News Analysis: Zimbabweans take stock of inclusive government's achievements

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HARARE, Jan 04, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- By Tichaona Chifamba

Zimbabwe's inclusive government turns a year old in the next five weeks and its citizens will soon be taking stock of its achievements during the first year of a rocky marriage characterized by temporary separations and mudslinging.

While the principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) have attempted to paint a rosy picture about their romance in the inclusive government, the quarrelling in their bedroom points to a completely different scenario. It points to a stormy relationship that is apparently being kept together by concerned friends and relatives in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

And if the parties were to adhere to the timeframe of their agreement, their temporary marriage would now have only a year to go before lapsing and giving way to fresh elections.

After coming up with the GPA in September 2008, President Robert Mugabe (Zanu-PF), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T)) and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara (MDC) went on to form the inclusive government in February 2009. The GPA was a result of the absence of a clear winner in parliamentary elections held earlier in 2008.

Since then, Zimbabweans have survived on hope and promises of a better livelihood as the economy started picking up after a decade of free falling - albeit at a very slow pace - and the political climate improved with fewer cases of violence being reported across the country.

International donors who had long abandoned the country came up with humanitarian support which they channeled through Nongovernmental organizations, arguing that they were not yet ready to deal with an inclusive government whose future they were not certain of.

However, while the inclusive government scored a relative degree of successes during its first year, lethargy soon crept in and the actors lost the zeal they had on its formation, resulting in non-meeting of targets and growing self-interest among the politicians.

Although many Zimbabweans had initially expressed skepticism over the future of the inclusive government, they generally welcomed the arrangement as the only way out of the country's political and economic mess.

And indeed they were not to be disappointed, as retail shops which had closed down reopened with hitherto scarce basic commodities in full supply and some factories resumed operations.

The parties gave priority to the restoration of economic stability and growth in Zimbabwe and committed themselves to working together on a full and comprehensive economic program to resuscitate the economy, addressing issues of production, food security, poverty and unemployment and the challenges of high inflation, interest rates and the exchange rate.

They recognized that one way to fight inflation and boost employment levels was to increase industry's capacity utilization and set themselves a target of 60 percent of capacity utilization by the end of 2009, which they failed to achieve mainly because of the shortage of capital.

The parties also committed themselves to working together in re-engaging the international community with a view to bringing to an end the country's international isolation, but so far, not much ground has been covered in that respect.

Zanu-PF has argued that the MDC formations, particularly Tsvangirai's, should be responsible for engaging the international community on the issue of sanctions, saying that they had called for the imposition of sanctions on the then Zanu-PF government.

Tsvangirai visited the United States and several European countries last June, seeking financial aid, but came back with small amounts channeled through Non-governmental organizations.

A European Union troika that made a follow-up visit to Zimbabwe after engagement with Tsvangirai in Brussels did not address the issue of sanctions and even said neither Tsvangirai nor his party had the capacity to have them removed.

Tsvangirai in October 2009 announced his party's partial withdrawal from the government, citing frustration over alleged insincerity from Mugabe and his party.

The withdrawal was suspended the following month after the SADC troika on politics, defense and security cooperation met in Mozambique and gave the parties a 30-day deadline to resolve their differences.

The deadline has since elapsed, and the negotiators to the GPA appear to have agreed that there should be no timeline to their discussions.Tsvangirai's party has been the loudest in complaining about Zanu-PF's non-adherence to the GPA, accusing Mugabe of disregarding its concerns, especially on matters relating to the appointments of provincial governors, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana.

The two MDC formations want their quotas of governorships in the provinces they excelled in the March 2008 parliamentary elections. Mugabe has since defended his appointment of Gono and Tomana, saying he did it in terms of the law and that when he appointed them, the inclusive government had not yet been constituted and he, therefore, could not have consulted the other parties to the GPA.

Zanu-PF insists that it has adhered to the terms of the GPA and accuses the MDC formations of not adhering to the letter and spirit of the agreement, especially with regards sanctions.

The party argues that the MDC formations are not doing enough to have the sanctions lifted, and that all the other issues the other parties regard as outstanding should not be treated as such.

When the inclusive government came into being, Mugabe announced that this was a temporary arrangement and a new constitution should be ready within 18 months, followed by new elections within two years from the formation of the inclusive government.

The constitution making process has kicked off to a slow start, while some of those in power now suggest that the transitional government should be given a longer life.

Mutambara, who lost dismally in the 2008 parliamentary elections, but he emerged the biggest winner from the follow-up negotiations that led to the formation of an inclusive government in Zimbabwe, appears to be more inclined towards the idea than the other principals.

Mutambara also appears to be comfortable with a longer life for the inclusive government, which to all intents and purposes should be a transitional arrangement.

He has been quoted as saying the transitional arrangement could last longer than expected - a statement observers have said should only be uttered by Mugabe or Tsvangirai as the major players in the inclusive government.

Former independent Member of Parliament Jonathan Moyo once described Mutambara as a person who was not really a principal to the GPA in the same way Mugabe and Tsvangirai were.

"President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai do indeed represent different and competing political interests in the country, and while they are indeed political principals, only someone from Mars would say the same about Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara," Moyo said, adding that Mutambara did not represent anyone other than himself.

The involvement of Mutambara's party in the GPA was prompted by the fact that it had a "casting vote" in parliament. Therefore, it became an important cog in the political wheel, given Tsvangirai's party's 99 seats and Mugabe's party's initial 97. Mugabe's party now has 98 seats following its readmission of Moyo in December 2009.

But while the three continue with their marital squabbles, Zimbabweans still pin their hopes on the success of the marriage.

The mining sector is optimistic of growth this year following the stabilization of the economy since the signing of the GPA.

Chamber of Mines chief executive Chris Hokonya applauded the government for providing a conducive environment for business, saying that the government liberalized the marketing of gold and about seven organizations had been granted licenses to trade in the mineral to date.

Labor unions are also pushing for higher wages, and industrial actions cannot be ruled out in the New Year as workers push for better conditions of service.

Most workers, especially in the civil service, were taking home less than 200 U.S. dollars a month and now look forward to anything above 400 U.S. dollars a month.