The heralded power-sharing agreement signed in Zimbabwe two weeks ago is likely to collapse today as President Mugabe’s military backers refuse to give up any real power. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), claims that President Robert Mugabe has failed to allow them to have any key cabinet posts — insiders tell me MDC will not get Home Affairs and control of the police; it was already expected Mugabe’s cronies would retain control of the Army.
Death pervades Zimbabwe. Political prisoners in jails are dying from starvation as the one small meal a day they receive, a cup of vegetables, is not sufficient. Hospitals are overflowing, the morgues continue to stack up bodies — fuel is in such short supply the bodies cannot be moved to be buried. Aid groups say they are still being harassed by security forces and are unable to do their jobs, even though the agreement allowed them back into the country.
Zimbabweans line up at banks for hours at a time day after day, to draw out as much as they can, but it is only enough to buy a single loaf of bread, and often no bread is available. Riot police with dogs stand guard over the bank lines, but do nothing to prevent black-market currency dealers — and inflation remains rampant.
The humanitarian disaster is the reason that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai finally agreed to share power. With no food aid getting into the country he was desperate to end the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki mediated the negotiations which produced the power-sharing agreement, and hopes were high at the signing in Harare in mid-September. But while MDC was supposed to get 16 of the 31 cabinet posts, it was always uncertain whether Mugabe would give up the ministries with real power.
After a meeting yesterday between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa accused Mugabe of demanding all the key ministries for his ZANU-PF party in the new unity government. “He wants to grab all the resource ministries like finance, home affairs, information, justice and make the MDC a peripheral player,” Chamisa said. “We will end up in but out of government.”
Earlier this week, Mugabe claimed a unity government would be formed by the end of this week and rejected suggestions that the talks were deadlocked over appointments to cabinet posts.
But deadlock is the result. Chamisa wants action from the African Union as soon as possible. Some insiders I’ve spoken with suggest that President Kharma of Botswana take over mediation from Thabo Mbeki, to ensure that the signed agreement actually comes to fruition. Ian Kharma has been far more outspoken in his demands for action by the African Union against Mugabe than has Mbeki. Nevertheless, the agreement, for all its faults, is a decent starting point, and it is not Mbeki’s fault that Mugabe is backsliding now. The AU must continue pressure on Mugabe to actually yield power — thousands of lives are being lost every week as a result of the inertia.
– Roger Bate is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.