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Zimbabwe Opposition Urges Wider Crisis-Resolution Role By South Africa's Motlanthe

The formation of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai has urged South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, currently chairman of the Southern African Development Community, to expand his role in the troubled power-sharing process between the MDC and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai formation sources could not confirm if the leadership wanted Motlanthe to take over from Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, as mediator. But they said that Tsvangirai has engaged Mr. Motlanthe seeking his intervention to restart negotiations.

VOA was unable immediately to obtain comment from an authorized MDC spokesperson. But party sources said the Tsvangirai formation is still very unhappy with Mbeki as mediator. The grouping has long accused Mbeki of failing to remain impartial as a mediator.

But political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya of Harare questioned whether Mr. Motlanthe would be much different from Mbeki if he were to take over as mediator, as he has continued to press for the implementation of SADC's recommendation that a unity government be formed immediately and that outstanding political issues be resolved later on.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Saturday that Mr. Mugabe was forging ahead with plans to form a new government with or without opposition participation.

The Herald quoted Mugabe spokesman George Charamba as saying that Mr. Mugabe has begun to prepare a new administration. Highly placed government sources said Mr. Mugabe has written to SADC to inform the regional grouping of his intentions.

The Herald reported late last week that President Mugabe had sent letters to a number of his ministers terminating their appointments. In the case of 12 ministers, the appointments had to be ended because they failed to secure parliamentary seats in the March elections. But sources said such letters were also sent to ministers who hold parliamentary seats.

Mr. Mugabe's latest moves follow the rejection by Tsvangirai of his formal invitation to join a unity government as prime minister. Tsvangirai, currently in Botswana, says the president's proposal was irregular because a constitutional amendment creating the office of prime minister has yet to be passed and signed into law.

Tsvangirai also dismissed the invitation as presumptuous given that the MDC and ZANU-PF under the power-sharing agreement signed Sept. 15 agreed to form a government on terms of equality with an equitable distribution of cabinet seats and other key posts.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...