20.10.2009

Unity Govt in Crisis

Harare — Zimbabwe's eight-month-old inclusive government suffered its biggest setback to date, when Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) was partly disengaging from the government.

"The detention of our party treasurer, Roy Bennett, has brought home the fiction of the credibility and integrity of the transitional government. It has brought home the self-evident fact that ZANU-PF see us as a junior, fickle and unserious movement."

The news sent an anxious jolt through the streets of the capital Harare.

"I wonder what this means for us," said Calvin Mawire, a vendor at the intersection of Angwa Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue, a stone's throw from the MDC headquarters.

"I do not really understand how they can say they are disengaging but are not pulling out. It is good for the party to come out clear and tell us whether Tsvangirai is still Prime Minister. The problem is that most of these positions are reached without any consideration of our situation."

The MDC-T will for the moment cease to attend Cabinet and Council of Ministers meetings. It is technically and constitutionally impossible for the other members of the unity government, ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara, to proceed with running the government in the party's absence.

Efforts to revive the economy and address urgent problems in the health, education and agriculture sectors will be frozen. The inclusive government is supposed to spearhead the writing of a new constitution, but that process is currently stalled due to lack of funds and differences over how the process should be carried out.

The MDC-T and ZANU PF had been tussling over the failure to review ministerial positions after six months, as agreed on Jan. 26. The party also criticised what it termed "continuous selective and unequal application of the rule of law".

The former opposition leader said his party would only participate in the inclusive government when there was a "paradigm shift" by ZANU-PF. He said Bennett's indictment was evidence of ZANU-PF's lack of commitment to the inclusive government.

Tsvangirai said while there was nothing wrong with officials being prosecuted under the law, Bennett was "not being prosecuted, he is being persecuted".

Bennett was indicted on charges of terrorism and banditry after seven months on bail. Despite efforts by the prosecution, he was granted bail late in the afternoon of Oct. 16 - bail conditions required him to pay 5,000 U.S. dollars, and surrender his passport and title deeds to his property in Harare. His trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 19 at the High Court.

Officials from ZANU-PF and the smaller formation of the MDC said their parties would hold emergency meetings to review Tsvangirai's decision and come up with a position.

Tsvangirai said they had "done everything in order to make this government work... to give our people a new start." (All Africa)

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