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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai to Tackle President Mugabe on Farms, Other Issues

A showdown loomed Thursday between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over a range of issues troubling the national unity government in which they share power, including ongoing farm invasions in the name of land reform and Mr. Mugabe's unilateral rearrangement of ministerial portfolios, political sources said.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, head of a rival, though lesser, formation of the Movement for Democratic Change founded by Mr. Tsvangirai, would also attend, the sources said. Mutambara was the third signatory to the power-sharing pact signed in September 2008 leading to the formation of the national unity government in mid-February.

Deputy Prime Minister Thokozane Khupe of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation was expected to attend, as were Vice Presidents Joyce Mujuru and Joseph Msika.

Topping the agenda is the issue of continuing takeovers of white-owned commercial farms - though only a few hundred such farms remained in operation when the present government came to power, Mr. Mugabe has encouraged "mop-up" invasions to complete the land reform drive launched in 2000 and which most economists say led to economic collapse.

Mr. Tsvangirai has urged a halt to such takeovers, at one point saying farm invaders would be arrested, but the seizures of commercial farms have continued.

The MDC side of the government also objects to Mr. Mugabe's rearrangement of ministerial portfolios last week in shifting powers from Communications Minister Nelson Chamisa of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation to Transport Minister Nicholas Goche of his own ZANU-PF.

Such powers include oversight of state communications entities including the state-controlled fixed-line phone company TelOne and mobile provider NetOne, and ZimPost.

Mr. Tsvangirai is also expected to take Mr. Mugabe to task for refusing to swear in deputy agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett, who was arrested Feb. 13 and held for weeks in a Mutare remand prison on charges stemming from an alleged 2006 plot to assassinate Mr. Mugabe that was widely considered to have been conjured up by prosecutors.

Longer-standing issues including the president’s appointments of permanent secretaries, the attorney general and the governor of the reserve bank are also to be discussed.

Harare-based political analyst Charles Mangongera told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it will not be easy for the principals in the unity government to resolve or compromise on such politically charged issues.

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