Ian from the leadership of both formations and widespread publicity given to any final agreement. In the same meeting there was a detailed discussion regarding how the assets of the former United MDC could be split so the two separate political parties with distinct identities could emerge. A draft proposal was agreed upon by the negotiating teams and the meeting concluded with the undertaking that both negotiating teams would go back to their respective national executives to get both draft agreements endorsed.

The second meeting of the two negotiating teams was held in September. At that meeting both negotiating teams advised that their respective national executives had endorsed the code of conduct with a few minor amendments. Accordingly a final code of conduct was agreed to. Both negotiating teams agreed that the code of conduct would be signed by the Presidents and the Secretary Generals of each formation and that a joint press conference would be held as soon as possible, attended by both presidents, at which the code of conduct would be released to the public and clear statements in support of the code of conduct would be made by both presidents. At the same meeting in September the Tsvangirai formation team reported back that the national executive wanted to pursue the prospects of unity rather than agree to a formula that would see the emergence of two separate and distinct political parties. As there was no objection to this from the Mutambara formations perspective it was agreed that a further meeting would be held to pursue Unity talks and that in the interim the code of conduct would be implemented as a confidence building measure between the two formations.

Immediately after the September meeting the code of conduct document was immediately signed by Arthur Mutambara, Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti. The Mutambara formation was advised that Morgan Tsvangirai was reluctant to sign the code of conduct for reasons that remain unclear. After being put under pressure to do so Morgan Tsvangirai eventually signed a document but insisted that he would not attend a joint press conference to launch the code of conduct, a position he has held to up until the present.

The failure to publicly launch the code of conduct then threatened to undermine the negotiation process between the two formations and indeed delayed the holding of the third meeting which was to discuss the prospects of unifying the two formations. Other first weekend of November both formations held national executive meetings. At the meeting of the Tsvangirai formation a decision was taken to change the composition of the negotiating team and several people known to be against unity were included in the team. At a meeting of the Mutambara formation a decision was taken to pursue the unity negotiations notwithstanding the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai had refused to attend a joint press conference to launch the code of conduct.

The third meeting of the two negotiating teams was held over the last weekend of November. The Tsvangirai team was still led by Tendai Biti and excluded the new members of the Tsvangirai negotiating team mentioned above. The meeting was advised that in view of this the participants representing the Tsvangirai formation were there in an informal capacity to explore what prospects there were to unify the two formations. In the meeting both teams agreed that before serious unification talks could begin confidence building measures would have to be implemented. In particular it was agreed that the code of conduct should be made public and that there should be clear buy-in by both leaders. It was also agreed certain measures should be implemented to address the reasons for the split, especially the intra party violence. A proposal was put forward that a neutral panel of “grey-heads” be convened to investigate the causes of the split and to make representations to both formations as to how the issues could be redressed.

The negotiation process then got bogged down. In early February 2007 the mediator met with Morgan Tsvangirai and was advised that he saw no point in pursuing the negotiation process any further. As a direct result of the statement the Mutambara negotiation team was effectively stood down.

In the aftermath of the events of March 11 and Zanu PF’s statement at the end of March that they intended holding joint presidential and Parliamentary elections by March 2008 the fourth meeting of the two negotiating teams was held in the first week of April. At this meeting it was agreed that there was now insufficient time, even if there was political will, to resolve the issues which gave rise to the split in the first place prior to the elections scheduled for March 2008. It was also agreed that it was absolutely essential that the Zimbabwean electorate be presented with a single opposition candidate in every Parliamentary constituency and in the presidential election itself to confront Zanu PF.

Accordingly it was agreed by the two negotiating teams that:

– the two formations would fight the elections as one political organisation to be known as the MDC Coalition.

– a nominee of the Tsvangirai formation would be the sole Presidential candidate

– if the election was won a nominee of the Mutambara formation would be appointed Vice President

– if the election was won the winning President would appoint a small cabinet equally divided between the 2 formations but he or she would have discretion regarding the selection of a 3 person majority in cabinet

– a formula would be agreed to ensure that the two formations shared nominations for candidates in all constituencies throughout the country subject to compliance with primary election procedures of the respective formations with a view to presenting the electorate with a single candidate in every constituency

-there was to be an irrevocable commitment to implementing a new democratic Constitution within the shortest possible time after taking power and having gone through a process acceptable to the Zimbabwean people to ensure their buy in

– because of the urgency of the matter the respective formations would publicly announce the agreement before the end of April.

At the end of the meeting all described it as “historic”. A photograph was taken of all those who were in attendance as it was felt that a major breakthrough in the national interest of Zimbabweans had been achieved. The leaders of both formations were regularly consulted through the 2 days of negotiations and it was assumed that they were aware of what was being discussed and bought into the process and the agreement – that was certainly the case within the Mutambara formation. Crucially it was also assumed that each negotiation team had a mandate to agree on the broad principles of the agreement.

A seven page written agreement was drafted by independent lawyer who attended the meeting. That draft agreement was adopted by the leadership of the Mutambara formation. It then became apparent that the agreement had not been adopted by the Tsvangirai formation and as a result the undertaking to announce the establishment of the MDC coalition by the end of April could not be fulfilled.

The fifth meeting of the two negotiating teams was held in May. At that meeting the Tsvangirai negotiating team advised that there were elements within the Tsvangirai formation that were not prepared to endorse the April agreement. It emerged that they were two sticking points, namely:

The Tsvangirai formation wanted the ability to appoint more than one National Vice President so that its own Vice President Thoko Khupe could be appointed vice president in addition to the nominee of the Mutambara formation.
The Tsvangirai formation wanted another method of nominating Parliamentary candidates which would involve both formations holding primary elections in every constituency and an electoral college consisting of 30 people from each formation would then fought to choose a Parliamentary candidate from the two candidates emerging from each faction from the primary election process.

Objections were raised regarding the suggestion that there be more than one Vice President on the grounds that firstly the formulation agreed to April was a fair balance of power between the two formations and that secondly it was completely inappropriate for the opposition to mirror the bloated governmental structures created by Zanu PF.

Objections were also raised regarding the proposed method of nominating Parliamentary candidates. It was pointed out that without addressing the underlying tensions between the two formations a competitive process as the one suggested which would inevitably exacerbate tensions between the two formations. The process suggested would create a highly charged and partisan election in which 30 members from each formation will be expected to vote. That would be a gift to the CIO – in the run up to the elections they would be able to fuel tensions between the 2 formations. Within the electoral college itself the CIO could effectively decide who they wanted elected by bribing just 1 person from either of the formations. It was pointed out that one would have to assume that the 30 on each side would invariably vote for their own side and so someone bought could swing the dead heat resulting in a 31 – 29 victory for the CIO’s preferred candidate. Secondly, it was pointed out that the process suggested was not “democratic” – giving 60 people the right to decide a candidate in a constituency of 54000 voters is not democratic. It was pointed out that all the suggested process would do would be to create a supercharged atmosphere which would highlight divisions rather than emphasise what binds the two formations.

It was reiterated by the Mutambara negotiating team at the May meeting that candidates should be identified countrywide through an equitable system that would ensure that there is equity between the two formations, gender equity, and that the person most likely to win is nominated. It was emphasized that all candidates should go through some form of primary election but that it was simply disingenuous to think that in this environment there can be democracy.

The meeting ended without agreement and with a plea being made by the mediator that responsible leadership be demonstrated in the national interest. It should be stressed that the Mutambara formation is prepared to honour the agreement reached in April. Regrettably it appears as if it the Tsvangirai formation is not prepared to honour that agreement, which is further borne out by the comments made by Morgan Tsvangirai this past weekend in Marondera.

The agreement reached in April was not an “elite pact” nor did it envisage an attempt “to pick-up individuals for specific party positions”. On the contrary the agreement was a carefully crafted document designed to accommodate the legitimate expectations of the Zimbabwean electorate to ensure that every single vote cast for the opposition is effective. Major concessions were made by the Mutambara formation to agree to a single Presidential candidate – it is obvious that any candidate winning an election will then have the vast executive powers at his disposal now enjoyed by Robert Mugabe. That is where the power resides at present and where power will remain until there is a new democratic constitution enacted which reduces executive power. It is obvious that our present Parliament has very little power and to that extent the Parliamentary election is of far less importance than the Presidential election.

Ironically the only specification of individuals in the entire process concerned the implied agreement that Morgan Tsvangirai would be the presidential candidate and the May suggestion that an additional vice presidential post be created to accommodate Thoko Khupe. There is no desire within the Mutambara formation for any of its members to be “picked up for specific party positions” – that was never part of the discussions as it was clear in both the April and May meetings that there would be two separate political formations that would however fight the election as a coalition.

The agreement reached in April is not necessarily a dead letter but for it to be given life it is clear that national interest is going to have to be placed before petty personal and partisan interest.

Hon Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga

Deputy Secretary General

MDC Mutambara formation

4th July 2007

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