Mugabe stalls on naming cabinet as tensions in Zanu PF grows

HARARE – Doubts have begun to emerge about Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement after President Robert Mugabe again postponed talks over dividing cabinet jobs between his allies and the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr Mugabe chose to attend the central committee of his Zanu-PF party instead of meeting Morgan Tsvangirai, the new prime minister. Zimbabwe has been without a cabinet since the presidential election’s second round in June – and the president seems in no hurry to choose one.

At the same time, the authorities said the constitutional changes needed to enact the deal would not be passed for several weeks.

"These amendments would be tabled before parliament when it opens next month," said Patrick Chinamasa, formerly Mr Mugbe’s justice minister, in The Herald, a state newspaper. Parliament has been adjourned to Oct 14 and he said the date would not be brought forward.

The moves, or lack of them, since the agreement was signed on Monday have seen the euphoria generated by the ceremony begin to dissipate. Mr Mugabe is a past master at manipulation – and it appears he may be returning to form. A senior Western diplomat described the delays over the cabinet negotiations as "powerplays by Mugabe".

"Mugabe is behaving as if he is still the government – ‘sorry, the PM can go whistle while the ruling party’s Politburo sits and meets’."

He pointed out that in Kenya, where a similar power-sharing agreement was signed earlier this year, talks on forming the new cabinet took almost two months. Mr Mugabe’s party is insisting on holding all the security ministries. Crucially, Zanu-PF may also be demanding control of the home affairs ministry, which includes the police. Mr Tsvangirai had believed this vital post would be filled by the MDC – and any backsliding could be a "dealbreaker".

"Zanu-PF is playing hardball," said the diplomat, adding that it also wanted the finance ministry. He added: "No-one is going to lend a bean to a government where the finance ministry is headed by a Zanu-PF goon."

Nelson Chamisa, the MDC’s spokesman, acknowledged that there was "anxiety in the country".

"People would want to see movement in terms of the realization of the actual deal," he said. "As the MDC, we want to urgently respond to the desperate and dire situation Zimbabweans find themselves in."

The diplomat described the agreement as "imperfect to put it mildly" and said that sections were filled with "the usual Zanu-PF self-justification".

On the question of how power was divided, he added: "It’s still clear as mud who does what." With executive authority shared between the president, the prime minister and the cabinet – which Mr Mugabe chairs – the octogenarian may have two of the three power bases.

"To put it mildly, there’s uncertainty. Putting it unkindly, there’s confusion and contradiction. The agreement makes Morgan Tsvangirai prime minister and the MDC is in government, which in a way is extraordinary, but having done that it doesn’t do anything else."

The diplomat added: "In my judgement, the guarantees are paper-thin. The document itself is full of rubbish in parts, the structures are not clearly defined and we haven’t even got to first base in terms of filling those slots. We’re not dealing with a political science lesson here, we are dealing with Robert Mugabe and his thugs. This will be up to Tsvangirai and the MDC to fight their way through. They have been fighting on the outside, now they are fighting on the inside."