/ 1 November 2009

Mugabe takes sharp dig at Tsvangirai

President Robert Mugabe took a sharp dig at his estranged governing partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday, but said they were still allies in Zimbabwe’s troubled coalition.

Speaking Saturday at the state funeral of a former guerrilla leader who fought for independence from Britain in 1980, Mugabe, speaking of Tsvangirai’s temporary withdrawal from the Cabinet, said: ”Even if some person is not mentally stable he is still your partner.

”We bound ourselves to work together even though we had disparate positions. We will continue talking, no matter what,” Mugabe told mourners at the Heroes Acre cemetery west of the capital as Mischek Chando was buried. The 85-year-old leader wore his trademark tailored suit and dark sunglasses for the occasion.

Mugabe said his Zanu-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change had taken ”positive steps” despite having faced difficulties.

”There can be disagreement but that’s ours to handle,” he said.

”We are glad we are talking about it.

”On an odd day, one party decides it should not be fully in the process. It has one leg in, and one leg out and you begin to wonder if you are with people who know what agreement means,” Mugabe added. He spoke mostly in Shona, and in the fiery terms typical of such occasions.

Tsvangirai said it was Mugabe, in power since independence and seen as increasingly autocratic, who has failed to live up to their power-sharing agreement. He withdrew from Cabinet on October 16, accusing Mugabe of trampling on human rights, and said he would only return when confidence in the unity government was restored.

On Friday, foreign ministers from Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia — members of the Southern African Development Community that pushed Mugabe and Tsvangirai to share power — met separately with the two to try to heal the split in the government. After the meetings, they said they would recommend to their heads of state that a summit be convened, a move for which Tsvangirai has pushed.

They did not say where or when.

At a meeting in Berlin on Monday, key international donors urged Zimbabwe’s factions to end the current crisis and echoed some of the concerns raised by Tsvangirai. The donors said Zimbabwe had made progress since the unity government was formed in February, but political and humanitarian problems not only undermined its ability ”to deliver the change which ordinary Zimbabweans expect, but also deters much-needed foreign investment and hampers Zimbabwe’s capacity to fully re-engage with the international community.”

The Berlin meeting was attended by representatives of 17 industrialised nations and of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the United Nations.

Mugabe’s party accuses Tsvangirai of not doing enough to persuade Western nations to lift travel and financial sanctions targeting Mugabe loyalists and their business associates.

Tsvangirai has said the burden is on Zanu-PF to reform if it wants to end Zimbabwe’s isolation.

”The countries of Europe and America want to dictate which way our politics should go and they talk about regime change,” Mugabe said on Saturday. ”They want us to go down on our knees and beg. One day we should think about fighting them in the international courts.”

Banners held by Zanu-PF members at the funeral criticised Tsvangirai. ”Don’t disengage. Do condemn sanctions,” said one.

Tsvangirai’s party has reported a recent surge in political violence, allegations that Mugabe’s party denies. And the barring on Thursday of United Nations torture investigator Manfred Nowak raised further questions about how much power Tsvangirai can wield in the face of fierce opposition from some in Zanu-PF. Tsvangirai had invited Nowak, but the UN envoy was stopped at the airport.

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, a Zanu-PF leader, called Nowak’s attempted visit ”a provocation of the highest order”. – Sapa-AP