Thursday, August 14, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: Tsvangirai's U-Turn: The Facts; People Urge Political Settlement

Tsvangirai’s U-turn: The facts

By Political and Features Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed 13 agreements with Zanu-PF and the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC formation before abruptly pulling out of the South African-facilitated talks on Tuesday evening, it has emerged.

Documents seen by The Herald show that Tsvangirai’s negotiators in the inter-party dialogue — Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma — were authorised by their party leader to append their signatures to the 13 agreements as and when they were reached.

However, on Tuesday, Tsvangirai presented the other two principals — President Mugabe and Mutambara — with a fresh position paper titled "Notes on the Dialogue to Date", which appeared to repudiate all the agreements already signed and would have set back the status of the negotiations by weeks.

At the time that Tsvangirai said he could not sign the final agreement, which President Mugabe and Mutambara had already endorsed, only four issues remained on the agenda.

It is understood that President Mugabe and Mutambara subsequently agreed on these issues, paving the way for Cde Mugabe to form a new Government and for the Seventh Parliament to start sitting following elections held earlier in the year.

The parties were putting their signatures to agreements as and when they were reached, meaning that the final settlement is a compendium of documents that had been assented to by the three principals.

The main issue that Tsvangirai was not amenable to, insiders revealed, was the framework of a new Government, which is an issue that was laid on the table on July 28, 2008.

Other outstanding issues were legislative agenda priorities (tabled on July 25), and implementation mechanisms and electoral vacancies (both tabled on August 5).

Below are the agreements:

-On the 25th of July, Tsvangirai agreed that sanctions were not targeted and the Western economic embargo was hurting the nation and should be lifted as a matter of urgency.

-Part of that agreement, titled Restoration of Economic Stability and Growth, reads: "All forms of measures and sanctions against Zimbabwe (must) be lifted in order to facilitate a sustainable solution to the challenges that are currently facing Zimbabwe."

-The three principals also agreed on the same date that there was undue external interference in the country’s domestic affairs and they would not tolerate the subversion of the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe by outsiders with vested interests that ran contrary to national aspirations.

-"The parties reaffirm the principle of the United Nations Charter on non-interference in the internal affairs of member countries.

"The parties hereby agree that the responsibility of effecting change of Government in Zimbabwe vests exclusively in and is the sole prerogative of the people of Zimbabwe through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means," they said.

-They added that they would "reject any unlawful, violent, undemocratic and unconstitutional means of changing governments" and that "no outsiders have a right to call or campaign for regime change in Zimbabwe".

Despite this earlier agreement, it is understood that in his new position paper Tsvangirai unconstitutionally wanted the foundation of the next Government to be premised on the results of the inconclusive March 29 elections — a demand that has been the cornerstone of Western opposition to Zimbabwe’s electoral processes.

Another interesting agreement that was reached was on the issue of land reform.

-On the 25th of July, the three parties said Britain must honour its Lancaster House obligations to fund land tenure reforms in the country.

-The parties called "upon the United Kingdom government to accept primary responsibility to pay compensation for land acquired from land owners for resettlement".

-It was also agreed that the issue of multiple farm ownership and productivity on farms be dealt with as a matter of urgency by the Seventh Parliament through the institution of a holistic land audit.

-On the issue of freedom of expression and communication, in an agreement that was also signed on July 25, the parties said: "(We) call upon governments that are hosting and/or funding external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe to cease such hosting and funding."

-Zanu-PF, MDC and MDC-T also urged those journalists working for these pirate radio stations to return to Zimbabwe, get proper accreditation and start working for the good of the country rather than for its enemies.

-Other agreements signed were on State Organs and Institutions, Rule of Law, Respect for the Constitution and Other Laws, and Free Political Activity on July 25.

-The next day the parties signed agreements on the Security of Persons and Prevention of Violence, the National Youth Training Programme, Freedom of Assembly and Association, Traditional Leaders and Humanitarian and Food Assistance.

-On August 5, the parties signed an agreement titled Promotion of Equality, National Healing, Cohesion and Unity.

The insiders said everyone had been caught unawares when on Tuesday Tsvangirai brought to the table a document that made it appear as if no agreements had been reached.

It was at this point that the other two parties, in the presence of President Thabo Mbeki, decided they could not start the negotiations all over again and would proceed with the formation of an inclusive Government and the convening of Parliament.

Tsvangirai, the insiders said, would be accommodated in the new Government when he was ready to sign.

However, according to AFP news agency, Tsvangirai yesterday issued a statement in which he said: "We knew negotiations would be difficult, but a resolution that represents anything other than the will of the Zimbabwean people would be a disaster for our country.

"We are committed to a solution that recognises that the people spoke on the 29th of March, 2008," said Tsvangirai, in reference to the harmonised elections that failed to produce a winner in the presidential poll in which he was leading.

This result was overturned in the June presidential run-off election that President Mugabe won resoundingly and Tsvangirai has not challenged that result in the courts.

Insiders said Tsvangirai was parroting the same sentiments expressed by the United States, European Union and Britain.

He also repeated the same demand that Government should unban the NGOs that were being accused of sponsoring opposition activities in the country with Western sponsorship.

"Without further delay, we are demanding that NGOs be allowed to resume humanitarian assistance — distributing food, medicines and life-saving assistance. This destructive policy of banning humanitarian assistance can be reversed with one letter," said Tsvangirai.

On the eve of the talks on August 8, the governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK and US, and the European Commission issued a similar demand.

"The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis requires the immediate and unconditional lifting of the suspension on all NGO field operations. Harassment of NGOs must cease immediately, and protection for humanitarian workers must be guaranteed. Timing is critical. Steps must be taken now in order for food to be available to those in need in future months," said the statement.

The government has accused these NGOs of using food to campaign for the MDC-T in the rural areas, which are the traditional stronghold of the ruling Zanu-PF.

We differed on just one issue: Mutambara

Herald Reporter-New Ziana-AFP

Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations have agreed on every aspect of an all-inclusive government except one issue that Morgan Tsvangirai wants to consult over, President Thabo Mbeki and Arthur Mutambara said yesterday.

President Mbeki is the facilitator of the inter-party talks, while Mutambara heads the other MDC formation.

The two told separate news conferences in Harare that Tsvangirai had requested for the talks to be adjourned so that he could consult on the "sticking point".

"All the three parties are in agreement in everything except on one sticking point, which he (Tsvangirai) has requested to reflect and consult on before he comes back to the negotiation table.

"Morgan Tsvangirai has requested time to reflect and consult," Mutambara told reporters.

"Three times he agreed to this one aspect and three times he changed his mind," Mutambara said.

He said although he was not at liberty to disclose what had actually stalled the signing of the agreement, his party had no problems with the aspect that Tsvangirai wants to consult over.

The party’s secretary-general Welshman Ncube said the sticking point stalling the settlement was not critical.

"The point is not critical and the dialogue process can proceed without that," said Ncube.

After three days spent mediating power-sharing negotiations to end Zimbabwe’s political challenges, President Mbeki said he remained confident that all three parties in the talks would find a resolution.

"We have dealt with all the elements on which President Mugabe and Mutambara agree, but there is disagreement on one element over which Morgan Tsvangirai had asked for time to reflect," said Mbeki.

"We have adjourned to give Morgan Tsvangirai more time to consider these matters.

"I’m quite confident they will resolve all their outstanding matters which would result in this inclusive government, and in the second instance then acting together," President Mbeki told reporters.

He left Harare for Luanda yesterday morning to brief Angolan leader and chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on the talks.

President Mbeki said he would discuss with President dos Santos the time frame that Tsvangirai should be given to consider the power-sharing proposals, after which he would reconvene the negotiations.

President Mbeki said major issues that the three principals had been discussing over the past four days were to do with the allocation of Cabinet portfolios in the all-inclusive government.

"A lot of ground had been covered," he said.

Mutambara said the dialogue must not be allowed to collapse until a lasting solution was reached to end the challenges facing the country.

"Negotiations would continue while consultations are being made. There is a single issue to which Tsvangirai has reservations and we have to respect that, so the talks have been adjourned."

He said parties to the dialogue should be driven by national interest and find a solution to the challenges besetting Zimbabweans.

"We are determined to put national interests first than self-interests and partisanship to craft an obtaining settlement to heal our country while promoting the recovery and transformation of our economy.

"This dialogue must not be allowed to crumble. All parties must work together and put national interests above petty and personal interests."

Mutambara, however, reiterated that the West should not work against the dialogue and remove the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

"We are negotiating as Zimbabweans and we want the dialogue to succeed so the international community should not act to destroy the spirit of discussion."

He said the MDC was against the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe when an internal process is underway to address the country’s challenges.

"We condemn violence in whatever form, including the sanctions imposed even as we hold the talks. The sanction should be condemned without reservation.

"It is not productive to destroy the spirit of rapprochement, the Zimbabweans’ appetite to discuss their issues. The West should show confidence and respect by allowing the country’s leaders to hold talks without meaningless intervention."

He said the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by the three parties on July 21 was a "sort of ceasefire" while negotiations continue and the international community should also observe the principle of that agreement.

President Mbeki is expected to brief Sadc leaders on the state of the Zimbabwe talks at the grouping’s summit in South Africa at the weekend.

He commended the Zimbabwean leadership for their commitment to the talks, saying they were all eager to conclude the negotiations.

On what was at stake for him in the negotiations, President Mbeki said his country and Zimbabwe were neighbours that were inseparable as they shared a common history of colonialism.

"Personally, I have known the Zimbabwean leadership for a long time," he said, noting that Zimbabwe played an important role in the liberation of South Africa.

President Mbeki said as a neighbour, South Africa was aware of the difficulties that the people of Zimbabwe were experiencing and was obliged to assist.

"Even if it means spending six months in Zimbabwe, then we will do it as long as it will bring an end to the challenges that the country is experiencing," he said.

President Mbeki implored outsiders to give Zimbabweans an opportunity to address challenges facing them, saying he was convinced that they would do so if left alone.

"Let us give the Zimbabwean leaders breathing space to resolve their differences," he said.

He said he was impressed that all the Zimbabwean leaders appreciated that none of them individually had a solution to the challenges facing the country. — Herald Reporter-New Ziana-AFP.

Finalise talks, political leaders urged

Herald Reporters

Zimbabweans from all sectors yesterday urged political leaders involved in the inter-party talks to have one goal and speedily resolve the problems facing the country.

Some expressed concern over the stalling of the talks after MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai requested for more time to consult, saying any further delays to the formation a Government would deepen the current challenges besetting the country.

On Tuesday, President Mugabe and MDC leader Arthur Mutambara reached an agreement paving way for Cde Mugabe to form the next Government.

Although Tsvangirai did not sign, it was expected that negotiations would continue until he appended his signature to the agreement.

A pastor in Mabvuku, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said any aspiring leader should have prioritise people’s very existence and time was now ripe for the "deal to be finalised".

"This is the right time to see who has people’s interests at heart. We are not looking forward to leaders holding people’s lives to ransom. People are suffering and we need to move forward for the development of the country," he said.

A civil servant welcomed the progress made so far but said the parties should now put the final touches.

"It is unfortunate that Mr Tsvangirai is not ready to sign but he should understand that this is the time that people have been waiting for. Any further delays would not help the suffering being experienced in the country.

"People feel that the time is now to resolve the crisis in the country and if Mr Tsvangirai is representing the interests of the people, he should sign immediately," he said.

He urged the leaders to have one vision and work together as a team for the development of the country.

Mr Augustine Mafukidze of Mbare said Tsvangirai should consider the people first.

"He is thinking of himself rather than the people. We are the ones who are suffering at the end of the day. We thought the talks could make things better but the situation is becoming worse and worse," he said.

Mr Mafukidze said Tsvangirai was acting as if he was being controlled by his "masters" who he should consult first before taking any decision.

He applauded President Mugabe and Mutambara for their efforts in trying to resolve the country’s situation.

Mr Bornwell Nhira said this was the time to put all political differences aside and start rebuilding the country’s economy.

He expressed concern over Tsvangirai, saying it has been always his ways and "tactics" to delay things when he has a hidden agenda.

"Maybe he is going to sign, but I think he is using his delaying tactics again but at the same time he should respect the will of the people. Some of these leaders are becoming selfish and I think he (Tsvangirai) has a hidden agenda," he said.

Mr Nhira said President Mugabe and Mutambara had the people at heart. He said they should also continue to engage in dialogue with Tsvangirai for the benefit of the nation.

"I don’t think they (political leaders) will be happy to lead people who are starving, considering the current situation. This is the time to build the country," he said.

A Highfield businessman said there was need for all the political parties involved to make concerted efforts to end the difficulties facing people.

"Prices are going up on a daily basis and I think all the sides should strive to make efforts to solve the problems," he said.

Noel Munetsi of Bindura said he was optimistic there was going to be a "real deal".

"They should sit down and talk in a bid to make efforts so that Tsvangirai should also sign the agreements reached," he said.

He said political leaders should sacrifice for the people and not be driven by their own pride.

"We have been facing challenges for over a decade now mainly because of the impasse between the political players in the country. We had hoped they would be solved by an agreement between the three parties but it seems as if there is still a long way to go.

"Ordinary Zimbabweans hope and pray that a solution to the country’s challenges will be found through the ongoing dialogue," said Mr Oliver Zibhowa of Warren Park.

Mr Everisto Musasa of Epworth said: "First of all, I would like to urge the leader of the MDC T, Morgan Tsvangirai, to consider his position and go back to the negotiating table so as to alleviate the suffering of the people. This country can only be successful if everyone works together.

"I would like to commend the President, Cde Mugabe, for agreeing to talk with the opposition leaders. It shows that there is hope for Zimbabwe as the nation has now realised that the best way forward is through dialogue."

"Our leaders should realise that there is no party that can run this country in a vacuum as it stands because no one has a majority in Parliament. They definitely need each other in solving the country’s challenges.

"We must unite as Zimbabweans if the country is to forge ahead. If the deal is signed, we must also work together and make sure that the illegal sanctions that were imposed on us are removed," said Mr Reuben Nyagomo of Kuwadzana.

In Chitungwiza, several people urged President Mugabe and Mutambara to continue with their efforts to talk to Tsvangirai.

City service delivery system poor: Mayor

New Ziana

HARARE Mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda on Saturday described service delivery in some western high-density suburbs as shocking.

"Our delivery system is embarrassing. Reports on paper are far from the situation on the ground," he said.

The mayor was speaking during a tour of Glen View, Budiriro and High Glen suburbs to see for himself the situation there.

He said service delivery would be the city’s top priority.

"We want to be able to collect all refuse, resolve the sewerage crisis and engage Zinwa constructively for improvement in water supply," he said.

Mr Masunda was recently elected mayor by a predominantly MDC council.

He is a businessman who is not affiliated to any political party and was elected by the councillors in accordance with the Local Government Act.

In Glen View and Budiriro, residents expressed anger over the raw sewage that was flowing all over the place.

"The sewage is in the road, at my gate, at my doorstep and flowing from inside my toilet," said a Budiriro resident.

Mr Masunda said there was need to reclaim council property which had been personalised.

At the popular Glen View home industries, the city fathers and the media had to jostle to gain entrance as the furniture makers were suspicious of the visit.

"The first stage towards solving the challenges is to be apolitical. A lot of things have been politicised and residents have joined different camps out of desperation," said Mr Masunda. There is need to support housing co-operatives for the provision of adequate shelter."

The mayor was accompanied by councillors of the area and officials from the housing department. — New Ziana.

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