Is There Hope for the Zimbabwe Negotiations?

by mgopin on August 17, 2008 · 11 comments

Donna Bryson reports in the Boston Globe today that Mugabe has accepted an arrangement in which Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition movement, will become Prime Minister with a variety of important responsibilities.

Protesters in Johannesburg demonstrated yesterday against Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, whose role has been a major sticking point in the contentious power-sharing talks. Protesters in Johannesburg demonstrated yesterday against Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, whose role has been a major sticking point in the contentious power-sharing talks. (jerome delay/Associated Press)

Maybe this is the beginning of the end of the Mugabe era’s destruction of Zimbabwe, and perhaps this is an important milestone for President Mbeki of South Africa who has been brokering this deal in person all week.

Tsvangirai said compromise is necessary because Zimbabweans would reject a deal “if any party is greedy.”

“We have agreed that Mr. Mugabe will be president whilst I become prime minister,” he told the SADC ministers. “We envisage that the prime minister must chair the Cabinet and be responsible for the formulation, execution and administration of government business, including appointing and dismissing his ministers. . . . A prime minister cannot be given responsibility without authority and be expected to deliver.”

Tsvangirai, whose party won the most seats in Parliament in the March elections, is proposing that the president have no power to veto laws. The opposition also proposed that the president “shall be commander in chief of the defense forces of Zimbabwe,” but exercise that power on the advice of the prime minister.

This all sounds promising–except the last part. True security and transformation of relations after bitter warfare requires a sense of safety. This can only come with negotiations over the control of guns, police, and military. I would suggest that the opposition party receive the right to hire new personnel at every level of the police and military, say at least 50% of all new hires every year. This would allow Mugabe’s people a sense that they will not be arrested tomorrow, if ever, but allow the voice of the democratic elections to express itself in real terms of the transition or transformation of the use of force. Nonviolent transition requires that everyone feel safe in the process.

© Marc Gopin

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