parliament election in Zimbabwe, mdc wins key parliament vote
Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, right, with new Prime Minster, Morgan Tsvangirai.

As Tsvangirai Takes Zimbabwe PM Post, Conflict With Mugabe Persists

February 10, 2009 04:13 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Following months of strife with Robert Mugabe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be sworn in as prime minister Wednesday as part of a power-sharing agreement.

Transition Could Be Rough

The power-sharing agreement between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been a long time coming, and Tsvangirai’s swearing-in as Prime Minister Wednesday is bound to be met with celebration from his supporters.

Smooth sailing in the new government, however, is unlikely, reports the Associated Press.

Mugabe will remain president under the new agreement and the two men must overcome their differences to govern a country that is in the midst of an economic meltdown as well as a cholera epidemic that has killed over 3,000 people. 

Besides the obvious challenges, Tsvangira and Mugabe have admitted their resistance to working together. “This is part of a transition arrangement that has been negotiated,” Tsvangirai said this week, regarding the new arrangement. “No one is joining anyone.”

It has been five months since Mugabe signed a power-sharing agreement with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party for control of the country’s government. But agreeing on how to unify the government has not come easily.

As recently as Jan. 19, SW Radio Africa reported that a senior party official said that discussions had “completely broken down and suggested the power sharing talks were doomed to fail.”

There was bickering as Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of “grabbing all key ministries such as defense, information, foreign affairs, finance and home affairs,” CNN explained in January. MDC chairman Nelson Chamisa was quoted as saying that the group would not “commit political suicide” by entering “positions of authority without the attendant and consequent power to enable us to deliver on change, food and jobs.”

Background: The tentative agreement and power-sharing talks

The BBC reported that the initial terms of the agreement were that Tsvangirai would become prime minister and chair a council of ministers, and Mugabe, who has led the country for 28 years, would remain president and head the cabinet.

But some of the plan was still vague. When Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the MDC, was asked who would head the government, he did not name either man but replied, “This is an inclusive government,” the International Herald Tribune reports.

Some specifics were leaked, however. Mugabe was named to control the armed forces, while Tsvangirai would be in charge of the police, according to BBC correspondent Adam Mynott.

Peace talks originally began in July, following
months of political violence that stemmed from the country’s disputed presidential elections in March. Many wondered if the talks would ever result in a deal, as the two rival factions continued to feud.

When MDC chairman Lovemore Moyo was voted speaker of parliament in August, winning with 110 votes over Paul Themba Nyathi, a candidate from a smaller faction of the MDC, reports stated that Mugabe, whose ZANU-PF party did not put forward a candidate, had backed the rival MDC faction. The BBC reported that Mugabe’s move “was a tactic to try and engineer control of parliament, which has backfired.”
In September, Mugabe agreed to share rule of the country with Tsvangirai, but in early October suggested that Tsvangirai and his MDC play only a junior role in the government. Reuters reported at the time that the agreement was stuck in a stalemate, with the two leaders unable to agree.

At a meeting in late October, Zimbabwe’s neighboring countries attempted to “resolve the … power-sharing impasse.” The summit was attended by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and leaders of the SADC, and mediated by former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, reported The Washington Post.

But just a few weeks later the MDC accused the nation’s ruling party ZANU-PF of initiating “a new wave of violence” that halted power-sharing talks, including carrying out violent attacks against opposition supporters and “setting up … torture bases” in Harare, according to Voice of America.

In response, leaders of southern African nations called for another summit to be held, at which they would pressure Mugabe and Tsvangirai “to end their feud on forming a unity government,” reported Agence France-Presse.

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