Posted by: Martin Fox | January 30, 2009

Opposition Party to Join Zimbabwe’s Government

Hmm… Everyone will draw their own conclusions from this article. Given the horrible things going on in Zimbabwe on multiple fronts (ruined economy, cholera epidemic, failed democracy, human rights violations), the new shared power agreement makes sense in many ways mentioned below.

While I wish the coalition government the best of luck, I pray for the health of Zimbabwe’s 12 million citizens, 7 million of whom are on emergency food aid. Zimbabwe is a country in total collapse.

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership.

Opposition Party to Join Zimbabwe’s Government

By CELIA W. DUGGER
JOHANNESBURG — After months of resisting intense pressure from leaders across southern Africa, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, announced Friday that he would do as they have insisted and join a coalition government as prime minister with his nemesis, President Robert Mugabe.

The opposition party’s decision Friday to form a government with the ruling party, ZANU-PF, will usher in a new phase in its decade-long struggle against Mr. Mugabe, 84, who has firmly held onto power since 1980, most recently by claiming victory in a bloody, discredited presidential runoff election against Mr. Tsvangirai in June.

Mr. Tsvangirai now faces the daunting job of sharing control of the nation’s police, reviving Zimbabwe’s moribund economy and rescuing an increasingly famished, sick and impoverished population with a partner, Mr. Mugabe, whose security forces have viciously beaten him and thousands of his supporters over the past two years. Even as the power-sharing talks were taking place, Mr. Mugabe’s government abducted and allegedly tortured dozens more opposition supporters in just the last few months.

Mr. Tsvangirai first agreed to form a joint government in September, but then refused after Mr. Mugabe claimed all the ministries that control the repressive state security forces, including the police. But at the insistence of the Southern African Development Community, the 15-nation regional bloc overseeing the negotiations, the current deal shares oversight of the police with Mr. Mugabe — a compromise Mr. Tsvangirai had initially rejected.

Acknowledging the ambivalence of many his supporters — and perhaps his own, as well — Mr. Tsvangirai said in a statement that the fight for democracy “is neither easy nor straightforward and often we have had to change the fronts on which we wage the struggle.”

Political analysts said he would have risked the scorn of South Africa, the dominant regional powerhouse, and other neighboring nations had he pulled out of the deal they had been pressing him to accept with mounting impatience. But their decision to push for a power-sharing arrangement, even though their own monitors concluded the presidential runoff was neither free nor fair, has stirred deep unease beyond Zimbabwe’s borders.

Botswana’s president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, said in a rare interview that allowing leaders to hang onto power through negotiated deals after fraud-ridden elections, as in Kenya last year and now in Zimbabwe, sets a terrible precedent.

“These power-sharing agreements are not the way to go on the continent,” said Mr. Khama, whose government is the only one in the region now openly criticizing Mr. Mugabe’s party for using intimidation, violence and murder against its opponents. “You can’t have a situation where a ruling party, when it senses it may lose an election, can then manipulate the outcome so they can stay on in power.”

The hunger for change in Zimbabwe was manifest Friday in the throng of thousands that gathered outside Harvest House, the headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, as word spread that the party was deciding whether to join or stay out of a government.

When Mr. Tsvangirai came out and stood on the bed of a pick-up truck, with a bull horn in hand, the crowd fell silent waiting for word of his decision. A wave of cheers rolled over him when he said he would be prime minister, his spokesman Joseph Mungwari said.

Mr. Mungwari said the party was confident that it would soon get legislation adopted to place all the state security services, not just the police, under the supervision of all parties, including a small breakaway faction of the opposition.

He also predicted that by Feb. 11, when Mr. Tsvangirai is scheduled to be sworn in as prime minister, authorities will release the dozens of abducted opposition and human rights activists now languishing in filthy, overcrowded, cholera-ridden prisons.

But asked whether Mr. Tsvangirai would refuse to join the government even if the imprisoned are not freed and the legislation is not passed, he declined to comment.

Diplomats and opposition officials who have spoken recently with Mr. Tsvangirai said he felt a sense of urgency about going into the government because of the extreme human suffering in Zimbabwe.

President Khama of Botswana described Zimbabwe as a country that has “literally become like one big refugee camp, full of people who are living lives of misery.”

A cholera epidemic is spreading from cities to rural areas where the most basic health services are lacking. More than 60,000 people have been gotten the disease since August and more than 3,100 have died.

Beyond that, the country’s economic crisis has worsened so suddenly and sharply that the number of people needing food aid in the next two months has risen to 7 million from 5 million of the country’s 12 million people, the United Nations World Food Program reported Thursday. In order to reach more of the needy, the agency is halving monthly rations — which are already insufficient — to 11 pounds of corn per person, hoping the hungry can scavenge enough in wild fruits and other foods to survive until the next harvest.

“People will certainly be more malnourished and vulnerable to disease than if they were getting a full ration,” said a spokesman, Richard Lee.

The United States and Europe have for years prevented famines in Zimbabwe with infusions of food aid, but their willingness to lift sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and senior members of his government and to donate substantial sums for the reconstruction of the country will not come automatically with the formation of a coalition government. British and American diplomats said they would be awaiting evidence that democracy, human rights and the rule of law were again respected in Zimbabwe — and they doubted Mr. Mugabe would agree to such changes, which would almost inevitably threaten his hold on power.

Some analysts, diplomats and civic leaders worry that Mr. Tsvangirai has thrown Mr. Mugabe a political lifeline just as the governing party’s ability to sustain its patronage machine was crumbling and international outrage against his rule was mounting.

Some doubt the coalition between two such unlikely partners can last, especially considering Mr. Mugabe’s insistence that “Zimbabwe is mine,” as he recently declared.

“It’s a question of when not if this thing will collapse,” Sydney Masamvu, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, a non-profit group. “The government will be hobbled by a fight for turf.”

Others, like Brian Raftopoulos, research director for Solidarity Peace Trust, a non-governmental organization, contend that joining the government was the opposition’s best option, in part because its long term survival as a party depends on decent relations with regional powers such as South Africa.

But none see any easy resolution of Zimbabwe’s political agony.

“There’s going to be no quick fix for the removal of Mugabe,” Mr. Raftopoulos said. “That, unfortunately, is the reality.”

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