PM Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and President Robert Mugabe (R) are pictured at Zimbabwe International Investment Conference in Harare, 09 Jul 2009
PM Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and President Robert Mugabe (R) are pictured at Zimbabwe International Investment Conference in Harare, 09 Jul 2009

In Zimbabwe, confrontation between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appears likely to continue, despite some progress during the year toward political and economic stabilization.

For Zimbabwe's long suffering citizens, the year 2010 appears likely to see more of the confrontation, stalemate and mediation that have characterized politics over the past months.

Southern African leaders in February were able to bring President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change into a power sharing government.

"I, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe and observe the laws of Zimbabwe, so help me God," he said.

But disputes and rivalries continued to stall progress toward the ultimate goal of a new constitution and free and fair elections.

ZANU-PF held its party congress in the final days of the year and adopted a hard line toward its partner in government.  Mr. Mugabe urged the party to unite against what he called the enemy.

"The elections are not very far off, the inclusive government was given a short life, 18 months, 24 months, and so the remaining part of its life is very short," he said.

He said ZANU-PF had lost the elections of 2008 because of party in-fighting.

The MDC won a majority of parliamentary seats in the 2008 elections and Mr. Tsvangirai out-polled Mr. Mugabe in the presidential vote.  But Mr. Mugabe won the run-off election after Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew, citing a campaign of intimidation in which 100 of his supporters were killed.

Months of mediation by southern African leaders led to a power-sharing agreement in September and then to the unity government.

The agreement eased tensions and lessened political violence and human-rights abuses.  And the new government stabilized the economy by abandoning the inflation-battered Zimbabwean dollar and adopting the U.S. dollar and South African Rand as currencies.

Almost overnight, shortages of food, fuel and basic goods ended.  Economic activity picked up.  And the government at yearend announced economic growth could reach seven percent after a decade of decline.

Still political leaders found it difficult to abandon the rhetoric of confrontation when speaking to their supporters as during this rally by Mr. Mugabe in August.

"Never, never surrender.  Zimbabwe is mine.  I am a Zimbabwean," he said.

The continuing confrontations led Mr. Tsvangirai in October to announce that his party would boycott ZANU-PF ministers and Cabinet meetings.

"It is our right to disengage from a dishonest and unreliable partner.  In this regard, whilst being in government we shall forthwith disengage from ZANU-PF, in particular from Cabinet and Council of Ministers until such time as confidence and respect are restored in this relationship," he said.

One-month later, after another summit by the Southern African Development Community and its chief mediator, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, Mr. Tsvangirai relented.

"We have suspended our disengagement in the government to give SADC and the facilitator, who is comrade Zuma, that within the next 15 days the party representatives will meet to look at all the issues and how they should be implemented, and it is all issues, and that within 30 days all issues must be cleared [so] that we do not have to deal with this dispute once and for all.  We are satisfied," he said.

Analysts said some progress, meanwhile, was being made on forming media and election commissions as called for in the political agreement.  And civic groups were mobilizing volunteers to prepare the population for a series of consultations on a new constitution due to be drafted in the coming year.

But progress was slow, hampered by a lack of funding and the confrontations within government.

Nevertheless, a public opinion survey in September by the Mass Public Opinion Institute revealed that the majority of Zimbabweans felt their life had improved over the past year and wanted elections within two years.

But the survey also showed considerable differences along party lines over the abuses that had accompanied the previous elections, how to deal with them and how to bring about true national reconciliation.