The nominal president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been told to cede power or face prosecution in the International Criminal Court. The most widely touted scenario is that current talks between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change will produce a settlement in which Mugabe remains a titular head of state, but executive power is transferred to Tsvangirai as prime minister.
Reports suggest that the opposition MDC will hold 11 cabinet posts to nine for Zanu-PF in a power-sharing government of national unity. Significantly, there will be a purge of senior officials in the army, police and intelligence services, including the notorious Joint Operations Command that orchestrated the recent campaign of terror and intimidation.
The projected deal follows intense Western pressure on South African President Thabo Mbeki who has consistently sought to shield Mugabe and betrayed a bias towards Zanu-PF. A settlement would be of “epochal importance” to southern Africa, says South African analyst Lawrence Schlemmer. “The West could have just walked away from another African disaster. Instead, they are showing a huge commitment to democracy in this region.”
The transitional government will receive financial support and policy advice from the Fishmongers Group of western donor nations, established a year ago on Britain’s initiative, which “stands powerfully in the wings and in effect has a veto over the negotiations.”
Mbeki was pushing a Kenyan settlement of genuine power-sharing. But that is not feasible, commentators suggest, because Zimbabwe’s state institutions are implacably partisan and complicit in the violence and corruption that have brought the country to ruin. Kenya’s army is genuinely independent and its courts have a semblance of independence, while Zimbabwe’s military is utterly partisan and the courts the “creatures of the ruling party.”
The accelerating economic crisis is also precipitating Mugabe’s end. Zimbabwe’s bank chief is removing “more zeros” from the country’s freefalling currency and raising the limit on cash withdrawals to address runaway inflation, officially at 2.2 million percent annually but generally reckoned to be closer to 12.5 million percent.
“This situation can be healed,” said a Western diplomatic source in Zimbabwe. “But not by this regime. Zanu-PF couldn’t run a sweet-shop.
The projected power-sharing settlement is by no means a done deal. “My only worry is with the military chiefs. That could be a sticking point,” says one observer. But the prospects of a military coup succeeding are unclear. Although the military’s leaders have profited from Mugabe’s rule, the army rank-and-file is in a parlous condition.