BUSOGA King (Kyabazinga) Henry Wako Muloki is dead. He passed away at Mulago Hospital yesterday morning. The 87-year-old king succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus and the spinal cord. His deputy premier William Kasango said the king died at 4:00am. “He had started improving. He could even sit down with ease. We hoped he would be discharged on Tuesday (today).” He said the king’s daughter Rebecca had proposed to fly him back to India for more attention. “But all that has not come to pass.” Muloki had been admitted to Mulago’s cancer unit for about a week. The king has been in-and-out of hospital. In 1999, he was flown to Italy for a throat operation. In July this year, he was again flown to India when his condition deteriorated. President Yoweri Museveni, Toro Queen-mother Best Kemigisa, cultural and political leaders visited Muloki when he was bed-ridden in his palace at Nakabango in Jinja district. Yesterday, security was beefed on all gates into Mulago Hospital. Priority of entrance was given to patients and hospital staff. Iganga and Jinja towns were thrown into a solemn mood. People gathered in small groups and several shops did not open. Muloki took over the throne in 1995 after a bitter wrangle with rival Kiregeya (see Page 3). In October 1995, the Government recognised him as the legitimate King of Busoga, following a legal opinion from the Attorney General. Kingdom deputy premier issued a tentative burial programme. He said the king’s body will lie in state in the national Parliament tomorrow. Later, it will be taken to his Nakabango palace in Jinja, where it will lie overnight. Kasango said the body will be taken to the Busoga Lukiiko (kingdom parliament) on Thursday to allow his subjects pay their last respects. On Saturday, a service will be held at Christ Cathedral, Bugembe in Jinja, and thereafter the body will be taken to Kaliro town for burial on Sunday, he added. By press time, the body was still at Mulago Hospital, where a postmortem report was being carried out. Busoga leaders yesterday met at Parliament to discuss the burial arrangements of Muloki. The meeting, chaired by deputy speaker Rebecca Kadaga, involved MPs and ministers from the region. It was not clear if the Kyabazinga wouldl be accorded a State funeral. The minister for the presidency, Beatrice Wabudeya, said a final decision had not yet been taken. “Wait for an official communication from the Government because meetings are still going on,” she said.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that Mbeki called for the consultative meeting after the gulf between Zanu PF and the MDC-Tsvangirai widened on Tuesday when parliament was convened and President Robert Mugabe was heckled by MDC members of parliament during his address.
Tsvangirai said the convening of parliament by Mugabe was against the provisions of the memorandum of understanding signed on July 21 by political parties engaged in the negotiations.
MDC-Tsvangirai negotiators Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma and Mutambara faction’s Priscillah Misihairambwi-Mushonga flew into South Africa on Wednesday and Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche left yesterday. Welshman Ncube (Mutambara camp) is leaving today.
"It is going to be a consultative meeting," one of the sources said. "We expect Mbeki to ask Tsvangirai when he is going to sign the proposed deal, which was endorsed by Sadc at its recent summit."
The sources said it was "likely" that Tsvangirai would be given a deadline to sign. Two weeks ago Tsvangirai refused to sign the final of a series of documents so far agreed to, saying he needed time to reflect. He has insisted that the talks were not dead.
However, a source this week declared: "Negotiations have already ended. It is either Tsvangirai signs or not. In Mbeki’s view, there is no outstanding issue to discuss. This applies to Mugabe also."
But other sources said Mbeki might be forced to seek the re-opening of negotiations after Tsvangirai’s MDC on Monday won the post of Speaker and effectively took control of parliament.
"The MDC victory in parliament gives them leeway to demand more power in an inclusive government," one of the sources said.
The sources said Mbeki would not want the talks to collapse as he "understands gravity of the consequences South Africa" and other Sadc countries would face.
There has been an influx of Zimbabweans in South Africa, Botswana and other neighbouring countries escaping the decade-long political and economic crisis.
The talks between Zanu PF and the two MDCs stalled three weeks ago after Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to agree on the powers each should wield as president and prime minister respectively.
Tsvangirai reportedly wanted a transfer of power to him as executive prime minister rather than share power with Mugabe whom he says should become a ceremonial president.
Sadc heads of state and government met in South Africa two weeks ago and urged Tsvangirai to sign all "outstanding agreements” to pave way for an inclusive government.
The regional bloc recommended the convening of parliament.
Political analysts said Sadc’s recommendation was meant to put pressure on Tsvangirai to sign the deal, but this has not happened, forcing Mbeki to call for today’s meeting to find a way forward.
Doubts abound that Zanu PF was no longer interested in the talks after Mugabe on Tuesday said he was in the process of forming a new cabinet.
Mugabe has already appointed 10 provincial governors and three non-constituency senators –– positions that were on the talks agenda and were expected to be distributed between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations.
The move by Mugabe to appoint a new cabinet before power-sharing talks have been concluded did not go well with the Tsvangirai camp, which said this would be a “declaration of war” against the people.
Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson of the MDC-Tsvangirai, said Mugabe wanted to “hijack the leadership” of Zimbabwe by naming a new cabinet.
By Constantine Chimakure