The Big Question: Will power sharing in Zimbabwe work, and is it time to lift sanctions?

Why are we asking this now?
The African Union (AU) leaders who are meeting in Addis Ababa for their annual summit have called for an unconditional lifting of all EU and US sanctions against Zimbabwe. This would enable the new unity government to begin the unenviable task of recons

President Robert Mugabe’s long-time allies in the regional body, the
Southern African Development Community (SADC), which was mandated by
the AU to find a solution to the long-running crises in the former
British colony, have always opposed sanctions and have also called for
their lifting. They point out that it would be virtually impossible to
begin the task of rebuilding Zimbabwe’s economy unless new aid flows to
the unity government.

What is Zimbabwe’s unity government?

On September 15 a power-sharing agreement was signed between Mr Mugabe,
who remains President, and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who
becomes Prime Minister. It gives Mr Mugabe control of 15 of the 31
government ministries in Zimbabwe, while Mr Tsvangirai was given 13, a
further three are administered by a smaller splinter faction of Mr
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Arthur
Mutambara. The Global Political Agreement also states that the 10
regional governor positions in Zimbabwe will also be distributed among
all three parties – though a formula is yet to be agreed. The September
agreement seeks the overhauling of national security legislation to
depoliticise security forces that have been routinely manipulated by Mr
Mugabe in his desperate efforts to cling to power.

Why has the agreement taken so long to implement?

No sooner had the ink dried on the agreement than Mr Mugabe started
violating it – taking a number of unilateral decisions. He appointed
loyalists to all of the 10 governor posts – contrary to the deal, and
unilaterally gazetted the allocation of all powerful ministries to his
Zanu-PF party, leaving Mr Tsvangirai with what he later called
"unstrategic ministries" of "crumbs". Mr Mugabe proceeded to make
senior government appointments, including that of central bank governor
and attorney-general, without consulting the Prime Minister-designate.
He also refused to renew Mr Tsvangirai’s passport. The result was that
the opposition leader was exiled for two months after he left the
country to receive a human rights award with a temporary passport.

What happened next?

Mr Tsvangirai declared that he would never join Mr Mugabe in government
as long as his demands for an equitable distribution of ministries,
governorships, ambassadorships and other senior government posts, as
well as the introduction of new security legislation to overhaul the
workings of partisan security forces, were met.

While the power-sharing deal faltered, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed
with official inflation, last announced in July 2008, reaching a global
record of 231 million per cent. It has since spiralled even further.
SADC leaders then called an emergency summit in Johannesburg last week
at which they effectively arm-twisted Mr Tsvangirai into agreeing to be
sworn in as Prime Minister on 11 February. The rest of the government
will be sworn in two days later.

Why did Mr Tsvangirai take up a position when his demands have not been met?

Many analysts say the MDC leader’s lack of a plan B – should the
power-sharing deal collapse – forced him to capitulate. Throughout his
decade-long struggle against Mr Mugabe, Mr Tsvangirai has failed to
harness the swelling anger against the regime into an either peaceful
or violent revolution that could oust Mr Mugabe. His only strategy has
been to ask for help from African leaders who have been hesitant to
attack the president publicly. They still revere his contribution to
anti-colonial struggles. Mr Tsvangirai tried unsuccessfully to win the
support of the ousted South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose
country has sufficient influence over Mr Mugabe to force him out of
power within hours if it so chose. Mr Mbeki passionately shares the
85-year-old President’s anti-racism and anti-Western rhetoric and would
not be moved. So Mr Tsvangirai decided to fight to achieve change the
old tyrant from within government.

What is the state of the country now?

A cholera epidemic has officially killed 3,295 Zimbabweans and 64,000
others are infected with the disease. Zimbabweans no longer go to state
hospitals and clinics because of lack of medical staff and drugs. Most
choose to die in their homes. Meanwhile, the once-proud education
sector has collapsed with pupils being sent home at the opening of the
new term due to a lack of teachers. Inflation, last officially
announced at 231 million per cent, is no longer calculable as prices
increase by the hour and most shops no longer accept worthless
Zimbabwean dollars. The central bank has just knocked off 12 zeros from
the local currency in an attempt to give it value but the move is
likely to be to no avail.

So will the power-sharing agreement actually work in practice?

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and many other world leaders have
been making impassioned pleas to all the parties to ensure the
agreement actually works and provides relief to Zimbabwe’s suffering
masses. But it is doubtful if Mr Tsvangirai and a new government can,
by the February deadline, proceed as planned. Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC has
accused Mr Mugabe of acting in the "utmost bad faith" and of violating
the undertakings he gave to SADC leaders last week. Yesterday Mr
Mugabe’s negotiators refused to discuss the issue of the
re-appointments of the 10 provincial governors and the introduction of
new security legislation of which the MDC has already compiled a draft.
Agreement on those two issues would have led to the passing of the
constitutional amendment giving effect to the power-sharing agreement
this week. And in turn this would set the scene for the swearing-in of
Mr Tsvangirai and his ministers later on.

Can any agreement now take place?

The tone of the MDC statement would make even the most optimistic
analyst doubt that Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Mugabe could ever work
together. Even if the new government is sworn in, Mr Mugabe is, in any
event, unlikely to agree to the policy overhauls required to put
Zimbabwe back on track. In any case, many believe that serious policy
differences between the two men would kill the coalition government
within months.

Should sanctions against Mr Mugabe be lifted?

While African leaders want them lifted, many think this would be a very
bad idea. Most of these sanctions are targeted at travel to halt
members of the regime from pursuing lavish spending in America and
Europe. And there remains a fundamental issue: the unity government
agreement does not confer legitimacy on Mr Mugabe after he lost the
first round of balloting in both presidential and parliamentary
elections last March. And since the President is illegitimate, the
sanctions against him should remain.

So can Mugabe and Tsvangirai co-operate?


* Provided Mugabe uses it to find an escape route into retirement and thus leave Tsvangirai in charge

*Provided Tsvangirai gives immunity to Mr Mugabe against future prosecution for human rights abuses

* Provided African leaders find money to bankroll Zimbabwe’s recovery in place of Western aid


* The policy differences are vast, and they will not be able to agree on questions of law, and investment

* Mugabe’s violations of the agreement thus far bode ill. He is not minded to loosen his grip on power

* Similar agreements in the past have only resulted in Mugabe swallowing up or destroying the opposition

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