Mugabe ‘working behind scenes’ to outflank MDC

ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe is trying to cut a political deal with opposition MPs behind the scenes while his rival Morgan Tsvangirai is mustering support in the region to pressure him to accept a power-sharing arrangement.

Mugabe’s move to wrest power is being plotted under the guise of convening a new parliament and could further jeopardise negotiations for a unity government, which have already stalled.

President Thabo Mbeki is expected to travel to Harare sometime this week to try to break the negotiations deadlock.

Sources said Mugabe lobbied Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders at the weekend to allow him to convene parliament without violating the memorandum of understanding between Zanu (PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions which set out the parameters for negotiations.

The memorandum says parliament should not sit while the negotiations take place.

SADC leaders said in their communique that Zimbabwe should convene its parliament while the talks are proceeding.

The MDC led by Tsvangirai objected to this, saying it would undermine the talks.

However, yesterday the MDC said it was not opposed to the opening of parliament, but would reject any attempt by Mugabe to appoint a cabinet before an agreement was reached.

Sources said Tsvangirai’s faction fears that Mugabe is trying to make secret deals with enough MPs to give him the 106 majority needed to form a new government.

Zanu (PF) won 99 seats, the main MDC 100 and the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara, 10 seats.

A new parliament would be convened next week, clerk of parliament Austin Zvoma confirmed yesterday.

The new parliament would be convened amid criticism that Mugabe’s position is not only illegitimate but may also be unconstitutional.

Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said last night Mugabe’s presidency might be unlawful.

“The constitution says the terms of the president and of parliament should commence concurrently. Mugabe was sworn in on June 29 but parliament has not yet convened.”

It can be argued that Mugabe’s continued hold on office is against this provision in the constitution and may be unlawful.

A group of lawyers said the government’s current legal status was questionable.

“The constitution stipulates that the country should not be governed without parliament for more than 180 days.

“We are well past this.”

Mugabe dissolved parliament on January 24 ahead of the March 29 elections.

The lawyers said the memorandum of understanding which says parliament should not convene while talks are on “is merely a contract between political parties and it cannot override the constitution”.

Mugabe is believed to be targeting MPs to join his government, mainly from the faction led by Mutambara.

Tsvangirai’s faction said Mugabe had been trying to entice MPs through offers of ministerial posts and other promises.

If Mugabe succeeds, it will further worsen the economic situation with no promise of assistance to rebuild the decimated economy.

Yesterday, the government said inflation had surged to 11200000% for June.

But independent economist John Robertson said real inflation was 40000000%.