Zimbabwe’s Power Share Will Last Because ‘Mugabe Needs Tsvangirai’

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is for real. Contrary to widespread sentiment, mainly propagated by a skeptical media that wanted nothing else but Mugabe to go, the marriage is going to last because "Mugabe needs Tsvangirai more than he needs oxygen", one political analyst joked.

Mugabe has been playing hard ball but sources say he is giving more concessions to Tsvangirai than the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader bargained for. Tsvangirai is likely to have more power "than is written in the ink that signed the global political agreement of September 15 because Mugabe wants him to clean up his image, bring the country back from the brink of collapse, and present him to the world as a repentant dictator ".

This probably explains why Tsvangirai seems to have softened his stance towards Mugabe. Tsvangirai says Mugabe is no longer the problem. People should stop talking about him as if he is the only issue. Tsvangirai himself has taken the lead. He insisted, for example, that he would not assume office until detained MDC party activists were released.  He was sworn in before they were and visited them in jail the following day.

One of his right hand men, party treasurer and deputy agriculture minister designate Roy Bennett was arrested only hours before the new cabinet was due to be sworn in. This could have scuttled the whole power-sharing deal but the swearing in ceremony went ahead. Critics said Tsvangirai was capitulating to the unrepentant regime of Robert Mugabe but close associates say he is playing his cards right.

"Tsvangirai softened his stance after visiting Budiriro (the hub of MDC support in Harare) and seeing the suffering of the people. He made up his mind then that he had to stop this and make the unity government work," John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe and an admirer of the MDC leader said.

Initially observers thought that the arrest of Bennett was a ploy by Kembo Mohadi, Minister of Home Affairs, to keep his co-minister Giles Mutsekwa out. Mutsekwa was out of the country when the cabinet was sworn in but was present when Parliament voted for Constitutional Amendment Number 19 which paved the way for Tsvangirai to become Prime Minister.

This seemed to make sense because at one time Mutsekwa was facing the same charges as Bennett- attempting to commit terrorism, banditry and sabotage. The theory was that if he stayed out of the country, the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) would control Home Affairs, a portfolio that the two major parties haggled over for nearly four months. Mutsekwa, however, returned to the country and was sworn in together with deputy ministers on February 20.

Tsvangirai is now in full control of the government and his own party. There were fears that the MDC might split over whether it should join the government of national unity or not, but observers say there was no division at all. Biti, who seemed unwilling to join ZANU-PF, was in fact only trying to "squeeze" more concessions out of ZANU-PF.

Key players in the MDC-T are Tsvangirai himself. Though he is facing a formidable task, he has picked a cabinet that balances tribal, ethnic, gender, civil society and business representatives. He is calling the shots.

Tendai Biti, the secretary general of the party, was given the powerful post of Finance Minister. Observers say Biti is effectively the deputy president of the party and Tsvangirai’s possible successor because most finance ministers usually succeed the Prime Minister. A founder member of the MDC Biti has a strong following both from the grassroots and from academics. His greatest challenge is how to get the economy back on track.

Biti’s immediate headache is how to work with Mugabe’s right hand man Gideon Gono, the central bank governor. People want Gono to go just like they want Mugabe to go. Gono was effectively the country’s Prime Minister under the ZANU-PF government. Sources say Biti has already indicated that the first thing he wants is an audit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. This could open a can of worms as rumours have always said that Gono has been fiddling with the country’s finances not just to keep the country going but for personal gain as well. There have been whispers that he was taking commissions when he bought government vehicles and farm mechanisation equipment.

Gono has just announced that an audit of the farm mechanisation programme will kick off on March 1. The central bank will be working together with the Anti-Corruption Commission which is chaired by the country’s former auditor-general, Eric Harid.

Observers say Gono could save face by stepping down instead of waiting for a show-down with Biti. Mugabe is not likely to protect him as he is more interested in saving his own skin now and have a noble exit. Even if Biti and Gono are able to work together, just like Mugabe is now working together with Tsvangirai, Biti might be forced to get rid of Gono to gain the confidence of the public and the international community. But this will go against Tsvangirai’s policy of reconciliation.

Another key player is Roy Bennett. He has several cards up his sleeve. He is white and a successful farmer. As deputy Minister of Agriculture, he could play a key role in reviving the agriculture sector and restoring confidence within the white community. Though the white population has fallen drastically over the years, most will return if the political climate changes.

Bennett could also play a key role in resolving the controversial land issue which resulted in the international community isolating the country and imposing sanctions on the Mugabe regime. He could be the bridge between Zimbabwe and the international community. Besides, he handles the party’s finances.

Elton Mangoma is another key player. A chartered accountant by profession he is a businessman and represents the business community. He has worked for some of the country’ biggest corporations such as Delta, Hunyani and Colgate Palmolive.  As Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion he will make sure he takes business with him to revive the economy.

One of the major contributors to Mugabe’s downfall was that he lost the support of business. Former Rhodesian Prime Minister, Ian Smith survived the Unilateral Declaration of Independence because business rallied behind him. Mangoma is also close to Tsvangirai and should have his ear. He was one of the chief negotiators for the party.

Speaker of Parliament and party national chairman, Lovemore Moyo, is another key player. He controls the powerful Lower House and is an ex-combatant. He is one of the key people that bring about tribal balance as he is from Matabeleland. He is also a living example of reconciliation because he is married to the daughter of Sithembiso Nyoni, Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises. Moyo is a man of his own and is a trusted MDC founding member.

Gorden Moyo, former executive director of a Bulawayo non-governmental organisation, Bulawayo Agenda, is also likely to play a key role in the new government. He was named Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office, a powerful post as he becomes Tsvangirai’s close adviser. Moyo represents the interests of civil society which has worked with Tsvangirai from the formation of the MDC.

He also represents the interests of the people from Matabeleland, especially the young Ndebele academics. The academics led by Joshua Mhambi and Moyo himself tried to revive the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), in 2000 after the death of Joshua Nkomo because they believed they were being sidelined, but that failed. Some of the young academics, without Moyo this time, were behind the Mavambo project last year but were pushing for Dumiso Dabengwa to lead the movement rather than Simba Makoni.

There were also some big losers in the MDC such as Eddie Cross. He is the party’s policy coordinator and was lined up for a cabinet post. Most people thought that he might be earmarked for either finance or economic planning but he ended up with State Enterprises. There was, however, strong resistance over this appointment from the party because senior members were not impressed by his own performance as a businessman. They claimed that he had never run a really successful business. The other reason was that he was closely linked to the former Ian Smith regime. Besides, there was a feeling that whites would be over-represented if both Cross and Bennett went into government.

Thokozani Khupe, though the party vice-president and deputy Prime Minister, is considered "window dressing". Her presence in government addresses two key issues "gender” and representation in Matabeleland.

There were more disappointments from ZANU-PF. Five ministers who had been included on the invitation list were not offered jobs. These were David Parirenyatwa who had been Minister of Health, Paul Munyaradzi Mangwana who was acting Minister of Information, John Nkomo, the party chairman and last Speaker of Parliament, Sylvester Nguni, the former economic planning minister and Flora Bhuka, a former minister of state responsible for lands.

This was, however, rectified a week later when some of them were offered dubious posts that were not part of the agreement. John Nkomo ended up as Minister of State in the President’s Office. Flora Bhuka became Minister of State in Vice-President Joseph Msika’s Office. Sylvester Nguni was made Minister of State in Vice-President Joyce Mujuru’s Office.

Mugabe remains the key player in ZANU-PF. Disagreements among his lieutenants on who should succeed him has allowed Mugabe to hang on for so long. But he should give way to a successor at the party congress in December. He cannot serve another five years. If he steps down, this will give his successor time to build a base during the transitional period.  As state president Mugabe has another ace up his sleeve. He could leave the day-to-day running of government to Tsvangirai and thus allow Tsvangirai to clean his house for him.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man credited with keeping Mugabe in power after losing the first round of the presidential elections last year has been adequately rewarded. He is in both the Joint Monitoring and Implementing Committee (JOMIC) which oversees the implementation of the unity agreement and has been catapulted from Minister of Rural Housing to Defence. As Minister of Defence Mnangagwa calls the shots because the Joint Operations Command has literally been running the country. He could have a head-on collision with Tsvangirai because service chiefs vowed prior to the 2008 elections that they would never salute Tsvangirai.

Mnangagwa like Mugabe is a tactical player and scheming survivor. Most people thought he had lost favour with Mugabe after the Tsholotsho debacle of 2004 when he was accused of staging an internal coup because he was opposed to the rise of Joyce Mujuru to vice-President but he is the favourite once again. Some insiders even claim he has been running the government during the political impasse following the March 29 elections.

Mnangagwa has completely outmanoeuvred his strongest opponent, former army commander Solomon Mujuru, husband of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru. One observer said Mujuru ha been completely wiped off the political scene largely because of his diamond dealings. His worst mistake was to go into business with whites who are accused of having siphoned out the country’s fortunes at the worst possible time when the country was desperately in need of cash. But it might be too early to write him off because he has weaved his way into big business.

Joyce still has a chance as vice-president, but her name has been dragged through the mud too. A British based company, Firstar Europe said her daughter Nyasha del Campo had tried to sell diamonds worth US$15 million to the company. One of the senior executives Bernd Hagemann said Joyce was the financier of the diamond deal and had threatened him when his company refused to handle her daughter’s "blood diamonds". He said Joyce Mujuru had personally phoned him threatening to deal with him if his company did not remove her name and that of her daughter, husband and son-in-law from their blacklist. Whatever her ambitions she has to play a low profile for now.

Patrick Chinamasa is another key player. He has been the party’s chief negotiator and legal draftsman who knows his way around the constitution and regional and international law. Observers say Chinamasa has made sure that Mugabe does not break the law. He might bend the rules but he never breaks the law. Chinamasa who is still Justice Minister could also save the neck of attorney-general Johannes Tomana. The MDC is after him but Chinamasa is likely to protect Tomana as long as he does not step out of line.

Nicholas Goche remains another key player though he has been moved from Public Service to Transport. He has been in the negotiating team and is also responsible for maintaining Mugabe in power. The same applies to Sydney Sekeremayi who was transferred from Defence to State Security. Like Goche he keeps a low profile but is one of Mugabe’s trusted lieutenants. Once considered a rival of Mnangagwa, they seem to be working closely together though Sekeremayi should be closer to Mujuru because they come from the same province. But in ZANU-PF people tend to believe that there is no life outside the party. So you don’t cross paths with Mugabe.

The biggest loser, though still in government, is Didymus Mutasa. He has been demoted from the powerful post of Lands and State Security to the mediocre post of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.

Arthur Mutambara is the luckiest politician in Zimbabwe. He never struggled. He was given leadership of the party on a silver platter. He lost the elections but is now deputy Prime Minister. His party won only 10 seats but has three cabinet posts. He handles the hottest ministry, that of education which he gave to lawyer David Coltart. Mutambara also controls Industry and Commerce, a post he gave to the de facto leader f the party Welshman Ncube, the party’s chief negotiator. Another post, that of regional integration, was given to negotiator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga. All three lost the elections.

Mutambara and his MDC-M are the kingmakers because ZANU-PF and the MDC are tied at 99 seats each. They need Mutambara’s 10 votes to sway any vote their way.

Zimbabwe has already won the political battle which was the biggest stumbling block to its economic revival. The next challenge is to get the country back on track, to end the present cholera epidemic, to get teachers back to work so that schools can reopen and to get industry working.

The donor community has started helping with the cholera epidemic. But the epidemic was just a tip of the iceberg. The whole health system had collapsed. The entire infrastructure in the major cities had collapsed. So the problem cannot be addressed in isolation because this will just be addressing the symptoms and not the major cause.

This should be an easy task for Tsvangirai because his party now holds the water portfolio with Samuel Sipepa Nkomo as Minister of Water Resources. Though Ignatius Chombo remains Minister of Local Government and has been a major stumbling block before, local authorities now run their water and sewer systems once again.

Getting teachers back to work might be more difficult. Though most of them support the MDC, they have adamantly told parents that the issue was not about the unity government but about money. They want decent salaries and they will only go back to work once the money is on the table. Agreement now seems to have been reached.

Though it might take a few months, it is much easier to bring industry back to work because scores of investors have been waiting on the sidelines. They were more worried about the environment especially policy shifts within ZANU-PF. Now they have got people of their own running the show with Biti on Finance, Mangoma in Investment Promotion and Ncube in charge of industry. The central bank has been ordered to stop quasi-fiscal activities to concentrate on monetary issues.

A study by the ZCTU meant for the Tripartite Negotiating Forum which groups government, business and labour, clearly indicated that it was the ordinary people that were responsible for the economic collapse of the country. They were also the ones that could revive the economy.

The ZCTU through what it dubbed the Kadoma Declaration said the biggest problem for Zimbabwe was what it termed the country’s risk factor. The risk factor was the premium that was attached by nationals, residents, foreigners and international bodies on residing in, visiting or doing business with Zimbabwe. Elements of the risk included low confidence or pride in one’s country, lack of patriotism and trust in institutional systems.

Tsvangirai is now in office and running the show. People therefore need to believe that the unity government will not work. The MDC needs to win the people to back it otherwise the speculative behaviour that was the downfall of ZANU-PF would continue.

Tsvangirai has to work on changing the people’s attitudes. Most people never gave the talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC a chance. When he signed the global agreement, most people did not give the power-sharing agreement a chance. Now he is in government most people are still skeptical things will work out. He has to convince the people and the international community that Mugabe is no longer the issue.

At least some members of his team believe so. Welshman Ncube currently chairman of JOMIC is distributing fliers which read: "Zimbabwe is our Zimbabwe. It is not Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. It is not Tsvangirai’s Zimbabwe. It is our Zimbabwe. We, the people of Zimbabwe, hold the power. It is up to us to make sure we create a new Zimbabwe. It is up to us to make sure the leaders of any party do what we want them to do."

This is the attitude that can turn Zimbabwe around. Some people believe that the worst is over for Zimbabwe. One engineer quipped:” There is no going back. The unity agreement was a divine arrangement. Nothing will go wrong."

After a decade in the doldrums, this is every Zimbabwean’s wish.