Zimbabwe Rivals Agree on Media, Election Bodies


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have agreed on commissions to drive media and electoral reforms, one of the key issues which has been threatening their power-sharing deal.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government earlier this year to try to end a decade-long political and economic crisis, but the coalition has been struggling with disputes over the pace of reforms and the appointment of senior state officials.

In a statement after a meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai on Monday, the government said the leaders had appointed people nominated by a parliamentary committee to sit on Zimbabwe’s Media Commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

These are all new organs expected to steer reforms seen as critical to attracting foreign aid.

Analysts say the three commissions look politically balanced with technocrats and with officials who have ties to both Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Despite the appointments, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a small MDC faction in the unity government, continue to haggle over appointments of provincial governors and Mugabe’s refusal to swear in as deputy agriculture minister Roy Bennett, a senior Tsvangirai ally facing treason charges.

Mugabe has also refused to sack two of his own ZANU-PF allies who he appointed as head of the central bank and attorney-general without consulting Tsvangirai.

In October, Tsvangirai’s MDC announced it was “disengaging” from the unity government over these disputes but rejoined three weeks later after mediation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Besides refusing to allow some of its members to be sworn into government, the MDC accuses ZANU-PF — which it calls an “arrogant and unreliable partner” — of persecuting its officials and delaying media and constitutional reforms needed for free and fair elections to be held in about two years’ time.

For his part, Mugabe says the MDC needs to campaign for the lifting of Western sanctions against his party, including travel restrictions and a freeze on general financial aid to Zimbabwe.

ZANU-PF also says the MDC must end a propaganda campaign by its supporters abroad, and should ask its Western backers to shut down what it calls “pirate radio stations” broadcasting to Zimbabwe from Britain and the United States.

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