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Mugabe takes month-long break to ‘reflect’

Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe has taken a month’s leave and is to spend part of it on holiday outside the country, the state-owned Sunday Mail reported.

”This is more of a retreat than an annual leave. The president is very busy reflecting on the new structures that are needed to deal with the economic sanctions against Zimbabwe as well as working on structures of an inclusive government which must come too soon,” said his spokesperson George Charamba.

Meanwhile, a senior Zanu-PF official said a new Zimbabwean government would be set up by the end of February.

The Harare-based Herald Online reported on Monday that a senior Zanu-PF official, Nicholas Goche, met with SA facilitator Sydney Mufamadi in Musina on Saturday.

Goche, who is Zanu-PF’s secretary for national security in the public service ministry, met with ”Thabo Mbeki’s South African facilitation team to discuss the latest developments and how best to proceed”, reported the website.

He said Mugabe would press ahead with the formation of a new government with the full consent of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

SADC last year appointed former SA president Mbeki to facilitate the formation of a government of national unity.

”Sources close to developments said a government was most likely to be in place by the end of February,” said the website.

”Comrade Goche met the South Africans on Saturday as part of the drive to ensure that this chapter is closed once and for all so that Zimbabweans can move forward,” a source told the newspaper.

Zimbabwe has been without a new Cabinet since the June 2008 presidential run-off in which Mugabe was the sole candidate after his opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out, citing violence against his supporters.

In mid-September, Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Tsvangirai, signed a power-sharing deal and began negotiations for a unity government.

But negotiations broke down as the two sides failed to agree on the implementation of the pact.

Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of wanting all the key ministries such as defence, information, home affairs, finance and foreign affairs.

Political commentator Lovemore Madhuku criticised Mugabe for deciding to ”spend the little left of foreign currency” in Zimbabwe during his leave.

”It shows that he is not concerned about the suffering people. One can only afford to go on leave if one has done something tangible. Honestly, Mugabe has done nothing that deserves a rest,” Madhuku said.

”Cholera is killing people and the economy is bleeding and someone decides to abandon the ship and rest. For what?”

Inflation in Zimbabwe is the highest on the world, officially at 231-million percent. The prices of the few available goods change everyday as a result. More than five million people are in need of food aid, according to the United Nations.

A cholera epidemic has claimed more than 1 500 lives since August.

More than 20 000 people have been infected with the water-borne disease as the country fails to import adequate water purification chemicals.

Residents in many cities and towns have been forced to depend on shallow wells and rivers for their drinking water. – Sapa-DPA

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