/ 28 August 2008

Mugabe to defy MDC and name Cabinet

Zimbabwe’s veteran ruler, Robert Mugabe, will defy the opposition and form a new government despite stalled power-sharing talks after contested polls, the junior information minister said on Thursday.

”Nothing is going to stop us from forming a new government,” Bright Matonga told South African public broadcaster SAfm, despite warnings by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that doing so would scupper the talks.

”We need to move forward, we need to make sure that Zimbabwe regains its status, we need to work on the economy. People are suffering,” Matonga said.

”That is the mandate that he [Mugabe] was given by SADC [Southern African Development Community] and he is not going to stop forming that new Cabinet. The MDC are not serious at all.”

Matonga was responding to a statement by the secretary general of the main MDC, Tendai Biti, that Mugabe would be violating a recent agreement between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition, as well as jeopardising power-sharing negotiations, if he unilaterally formed a government.

The talks on creating a unity government to end a ruinous political crisis were suspended a little over two weeks ago.

”You will be killing the talks. Once you form a government, forget about talks. It is a disaster and an act of insanity to think that Mugabe can go it alone,” Biti said.

”Formally, we are going to write a letter to the facilitator [South African President Thabo Mbeki] about the breaches that have occurred,” said Biti, referring to a Mbeki-mediated July 21 agreement signed by the ruling party, the main MDC and its breakaway faction.

Zimbabwe’s new Parliament opened this week, five months after contested elections in which Mugabe’s party lost legislative majority for the first time since the country’s 1980 independence from Britain.

The 84-year-old Mugabe also lost to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential election but was re-elected in a one-man run-off after Tsvangirai boycotted the poll alleging intimidation and violence.

Mugabe on Tuesday made jibes at the MDC after facing opposition jeers that drowned out parts of his ceremonial opening speech at Parliament, an unparalleled domestic public humiliation for a man who has steered his country since 1980.

”We shall soon be setting up a government. The MDC does not want to come in apparently,” the government newspaper, the Herald, quoted Mugabe as saying.

”This time they have been promised by the British that sanctions would be more devastating, that in six months’ time the government will collapse,” Mugabe said.

”I do not know when that day will come. I wish Tsvangirai well on that day,” Mugabe added.

Edwin Mushoriwa, spokesperson for the smaller MDC faction with whom Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party could conceivably form a majority in Parliament, said it would not join a Mugabe government.

Zimbabwe’s political unrest has worsened an economic crisis that has seen widespread unemployment and inflation now officially at more than 11,2-million percent — while experts say it is even higher. — AFP