Last Updated: Thursday, 27 August 2015, 13:06 GMT

Zimbabwe: A turbulent marriage

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 4 August 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Zimbabwe: A turbulent marriage, 4 August 2009, available at: [accessed 28 August 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
HARARE, 4 August 2009 (IRIN) - Recent moves by Zimbabwe's unity government to adopt several outstanding commitments to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the basis of the current system, are encouraging, but genuine dedication to the necessary reforms is hard to come by.

It took months to broker the agreement between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations that made it possible set up a government and start resolving the challenges of Zimbabwe's economic implosion and the violent elections in 2008.

In signing the GPA document on 15 September 2008, the main political parties agreed to "work together to create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation and in particular to implement the [GPA], with the aims of resolving once and for all the current political and economic situations and charting a new political direction for the country."

It has been a steep and rocky road, with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been Prime Minister since February 2009, claiming that Mugabe has failed to respect the GPA deal.

Tsvangirai met with South African President Jacob Zuma - chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which brokered and endorsed the GPA - in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 3 August and again accused Mugabe of frustrating efforts to implement the reforms required in terms of the GPA.

"The Prime Minister has briefed me that the majority of issues are moving forward, except for a few," Zuma told local media. "I have said I will be contacting President Mugabe."

Tsvangirai has stressed the need to deal with unresolved issues, including control of Zimbabwe's security forces, and ZANU-PF's unilateral appointment of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, which were contrary to the terms of the GPA.

"Clearly, there are signs of movement in terms of implementing some of the outstanding issues on the GPA, but these developments are linked to the upcoming SADC summit and the first anniversary of the signing of the power sharing deal," political journalist and analyst Dumisani Muleya told IRIN.

The next ordinary SADC Summit is scheduled for the first week of September 2009 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. "Zimbabwean leaders obviously want to avoid being the centre of attraction by drawing criticism from regional leaders for failing to fully implement the provisions of the power-sharing pact," Muleya commented.

Slight signs of commitment

"Freedom of Expression and Communication" is one aspect of the GPA that has recently seen change. On 30 July the government announced that international television stations such as the BBC and CNN had in fact never been banned from conducting business in Zimbabwe, and reports of a ban were "false". The BBC immediately sent its correspondent to Harare, the capital.

"The Zimbabwe Government has told the BBC there is no ban on its operations and it can resume reporting, legally and openly, in Zimbabwe," the BBC said on its website.

The Daily News, a pro-MDC newspaper that was shut down by the ZANU-PF government in September 2003, has also been re-licensed to operate, but its computers and archives were seized in the run-up to the elections in 2008, so the publication is not expected to appear on the streets anytime soon.

"While it is a welcome development to invite foreign media, and to issue a license to The Daily News, more still needs to be done in terms of repealing laws that have been used to prey on journalism," said Matthew Takaona, president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. "All cannot be well if the Prime Minister has to go to meet Zuma to appeal for the full implementation of the GPA."

After years of cracking down in response to public demonstrations, the government has also described as "false" reports that Zimbabweans were not allowed to stage demonstrations, claiming all that was needed was to notify the police.

"The notification is not meant to be some form of application for permission from the police to proceed with intended gathering or procession - it is for creating a platform for consultation between the police and the convener of the procession on how best the procession or gathering can be best managed," said Giles Mutsekwa, MDC Co-Home Affairs minister, who shares the portfolio with his ZANU-PF counterpart.

Parliament also recently announced that it would start interviewing members of the proposed Zimbabwe Media Commission, which will replace the Media and Information Commission, the ZANU-PF government media regulatory body that presided over the closure of independent newspapers, television and radio stations.

Interviews to appoint commissioners to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission are in the pipeline.

On 30 July the National Security Council met for the first time since the formation of the unity government in February to discuss the prickly issues of the armed forces and security services. The ministers and commanders of the security forces finally sat down with Tsvangirai, whom they had vowed never to work with or salute.


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