/ 12 February 2009

Wary world leaders greet new-look Zimbabwe

World leaders applauded on Wednesday Morgan Tsvangirai's appointment as Zimbabwe's prime minister but were wary of a rocky road ahead.

World leaders applauded on Wednesday Morgan Tsvangirai’s appointment as Zimbabwe’s prime minister but were wary of a rocky road ahead with
President Robert Mugabe still in power.

The European Union said the new government, which must tackle 94% unemployment and a largely starving population, would have to prove itself before receiving major economic aid.

”We are ready to support the economic and social recovery of Zimbabwe once the new government shows tangible signs of respect for human rights, the rule of law, and macroeconomic stabilisation,” the
bloc said in a statement.

Former colonial power Britain said Tsvangirai ”and his team have a formidable challenge in bringing legitimacy and reform to Zimbabwe’s government.”

However, Foreign Secretary David Miliband did say the appointment of the 56-year-old opposition leader as Zimbabwe’s new prime minister offered ”the possibility of a change for the better”.

Tsvangirai’s swearing-in on Wednesday caps nearly a year of turmoil that began last March, when he won a first-round presidential vote that was greeted with nationwide political violence, mostly against his supporters.

Hoping to end the unrest that left at least 180 dead, Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off and left Mugabe to claim a one-sided victory denounced as a farce by the world community.

South Africa brokered a unity government deal, which was signed last September but stalled for almost five months amid protracted talks on how to distribute Cabinet posts and share control of the security forces.

During that time, the situation in Zimbabwe only got worse.

More than half the population now needs emergency food aid and only 20%cent of children go to school because teachers have not been paid and exams not graded.

Public hospitals are closed, with doctors and nurses unpaid, exacerbating a health crisis in a nation where 1,3-million people have HIV and cholera has hit nearly 70 000 people since August, killing about 3 400.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed Tsvangirai’s swearing-in but urged him to address critical problems right away.

”The new government of national unity will need to immediately address the economic and humanitarian crises in the country, including the current cholera epidemic,” Ban’s office said.

The United States, like other Western donors, said it was too early to be overly optimistic.

”We need to see evidence of good governance and particularly real, true power-sharing on the part of Robert Mugabe before we are going to make any kind of commitment … to provide further development
assistance or to easing sanctions,” State Department acting spokesperson Robert Wood told reporters.

The European Union also has sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.

South Africa, which has seen an estimated three million people cross the border into its territory
during the crisis, described the moment as an ”important milestone” for national healing.

”South Africa and indeed the entire region stands ready to support the people of Zimbabwe morally, politically and economically as they embark on this difficult path of reconstruction and development of
their country,” President Kgalema Motlanthe said. – AFP