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Zimbabwe's MDC Sets Tough Conditions for Joining Unity Government

The dominant wing of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change on Friday backed MDC founder and prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai in saying that the party would not join a proposed national unity government unless the constitutional framework is put in place and ministerial portfolios are equitably distributed.

The statement by the national council of Tsvangirai's MDC formation did not lay emphasis on the key Home Affairs Ministry which has become a major bone of contention in power-sharing talks between the MDC and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe. The ministry was the focus of a summit last Sunday of the Southern African Development Community which recommended that the MDC and ZANU-PF share control of the police ministry.

A statement issued by the MDC national council suggested that the main impediment to the formation of a unity government was that a constitutional amendment creating the offices of prime minister and deputy prime minister, the latter to be filled by rival MDC leader Arthur Mutambara, has yet to be passed by parliament and signed by Mr. Mugabe.

Another issue on the table distribution of the governorships of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces, two of which include metropolitan Harare, the capital, and Bulawayo, the second city.

The MDC national council declared itself "desirous of achieving finality to the current dispute given the economic meltdown and the massive suffering of the people of Zimbabwe reflected in entrenched poverty, the collapse of public health, education, transport, water and (the) energy crisis, monetary policy dislocation and supersonic inflation."

But it reaffirmed statements by Tsvangirai and Secretary General Tendai Biti rejecting SADC resolutions in recent days, in particular the resolution issued by the Nov. 9 summit saying the government should be formed immediately even in the absence of a constitutional foundation, and recommending that MDC and ZANU-PF ministers share control of Home Affairs.

The statement argued that the Nov. 9 communique was "unprocedurally arrived at" because Mr. Mugabe failed to recuse himself from SADC discussions. It reproached his ZANU-PF for its "lack of sincerity" and failure to embrace the "paradigm shift" in national politics.

While Mutambara backs Tsvangirai's claim to the Home Affairs Ministry, he says this should not block urgent formation of a government capable of addressing the country's deepening humanitarian crisis. Four million Zimbabweans are now receiving food aid from the United Nations World Food Program, a number expected to rise to five million in early 2009.

Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported that Deputy President Thokozani Khupe of the Tsvangirai's MDC told reporters in Harare following the national council meeting that her party would not join the proposed government until all outstanding issues have been addressed, including fair distribution of ministries.

Mutambara told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai must consider the consequences for the people of failing to put a government in place.

ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo called Tsvangirai's position regrettable.

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