parliament election in Zimbabwe, mdc wins key parliament vote
Associated Press
Lovemore Moyo, of the Movement for Democratic Change, center, is lifted up by his party
members after being sworn in as the newly elected Speaker of Zimbabwe's Parliament. (AP)

Rivals in Zimbabwe Say They Have Reached Power-Sharing Deal

September 12, 2008 12:38 PM
by Cara McDonough
The new deal reportedly splits power equally between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, but Zimbabweans are waiting to hear more details.

An Unconfirmed Plan

Mugabe and Tsvangirai were scheduled to meet Friday to discuss details of a power-sharing deal that had been announced late Thursday night.

The BBC reports that Tsvangirai will become prime minister and chair a council of ministers, and Mugabe, who has led the country for 28 years, will remain president and head the cabinet. Tsvangirai has reportedly confirmed the deal. Mugabe has not yet commented.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who had mediated the talks since July, said details of the deal will be announced on Monday. According to the BBC, Zimbabweans are waiting to react: “There has been a muted reaction on the streets of Harare as people wait to see full details of the agreement.”

They may have good reason to wait, as the plan is still vague. When Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for Tsvangirai’s opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, 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 have been leaked, however. Mugabe will control the armed forces, while Tsvangirai will be in charge of the police, according to BBC correspondent Adam Mynott. Work on finalizing the deal will reportedly continue over the weekend.

Background: Power-sharing talks and MDC victory in parliament

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 chariman 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.”
Earlier that month, Mugabe reportedly agreed to a power-sharing deal with Arthur Mutambara, the leader of an MDC faction group, but the agreement completely left out Tsvangirai. Critics expressed doubt that the deal could help the struggling country.

“Morgan Tsvangirai is the main opposition leader, and any agreement that doesn’t include his party will not work for the country. It actually just complicates issues,” said John Makumbe, a Mugabe critic and veteran commentator to Reuters.

Opinion & Analysis: Will power-sharing work?

Power-sharing may seem the best outcome between two factions that have been fighting for so long. Analysts, however, are skeptical that the deal will work without careful planning and understanding. 

It’s going to be like walking out of a landmine field while carrying a huge load,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, to Reuters. “The deal will only survive on a lot of goodwill, commitment and strategic thinking by all the key players because it can easily collapse even on small things and misunderstandings.”

James Kirchick of The Wall Street Journal warned in a recent opinion piece that “sharing power just isn’t something Mugabe does.” He compares the recent events in Zimbabwe to those of nearly 30 years ago when Zimbabwe was still the British colony of Rhodesia. Mugabe threatened to kill anyone who participated in the country’s first multiracial election, which gave whites 28 out of 100 parliamentary seats.

“Today, the world is once again allowing Mugabe to get away with murder,” Kirchick wrote. “Mugabe and his generals have no interest in ‘sharing’ power, never mind giving it up. Any agreement that gives significant political control to Mugabe would betray all the Zimbabweans who risked their lives for democracy.”

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines