Zimbabwe's unity government has suffered its worst blow since its formation a year ago, according to the Movement for Democratic Change and several Zimbabwean political analysts and commentators. President Robert Mugabe has stripped effective power from three ministries, and assigned them to ZANU-PF ministers.

University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masungure says the move stripping power from three MDC ministries was a "unilateralist" action and deliberate effort to tempt the party to quit the unity government.

He said there was no rational basis for the new law announced by the government on Friday. He said the move was a violation of the political agreement which brought the unity government into power and is designed "to induce the MDC to walk out as they did in October last year."

The MDC disengaged from the unity government when its treasurer, Roy Bennett was arrested.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC who also serves as finance minister, said the political agreement of September 2008 did not "give anyone the right to unilaterally alter a mandate." He said there had been a "serious breach of the political agreement and that the MDC would not take this lying down."

Biti said the MDC will meet on Wednesday to address the matter.

David Coltart, an executive of the smaller MDC party which split from the main branch and is also in the unity government said "at first glance this was a very serious breach of the political agreement because there was no consultation."

He said he hopes that this latest directive was not a decision of Mr. Mugabe's and that it can eventually be reversed.

ZANU-PF justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, who has inherited some of the powers previously held by MDC ministries, was not available for comment Monday.