President Robert Mugabe has again moved unilaterally to strip ministers of the Movement For Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of their powers, escalating tensions in the country's troubled unity government.
Statutory instruments published in the state Gazette on Friday indicate the president trimmed down powers of the Ministry of information and Technology and the Ministry of Labor, both controlled by the Tsvangirai MDC formation, and reassigned those powers to ministers of his own ZANU-PF party.
Information Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa lost key portfolios to Transport Minister Nicholas Goche.
Goche thereby became the Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development, overseeing operations at state-run fixed-line telephone company TelOne, state cellular provider NetOne, Zimpost and their governing body, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
Mr. Mugabe attempted a similar move in April 2009 but Mr. Tsvangirai declared the maneuver “null and void” and Mr. Mugabe retreated.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, also secretary general of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, said Mr. Mugabe’s actions will seriously affect government operations.
“I am afraid to say that clearly there has not been consultation between the prime minister and the president which is clearly in breach of the Schedule 8 of the Global Political Agreement.”
Biti added: “I am afraid to say it is going to be a serious area of contestation between the two political formations.”
Elsewhere, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe may hold new elections next year whether or not it completes the process of amending the constitution, and that he will seek re-election if his party wants him to.
Mr. Mugabe told reporters Thursday that “if the constitution-making process succeeds, there will be an election, and if it fails, that too will lead to an election.”
But he said the principals in the unity government must agree on the way forward as to new polls.
London-based political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mr. Mugabe's statements were disappointing, adding that Zimbabweans should not allow the government to hold new elections without a new constitution in place.