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Mugabe ‘set to form govt in February’

Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe is expected to form a new Zimbabwean government by the end of February despite stalled talks with the main opposition party, the state-run Herald newspaper said on Monday.

The veteran leader, who started a month-long holiday this week, began preparations for a new administration last week when he fired nine ministers and three deputies who lost seats in last year’s parliamentary election.

The move was seen as the clearest sign yet he had lost patience with talks on forming a power-sharing government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The Herald said a senior ruling Zanu-PF party official, Nicholas Goche, met Sydney Mufamadi, the representative for mediator Thabo Mbeki, on Saturday to discuss ways of ending the impasse.

”The president has had enough of games from the opposition and he made this quite clear in his meeting with MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara,” a source told the newspaper. Mutambara heads a splinter faction of the MDC.

”They agreed that a government should be put in place sooner rather than later,” the paper said.

It would most likely be in place by the end of next month, the source said.

Mugabe, leader of the main MDC Morgan Tsvangirai and Mutambara signed a power-sharing pact on September 15 last year but it has been held up by a dispute over Cabinet posts.

Mutambara has in the past said he would not join a government without Tsvangirai.

The Herald said Goche and Mufamadi also discussed a letter, apparently written by Tsvangirai to Mugabe, which said the opposition leader was not prepared to take up the post of prime minister, as agreed in the September deal.

Tsvangirai won a presidential election in March last year but by too few votes for an outright victory. He pulled out of the subsequent run-off, citing violence against MDC supporters.

The Herald also reported on Monday that the Zimbabwean government has extended its price controls on basic goods and services until June 30 this year.

The newspaper stated that the price of school feeds would be monitored, as well as bread, maize-meal, cooking oil, salt and sugar.

The move is reportedly aimed to prevent profiteering by businesses.

Meanwhile, a Zimbabwean judge has ordered that prominent peace activist Jestina Mukoko, who has been accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe, must receive medical attention before the case proceeds.

Judge Gloria Takunda says police must comply with an earlier court order that Mukoko be taken to a hospital so that allegations of torture can be investigated.

Mukoko and 31 other activists appeared in the Harare magistrate court on Monday. The case has been postponed to Tuesday.

Mukoko had been missing for three weeks before she appeared in court in late December. She and the other activists claim they have been tortured while in police custody.

The opposition has dismissed the plot as fabricated amid an increasing clampdown on dissent. – Reuters and Sapa-AP

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