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Mugabe's Hand Seen in Jolt to Zimbabwe's National Unity Government


Zimbabwe's three-month-old all-inclusive government hit a speed bump this week when a Harare magistrate revoked bail for 18 individuals who were mostly members of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, sent a number of them back to remand cells, then reversed herself in large measure within 24 hours.

It was the most serious shock to the government since early March when the death of Susan Tsvangirai, wife of the prime minister, initially raised suspicions among MDC activists of an assassination plot but was quickly reclassified as a tragic highway accident.

This week's arrests came in the midst of a series of talks among unity government principals about resolving outstanding issues – among them the prosecution of members of the former opposition party on charges of terrorism that are widely seen as politically inspired.

Some observers saw a provocation by hardliners in President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - though rapid climbdown by Attorney General Johannes Tomana and the magistrate suggested someone underestimated the force of the MDC reaction of outrage.

For analysis of this episode, reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Bekithemba Mhlanga, a London-based analyst, and Ozias Tungwarara, director of the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project in Johannesburg.

Both blamed Mr. Mugabe for this latest upset to the unity government.

Mhlanga commented that the episode raised doubts as to whether the government will ever be able to resolve all of the outstanding issues that divide it, such as continuing takeovers of white-owned commercial farms, which Mr. Mugabe endorses and Mr. Tsvangirai opposes.

More reports on VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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