A spokesman for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe s spokesman has confirmed his boss will not endorse or intervene to implement a bid by Welshman Ncube, president of the smaller formation of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to assume the position of deputy prime minister now held by Arthur Mutambara.
The published comments by presidential spokesman George Charamba have added to tensions within the unity government. Mr. Mugabe had said earlier that he would decline to swear in Ncube as deputy prime minister unless Mutambara, replaced recently by Ncube as president of the smaller MDC formation, stepped down on his own.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Charamba as reiterating this position and adding that President Mugabe cannot be dragged into internal MDC party politics.
"It is not the business of the president to use his powers as an appointing authority to resolve the problems of a political party," Charamba was quoted as saying.
Charamba, also permanent secretary of the Information Ministry, added" "Welshman Ncube must deal with the political problems in MDC arising from that party's just-ended congress. That congress, Charamba, added produced a contested leadership.
A dissident formation of the Ncube-led MDC formation has filed papers in High Court challenging the outcome of last month’s congress electing him president. The faction has written to Mr. Mugabe asking him not to swear in Ncube as deputy prime minister.
Charamba said the president will wait for the judicial process to run its course. Lawyers are divided on the issue. Some say that the president, as appointing authority, has the sole prerogative to appoint or fire any member of the cabinet. Others say the president has no legal or constitutional powers to prevent Ncube from being sworn in.
The latter group says President Mugabe could only refuse to swear in Ncube if he were barred from doing so by an order from a High Court justice.
Mutambara himself has kept a low profile and has not been reachable all this week.
NCube told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu he will seek an audience with Mr. Mugabe.
Elsewhere, the dominant MDC formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has slammed the president's selection of a new ambassador to South Africa, saying that the naming of Phelekezela Mphoko, to be confirmed on Thursday by Mr. Mugabe, violates the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing.
The MDC said the appointment is particularly distressing as Mphoko will eventually present his credentials to South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator in the Harare unity government on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.
The Tsvangirai MDC said it was not consulted on the diplomatic appointment as it should have been under the GPA. Such unilateral appointments have been an issue in the past between Mr. Tsvangirai and President Mugabe.
Mphoko replaces Simon Khaya Moyo, who left his post in Pretoria last year to become chairman of Mr. Mugabe’s long-ruling ZANU-PF.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA reporter Patience Rusere that the party will write to Mr Zuma objecting to Mphoko's appointment and asking him to refuse to accept the newly designated envoy's diplomatic credentials.