Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says his Movement for Democratic Change is disengaging from the ZANU-PF party led by President Robert Mugabe but is not officially withdrawing from the power-sharing government. The move follows the indictment and re-arrest on terrorism charges of the MDC's Deputy Agriculture Minister-designate Roy Bennett.
Confrontations within Zimbabwe's fragile power-sharing government deepened Friday as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced his party would boycott the executive branch whose ministries it shares with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
"It is our right to disengage from a dishonest and unreliable partner," said Morgan Tsvangirai. "In this regard, whilst being in government we shall forthwith disengage from ZANU-PF, in particular from cabinet and Council of Ministers until such time as confidence and respect are restored in this relationship."
But he underscored that the MDC was not leaving the unity government and would continue its activities in parliament where it holds a slim majority.
Mr. Tsvangirai said the detention of senior MDC member Roy Bennett, who now has been released on bail, had made it evident that ZANU-PF regards the MDC as a junior and un-serious partner. He said the boycott would continue until all outstanding issues between the two sides had been resolved.
Bennett, a white commercial farmer who was displaced in a controversial land reform program seven years ago, was named Deputy-Minister of Agriculture in the unity government.
But Mr. Mugabe had refused to swear in Bennett because of the outstanding charges against him.
He had been released on bail after serving one month in jail on those charges, which included illegally harboring weapons in order to overthrow the Mugabe government.
Bennett denies all of the charges which the MDC says were trumped up.
Mr. Tsvangirai also complained that ZANU-PF is delaying full implementation of the one year-old power sharing agreement that followed controversial and violent national elections last year.
The unity government that emerged as part of the accord has reduced politically related violence in Zimbabwe and stabilized the economy.
But critics say progress has been delayed by in-fighting and a new constitution that is to lead to fresh elections appears far away.
Mr. Tsvangirai called on ZANU-PF to fully implement the power sharing agreement.
"It is a constitutional crisis which should be resolved if ZANU-PF and its leadership know that there is a price to pay for procrastination," said Tsvangirai.
He said if the crisis escalated further the only solution would be to hold new elections to be conducted by the African Union and Southern African Development Community under the supervision of the United Nations.