Zimbabwe stalemate persists

One year of Zimbabwe’s unity government and the parties are still nowhere near unified. Jason Moyo reports

Just one week before its first anniversary and Zimbabwe’s unity government is on the rocks again. Zanu-PF has refused to agree to any further reforms until the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) calls for an end to sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, which prompted the MDC to challenge the president to end the partnership and call for an election.

Zanu-PF’s position has been hardening steadily since its December congress, when a more radical wing of the party gained a foothold and began pushing for a harder stance against reform. The chorus of criticism rose after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is the leader of the MDC, told media in Davos, Switzerland, this week that only “some” of the sanctions must be lifted.

Tsvangirai has resisted pressure from Mugabe, campaigning instead only for the removal of sanctions on state enterprises, some of which his ministers control. The MDC also wants an end to an embargo on lending from the International Monetary Fund and other Western institutions, but lenders say Zimbabwe can access fresh credit only once it clears its debt of close to US$6-billion.

United States legislation enacted in 2001 bans financial support to Zimbabwe, but hopes have been raised after Washington’s ambassador in Harare indicated a possible softening of his country’s stance.

Zanu-PF is not too concerned about the removal of Western restrictions on the economy. Mugabe and his inner circle are said to be more worried about the personal measures that have kept them away from Western capitals and seen some of their children thrown out of foreign universities.

Comments by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband that his country would “be guided” by the MDC in deciding on sanctions have been fodder for Zanu-PF, which has always accused Tsvangirai of calling for the embargo in the first place.

This week Tsvangirai sought to play down the tension, saying he would continue in government with Mugabe. “I have taken a decision that we can work together, despite this acrimony, for the good of the country,” he said.

But there was a tougher reaction from his secretary general, Tendai Biti, the minister of finance, who challenged Mugabe to withdraw his party from the coalition and call fresh elections.

“Zanu-PF cannot — continue to be normative members of this government when they are working against it at every turn,” Biti said. “Either they are in or they are out. If they are out, then bring on the election.”

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