Tsvangirai threatens to quit Zim unity talks

Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Friday that his party will quit talks for a unity government if abductions of party members do not stop.

“More than 42 members have been abducted,” Tsvangirai told reporters at a press briefing in the Botswana capital Gaborone.

“If these abductions do not cease immediately and if all abductees are not released or charged in a court of law by January 1 2009, I will be asking the MDC’s national council to pass a resolution to suspend all negotiations and contact with Zanu-PF.”

The MDC, unions and several human rights groups have warned of increased abductions with Zimbabwe plunging into further ruin as its leaders fail to resolve a deadlocked political crisis.

President Robert Mugabe, who has faced growing international pressure to quit office, accused the United States of urging African nations to topple him, state media reported on Friday.

“I do not know of any African country that is brave enough to do that,” Mugabe was quoted as telling a meeting of his Zanu-PF party.

Australia this week joined France, the US and Britain in calling for Mugabe to step down and increased sanctions against the veteran leader’s regime, which the West blames for the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Few African nations have been openly critical of Mugabe although Botswana’s President Ian Khama infuriated his Zimbabwean counterpart last month by calling for a re-run of disputed elections under international supervision.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s central bank has introduced a Z$10-billion banknote, worth $20 on the black market, to try to ease desperate cash shortages, state-run media said on Friday.

Prices are doubling every day, food and fuel are in short supply in Zimbabwe and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 1 100 people.

Hyper-inflation has forced the central bank to continue to release new banknotes, which quickly become almost worthless.

New Z$1-billion and Z$5-billion notes were also recently put into circulation and the monthly cash withdrawal limit was increased fivefold to Z$10-billion.

But previous issues of new banknotes have done little to curb the cash crunch faced by Zimbabweans, who often line up for hours outside banks to withdraw barely enough to buy a loaf of bread.—Reuters

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