Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is coming under intense criticism after going on a month-long vacation trip outside the country. The former finance minister is sharply criticizing Mugabe for leaving the country in economic ruins while he embarks on a holiday. Simba Makoni said Mugabe can afford to use state resources to go on vacation while the ordinary Zimbabwean is saddled with abject poverty and dying from the recent cholera epidemic. The criticism comes after President Mugabe announced Monday that he would be forming a new government following his invitations to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to join on the basis of the power-sharing agreement signed last year. From Zimbabwe's capital, Harare Makoni tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mugabe is deriving pleasure as the people he claims to be serving are suffering to the point of death.
"The amount of money he spent on going abroad on holidays could save lives, could plant hectares of crops and could pay doctors who are not working in hospitals. It does show his regard or disregard for Zimbabweans lives and welfare," Makoni noted.
Zimbabwe's government-controlled Herald newspaper reported that Mugabe plans to go ahead to form a new government by the end of February by which time it is expected that the three parliamentary political parties will have passed constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill and Mugabe will have signed it into law. Simba Makoni says Mugabe's move to form a new government in February buys him time to outmaneuver the opposition politically.
"Firstly, the news item said he intends to form a new government by the end of February. He is giving himself two solid months, which suggests to me he intends to consult with Morgan (Tsvangirai the opposition leader) and hopefully to persuade Morgan to join the government. So it doesn't suggest to me that he wants to go it alone," he said.
Makoni said the constitutional amendment that President Mugabe is seeking could only be implemented with the help of the opposition.
"He would only do so (form a government) when Amendment Number 19 has gone through parliament. Amendment Number 19 cannot go through parliament without the support of the MDC legislators because it requires two thirds majority. My take on the point is that he is giving himself enough time to bring Morgan on board so that Morgan can in turn bring his parliamentarians on board, on Amendment Number 19. He is not going to go it alone," Makoni pointed out.
He said the opposition would only be part of a unity government provided his demand of full implementation of the recently signed power-sharing agreement with the ruling ZANU-PF party is adhered to by President Mugabe.
"I think conditions Morgan is demanding before taking up the position are important. He is not refusing to take over the prime minister's position, but that he wants the terms of the global political agreement implemented fully to the letter and spirit, which Mugabe is not doing. And my reading is that Mugabe is buying himself enough time to satisfy Morgan's concerns about the global political agreement so that Morgan can come on board, and then he would form an all inclusive government," he said.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Goche, who is the ruling ZANU-PF's secretary for national security in the Politburo and Public Service Minister, was reportedly in South Africa to brief the facilitators including former South African President Thabo Mbeki on recent developments and to map the way forward. Makoni says he doubts that President Mugabe is willing to form a unity government with the opposition MDC.
"I'm not confident that Mugabe wants to form an inclusive government. I am confident that Mugabe cannot go it alone," Makoni noted.
He said what is delaying the forming of a unity government could be attributed to Mugabe's failure so far to implement the recently signed power-sharing agreement with the opposition.
"We have not had the inclusive government yet because Mugabe has not implemented the full provisions of the global political agreement. I would think the purpose of (Nicholas) Goche going to see President Mbeki is to ensure that both the facilitator and President Mbeki be guarantors and SADC (the Southern African Development Community) and the African Union are satisfied that the global political agreement is being implemented," he said.