August 12, 2008
By Raymond Maingire
HARARE - Weary Zimbabweans still have to wait a little longer before they
know the outcome of the ongoing unity talks between President Robert Mugabe's
Zanu-PF parties and the two opposition MDC parties.
For the second successive day, the top level and highly secret talks
involving leaders of the feuding parties have been adjourned to the next day
without any clue as to what could really be transpiring behind closed doors.
Mugabe, alongside his bitter rival, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur
Mutambara, who heads a breakaway faction of the same party, continue to
maintain a thick veil of secrecy over their deliberations.
Dozens of journalists, who continue to throng the Rainbow Towers, venue for
the talks, were again disappointed on Monday evening after the three leaders
again adjourned without shedding any light on the progress of the talks.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is overseeing the talks, remains in
Zimbabwe hoping to help thrash out the so far elusive unity pact in time for
him to present it before the summit on the SADC heads of State which he
hosts in his country starting Friday. Mbeki will take over the chairmanship
of SADC during the summit. Failure in Harare is an option that he cannot
easily contemplate, therefore.
Mbeki flew into Zimbabwe Saturday evening and spent nearly 14 hours with
Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara on Sunday while trying to iron out a number
of sticking points holding up the signing of the deal.
But unlike the previous day, the second day of the top level talks on Monday
was shorter as parties adjourned shortly after 8pm having commenced only at
All the three principals said the talks were continuing. As has become
normal practice at the secret talks, they however refused to shed any light
as to what could still be the cause of the continued delay.
President Mugabe, who left the venue first, said the talks were scheduled to
continue on Tuesday. Asked to comment on the so-called sticking points, the
Zimbabwean leader said these had been resolved.
"Sticking issues overcome," he said as he was led to his limousine.
Tsvangirai, who emerged after 10 minutes after Mugabe, said nothing more
than merely echo Mugabe's statement.
"The negotiations have been adjourned to tomorrow and we will advise on the
position as we make progress," he said.
Pressed to comment on the sticking issues, the MDC leader said he was "not
at liberty to reveal them".
Mutambara emerged 15 minutes after Tsvangirai.
"We are adjourning until tomorrow, so the negotiations continue, thank you,"
he said. He refused to take further questions on the matter.
But there are fears the continued silence around the talks could be a signal
of the worst. Speaking at the Heroes' Day celebrations in Harare on Monday
Mugabe revealed more about deliberations at the negotiations than any other
delegate has been able to so far.
By Peta Thornycroft
11 August 2008
As face-to-face talks between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and
Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change continue in their second
day, hopes for a quick clean political settlement are receding. Peta
Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare the South African-mediated talks are
bogged down over fundamental issues surrounding the division of powers for
Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai in an inclusive government.
Technical teams began work on the outstanding issues at the negotiating
table, while President Robert Mugabe went to the annual Hero's Day
commemoration at the national shrine.
The talks, that began Sunday, broke off after many hours of negotiations
about who would chair the cabinet, with Mr. Tsvangirai insisting that he
should, because he won the first peaceful poll in March. Mr. Mugabe and his
team insist that as president of an inclusive government, that power should
remain with Mr. Mugabe.
Well-placed sources say they are no longer optimistic that there will be an
easy breakthrough. There are even suggestions from those close to the talks
that they may not be concluded.
Later this week, Mr. Mugabe plans to attend a summit of the Southern African
Development Community in South Africa.
Without a deal, South African President Thabo Mbeki would not be able to
tell SADC, which appointed him as mediator, that he has achieved a
settlement of Zimbabwe's political crisis.
But other sources say both parties understand that without a deal the
present economic chaos in Zimbabwe would quickly deteriorate to social
catastrophe as there is very little food and no foreign currency to import
Zimbabwe needs western aid to stabilize its currency and reduce inflation of
more than two million percent, and to rebuild its shattered industrial and
In the streets of Harare, people said they were depressed that a deal had
not been reached. One street vendor blamed Mr. Mugabe, saying he should have
no place in a future administration and suggested he should go to jail.
During his Hero's Day address, Mr. Mugabe spoke about violence that wracked
Zimbabwe between the March 29 elections and the presidential run off on June
27. He said if people try to take away Zimbabwe's sovereignty, then people
can only react.
He said that God gives people the power to protect themselves, even if that
Many analysts believe that Mr. Mugabe was referring to the Movement for
Democratic Change. He has long accused the party of being a stooge of the
Mr. Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March presidential election and his
party deprived ZANU-PF of its 28-year control of parliament.
More than 120 people were killed before the run-off presidential elections.
According to the United Nations most of the perpetrators of the violence
were loyal to ZANU-PF.
Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential run off because of violence
against his supporters. More than a dozen MDC legislators remain in hiding
in neighboring countries or living away from their homes, fearing arrest.
Chris McGreal in Harare
Tuesday August 12 2008
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is not happy with Mugabe's
proposal of coalition cabinet reporting to the president rather than the
prime minister. Photograph: Desmond Kwande/AFP/Getty Images
Talks to end Zimbabwe's political crisis stalled yesterday as Morgan
Tsvangirai resisted pressure to agree to Robert Mugabe retaining much of his
The negotiations resumed yesterday afternoon, after breaking up without
agreement in the early hours of the morning, after 13 hours of talks at
which Movement for Democratic Change officials said Mugabe made few real
concessions and rejected Tsvangirai's claim to be the country's legitimate
leader because he won the last credible election, held in March.
Tsvangirai agreed to Mugabe remaining in office as a ceremonial president
but demanded that political power be shifted to him as an executive prime
minister at the head of a coalition cabinet. But the opposition said Mugabe
has demanded that the prime minister remain subordinate to the president.
"Zanu-PF is not talking about conceding any real power. They are talking
about giving up positions in cabinet but they want to remain in control.
These guys aren't serious," the opposition official said. "The differences
revolve around who will have power. They're not giving up anything on that.
They entered these negotiations solely to give up cosmetic issues."
A spokesman for the opposition said Tsvangirai came under pressure from
South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, who is acting as mediator, to allow
Mugabe to keep some degree of real power. But the spokesman said the MDC
leader argued that would be a betrayal of the voters.
"There is a lot of pressure on Tsvangirai ... People in the party are
telling him that he cannot agree to a deal that does not recognise the
people's will and democracy. Mugabe ... should not be allowed to keep power
just because he terrorised the population into voting for him.
"The pressure for us is coming from the people. They don't want to see some
kind of half-hearted change. If we were to do that we would lose
credibility. If Morgan takes something cosmetic from Zanu-PF he will lose
the support of the Zimbabwean people."
Hours earlier Mugabe described the talks as "raising the prospect for an
all-inclusive government" and said only minor obstacles remained to an
agreement. He told the annual commemoration to mark the country's liberation
war yesterday that Zimbabwe "is not for sale" and warned the opposition not
to be "used by enemies" - usually meant to refer to Britain, which he has
accused of destroying Zimbabwe's economy as a punishment for redistributing
Mugabe was accompanied at yesterday's talks by the hardline commander of the
Zimbabwean military, Constantine Chiwenga, who has said he would not serve
August 12, 2008
The country's future depends on one man and three vital principles
Outside the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare, inflation has surged past two
million per cent and children survive on a bowl of gruel a day. Inside,
flowers have been ordered for a ceremony. President Mugabe and Morgan
Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, have met face to face for the
first time since power-sharing talks began three weeks ago. President Mbeki
of South Africa has flown in and out again, but with a promise to return.
A deal to end Mr Mugabe's stranglehold on power appeared tantalisingly close
last night. Having implored Mr Mbeki to take his role of mediator more
seriously, Zimbabwe's neighbours and the wider world will have little choice
but to accept whatever may be agreed. But no pact will prove a viable basis
for rebuilding the country unless the man who has brought about its
demolition truly relinquishes control. Mr Tsvangirai can make this happen,
but he must hold his nerve.
Three main sticking points have slowed progress towards an agreement: Mr
Mugabe's reluctance to accept a purely titular presidency; bargaining
between his Zanu (PF) party and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) over ministerial portfolios in a new government of national
unity; and disagreement over whether to hold new elections in two years or
There is only one acceptable resolution to the first of these disputes. Mr
Mugabe must give way. Having stolen an election from the MDC and disgraced
himself and his security forces with a subsequent campaign of terror, he
will be luckier than he deserves to remain in office even as a figurehead,
as has been mooted. To cede only some of his executive powers to the new
post of prime minister proposed for Mr Tsvangirai would not only mock the
hopes of all who have voted against Mr Mugabe and suffered under him. It
could also condemn Zimbabwe to an indefinite feud between two rival power
centres, reminiscent of the bloody struggle between Zanu (PF) and Zapu (PF)
in the 1980s.
Mr Tsvangirai must therefore insist on full day-to-day management of any
Cabinet assembled under him. He has said that he is willing to work with
Zanu (PF) moderates. It remains to be seen if they and the MDC can co-exist
in government. But it is essential that hardliners such as Emmerson
Mnangagwa, the Minister of Rural Housing, and Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe's
police commissioner, be removed from power. It is equally vital that the
Joint Operations Command set up by Mr Mugabe to co-ordinate the suppression
of dissent be dismantled rapidly.
The MDC's negotiators must, finally, stand firm against Mr Mugabe's attempt
to delay fresh elections for five years. He has already boasted of his
democratic credentials only to trample on democracy in practice. The MDC has
won the right to form a government and seek a fresh mandate, free from
intimidation, in two years.
Major concessions by the MDC in any of these areas will effectively leave Mr
Mugabe in power. That would block the release of £1 billion in US and
British aid. It would also leave Mr Mbeki with nothing to show for his
heavily criticised "quiet diplomacy" towards his northern neighbour. Mr
Mbeki is seeking to burnish his legacy almost as urgently as Zimbabwe needs
aid. Mr Tsvangirai's hand may be stronger than he thinks.
Pedzisai Ncube & Trymore Magomana | Updated: 11 August, 2008 10:41:00
Mugabe's reluctance to cede powers to Tsvangirai, the security chiefs'
refusal to be under the civilian leadership of the MDC bogging talks down.
Harare -- The talks between the MDC and ZANU-PF were supposed to have been
concluded on August 4, 2008, but the irrevocable wrangling for power between
Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai made that impossible.
Still, seven days after the deadline, with the nation waiting, a GNU deal is
still far off as the two foes refuse to budge from their respective
postions. Without a deal, no substantive decisions are being made across the
country, be it in manufacturing, mining, and the financial sector.
"Zimbabwe is at a standstill. The business community is waiting for the
outcome of the talks to move forward," a financial analyst with Barclays
Bank Zimbabwe said.
Although the negotiators know that the country is at a standstill, there is
nothing they can do because the talks have reached a stalemate and there
seems to be no way forward. Even a 14-hour marathon face-to-face conference
between the two parties, plus Arthur Mutambara, in the presence of Thabo
Mbeki yeilded naught. Monday, the parties retreated to their bases to
restrategize and the talks are now supposed to resume again Tuesday.
Western powers have promised substantial aid to rebuild Zimbabwe's shattered
economy, but not if Mr Mugabe still controls the Government.
"The major hold-up is the refusal by Mugabe to cede his executive powers. He
is only agreeing to a nominal prime minister post for Morgan Tsvangirai," an
opposition source revealed the reason behind the hold up of the GNU deal.
The MDC leaders, led by political strategist and MDC secretary general
Tendai Biti, have refused out of hand that offer by ZANU-PF to make
Tsvangirai a ceremonial prime minister. The MDC negotiators undestand that
any deal that leaves Mugabe with executive powers will be rejected by the
MDC rank and file who don't want to see Mugabe in office for even a single
Mugabe's reluctance to give up power is backed up by the service chiefs led
by General Constantine Chiwenga who are adamant that Tsvangirai should never
have executive powers. Chiwenga was present at the talks on Monday.
A ZANU-PF official, responding to a question as to why Mugabe was refusing
to give up power said instead: "It looks like we have reached some kind of
stalemate which is threatening the whole dialogue. Tsvangirai is moving
goalposts, forcing us to negotiate issues which we had already agreed upon."
The ZANU-PF official further said Tsvangirai was asking to reopen talks on
the issue of Mugabe leading a new unity government, which ZANU-PF says is
not open to negotiation.
"This is an issue that we had settled and he (Tsvangirai) is also suggesting
that he must be given full authority to appoint any new government."
The service chiefs and leading ZANU-PF officials are afraid that if
Tsvangirai is given executive powers, he will order that they be arrested
for the crimes they committed against the people of Zimbabwe since 1980.
Almost three weeks ago when the talks started, MDC and ZANU-PF fought over
who will have executive power. That is still the case today, probably
tomorrow and... next week. -- Harare Tribune News
12 August 2008
By Doreen Mutemeri
While the main political actors concentrate on the modalities of a
power-sharing government, hundreds of vulnerable women are daily being raped
by Zanu PF militia in torture bases dotted around the countrywide.
A big part of the reason why these incidents are not coming out as
prominently as they should might be because of the male dominated journalism
The male journalists I want to argue have failed to articulate how
traumatizing rape as a tool of political violence can be nor the scale of
the problem. In 2003 a documentary 'In a Dark Time' was produced exposing
sexual abuse in Zimbabwe that was perpetrated by pro-government militia.
Human rights group Amnesty International, Human Rights watch and Physicians
for Human Rights played key roles in documenting the sexual torture of women
during the political violence that rocked Zimbabwe in the run-up to the 2000
parliamentary elections. Eight years on nothing has changed in terms of rape
as a tool of torture.
In 2001 a decision was made to acknowledge rape as a war crime and the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia began prosecuting
rapists. Zimbabwe is confronted by the same problem.
The so-called Youth Militia or Green Bombers have used rape as a tool to
punish suspected MDC supporters who voted for their party and President in
the March 29 harmonized election. The MDC have to think carefully about
promising immunity from prosecution for Zanu PF officials and thugs who
sanctioned or committed some of these acts because the pain runs deep for
At the recent AIDS conference in Mexico several Zimbabwean women recounted
how they had been raped by Zanu PF militia. It is shocking how rape and
other forms of sexual abuse are becoming more and more common, even
strangley acceptable in some instances, as the victims blame themselves or
their families add to the problem with accusatorial comments.
Figures released by the MDC show that over 2000 of its members were raped
after the historic March 29 election. It is even more worrying to think of
the obvious risk of HIV infection that the victims have to contend with in
that vicious lottery.
The Chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Dr
Douglas Gwatidzo acknowledged that many victims were not reporting their
rapes for fear of more victimisation. So what is the true scale of the rape
crisis? I leave that to the journalists to investigate and the politicians
to ponder over as they meet in hotels to decide our fate.
Doreen Mutemeri is a United Kingdom based gender activist.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
11 August 2008
The Zimbabwe NGO Human Rights Forum issued a report Monday charging that
"crimes against humanity have been and are being committed" in the country
in the post-election period.
The group said the Zimbabwe National Army's prominent role in post-election
political violence with war veterans and militia of the ruling ZANU-PF party
pointed to state complicity.
Attorney Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rghts, a component of
the NGO Human Rights Forum, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7
for Zimbabwe that violence has tapered off NGO humanitarian efforts continue
to be obstructed.
By Patience Rusere and Ntungamili Nkomo
11 August 2008
Zimbabwean observances Monday of Heroes Day honoring fallen liberation
leaders provided a counterpoint to the top-level power-sharing discussions
between President Robert Mugabe, who gave a familiar speech denouncing what
he called Western interference, and Morgan Tsvangirai, who declined to
attend the observances at Heroes Acre outside Harare.
Mr. Mugabe was joined at the burial ground, however, by Arthur Mutambara,
head of a rival formation of the Movement for Democratic Change that
Tsvangirai founded in 1999, leading to speculation and criticism that
Mutambara was seeking the president's favor.
The president in his Heroes Day speech took up a favored theme, accusing
Britain of meddling in the country's internal affairs and declaring Zimbabwe
was quote "not for sale."
In an apparent oblique reference to the Movement for Democratic Change,
President Mugabe warned his countrymen that "if...you are being used by
enemies, stop it." But he added that even if this were the case, such
unnamed Zimbabweans remained "family members."
Mugabe later said the talks were advancing, speaking of "little hurdles" to
Tsvangirai's absence from the ceremonies was noted, though MDC officials for
some years have declined to participate in what they consider to be a ruling
Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe told reporter Patience Rusere of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the MDC formation wanted to avoid giving
the impression that it was united with Mr. Mugabe at a function that he said
has been "privatized" by ZANU-PF.
Mutambara's presence at Heroes Acre drew even more attention, particularly
in light of the Heroes Day speech his MDC formation circulated on Sunday
which condemned supposed Western interference in terms not unlike those
often employed by Mr. Mugabe.
Mr. Mutambara hailed the sacrifice and accomplishment of the liberation
fighters, then turned to a denunciation of "the irritating ignorance,
political insensitivity, double standards, and patronizing arrogance that
characterize Western diplomacy with respect to our country."
He continued: "As we finalize the political settlement to the impasse in our
country, we have heard sentiments from the West indicating that they will
look at the agreement and decide whether it is acceptable to them. Who are
they, to superintend, judge and grade a collective decision by Africans? It
is not the place for Western governments or their institutions to determine
whether the agreement is right or wrong. It is strictly none of their
Reporter Ntungamili Nkomo sought perspective on Mutambara's broadside from
independent political analyst Last Moyo of London, who said Zimbabwe needed
to rebuild ties to the West to encourage investment in the country's
economic recovery, not launch invective.
National Constitutional Assembly Director Earnest Mudzengi said President
Mugabe's denunciation of the West indicated that he has not changed.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Democracy is on the wane in Africa - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The crisis in Zimbabwe is only the latest in a long line of setbacks. Deeply
flawed elections in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia have checked the momentum of
the wave of democratisation that swept the continent in the early 1990s.
But these reversals also expose the weaknesses in the African version of
democracy and offer a chance to invest in institutional reforms that would
yield a more realistic model than that pursued in the past two decades. The
construct of multi-party democracy in Africa was imposed at the end of the
Cold War when the United States nudged "Big Men" towards political reforms.
Autocratic leaders who had managed to stay in power by playing the West
against the Soviet Union suddenly found themselves robbed of their patrons
and having to seek the consent to govern. But a lamentable failure to invest
in institutional reforms meant that democracy in Africa came to be viewed
purely as the formality of holding periodic elections.
With the possible exception of South Africa, few African nations have
embraced reforms that would strengthen the institutions that underpin any
democracy. Judiciaries often serve at the whim of the executive. The
security forces, as the appalling excesses in Zimbabwe have shown, are
essentially militia in service to the presidency. Electoral commissions do
not enjoy the confidence of the voting public.
In this environment, elections are often national bribefests (witness
Nigeria, 2007) or the sort of shambles on which basis Robert Mugabe is
currently in power.
A more ominous outcome of institutional failure was on display in Kenya
earlier this year where duelling ethnic communities showed an alarming
willingness to take up arms to acquire sole control of the powerful
It is important to learn from these mistakes. There needs to be a
re-examination of the meaning of democracy in Africa. The half-way house in
place only serves the interests of incumbents determined to hold on to
The West should also change its terms of engagement with Africa to go beyond
applying pressure for transparency on the eve of elections. Investing in a
clean judiciary, for example, has multiple effects beyond engendering trust
in the political process. It is also a key factor in boosting investor
confidence and would be an invaluable component in boosting economic growth.
The same can be said of a professional police force. All the evidence from
countries that have overcome corruption and incompetence in the forces
indicates that improvements in areas such as better housing, insurance and
health care are likely to yield far better results than increasing pay.
All these investments must be anchored in reformed constitutions that
endorse the greater freedoms and responsibilities demanded by a democratic
According to an Afrobarometer survey in 2006, six in 10 Africans prefer
democracy to any other form of government. This is unsurprising in a
continent that has suffered terribly under alternative forms, such as
one-man rule and military dictatorships.
The bloody farces in recent years could well lead to erosion of this
confidence. Africa must dispense with the fallacy that democracy is merely
the ritual of holding elections once every five years.