HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions with President Emmerson Mnangagwa over the formation of an inclusive Cabinet that could help unite the nation’s deeply-divided citizens.
By Fungi Kwaramba and Blessing Mashaya
According to MDC insiders, Tsvangirai has been in constant touch with emissaries from Mnangagwa, who is keen on having the former prime minister’s proxies in his Cabinet in a bid to refresh the poisoned political atmosphere fuelling the current economic malaise.
This could be contributing to the inordinate delays in the announcement of a new Cabinet — the first by Mnangagwa since he took the oath of office on Friday last week.
Currently, Mnangagwa is operating with an interim Cabinet comprising two ministers — Patrick Chinamasa (Finance) and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs) — amid indications that a new team could be in place by Monday once the discussions have been finalised.
MDC legislator for Zengeza Simon Chidhakwa told the Daily News this week that Tsvangirai disclosed to his inner circle prospects of an inclusive arrangement but was left in a dilemma after he failed to get the buy-in from lieutenants.
“There were mixed feelings over the matter because some believe that it is not wise for us to involve ourselves because we risk losing value before elections. Others, however, think we can come in as long as we are guaranteed that far-reaching reforms around issues to do with elections and the people’s liberties, including civil and political are guaranteed,” said Chidhakwa — a close associate of Tsvangirai.
“In view of the mixed feelings expressed, the president said it was imperative that we prepare for elections hence he emphasised the need to escalate our voter registration drive.”
Tsvangirai was expected to escalate his consultations to the party’s national executive before the end of the week to get a cue on whether the MDC should be part of the inclusive arrangement, which does not seem to include opposition parties that have no representation in Parliament.
MDC insiders said Tsvangirai is under pressure from many quarters to work with Mnangagwa, including from his wife Elizabeth and the wife of the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantino Chiwenga.
Marry Chiwenga and Elizabeth, who were not picking up their phones yesterday, are close friends and together played a major role when Tsvangirai was assisted by government to foot his medical bills last year.
Tsvangirai is now increasingly frail, having been diagnosed with cancer of the colon last year.
Due to his age and ill-health, the MDC leader appears to be amenable to an inclusive arrangement to enable him to fend for his family and pay for his medical costs.
Intelligence reports gleaned by Reuters revealed recently that Mnangagwa, a lawyer by profession, was as early as last year willing to work with the opposition and on that score he has support of the military, which propelled him to power.
At his inauguration last week, the president pledged to unite the country, which has been polarised for decades along political lines.
His unifying speech led many to speculate that time had come for the country’s major political parties, chiefly Zanu PF and the MDC, to work together to heal the wounds inflicted on the nation by Robert Mugabe’s ruinous rule that stretched over 37 years.
Although critics are sceptical about Mnangagwa’s sincerity towards the opposition amid suspicions that he could be a clone of his predecessor, having served Mugabe for nearly six decades, he has so far proved naysayers wrong.
Tsvangirai, who attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration last Friday, told Studio 7 on Monday night that he was willing to engage Zanu PF on the subject but expressed concern over the little time remaining before elections, which must be held before the end of August 2018.
“It was good for us to form a unity government but taking into consideration the time which is left before elections, it doesn’t make sense. He (Mnangagwa) must complete (the) few months which are left. It was good for us to work together and take our country forward but for now, it can be problematic because it will create division by picking certain people to be included in his government,” Tsvangirai was quoted saying.
The Daily News can report that in as much as Tsvangirai is willing to engage Mnangagwa on the issue, he has his work cut out as his party is divided right through the middle chiefly because of personal considerations.
Two schools of thought have emerged in the MDC.
On the one hand, there is a section which feels that Mnangagwa needs the MDC’s support to take the country forward following more than three decades of ruinous economic policies by Mugabe.
But this is being resisted by another group which feels that if Mnangagwa is to score on the economic front, it would weaken the MDC’s chances of forming the next government after the 2018 elections.
This group also feels strongly that going into bed with Mnangagwa’s administration would legitimise Zanu PF’s controversial electoral victories of the past and play into the hands of critics who have always accused the party of political flip-flopping.
The MDC has always protested that Zanu PF has been rigging previous elections and therefore was ruling illegitimately.
Those belonging to this school of thought were even against the idea of Tsvangirai attending Mnangagwa’s inauguration at the 60 000-seater National Sports Stadium as they feared that the MDC would be swallowed by Zanu PF without any gains of its own.
The MDC leader is currently at loggerheads with a number of senior party members who are against the idea of working with Mnangagwa.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu was yesterday emphatic against the establishment of a unity government, echoing misgivings shared by many in the country’s biggest opposition who feel that they will not be accommodated on “the gravy train”.
“Right now, we are more concerned with mobilising Zimbabweans to come out and register to vote during the ongoing biometric voter registration exercise. Our eyes are firmly on the elections that will be held next year. We are also busy pushing for the putting into place of electoral reforms that will guarantee an even playing field in order to produce a free and fair election,” said Gutu.
“Let me put it more bluntly: There are no talks for the formation of a GNU 2 or whatever you would like to call it. Elections will be held in the next few months and we are pretty confident of winning these elections and proceeding to form the next government if the elections are free and fair,” he added.
Ahead of Mnangagwa’s inauguration, Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Chinamasa told the Daily News that the ruling party was not averse to a unity government.
“We can only achieve that when we work with everyone regardless of political affiliation because what government will do will affect everyone so there is need for consensus with stakeholders, including the opposition on fundamental issues of policy so that we can engage the outside world with one voice,” said Chinamasa who is the interim Finance minister.
Chinamasa said people had “wrongly” interpreted the statement he made two weeks ago at the end of the Zanu PF central committee meeting, which resolved to recall Mugabe from government.
“Those who portrayed a picture of us as Zanu PF saying we can do it all alone misquoted me because what I said then was that the processes underway in Zanu PF are an internal issue and I do not envisage how the opposition can help us in that regard not that we don’t need them in national development,” Chinamasa clarified. – Daily News