Zimbabwe rivals form unity regime
Agreement to split power aims to end political crisis
Zimbabwe’s leaders on Monday signed a historic framework for forming a unity government that splits power among arch rivals in a bid to end the country’s political crisis and economic meltdown.
In President Robert Mugabe’s first waiver of power in nearly 30 years, the agreement outlines six executive posts to be led by the veteran leader and a new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Each will have two deputies.
The former bitter rivals committed themselves to free political activity, a national healing process and the restoration of economic stability in a country that was once a regional breadbasket.
The all-inclusive powersharing agreement will see 31 ministers drawn from Zimbabwe’s three main parties, with Mugabe’s ZANUPF saying on national television late Monday that talks to allocate the posts would begin Tuesday.
Shortly after the signing ceremony in the Zimbabwean capital, the 84year-old Mugabe said he was “committed” to working with rival Tsvangirai in the new government.
“Let us be allies,” said Mugabe, who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.
The new political partners also agreed to call on former colonial power Britain — a frequent target of Mugabe’s sometimes fiery rhetoric — to pay compensation for land acquired in Zimbabwe’s land reform programs.
While his rhetoric had cooled as power-sharing talks pushed ahead in recent weeks, Mugabe lashed out at Britain and the United States in his lengthy speech on Monday.
“Why is the hand of Britain and America here, Zimbabwe is a sovereign country, only the people of Zimbabwe has the fundamental right to govern it. They alone will set up government, they alone will change it.”
Tsvangirai used his first platform as head of government to call on Zimbabwe’s rival parties to work together to “unite” the country.
“I, the prime minister of Zimbabwe, call ZANU-PF and MDC to unite Zimbabwe. Divisions belong to the past,” Tsvangirai said.
He also called for the economically shattered southern African country’s doors to be reopened to international aid.
“The international aid organizations came to help our country and found our doors locked,” Tsvangirai said. “We need to unlock our doors to aid — we need medicine, food, and doctors back in our country.
“We need electricity, water, petrol for our vehicles, we need to access our cash from banks.”
Over the past decade, Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed with the world’s highest inflation rate, chronic shortages of foreign currency and food, skyrocketing unemployment and widespread hunger.
In response to Monday’s deal, the European Union left sanctions in place saying it wants to see democratic improvements, while the United States said it was waiting to see the details of the deal.
“We’re anxious to see what the details are. Our number one priority is that you have a legitimate government in Zimbabwe that represents the will of the people,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
The International Monetary Fund said it was ready to hold talks with Zimbabwe’s new government.
“We stand ready to discuss with the new authorities their policies to stabilize the economy, improve social conditions, and reduce poverty,” said IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a statement.
Several regional leaders attended the signing ceremony in Harare, with some having earlier expressed fears that Zimbabwe’s political crisis could have ripple effects throughout southern Africa.
“Will it hold or will it not? That is the question,” said African Union chairman Jakaya Kikwete, while urging Zimbabwe’s political parties to implement the agreement.
The new government is the result of protracted talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC and the leader of a splinter MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, who also signed the agreement on Monday.