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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Cultivates Civic Support For Planned Unity Government

Zimbabwean prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the dominant formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, met Monday with civil society leaders aiming to allay skepticism over his party's decision late last week to participate in a national unity government with the ZANU-Pf party of President Robert Mugabe.

Civil society is divided over the MDC's decision, though many are cautiously optimistic as to the likely success of the deal while others have wholeheartedly backed Tsvangirai.

Sources said Tsvangirai assured civic leaders that joining the government was the only option for the MDC given the humanitarian crisis including a cholera epidemic which has claimed more than 3,000 lives, widespread hunger and a hyperinflationary economy.

He expressed optimism that the so-called Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee which will oversee implementation of last September's unity accord between ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations is starting deliberations this week on all outstanding issues.

Tsvangirai MDC formation spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that most civic groups are lined up behind his party.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Information Officer Benjamin Nyandoro said the MDC consulted many civic groups before deciding to join the unity government.

Meanwhile, legislation to effect a 19th constitutional amendment was expected to come to the floor in the House of Assembly on Wednesday and, following a rapid series of readings, could go to the Senate on Thursday, political sources said.

The bill was expected to pass without opposition as both political parties have vetted the text and pledged their participation in the unity government.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Matombo criticized the process, telling reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that with all three major parties joining the government, parliament risks remaining the rubber stamp was under a ZANU-PF majority.

The combined MDC formations including that led by Arthur Mutambara claimed a parliamentary majority in March 2008 elections.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...