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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Appoints Temporary Ministers

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has appointed eight ministers to head key portfolios in an acting capacity. The appointments were made as Movement for Democratic Change leaders meet in Johannesburg.

President Robert Mugabe appointed the eight ministers to replace aides who lost their parliament seats in 2008 elections.

Zimbabwe has been without a government since March 28, the day before elections in which the Movement for Democratic Change took a majority of Parliament seats from the ZANU-PF.

Mr. Mugabe says he is waiting for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to join the government as prime minister before a permanent Cabinet is named. But the state-controlled Herald newspaper reports Mr. Mugabe is expected to form an "inclusive government" when he returns from vacation at the end of the month.

A deal to form a unity government was signed by Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai last September, but implementing the agreement has stalled over a dispute about allocating Cabinet posts.

The MDC argues it would be a junior party in the government because it did not win any of the three security ministries in negotiations facilitated last year by the Southern Africa Development Community.

MDC executives began a three-day meeting Tuesday in Johannesburg. Senior MDC members in Harare say the meeting will concentrate on whether the party should join the unity government and what its plan of action would be should it stay out.

Some believe that by staying out the MDC will become irrelevant and will have to wait five years for the next elections. Others say if the MDC joins the government it will have no powers to stop arbitrary abductions, arrests or other abuses.

A SADC summit on the Zimbabwe crisis may take place next week, according to South African press reports.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and Zimbabwe's Health Ministry say they fear the country's cholera epidemic will escalate as the rainy season enters its heaviest period.

U.N. health officials say more than 1,000 new cholera cases were recorded Tuesday, following a week in which the epidemic had showed signs of slowing. Western aid and foreign doctors have provided drugs, clean water and treatment but nearly 1,800 people have died of cholera.

The rapid spread of the waterborne disease is blamed on the collapse of Zimbabwe's health and sanitation infrastructure, in an economy destroyed by high inflation and low production in the agricultural sector.

Nearly half Zimbabwe's population receives emergency food aid, which the United Nations says is running out. Zimbabwe agriculture expert, Renson Gasela said in a statement this week the annual maize crop will produce no more than a quarter of the country's needs for the next year.

In another sign of government troubles, Education Secretary Stephen Mahere said Tuesday that schools would open two weeks late because end of year examinations have not yet been marked.

Tens of thousands of teachers have left their jobs because of poor pay and working conditions, and last year nearly four million school children only had 23 consecutive days of education.