An attempt Thursday by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to take President Robert Mugabe to task on issues causing friction within their unity government was deflected by Mr. Mugabe who said such discussions should only involve signatories of the September 2008 power-sharing agreement which is the basis for their co-governance, political sources said.
Such vexed questions include ongoing invasions of white-owned commercial farms, President Mugabe’s recent unilateral reassignment of some ministerial portfolio responsibilities, and a wide range of top-level appointments including that of the central bank governor. Those appointments have been an issue since before the government's formation in February.
The meeting called Thursday by Mr. Tsvangirai involved not only himself and Mr. Mugabe but also Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the third power-sharing signatory, plus Mr. Mugabe's two vice presidents and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozane Khupe.
Mr. Mugabe deferred the discussion, saying only the power-sharing principals can resolve such fundamental disputes. Political sources said Mr. Tsvangirai and Mutambara were trying to schedule a meeting of the power-sharing principals on Friday or Monday.
But sources in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said the president was not likely to budge on the various issues brought up by Mr. Tsvangirai.
Despite Thursday's setback, Mr. Tsvangirai appointed a ministerial team, led by Mutambara, to look into the farm takeovers, which Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF characterize as land reform "mop-up" or consolidation operations rather than new farm invasions.
The team includes Co-Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi of ZANU-PF and Giles Mutsekwa of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (Mutambara heads a rival grouping of the MDC), Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and Lands Minister Herbert Murerwa, both of ZANU-PF, and Minister of State Gorden Moyo, who is attached to Tsvangirai's office.
Sources said the ministerial team starting Friday will start making unannounced visits to three farms caught up in the alleged takeovers, and report to Mr. Tsvangirai on Monday.
Responding to Mr. Mugabe’s call for the government to speak with a single voice about lifting Western sanctions against the president and his inner circle, Mr. Tsvangirai responded in a statement that there is a “more urgent need to condemn farm invasions with one voice.”
The prime minister said the farm invasions are counterproductive and condemn Zimbabweans to perpetual hunger by undermining the country's agricultural capacity.
Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although the meeting did not address Mr. Tsvangirai’s agenda, the top six officials engaged a discussion on how they might work together more effectively.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...