Muriithi Mutiga: Opposition must make the most of its chance

Share
Related Topics

Zimbabwe'S President, Robert Mugabe, has never passed up an opportunity to demonstrate his distaste for the negotiations aimed at ending the crisis in his battered country.

His attempt to humiliate his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, at Harare airport sums up his dilemma: While Mr Mugabe holds the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change in contempt and has little stomach for ceding any executive power to the MDC, he has few other good options.

The parlous state of the economy – with runaway inflation compounded by the fact there is little produce for sale – means that domestic support for a substantive deal is overwhelming.

Any arrangement will have to vest significant power in any post offered to Mr Tsvangirai, according to the analyst Knox Chitiyo, the head of the Africa programme at the Royal United Services Institute.

In this situation, the pressure on the mediator, Thabo Mbeki, could prove decisive in the next few days.

Mr Mbeki, like Mr Mugabe, has never had much time for Mr Tsvangirai. The South African commentator William Gumede says they view his lack of a background in the liberation struggle and relatively modest educational credentials as disqualifying him from their own rarefied club.

But this logic has been undermined by the fact that most leading figures in the African National Congress have turned against Mr Mugabe as his regime has become more oppressive.

The shifting landscape has implications for both Mr Mugabe and Mr Mbeki.

Zanu-PF's favoured outcome would see Mr Tsvangirai take up a non-executive prime minister's position. This would almost certainly be rejected in the West, and it is unlikely to be welcomed regionally.

Zanu-PF could yet push ahead with a deal that accommodates Arthur Mutambara's splinter MDC faction.

Under this plan, Mr Mugabe would chip away at the MDC's wafer-thin majority in parliament by offering opposition MPs cabinet positions and then presenting it to the rest of Africa as a fait accompli triggered by the MDC's obstinacy.

All this means Mr Tsvangirai has to make the most of his bargaining position as the head of the one party that could help end the economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

The MDC is pushing for a French-style system where the party leader takes up the position of an executive prime minister for a period before elections.

For Mr Tsvangirai – never the most decisive of leaders – exploiting the bargaining chips he has at hand will prove to be his most formidable challenge.

Muriithi Mutiga is a senior writer for Nation Media Group

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine