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Morgan Tsvangirai Sworn In as Zimbabwe PM; Pledges Focus on Economy


Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change has been sworn in as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe by his political rival President Robert Mugabe. Mr. Mugabe said he would cooperate with the new prime minister under their new unity government and "offer a hand of friendship."

Morgan Tsvangirai, who in the past six years has been repeatedly detained and assaulted by those in the employ of the Mugabe government, and who has often been ridiculed and insulted by Mr. Mugabe was sworn in at State House shortly before noon.

"Now therefore, I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe do hereby call upon you Morgan Richard Tsvangirai to take the oaths, as prescribed by law," said Mr. Mugabe.

Morgan Tsvangirai appeared confident, and took his oath, speaking clearly and loudly.

"I, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai do swear that I will well and truly service Zimbabwe in the office of Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe," said Mr. Tsvangirai. "So help me God."

At a spirited rally later, Mr. Tsvangirai said that political violence and human rights abuses must end immediately. He also promised that by month's end civil service employees, health care workers, and teachers will begin getting paid in in foreign currency.

Mr. Mugabe also chimed in with a speech after the swearing-in, saying he would cooperate with the new prime minister under their new unity government. He said he would "offer my hand of friendship and cooperation and solidarity in the service of our great country Zimbabwe."

MDC supporters and others burst into applause as Mr. Tsvangirai took his oath. Watching Mr. Mugabe sign his appointment into law was, for many a sight they say they never believed possible.

The ceremony at state house started more than half an hour late and the country's only television channel, controlled by loyalists of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, lost its link just as the national anthem began. Many in Harare, Mr. Tsvangirai's stronghold, had gathered around television sets to watch the swearing in ceremony, had to tune in to their radios, or watch the snippets that intermittently appeared on their screens.

The guests at State House included former South African president Thabo Mbeki who mediated talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC from early 2007. After many interruptions and breakdowns, these interventions eventually led to the unity government.

Mr. Tsvangirai hugged many of his former enemies from the hierarchy of ZANU-PF who congratulated him and his wife Susan, who usually remains in the background. The two grew up in neighboring villages in a poor, rural southeastern Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai began his activism as a trade unionist nearly 25 years ago and revitalized the moribund Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The MDC was formed in 1999 on the back of the trade-union movement and the growing number of civil rights activists who had begun to oppose Mr. Mugabe's harsh policies.

Former student leader, and leader of the minority faction of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara was sworn in as a deputy prime minister.

The first from Mr. Mugabe's own Shona tribe to oppose him, Mutambara was detained under the state of emergency for several months 20 years ago when he led widespread student protests against Mr. Mugabe's determination to convert Zimbabwe to a one-party state. He was not allowed to continue his studies in Zimbabwe and went on to win a scholarship and completed his doctorate in electrical engineering at Oxford University.

The second deputy, Thoko Khupe, is the deputy president of Mr. Tsvangirai's faction of the MDC.

She is from Bulawayo, heartland of the minority Ndebele tribe and was warmly applauded by women in the audience at State House.

Several analysts at the official function told VOA few are sure how this power-sharing government will turn out, and whether Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe will be able to establish a working relationship. They wonder too, whether Mr. Tsvangirai will be able to attract western support for the ravaged economy, a worthless currency, the second-highest inflation in history, Africa's worst cholera epidemic, and health and education systems that barely function.

Political commentator Ibbo Mandaza said the formation of the unity government is a start, but blamed ZANU-PF for Zimbabwe's collapse - once the richest country in central Africa, with education and healthcare considered among the best on the continent.

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