"Robert Mugabe must concede, stop violence or we quit" – MDC

Johannesburg — ZIMBABWE's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is expected to refuse to support a proposed constitutional amendment to facilitate implementation of a political agreement for an inclusive government when it meets at the weekend.

The move would leave the agreement, signed in September last year between two MDC factions and President Robert Mugabe’s ruling minority Zanu (PF), virtually dead. It would also allow Mugabe to form a new government unilaterally, and that could plunge fast-crumbling Zimbabwe into new depths of despair. 

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said his party was not going to support the amendment, which would be introduced to parliament next week, unless Mugabe conceded to the MDC’s demands.

The MDC is demanding an equitable distribution of ministries, including exclusive control of home affairs, sharing of the 10 provincial governorships, and an influential role in the National Security Council, which brings together the army, police and intelligence service. It is also demanding a role in the control of the security forces, which it accuses of kidnapping and torturing its members and activists.

The party says more than 40 of its activists were recently abducted and detained for weeks on end without trial on allegations of plotting to overthrow Mugabe. Chamisa said unless Mugabe made concessions and stopped his regime’s vicious crackdown on his party, the deal could be dead after the MDC’s crucial meeting.

The MDC’s national executive would meet on January 18 to discuss "a wide range of critical issues", Chamisa said. These included "the desperate humanitarian situation characterised by massive starvation" and "the abductions and arbitrary arrests of party and civic activists on trumped-up charges". The executive would also discuss the status of the negotiated political deal.

"On the issue of the political agreement, I can’t pre-empt the meeting and the party’s expected resolution on that, but we are not going to support the Constitutional Amendment Bill next week unless outstanding issues are addressed," Chamisa said. 

The bill would be introduced in parliament on next Tuesday after the parties agreed last month on its content. However, the MDC is planning to use the bill as a bargaining tool after Mugabe rejected their demands and threatened to go it alone. Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) cannot pass the bill without the MDC because Zanu (PF) is now a minority party in parliament. 

Pressure is mounting at home and in the region for Mugabe and main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister-designate in terms of the agreement, to climb down soon to form an inclusive government to try to revive the collapsed economy.