African business, politics and lifestyle
Are talks going Mugabe’s way?
Is it just me, or is Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe starting to look more confident again? At the start of power sharing talks a few weeks back he appeared distinctly grim when he and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had their historic handshake.
In the past few days he has been much more his old self, lambasting the West at a speech to commemorate the dead in the liberation war, giving a national honour to George Chiweshe, who organised elections that were condemned by much of the world, and generally upbeat during three days of talks that in the end delivered no result.
Exactly what’s going on behind the closed doors is hard to fathom.
A top official from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF told Reuters a deal had already been done between Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway opposition faction. “Deal sealed” read the headline from the state-owned Herald. Mutambara has come out to say that no such deal has been signed but tellingly noted that “should talks fail” any party was entitled to enter bilateral negotiations.
What a deal with Mutambara might give Mugabe is the parliamentary majority that ZANU-PF lost in the elections. What it is very unlikely to give him is hope of resolving the crisis that is destroying Zimbabwe or of persuading the rest of the world that change is underway.
Tsvangirai has been fairly quiet about the negotiations, but today came out to reaffirm his commitment as long as they respect the results of the March 29 round of elections – in which Mugabe and ZANU-PF were beaten.
Allan Little of the BBC compared the talks now to the 1980s, when Mugabe managed to neutralise rival Joshua Nkomo through a power-sharing deal.
Even if Tsvangirai has strong powers in a new government, he would be up against a wily political player in Mugabe who would lose no opportunity to gain advantage.
If he enters a government with little leverage, it could put big questions over his political career and the fate of his Movement for Democratic Change.
No combination appears guaranteed to alleviate Zimbabwe’s misery.
Is Mugabe going to win out in the end or Tsvangirai? What will it mean for Zimbabwe and for the continent? What do you think?