Mugabe wilts under pressure from Tsvangirai
By Lloyd Mbiba
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe appears to have capitulated under pressure from his coalition government partners and backed down to their demands on several sticky issues facing the three-year-old inclusive government.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara appear to have prevailed over Mugabe after they emerged from the two-and-half-hour meeting last Wednesday having pushed the 87-year-old leader towards reforms.
Mugabe’s buckling under pressure has given hope that he might finally allow a free and fair poll. While hardliners in Zanu PF are not interested in moving an inch in terms of reforms, Mugabe seemed to defy them by giving in on a number of key issues amid indications that he wants to be seen by regional leaders as moving towards reforms.
There was drama days before the meeting, it has been established.
The Daily News on Sunday has been told that some Zanu PF hardliners had leaked to the press a document from the Prime Minister’s office to the President, claiming it had been drafted by “white handlers” in a desperate bid to infuriate Mugabe ahead of the meeting.
According to the sources, the tactic was to harden Mugabe’s stance ahead of the meeting with Tsvangirai and Mutambara so that he would not give in to reforms. However, Mugabe is said to be seething with anger as the letter was reportedly leaked to the state media before he had even seen it.
“Mugabe knew about the letter from the Prime Minister through the media. He was surprised and angry with this. The old man is slowly discovering that he is being manipulated by hardliners who lie to him and he takes action on flawed information,” said a highly-placed government source yesterday.
Mugabe acceded to some outstanding issues that need immediate attention. Although this might have been influenced by the reported impending visit to Zimbabwe by the Sadc appointed facilitator, President Jacob Zuma, for Tsvangirai and Mutambara, it was a rare good day in office although they still have to follow on the agreements.
The build-up to the meeting was characterised by high emotions with Tsvangirai taking the fight to Mugabe over the expiry of the term of office of police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri. Prior to the meeting, the National Security Council (NEC) failed to meet because Tsvangirai was experiencing problems with his twisted ankle.
Amongst the cocktail of issues agreed upon by the principals at the Wednesday meeting, Mugabe admitted that there was multi-party violence and affirmed commitment to intensify the anti-violence campaigns at inter-party levels. The principals also agreed that within one month, party provincial chairpersons and secretary generals should conduct anti-violence campaigns.
All this came despite claims by Zanu PF that violence in the country was caused by the MDC. The principals also agreed that ministers and senior government officials who would have been arrested should be treated in a civilised and honourable manner.
Several MDC ministers have in the past been arrested and treated inhumanely. Critics however, pointed out that humane treatment should be for all citizens of the country.
“While not condoning any persons who commit offences, the principals decried the dehumanising treatment given to ministers and senior government officials arrested for any alleged offences,” minutes of the meeting read.
The mainstream MDC has consistently complained against the police and the Attorney General’s office accusing them of laying frivolous charges against its members as a way of breaking their political will. Recent media reports indicate that there is a plot to arrest Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti, the minister of Finance on fraud allegations.
However, the Prime Minister has so far professed ignorance on the matter saying all his financial dealings are above board. MDC ministers and top officials have been arrested and treated unfairly.
Last year the minister in the Prime Minister’s office Jameson Timba was arrested for allegedly undermining the authority of the President. He was detained for two days without access to lawyers and food.
On the appointment and promotion of service chiefs and other security personnel, the principals agreed that Mugabe will only do so in consultation with his coalition government partners as required by the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
“The principals’ agreed that the re-appointment of service chiefs whenever their contracts of employment expired, will be handled in the usual manner i.e. the appropriate service commissions making the necessary recommendations to His Excellency the President who will make appropriate consultations with other principals,” read the minutes of the meeting.
However, Mugabe seems to have reneged on the agreement even before its ink had dried with his spokesperson George Charamba telling the state media that police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri’s contract had been renewed up to 2014.
The principals also agreed that major general Douglas Nyikayaramba’s inflammatory utterances on Tsvangirai were wrong and agreed that the minister of Defence Emmerson Mnangagwa should rein in such elements.
Nyikayaramba last year launched an unprovoked attack on Tsvangirai branding him a security threat and said even if he was elected President, the army would do anything possible to stop him from getting into office.
On the constitution-making process, the principals agreed to intervene and work out a road map towards the finalisation of the process with clear-cut benchmarks, time-frames and milestones.
Furthermore the principals agreed that a meeting should be held between the management committee of Copac so as to quickly agree on all constitutional processes leading to the adoption of a new constitution. The agreement on the constitution comes just weeks after Zanu PF members and war veterans threatened to undo the entire constitution making process.
The principals also tasked the Minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu to immediately conclude the appointment of new boards for the Mass Media Trust and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz). Daily News on Sunday