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Zimbabwe Unity Government Partners Divide On Request For Arbitration

Responding to a call by the Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change formation for for the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to help resolve issues troubling the country's unity government, the two other parties to the power-sharing arrangement said Tuesday such a step was premature.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Transport Minister Nicholas Goche, who helped negotiate the 2008 power-sharing agreement on behalf of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, as saying the power-sharing principals must declare a deadlock before turning to SADC and the AU for help in untangling their intra-governmental dispute.

The paper quoted Goche as saying that the principals - Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara - have not declared a deadlock, therefore progress is being made on the numerous issues troubling the governing partnership.

The Mutambara MDC grouping agreed that it was too early to request intervention by SADC and the AU, which are guarantors of the power-sharing agreement and government.

Sources in Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation said he wanted to pursue his discussions with Mr. Mugabe and Mutambara, one of two deputy prime ministers, but a recent crackdown on MDC activists and human rights defenders cost him the support of even loyal party backers.

Mr. Tsvangirai had emphasized in recent interviews that the unity government was a work in progress, and that it would take time to resolve outstanding issues, which include who is to run the Reserve Bank and Office of the Attorney General. Mr. Mugabe reappointed Gideon Gono to the former and named Joahnnes Tomana to the latter late last year.

The MDC also wants to revisit Mr. Mugabe's appointments of provincial governors, ambassadors and ministerial permanent secretaries.

The former opposition party, which claimed a majority in parliament in 2008 elections, says the state police and judicial apparatus controlled by ZANU-PF has been pursuing a campaign of repression against MDC and civic activists and is demanding a halt to such activities.

Three journalists and a human rights lawyer were arrested, charged and release last week, while an MDC lawmaker from eastern Manicaland province was recently sentenced to 10 months in prison for allegedly obstructing justice.

SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the regional group had yet to be formally asked to intervene.

Spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa of the Mutambara MDC wing said that although there has not been a lot of progress in the talks, it was early days to call in SADC and the AU.

But Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA that it is up to the other two principals to show cause as to why the guarantors should not get involved.

Political analyst Peter Kagwanja, president of the Africa Policy Institute in Pretoria, said the Zimbabwean unity government principals must seek common ground.

But human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga told VOA that the Tsvangirai MDC formation was within its rights to turn to the unity government's African guarantors.

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