main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai missed his flight to Johannesburg
Thursday as he attempted hold consultations with African leaders on forming a
new government. Zimbabwe authorities
briefly seized Tsvangirai’s passport at Harare International Airport and
withheld it just long enough so that he and aides Tendai Biti and Eliphas
Mukonoweshuro could not fly to South Africa for the day. They were trying to catch up with members of
the Southern African Development Community(SADC), who are preparing for an
important meeting on Saturday with South African President Thabo Mbeki. In Johannesburg, the SADC leaders will be
briefed by Mbeki, who also serves as Zimbabwe chief mediator, on outstanding
issues needed to resolve the crisis and strike a power-sharing deal between the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the ruling ZANU-PF party to
achieve a government of national unity.
Handel Mlilo is the MDC’s chief representative in Washington. He explains what types of guarantees Mr. Tsvangirai might be searching for
before agreeing to enter into a ruling partnership with veteran President
you have a government of national unity and it is a meaningful one, what you
really need to be doing is to be making sure that all services, including
security and military, are reflecting the fact that you now have a unity
government and that they’re not favoring one party over another. Otherwise, there’s no point in having an
agreement,” he pointed out.
regional-backed negotiations were necessitated by two controversial rounds of
presidential voting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai that failed to give the aging
incumbent a clear mandate for serving another 6-year term. Morgan Tsvangirai won a March 29
presidential contest, but authorities ruled he did not capture a majority of
the vote. President Mugabe declared
victory after running unopposed in June when his MDC rival boycotted the vote
to protest a wave of violent attacks on MDC supporters.
power-sharing negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, reports have
circulated that the 84-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since
independence in 1980, would retain his title as President, with Tsvangirai
acquiring the Prime Minister’s job with a delineated set of executive
responsibilities. Just where those
duties lie and how powerful Tsvangirai, the winner of an unresolved first round
of March presidential voting, can become remain unclear. One possible sticking point that has been
mentioned is who would be in charge of the military. The MDC’s Handel Mlilo suggests that guarantees are essential to
secure any agreement on control of the military, but that they entail a much
broader range of services and responsibilities as well.
“There have to be guarantees
about a whole host of things, including the military and everybody else. And security in all other institutions are
going to behave. And we are going to
make sure that whatever arrangement is made is reflecting on the fact that we
need to move forward and not move backwards like you saw happening in passports
being withheld and people being told they cannot go to meetings,” he noted in a
reference to Thursday’s restriction of MDC travel.
On Zimbabwe’s food security
crisis, Mlilo accused President Mugabe of using a political weapon against the
people of Zimbabwe. He also dismissed
reports from earlier in the week that in Mr. Tsvangirai’s absence, the head of
a breakaway MDC wing, Arthur Mutambara, had agreed with President Mugabe on
terms for a future government.
Mutambara has denied he would sign any deal without receiving approval
from Mr. Tsvangirai, who left the talks on Tuesday in order to seek guidance
from concerned diplomats. Handel Mlilo
says he suspects President Mugabe is growing impatient with the negotiating
“It is distinctly possible
that ZANU-PF is trying to plant a seed of discord among the parties. But Arthur Mutambara, from what I
understand, denied that there has been any agreement worked out with Mugabe,
that is separate from another agreement.
And at any rate, if they try to make an arrangement without Tsvangirai,
it wouldn’t go anywhere because the people of Zimbabwe would like to see the
Movement for Democratic Change in a situation of control from now on. So they can go ahead and make whatever
arrangements they want to make. They
will be meaningless, totally,” he said.
MDC representative Mlilo said that the
violence that has resulted in countless injuries and the deaths of 163 opposition figures has to stop before a
well-meaning government can be set up to win back the trust of the people.