News, that an agreement to negotiate a solution of the problems besetting this long suffering nation has been reached, were broadly welcomed across Africa and the rest of the world. However, emphasis should be given to the fact that in itself the agreement does not provide much needed solutions to bring about an end to the endemic violence perpetrated against large sections of society for no other reason but opposing their brutal ruler and having wanted to vote him out of office. The agreement signed yesterday however does provide a roadmap for negotiations to solve the deadlock, which will likely include the writing of a new constitution, and provides for a tight timetable of only two weeks to get talks underway and make conclusive headway. Mugabe’s goons will under the agreement have to hold their fire while generally both parties must refrain from making inflammatory statements in public.
Mr. Tsvangirai, the presumed winner of the first round of presidential elections, showed all the makings of statesmanship, when sounding conciliatory tones at the signing ceremony, inspite of him having been harassed, beaten to near death and repeatedly incarcerated by the regime in the past. In contrast Mugabe sounded more guarded over the prospect to major changes in the constitution, which would ensure that power keeps ebbing away even further from him and leading to his eventual retirement.
The presence at the signing of South African outgoing President Thabo Mbeki was largely considered ceremonial as he had in the past been accused of bias in favour of Mugabe and other African leaders are thought to have been closely involved behind the scenes in putting this deal together but letting Mbeki to the honours to save face. The MDC and her allies, with a majority in the Zimbabwean parliament, are seeking major changes in the constitution and fresh elections at an early stage under continental and international supervision to ensure a violence free environment which would allow the Zimbabwean people to elect a leader of their choice.
Zimbabwean tourism operators, presently almost unable to operate their businesses, have expressed quiet confidence that if pressure from African heads of state is kept up on Mugabe’s regime to ensure substantive discussions over the next weeks, that there is then eventually hope to return the country to some degree of normality and start their ailing businesses again. Many of the tourism fraternity are presently also reported to be out of country with the source of this input camped across the border in Livingstone/Zambia. Comparisons were drawn to the post election developments in Kenya, where the disputed win of President Kibaki eventually led to the creation of the post of Prime Minister for his election rival and prompted a coalition government while a new constitution is being drawn up in Kenya too. Hope’s rays are at last shining again on Zimbabwe’s horizon which in recent weeks was covered in dark clouds.