Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai rejoins troubled unity government – with conditions

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Tsvangirai , who had withdrawn from the powersharing government after Mugabe arrested a party leader, says he is giving the president 30 days to address oustanding issues. A regional coalition meeting in Mozambique pressed the leaders to resolve their differences..

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Zimbabwe's on-again, off-again coalition government is on again. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced Thursday that he had suspended his "disengagement" from the powersharing government with President Robert Mugabe, adding that Mr. Mugabe has 30 days to meet the outstanding issues of their global political agreement.

A meeting of regional leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), convened in Mozambique to discuss the country's political crisis, called on the coalition government to settle their outstanding issues this week, a sort of hard shove to get the stalled powersharing government moving again.

Mr. Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, had stopped meeting with their Mugabe cabinet colleagues for two weeks after Mugabe's police detained an MDC senior leader on charges of terrorism.

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Yet Zimbabwe's coalition government is reunited in name only, analysts say, and it is "unrealistic" to expect the rival parties to resolve their outstanding issues within the 30-day deadline. Like a political diamond, Mugabe – whose party controls the police, the Army, the intelligence service, the courts, the reserve bank, and most other key ministries – only hardens under pressure, and his long track record of obfuscation and his failure to resolve the outstanding issues suggests that the current crisis is only likely to deepen even further.

"Mugabe is impervious to external pressure," says Aubrey Matshiqi, a longtime political analyst for the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg. "ZANU PF [Mugabe's party] enjoys the advantages of a repressive Zimbabwe government, while the MDC [Tsvangirai's party] suffers from a smaller share of power."

Zimbabwe's neighbors can do little

In the absence of firm intervention – a hard-edged investigative body to determine whether free and fair elections are possible – Zimbabwe's neighbors can do little to put pressure on Mugabe, leaving the 85-year-old liberation leader free to continue to dither and govern at will, Mr. Matshiqi says.

But for now, at least, Zimbabwe's political crisis appears to be postponed.

"We have suspended our disengagement from the GPA [global political agreement] with immediate effect, and we will give President Robert Mugabe 30 days to implement the agreement on the pertinent issues we are concerned about," Tsvangirai told reporters after the regional summit.

The MDC "disengaged" from the inclusive government citing Mugabe's reluctance to address outstanding issues of the GPA, signed in September last year.

Political analysts say the time frame given by the former opposition party leader was "too short," and could further deepen the crisis when ZANU PF fails to meet the strict deadline.

They note that Mugabe faces severe pressure from ZANU PF hardliners determined to maintain their hold on political power and Zimbabwe's economic resources.

"I don't see much being achieved during the given time frame given that the two parties are poles apart," says University of Zimbabwe political scientist Simon Badza. Mr. Badza says that Zanu PF would agree to resolve only "a few" of the issues that do not obstruct the party's strategic political interests. This, he says, would be done to hoodwink the guarantors of the political agreement – SADC and the Africa Union – into believing that there was movement toward resolution of the crisis.

"No key issues would be resolved. Only issues of little significance … issues that do not tamper with Zanu PF's strategic interests would be solved," says Badza. "ZaANU PF hardliners would not agree to anything that would compromise their socioeconomic and political interests."

Tsvangirai's spokesman, James Maridadi, said the MDC was optimistic that Mugabe would have addressed the outstanding issues within the 30 days.

"We are very hopeful," said Mr. Maridadi, adding that South African President Jacob Zuma would soon visit Zimbabwe to assess progress toward full compliance with the GPA. "In the event that Mugabe does not comply with GPA and Zuma's mediation fails, it would mean the collapse of the government."

Among the outstanding issues are the appointment of provincial governors and Mugabe's unilateral reappointment of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana. Mugabe has replied that the appointments were done constitutionally.

The MDC has also claimed that its MPs and activists have been targeted for government persecution.

Tsvangirai disengaged with ZANU PF in the unity government following the renewed detention of the party's treasurer Roy Bennett on terrorism charges, which the MDC said are trumped up.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara joined for talks in Maputo, Mozambique, together with the leaders of Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia.

Also attending were South African President Zuma, Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, and current SADC chairman Joseph Kabila, as well as former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who facilitated the agreement that brought about the inclusive government.

• Our reporter in Harare could not be named due to security concerns.

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