Dealing With Robert Mugabe

EDITORIAL – With luck, and continued international pressure, the agreement could be the start of an extended transition to democracy and economic revival for Zimbabwe’s brutalized citizens. That is, undoubtedly, why Mr. Tsvangirai accepted it, despite Mr. Mugabe’s history of bad faith.

Washington and the European Union are right to keep their sanctions in place until it becomes clearer whether this agreement can produce real change or is just another devious maneuver.

Mr. Tsvangirai told a radio interviewer on Wednesday that he was "quite certain" about his rival’s commitment to the deal. We are less certain, especially after an aide to Mr. Mugabe announced that certain aspects of the agreement would not go into effect until next month.

In a democratic Zimbabwe, or in an Africa that insisted on respect for democratic elections, Mr. Tsvangirai would be president and Mr. Mugabe would be gone. Instead, Mr. Mugabe will remain president, with Mr. Tsvangirai becoming prime minister.

Mr. Mugabe’s party will hold 15 ministries, Mr. Tsvangirai’s 13, and a splinter opposition party 3. The deal is very precise on these numbers, but not on how the powers of the president and the prime minister will be apportioned. Both will exercise "executive power."

The crucial question is how much power Mr. Mugabe will retain to intimidate opponents and veto economic reforms. The deal affirms the principles of free speech and multiparty democracy, but it also appears to declare Mr. Mugabe’s disastrous land reform untouchable. Some reports say that Mr. Mugabe will keep control over the army, while Mr. Tsvangirai will control the police. The army must be kept out of domestic politics.

With its rich agricultural land and abundant mineral resources, Zimbabwe should be thriving. Instead, Mr. Mugabe has turned it into a land of famine and desperation, with an annual inflation rate estimated to be 11 million percent. These man-made disasters cannot be reversed overnight and without substantial help.

The United States, Europe and others should be getting ready to provide technical support and aid. But first, they must make sure that this agreement is real and not just another trick by Mr. Mugabe to stay in power. New York Times