President Robert Mugabe and his main rival agreed to divide control of the police and army and strike a delicate balance in Zimbabwe’s Cabinet — but their power-sharing deal will be under enormous pressure from long-simmering differences and economic collapse.
Some members of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s party were already complaining Friday that the compromise didn’t do enough to sideline Mugabe.
Western nations poised to send in sorely needed aid and investment also are wary of the man accused of holding onto power through violence and fraud and ruining the economy of what had been southern Africa’s breadbasket.
The agreement, announced Thursday night, is scheduled to be signed and made public Monday. Among several questions still to be answered after two months of closed-door talks was when the coalition government would start working.
Also unclear is the attitude of Mugabe, who until hours before the accord was announced was declaring that he would never allow the opposition “to govern this country.” Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has yet to comment publicly on the deal. Tsvangirai announced it, but gave no details.
Mugabe, 84, and Tsvangirai, 56, are a generation apart and have been bitter rivals for a decade. If they are coming together now, it is in large part due to economic pressures.
Zimbabweans living with the world’s highest inflation rate struggle to find food, fuel and other necessities. For many, survival means seeking work across the borders in South Africa, Zambia and elsewhere. A recent poor harvest and a crackdown by Mugabe on aid agencies he accused of siding with the opposition has further increased desperation among the people.
Some trace crisis to seizure of white farms
Mugabe’s critics say he set off the slide by ordering the seizure — at times by force — of white-owned farms in 2000, disrupting the economy’s agricultural base. Mugabe says the land reform program was meant to help poor blacks, but much of the land went to his cronies.
Western nations have slapped Mugabe and his top aides with trade and banking sanctions. European Union spokesman John Clancy said it was too soon to say how the power-sharing deal would affect European sanctions. He would not say what the EU hoped to see when details of the deal were made public.
“I don’t think it’s for us to make any claims to precisely what should be in an agreement that’s been brokered by the Zimbabweans for the Zimbabwean people,” he said.
South Africa’s governing African National Congress said that in the wake of the deal, “the international community should now assist in reconstruction, reconciliation and nation-building in Zimbabwe.”
Amnesty International raised issues beyond the economy, saying the deal should not protect those responsible for human rights violations. Human rights and opposition officials say scores of Tsvangirai supporters were killed in the election campaign.
“Nothing should be agreed that would prevent the full emergence of the truth — and those responsible for the gross human rights violations that took place must be brought to justice,” said Simeon Mawanza, an Amnesty expert on Zimbabwe.
Attempts to reach officials from Mugabe’s party for comment were not immediately successful. However, five officials from Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change spoke to The Associated Press on Friday, on condition of anonymity because of a media blackout, with two providing details of the power-sharing deal.
Tsvangirai would be in charge of the country’s police, who have terrorized the opposition. The opposition officials said that makes removing draconian security and media laws a priority. Mugabe retains control of the defense forces.
Opposition in charge of Cabinet
The two opposition officials said Tsvangirai broke a deadlock in talks by proposing a new Council of State made up of Mugabe and two deputies of his party, and Tsvangirai and two of his deputies.
Tsvangirai will be in charge of the Cabinet and Mugabe will be in charge of the council, which will oversee the Cabinet’s activities.
Although the council’s role remains unclear, the body is important because it gives Mugabe a significant role in government.
Tsvangirai’s party will get the most seats in the Cabinet, 16, one more than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, the two officials said.
Tsvangirai’s party gets eight deputy ministries, Mugabe’s gets six, and one goes to a breakaway opposition faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
One official said the deal includes disbanding the southern African nation’s feared Central Intelligence Organization and replacing it with a smaller, more efficient National Security Authority.
Coalition government envisioned for two years
In neighboring South Africa, news of a deal was greeted with cautious optimism among some Zimbabwean refugees.
“Our country is beautiful. We want to develop it. We don’t want to run away again,” said Archie Tapera, 35. He called the power-sharing deal “one of the major achievements in the history of Zimbabwe.”
The deal envisions the coalition government lasting between two and 2½ years. It calls for a new constitution to be drawn up within 18 months and put to a referendum. New elections should be held 90 days after.
Tsvangirai based his claim to govern on winning the most votes in legislative and presidential elections in March. Tsvangirai did not win enough to avoid a runoff against Mugabe. An onslaught of state-sponsored violence against Tsvangirai’s supporters forced him to drop out of the presidential runoff.
Mugabe kept Tsvangirai’s name on the ballot and was declared the overwhelming winner of a June runoff, but Western nations widely denounced it as a sham.