Zimbabwe's Leaders Sign Compromise Agreement

By Nontando Hadebe 09-19-2008

The agreement we sign today is a product of painful compromise. It does not provide an instant cure for the ills that pervade our society and our country. The road ahead is long and will not be easy. Indeed, the partners in this new, inclusive government cannot alone provide the solutions to the problems facing the country. All we can do, and we will do, is to work together to establish the environment where every Zimbabwean has the opportunity to contribute to solving the problems we face.

- extract of speech from Morgan Tswangirayi, prime minister and leader of Zimbabwe's opposition party.

This week a historic agreement was signed and many are hoping that, despite some problematic issues, it will usher in a new era in Zimbabwe.

In terms of the agreement, Mugabe retains power as president and has control over the military. He also has power to appoint two vice presidents from his party. The two opposition leaders have been given the positions of prime minister and vice prime minister. Their posts give them charge over a cabinet of ministers responsible for the day-to-day running of government. All are accountable to Mugabe.

The agreement tries to tackle the power-sharing issue by qualifying the executive power of the president as subject to a new constitution and law. In some sections of the agreement, the president cannot make decisions without consulting prime ministers and cabinet. It is envisaged that a new constitution based on democratic principles would ensure accountability and "brakes" to keep power from being absolute. In accepting this compromise the opposition intends to use their position to ensure that democracy, human rights, rule of law, economic recovery, and a just constitution are realized.

It was a tough call -- a choice between dragging the talks on for an indefinite period while ordinary Zimbabweans continue to suffer, or striking a compromise far from ideal that will allow them to implement a democratic agenda. The latter was chosen "in faith" despite difficulties and problems that seem insurmountable. Another key factor is the "temporary" nature of this new transitional government. It is supposed to last for 18 months, and thereafter it will be dissolved and fresh elections conducted to elect a new government.

The road ahead is unknown and precarious. We ask for prayers for visionary leaders in strategic offices that are critical to real change that can benefit Zimbabweans, such as finance/economy, agriculture, education, trade and commerce, constitutional affairs, security, police, and judiciary. It is hoped that the seeds containing ideals in the agreement such as democracy, freedom, justice, healing, restoration, accountability, justice, etc., will find fertile ground and take root in Zimbabwe.

Click here to read the full text of the agreement.

Nontando HadebeNontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.

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