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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe led a cabinet meeting Tuesday without
the presence of unity partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who was out
of the country on a regional tour to appeal for help with mediation.
Mr. Tsvangirai is being severely criticized in the government-owned
media for disengaging from executive duties.
Zimbabwe state media
reported Tuesday that President Mugabe will not recognize Mr.
Tsvangirai's suspension of ties with the government until he is
formally informed. The state-owned daily newspaper, The Herald, quotes
Mr. Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, as saying Mr. Tsvangirai is
still prime minister and is expected to attend cabinet meetings.
Tsvangirai, who "disengaged" from the country's unity government last
week, was accused by the newspaper of traveling without cabinet
approval. The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party is on
a 10-day trip of Southern African Development Community countries who
helped negotiate the troubled power sharing agreement in Zimbabwe.
University of Zimbabwe political science professor John Makumbe said
Mr. Tsvangirai's partial withdrawal from the national unity government
was long overdue and ZANU-PF's reaction is mere posturing.
Tsvangirai has done the right thing, he must light fires and make
ZANU-PF run around putting the fires out. What he has been doing to
date is agreeing to be treated like a tea-boy, he has been told what to
do and he has done it without asking questions," Makumbe said.
He said ZANU-PF couldn't risk going it alone as Mr. Tsvangirai has a
stronger claim to legitimacy since his party won the elections in March
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Ministers from a splinter faction of the MDC led by Arthur
Mutambara attended the cabinet meeting. Mutambara, who is one of two
deputy prime ministers, said at a news conference Monday that he was
talking to both Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai. He said the national
unity government is Zimbabwe's only hope of moving forward.
"We are determined to give this government a fighting chance because in our mind there is no plan B," Mutambara said.
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced last week that his party will not
withdraw from the unity government but would boycott the executive
branch whose ministries it shares with President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
cited the reluctance of Mr. Mugabe to implement matters that had been
agreed to in the so-called Global Political Agreement, which brought
the national unity government to power.
Among the outstanding
issues is the appointment of governors and the harassment of his party
members and MPs. His announcement came two days after agriculture
deputy minister designate Roy Bennett was arrested and redetained on
charges of insurgency and terror. Bennett has since been released on
bail but Mr. Tsvangirai has said his party will not participate in
government until all the issues he raised are resolved.