Things are coming to a head as the Principals in the inclusive government, forced by the SADC deadline of next month to finalise the roadmap to elections, have finally started drawing clear lines about their differences - the Prime Minister exposing the Minister of Information, and the Finance Minister and the Public Service Ministers coming out clearly on the need for ghost busting in the civil service, accountability for diamond sales, and reform of the security apparatus.
The issues were always going to come to the fore since the MDC conceded to allow the Minister of Information to continue controlling the public media, with George Charamba simultaneously as Permanent Secretary, President Mugabe's spokesman and editor-in-chief of public media.
Yet the public media was expected to be reforming and being more representative of the parties in government, which could not happen under that regime, leaving the Prime Minister to rely only on the independent Press.
The refusal by Zanu (PF) to accept the logic of the Global Political Agreement, that the electoral playing field has to be level, in terms of media, security and the electoral process has now come face-to-face with the MDC's need to have equal access to public media, to have security and and to have assurance that the election would be conducted fairly, as the election approaches.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka was forced to issue a statement yesterday rejecting as “misleading” reports that were published in The Herald yesterday about the meeting a of the Principals held at Zimbabwe House on Wednesday.
Tamborinyoka said the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, and his Permanent Secretary, George Charamba, who doubles up also as a Presidential body-guard, were not spokespersons of the Principals and could not brief the Press on behalf of the Principles.
The two were invited to the Wednesday meeting of the Principles to explain the lack of comprehensive media reforms in the broadcasting and print media in line with the GPA and the agreement of the Principals, he said.
Instead Shamhu and Charamba chose to abuse their presence at that platform to mislead the nation by briefing The Herald, and lying while doing so. They were called in to explain the stalled media reforms in the country, particularly the reform of the ZBC and the public print media, both of which have caused unnecessary national discord through biased reporting, said Tamborinyoka.
But the Herald story quoting “sources” said the principles had received briefings from Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu.
Chinamasa's briefing, said the Herald, was meant to prevent the smuggling of issues that negotiators had already dealt with or concluded in their discussions to the principals.
"There has been an attempt to smuggle in issues before the principals dealt with or concluded them by the negotiators with an objective to force the principals to make a decision contrary to the decision of the negotiators," said the Herald source – clearly a briefing from Shamu and Charamba who are still controlling the public media editorial, and judging by the poor writing.
They claimed that the issue of the Diaspora vote had been rejected by the negotiators, and therefore should not have found it way to the principals. "The Diaspora vote was thrown out by the negotiators, but surfaced before the principals," they said.
But Tamborinyoka said the Diaspora vote was not smuggled into the meeting of the Principals. “The Principals have a right to discuss any issue they feel is in the national interest,” he said.
The Herald also said Finance Minister Tendai Biti had sought audience with the principals and told them that he was convinced that civil servants salaries should not be increased, and maintained that there was no money to effect the civil service salary review announced last week.
The Herald's mischief was evident in the report as they then threw in commentary to the effect that Minister Biti did not mention the US$165 million that Zimbabwe received under the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights in August 2009, without making any effort to get Biti's side of that story.
The Herald further said that Minister Shamu briefed the principals about the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust and ZBC, saying that they were in compliance with the Broadcasting Act governing their operations; the BAZ board was properly constituted, with nominees from Parliament's Standing Orders and Rules Committee, chiefs and women's groups represented and an accountant and a lawyer as required by Act.
Shamu reportedly said that he was entitled to appoint the ZBC board, which unlike that of BAZ was not made up of nominees from political parties, and that a new Mass Media Trust board should only be appointed once the Government had made an undertaking to fund the trust.
Charamba also briefed The Herald that the Principals had agreed that the appointment of the Mass Media Trust board must happen with a firm commitment of Government funding, another point which was disputed by the Prime Minister's spokesman.
Tamborinyoka said the Principals and the negotiators of the respective parties had agreed to a new board for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the ZBC and the Mass Media Trust (MMT) in order to engender true and inclusive media reforms in line with the spirit of the GPA.
But, he said, the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity had sought to stand in the way of far-reaching media reforms, choosing instead to raise unnecessary technical arguments which stand in the way of the letter and spirit of the implementation matrix of the 24 agreed GPA issues, of which media reform is just but one.
“The reconstitution of the BAZ board, the ZBC board and the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust is expected to instil public confidence, bring in new broadcasting players, deal with issues of hate speech and make the public media impartial during this delicate transition period.
“There was no agreement to stop the setting up for the Mass Media Trust until the issue of its funding is settled, as claimed in today’s issue of The Herald.”
He said the Principals had agreed that the new MMT should be set up as a matter of urgency to democratise the public print media and to bring back public confidence.
“The public print media and the public broadcast media have lost credibility due to unmitigated political interference and their incestuous relationship with some government officials who promote disunity, discord and hate speech against some State actors in the inclusive government,” he said, clearly referring Charamba and Shamu's regular attacks on the Prime Minister.
Charamba is the reputed author of the Nathaniel Manheru column in The Herald which justifies the Mugabe Junta's repression as part of the anti-imperialist struggle and defines the MDC as a project of British and American regime change.
Tamborinyoka said there had been overt attempts by the Ministry of Information's senior officials (read Shamu, the Minister and Charamba, the Secretary) to stand in the way of comprehensive media reforms.
“Misleading reports about what transpired during the Principals’ meeting are deliberately meant to muddy the waters so that democratic reforms as enshrined in the GPA and as agreed by the Principals do not take place,” he said.
He also said the Diaspora vote was not smuggled into the meeting of the Principals, as claimed by Chinamasa.
“The Principals have a right to discuss any issue they feel is in the national interest. It was agreed by the Principals that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission be tasked with producing a report on the issue of the Diaspora vote.
“Every Zimbabwean has a right to vote. The Herald story exhibits overt attempts to scuttle the Diaspora vote even before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has produced the report as requested by the Principals.”
All democratic reforms, particularly the democratisation of the media, he said were in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe. All democratic reforms should be encouraged, not scuttled through unnecessary and self-serving propaganda.
Meanwhile the Minister of the Public Service, Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, whose ministry completed an audit of the civil service nearly a year ago, and identified 75 000 ghost civil servants – some of whom are non-existent and others who were used in the 2008 violent election campaign, but are still receiving salaries - has all but said Zanu (PF) is refusing to have the people taken off he payroll.
He said he had tabled the report, but his hands were tied until Cabinet came up with a directive on the issue. But he could not say why the Cabinet was failing to act on the matter.
Clearly the political logic that is going on is that President Robert Mugabe promised civil servants salary increases, claiming that there was money coming in from diamond sales which would make this possible.
But since no money has come to government coffers from diamonds since January there is no steady and stable income stream on which the Minister of Finance could base sustained payments, even of the below poverty-datum-line increase that had been negotiated by the civil servants unions and the government and which was announced before Cabinet had approved it and made the relevant allocation.
“The issue of increments was not discussed in Cabinet; there can only be a salary increment if it is approved by Cabinet. I know that Minister Biti has been saying he has no money, so I do not know where these increments will come from,’’ said Professor Mukonoweshuro.
The independent Radio VOP quoted Prof Mukonoweshuro saying that the the announcement by the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) that salaries for the lowest paid workers would rise to $253 was “baseless, irresponsible and intended to cause friction among parties in the inclusive government.”
As far as he was concerned negotiations were still underway and he was yet to receive details of the proceedings of the last Apex Council meeting, which he would take as a recommendation to Cabinet for its approval, and allocation of the relevant funds, before he could make the announcement.
Latest news reports are that Zanu PF has so fiercely resisted removal of the 75 000 ghost workers from the payroll that Professor Mukonoweshuro is being forced to undertake a fresh audit.
And Prime Minister Tsvangirai was quoted saying that that meaningful salary increments would only be awarded once government managed to flush out about 75 000 “ghost” workers, who are allegedly on the government payroll but working to prop up Zanu PF at a minimum cost of nearly $2 million per month.
And the International Monetary Fund whose fund Charamba said should be used to pay the civil has also advised government not to award civil servants any increases, saying they cannot sustain it – not to mention that the IMF would not be willing to fund any government whose own Minister of the Public Service has found that there are 75 000 ghost civil servants on the government payroll – about a fifth of the total number of civil servants.
On security sector reform Biti is quoted today saying that the MDC already has a draft bill on the operations of the Central Intelligence Organisation, to make it accountable to Parliament, on which there is obvious agreement with the the other party in the GNU, the MDC (Ncube) – leaving Zanu (PF) alone resisting.
All this coming at a time when South Africa has reiterated through its International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, that she is holding the Principals to the GPA and the Declaration of Commitment which they made at the June 12 SADC summit held in Sandton, South Africa, means Zanu PF is now locked in the implementation matrix.
Citing the arrest of the Minister in Prime Minister Tsvangirai's Office, Jameson Timba, on charges of calling President Mugabe a liar over the outcome of the Sandton meeting, she said the parties should work together as agreed to in the GPA Article II, Declaration of Commitment.
This article states: “...The Parties hereby declare and agree to work together to create a genuine, viable, permanent, sustainable and nationally acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation and in particular to implement the following agreement with the aims of resolving once and for all the current political and economic situations and charting a new political direction for the country.“
She also said SADC was working on the appointment of officials to participate in the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) in line with the outcomes of the Sandton summit - another issue on which Zanu (PF) was forced to concede.
The SADC summit recommended the secondment of officials to the GNU watchdog, the Jomic, whose co-chairs and officials have always insisted that it is not sufficiently empowered to enforce anything, and that the co-chairs failed to agree whether violations had been committed, just because one of the co-chairs wanted to protect their own.