Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Welshman Ncube impatient on Tsvangirai

What is on offer now is what is practicable: Ncube

by Basildon Peta Wednesday 20 August 2008

INTERVIEW: In our quest to seek a comprehensive understanding of why the Zimbabwe dialogue remains deadlocked, Basildon Peta also interviewed Professor Welshman Ncube, the chief negotiator in the Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC, who expressed contrary views to those held by Tsvangirai.

QUESTION: A deal to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis remains elusive despite President Thabo Mbeki and SADC’s spirited efforts. Why?

ANSWER: It is elusive because it has been impossible to get all the three parties at the negotiating table to agree on essentially what this deal is about. If you take into account the positions as they stand now, it boils down to one thing in our view; Do you have a power sharing deal or do you have a power transfer deal. In our view the deal which is on the table now, which the SADC leaders spent long hours discussing with us – is essentially a power sharing deal. Regrettably, some of the parties (the Tsvangirai formation) did not find that deal adequate because they desired a power transfer deal.

Q: The Tsvangirai formation argues that the deal on the table will leave Mugabe’s powers intact and relegate Tsvangirai to a ceremonial prime minister’s role. Many agree that it is simply unreasonable to expect Tsvangirai to play a junior role in a Mugabe government when he beat him in the March 29 elections.

A: The SADC communiqué says the deal on the table is what is an appropriate, fair and equitable power sharing deal. And this is what the SADC leaders were trying to persuade all of us to accept. Regrettably some of us (Tsvangirai formation) did not accept it. But in our view we can say that the SADC resolution is a fair reflection of the facts on the ground . . . The executive function is the function of running government, of appointing and supervising ministers, of determining the day to day operations of government, of defining policy. If you exclude the leader of one of the parties from that completely, you are rendering whomsoever you have excluded ceremonial. That is why SADC found that the demands which are on the table (from Tsvangirai) are for a power transfer. And they were unable to endorse those. Which is why they endorsed what is on the table which is power sharing. I cannot go beyond that and I cannot go on a finger pointing expedition. But I go by the resolution of SADC which is essentially that what we have is a power sharing deal. Anything else is a power transfer.

I can go further and say that if you go by the results of 29 March, no single party can argue for transfer of power to itself because no single party has the absolute majority to say we are entitled to have power transferred to us. Consider the figures, ZANU PF has 99, MDC-T 100 and we have 10. For anyone to say that power ought to be transferred to themselves alone, they ought to have 106 seats in the House of Assembly. No one has that. The fact that you might have the highest number, does not entitle you to a transfer. You still need one of the other parties to stand in your corner before you can command 106 seats. MDC-T does not have the absolute majority to claim transfer of power to itself without sharing it with one or other of the parties.

Q: But their argument is that they formed a coalition with you. And that your coalition commands a comfortable majority of 110 seats.

A: Nobody can negotiate for us. We negotiate for ourselves. We are an independent political party. In the elections we contested against ZANU PF, we contested against MDC-T. We got the seats we got and we own those seats, and our role is to ensure that we play a constructive role. Our role is to ensure that we speak for the people who voted for us against MDC-T and against ZANU PF. So we cannot and we will not annex our votes to anyone. So we cannot agree with positions, we don’t believe are right. We have not done that. We will not do that. What was done by the leadership of the MDC . . . was to back MDC-T in the run-off. But the run-off was terminated prematurely when ZANU PF unleashed violence on the people. As things stand now, each of the MDC parties are independent of each other. Anyone who wants to work with any other will have to approach the other and have a deal. As of now, there is no deal with anyone. The discussions which took place between the two elections were founded on the fact that Morgan had won the 29 March election and would win the 27 June elections. That did not happen and therefore what was agreed then does not constitute a coalition.

Q: Don’t you think that the MDC would have been much more effective if they were speaking with one voice in these negotiations? The view in the world is that MDC-Mutambara has thrown its lot with ZANU PF and is siding with Mugabe?

A: We have no desire to finger point. We have conducted the dialogue with absolute integrity . . . The position we have on the table now is the deal we negotiated in the pre-planning stages and agreed on it with MDC-T . . . When we strategised together and when we planned together at the commencement of these negotiations, we targeted this deal. And now we have got it. We have no desire to finger point.

Q: Is MDC–T therefore overplaying their hand?

A: Let them answer and determine that. Let me say that when we started this dialogue, we had three positions. The one we felt would favour the MDC most was the one that would make Mugabe a ceremonial president and effectively achieve a power transfer. But we considered the extent to which ZANU PF went by blood, by stealth to get the presidency the manner it did. It was unlikely to agree to a power transfer by rendering Mugabe a ceremonial president. We said that would be the best deal if we can achieve it. But it’s unlikely for obvious reasons. We then said the other extreme position would be for ZANU PF to say they have the presidency. They say we are inviting all of you to a government of national unity led by us (ZANU PF). Pretty much like the 1987 unity government whereby the ZANU PF government was the leading partner in any coalition arrangement. We rejected this collectively because it would not be power sharing. The Third model which was in between these two, we categorised it as the Kenyan model. Which is where an executive president has executive power and an executive prime minister has executive power and they have to share this power and they have to make decisions as between themselves. Some of them by consensus so that no one feels that they have been booted out of holding executive authority. We thus aimed for the Kenyan model and achieved that model. We even achieved more powers for the prime minister than what Raila Odinga has. Which is why SADC heads of state, 15 of them, have agreed with that and hence their strong opinion as reflected in the communiqué. We stand by that position. We have been vindicated by the SADC position. If you want transfer of power, it will not happen because you need a period of transition during which each party will feel they have a stake in what is going on.

Q: But there are not necessarily 15 heads of state because Botswana has disagreed with that position and its leader boycotted the summit.

A: I don’t want to disclose to you what was happening in the meetings we had but I can assure you that Botswana was represented in those meetings with the leaders. Botswana was there and was having positions that were consistent with the rest of SADC. That I can assure you.

Q: So you are basically happy with this deal which Tsvangirai has rejected?

A: It’s not a question of happiness. It’s a question of what is practicable and what is possible in the circumstances. In our view what is on the table now is what is practicable under the circumstances.

Q: Tsvangirai specifically wants to chair and run Cabinet but Mugabe doesn’t. Would you urge Tsvangirai to drop that position for the sake of progress?

A: Look at the documents which were initially agreed buy all the parties before others withdrew their agreement. In terms of those agreements, the president chairs Cabinet, the prime minister is the deputy chair. That was the compromise which was reached. All three parties were at one point in agreement with that position. SADC has endorsed that as a basis for moving forward.

Q: But Tsvangirai would never had an opportunity to chair Cabinet as Mugabe’s two deputies would have acted in the president’s seat whenever Mugabe is not available?

A: That’s a re-interpretation of issues. The agreement that is there says there is a chairman and a deputy chairman of cabinet. In the absence of the substantive chairman, the deputy acts. At the negotiating table the argument you now raise was never put up.

Q: But on March 29, 57 percent of Zimbabweans rejected Mugabe. Why should Tsvangirai therefore not claim executive power and the right to chair and run Cabinet?

A: You can’t remake the rules after the game. The game was that you had more than two players. One of the players had to get 50 + 1 percent for power to move to him. That did not happen . . .

Q: Is Tsvangirai therefore being unreasonable ?

A: Again it’s not for me to decide whether anyone is being unreasonable or not. If you are a party to the negotiations you must be satisfied with what is on the table for you to sign up. I cannot question anyone’s right to decide not to sign. Any of the parties has an absolute right to say no.

Q: But the implication of what you are saying is that Tsvangirai is being unreasonable and ZANU PF and your side are the right guys?

A: No I have not said anything about ZANU PF in everything I have said to you so far. I have spoken about our position. I dare not speak for ZANU PF. I cannot speak for ZANU PF . . . All I am saying is that our view is consistent with the SADC resolution. It is our view that the deal on the table forms the basis of moving forward. But we recognise the right of any party to be unhappy and to seek more. The only question is whether those with the power to give more are willing to give more.

Q: What is the implication of reconvening Parliament as urged by SADC considering that the MOU had called for a delay until negotiations are completed?

A: The implication is that SADC is saying, despite the MOU stipulation that Parliament cannot be re-convened before this process has come to an end, as far as they (SADC) are concerned, everything has been done to build an agreement. A time has therefore come to say you cannot continue to say there is a vacuum in government. It is their view that the government of the day should proceed to convene Parliament. They have therefore effectively amended the MOU by saying that after all that has been done thus far, a vacuum in the Zimbabwe government cannot be left to continue. They (SADC) are therefore saying they cannot stop ZANU PF from convening Parliament if it’s inclined to do so.

Q: Where do we go from here?

A: Frankly I don’t know. It’s up to the facilitator and to SADC. They have not communicated to us as to what they intend to do in this respect. We will await their guidance.

Q: Why do you have to wait for them. As Zimbabweams why not initiate your contacts?

A: Of course that is possible if all the parties are willing. But if you want to talk under the facilitator, you have to wait to hear from him.

Q: What about the reported threat by your MPs to walk out if you remain aligned to Mugabe in these talks?

A: We have no positions that are aligned to Mugabe. We have our positions which are in line with what our national council has decided on the issues. I do not believe there is any of our MPs who hold the positions that are different from those of the national council If there is, I will be surprised.

Q: What about the facilitation process itself.

A: A facilitator is a facilitator. He can help the parties but he cannot decide for them.

Q: If deadlock remains, and if all fails what’s next?

A: If all fails then we are back to the to the trenches. – ZimOnline

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