President Robert Mugabe on Friday responded to recent sharp criticism by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over the appointments to top posts he has made without consulting his governing partners, chiding Mr. Tsvangirai for broaching unity government issues with the European Union and others and envisioning new elections in February.
Addressing a meeting of the youth league of his ZANU-PF preparatory to a December conference, the president said the national unity government launched in February 2009 has irretrievably broken down so that the only solution to the crisis is a new round of elections in 2011. The unity government was formed following 2008 elections that ushered in a period of intense and deadly political violence, resulting in political deadlock resolved by power sharing.
Reflecting the increasingly strained relations between the partners in the Harare unity government, Mr. Mugabe termed “absolutely foolish and stupid” the broadsides issued in recent days by by Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, long in opposition but now theoretically on a level with ZANU-PF.
President Mugabe said that differences must be resolved internally.
Mr. Tsvangirai has declared “null and void” many of the appointments made by Mr. Mugabe over the past two years since the signature of a Global Political Agreement for power sharing, telling the EU and United Nations that Harare’s ambassadors to Brussels and New York were unconstitutionally appointed in disregard of GPA terms.
The European Union expressed concern at the lack of a consensus in Harare on ambassadorial appointments.
But the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it will not question the diplomatic credentials of Zimbabwe's current ambassador to the organization, Chitsaka Chipaziwa.
Responding to the latest crisis, South African President Jacob Zuma in his role as mediator for the Southern African Development Community sent his facilitation team to Harare this week.
On Friday South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters that Pretoria remains committed to helping the Zimbabwean unity partners resolve their latest falling-out.
But in Harare the war of words continued between ZANU-PF and the Tsvangirai MDC formation (Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara heads a smaller MDC formation that broke away in 2005).
ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the prime minister should not complain to the West and reiterated Mr. Mugabe’s call for elections next year. Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Mr. Mugabe in demanding elections in 2011 was merely recycling an old threat.
Political observer Earnest Mudzengi told reporter Patience Rusere that he believes President Mugabe is ready to bulldoze the country into holding new elections next year.
In other government business, Zimbabwe’s ministers of Health and Water Resources have issued appeals for a total of more than US$1 billion in donor assistance to restore social services. But such targets may be unrealistic given donor fatigue and Western reluctance to fund major projects without major reforms in Harare.
Tatenda Gumbo reported on the disparity between ministerial hopes and economic reality.