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Zimbabwe Crisis Talks End in Mixed Bag

Published on Saturday 3rd April 2010 Zimbabwe Crisis Talks End in Mixed Bag

NEGOTIATORS from the three political parties in the inclusive government yesterday finished the current round of talks with a mixed bag of outstanding contentious issues and agreement on a swathe of items on the agenda.

The situation left the negotiators, their political principals and facilitators, as well as regional leaders with the difficult task of charting a way forward in view of the remaining issues that still pose a threat to the unstable coalition government. Informed sources said the negotiators closed the talks and compiled a report outlining areas of bitter disagreement and extensive accords on a number of issues which had been in negotiation since November 23 last year.

"We finished the meetings today (yesterday) and we are going to brief the facilitators at 7pm this (last) evening," one of the negotiators said. "Tomorrow (today) we will finalise and sign the report which will go to the principals and the facilitator. We have an agreement on most issues but there is still deadlock on several issues."

The issues which remained unresolved include the installation of provincial governors, appointment of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, and the swearing-in of deputy Agriculture minister Roy Bennett. There was also the matter of the chairing of cabinet and ministerial mandates.

Despite the impasse on a few issues, negotiators agreed on a number of matters -- including extensive electoral law reforms. There would be a raft of amendments to the Electoral Act following an agreement

in the latest round of talks. Negotiators say this was the single most important issue and achievement in their dialogue. There was however no consensus on when fresh elections should be held.

Sources said negotiators could not agree on implementation of the issue of provincial governors although they had a common view that the issue had already been agreed upon. Negotiators have agreed to allocate provincial governors to the three parties in a formula of five, four and one, with the party getting four governors between Zanu PF and MDC-T also having an extra minister of state. MDC-M would get one position of governor.

While the formula had been agreed upon, the only remaining issue about governors was who would get five or four between Zanu PF and MDC-T. Letters were written to the principals on this issue but no solution was found.

Following extensive debate on the Tomana and Gono issues, the gap between Zanu PF and the MDC-T on legal interpretations of the issues remained. This was despite proposals that were in the pipeline during Zuma's visit two weeks ago to break the stalemate. Zuma, flanked by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara, announced a "package of measures" which he said would be implemented concurrently. Zanu PF changed its position soon after Zuma's announcement.

Sources said Zuma's position was informed by developments around the Tomana, Gono and Bennett issues. There were proposals for Tomana to be made a high court judge, a process was underway to settle the Gono issue and Bennett had agreed to be deployed to another ministry.

Bennett yesterday said he was prepared to be assigned to another ministry. "If they want to remove me from deputy Agriculture minister position and put me somewhere else, I will go. But it is not Zanu PF's decision to remove me. I can only be removed from that position by Tsvangirai and the (MDC) party."

Zanu PF negotiators insisted that there would be no more concessions so long as the sanctions and pirate radio stations remained in line with the party's December congress resolution reaffirmed by the politburo and central committee after Zuma's visit.

However, negotiators were also on the same page on revising cabinet and council of ministers rules, besides on various issues on electoral reforms.

There has also been general agreement on sanctions, media issues, land matters including the need for an audit and tenure systems, electoral vacancies, rule of law and state organs, vote and budget for the Prime Minister's Office, national security issues, external interference, National Economic Council, constitutional commissions, respect for national institutions and events, freedom of assembly and association, allocation of ambassadors, role and funding of NGOs, electoral reforms and the implementation matrix.

Before Zuma's visit, MDC-M negotiator Welshman Ncube said in public that the three parties were on the verge of resolving outstanding issues.

"We are on the verge of resolving virtually all of them except the difficult ones, mainly the two appointments," Ncube said, referring to the Tomana and Gono issues.

"One appointment has been resolved but one of those two appointments remains contentious. We have not been able to find each other yet and we are still talking."

The negotiators made progress on the 27 outstanding issues on the agenda after five days of talks but failed on the issues of governors, Tomana, Gono and Bennett. They met last week on Thursday and Friday, and again this week on Monday, Tuesday and yesterday.

Mugabe swore in members of the electoral and human rights commissions yesterday. Only the Anti-Corruption commission is still outstanding.

Tsvangirai told journalists after the swearing-in ceremony that: "I think what is important is that we are able to fulfill some of the agreements."

This is the first time Zimbabwe will have a human rights commission which will be headed by a former dean of the University of Zimbabwe law school, Reg Austin.

The other members of the commission, who were sworn-in, were Kwanele Jirira, Carol Khombe, Joseph Kurebwa, Jacob Mudenda, Elasto Mugwadi, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, Nomathemba Neseni and Ellen Sithole.

The electoral commission, chaired by High Court judge Simpson Mutambanengwe and deputised by Joyce Kazembe, is comprised of Daniel Chigaru, Geoff Feltoe, Theophilus Gambe, Petty Makoni, Sibongile Ndhlovu, Bessie Nhandara and Mukuni Nyathi.

While the media commission has been set up, it is still to flight adverts calling upon interested parties to make applications for media licences and deliberate on applications that have already been submitted.

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