ZIMBABWE: MDC Bites the Bullet

  • by Ephraim Nsingo (harare)
  • Inter Press Service

Following an extraordinary meeting of its leaders in Pretoria, South Africa on Jan. 26-27, the Southern African Development Community announced Zimbabwe's political rivals would urgently form a power-sharing government as initially agreed in Sep. 2008.

Tsvangirai had indicated the resolution did not fully address the issues his party had presented to SADC leaders before the meeting. This led to concern that the MDC would pull out of the deal, a move many feared would condemn the crisis-torn country deep into the abyss.

'Basically, two positions emerged after the SADC summit,' a senior MDC official told IPS on condition of anonymity. 'There were those who felt we should not go in since the issues we had tabled at the SADC meeting were not addressed. Others however felt that opting out could also have an impact on our significance on the political scene, especially in light of the current crisis the country is going through.'

Despite the MDC's earlier hardline stance, indications that the party would join the unity government emerged a few hours before Tsvangirai's announcement, when the party participated in the setting up of a Joint Monitoring Committee, as agreed on Sept. 15 last year.

Addressing journalists after the party's national council meeting, Tsvangirai said his party had unequivocally decided to join the unity government. 'We are unequivocal, we will go into this government,' he said.

'SADC has decided and we are bound by that decision. February 11 is the swearing in of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister. What the national council has endorsed is what SADC has endorsed.'

But Tsvangirai quickly warned that his party still had some issues with ZANU PF. 'This agreement is a significant milestone on our journey to democracy but it does not signify that we have arrived at our destination – we are committed to establishing a democratic Zimbabwe regardless of how long that struggle takes us.'

There had been growing pessimism in Zimbabwe about the deal ever being implemented. After agreeing to work together in Sep. 2008, Tsvangirai and Mugabe fell out over control of key ministries.

Analysts were however quick to point out that there would not be a smooth transition, after the opposition said it would 'continue the struggle' that saw the deal being stalled for over four months.

'This is just but the beginning,' said political analyst Lovemore Madhuku. 'Remember the MDC still has some outstanding issues they said they wanted addressed by SADC. Those issues are still outstanding. What this means is that the next few weeks after the swearing in would be spent more on the resolution of those issues. It's unlikely ZANU PF will give in so easily.'

Madhuku however said it was good the MDC had clearly stated its position.

Outside the MDC’s Harvest House offices in Harare, the party supporters broke into song and dance when their leader emerged.

'This is just another stage of an ongoing process,' said Professor Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst. 'There are a number of issues that remain unresolved and differences are likely to emerge over those issues. The challenge now is to balance that with resolving the situation on the ground, which needs urgent attention. The challenge for Tsvangirai is to have effective alternatives on the table.'

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service