Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Progress in Zimbabwe?

This is a problem for Zimbabwe and for Britain. When I first heard that Tsvangirai had entered into talks with Mugabe (even if these were merely the sort of 'talks about talks' that Ian Smith conducted with Britain on HMS Tiger and Fearless) I thought, with Travelgal, that a stitch-up was in the process of happening and that Tsvangirai would follow Nkomo into a neutered accomodation with ZANU-PF that left Mugabe and, more importantly, Mnangagwa, Mujuru and Chiweshe with their hands on all the levers of power. Under the Zimbabwean constitution (altered by Mugabe in the 1980s) there is an executive Presidency that controls nearly all the functions of the state.

The position of deputy President is a meaningless one - the current incumbents are 85 year old Joseph Msika and the delightful Joice Mujuru, wife of Solomon Mujuru the former head of the army. Previou incumbents included Joshua Nkomo - after he had renounced all ambitions for ZAPU. There is no Prime Minister in the Zimbabwean system - the President fulfills both roles.
So, unless there is a significant constitutional change, there is only one meaningful office in the Zimbabwean government - President. All other jobs are irrelevant. On that basis, talks between MDC and ZANU-PF are a waste of time - unless Tsvangirai blinks.
If he does, and accepts the role of Vice President - presumably allowing the senescent Msika to shuffle into the twilight - then what there will be is an accomodation in form but not in substance. This would bring the scenario depicted by David Blair into being - how far should Britain recognise the new regime?

There is, however, an alternative - that the constitution is redrawn, allowing for an executive Prime Minister and a constitutional head of state. This is pretty much what the state of affairs was when Zimbabwe became independent - with the late lamented Canaan Banana as President. The problem with this version is that it envisages Mugabe relinquishing power in return for a titular headship of state. It might be the best way out of this mess from an outside perspective, but I doubt that is how the old tyrant would see it.
There seem to be three possibilities here: either there is no real progress with the talks and Zimbabwe continues on its current path; or Tsvangirai accepts a meaningless settlement and the opposition in Zimbabwe is neutralised; or there is real change in Zimbabwe and Mugabe negins the process of reconciliation as he is eased out. The third is obviously the most desirable - it's also surely the least likely.

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Blogger Letters From A Tory said...

Like you, I fear that these negotiations will be a complete sham.

10:07 am  

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