Zimbabwe Forms Unity Government
February 12th, 2009
The leaders of Zimbabwe’s two main political parties have formed a unity government. Movement for the Democratic Change (MDC) agreed last week to form a unity movement with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-party. Leader of the opposition MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister on February 11 in Harare while MDC secretary- general assumed the position of Finance Minister in the unity government.
The deal was pushed by the regional body, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) which is very concerned as Zimbabwe’s economy continues to melt down and the influx of people fleeing Zimbabwe into neighboring nations grows. In the deal, Mugabe – who turns 85 this month and has been Zimbabwe’s President for 30 years – will keep his position and maintains control of 13 ministries. The MDC party under Morgan Tsvangirai will control 14 ministries while three ministries will fall under the MDC splinter group lead by former NASA research fellow Arthur Mutambara. After six months, there is to be a review of the unity government.
Several western diplomats and leading international Non-Governmental Organizations remain very skeptical about this unity government power sharing because Mugabe still maintains his power. There are also policy implications for the international community as this unity government is put in place, such as whether to continue sanctions against Zimbabwe. Europe and United States have sanctions against the Mugabe regime which is considered an illegitimate government. So the big question is whether unity government grants legitimacy to the Mugabe regime.
Ordinary Zimbabweans want change in their lives but remain suspicious of the power sharing agreement. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered most due the inaction at the political level. Zimbabwe’s infrastructure is deteriorating, health and education systems have collapsed and the people face food shortages on a daily basis. A recent Cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has caused death to thousands of people while the response from the Mugabe regime has been denial of the crisis.
As we wait to see the success of the unity government, ordinary people such as those served by the Missionary Oblates working in Zimbabwe deserve to live in a nation where the government respects fundamental human rights. All political prisoners such as Jestina Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project who disappeared after being forcibly taken by state police on 3rd December 2008 must be released immediately. The humanitarian crisis needs emergency action; therefore churches and donors must be allowed to distribute food and aid resources without interference from the Mugabe regime. Lastly, the people of Zimbabwe must be allowed to heal their wounds of state-sponsored brutality through courts and reconciliation processes.