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Mugabe Moves Hint At Unilateral Formation Of New Zimbabwe Government

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has told his ministers that he is dissolving the cabinet, signaling his intention to name a new slate of ministers in defiance of international pressure for him to share power with the opposition, as such a government will not be joined by either formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, political sources said Friday.

Top officials in Mr. Mugabe's government and ZANU-PF party said most of his ministers have received letters that went out Jan. 1, but some who were away will receive them Monday.

They said Mr. Mugabe could form a new cabinet as early as Tuesday.

A report in the state-controlled Herald newspaper on the one hand suggested the letters to ministers terminating their executive appointments were effecting a mere cabinet shuffle.

Many of those receiving termination letters lost the parliamentary seats in March elections so could not continue as ministers beyond three months from their October appointments.

But the Herald at the same time said Mugabe spokesman George Charamba "indicated that President Mugabe was going ahead with the formation of a new government."

The Herald continued: "This is pursuant to the invitation (Mugabe) extended to the two MDC formations to submit their preferred lists of ministers and for their leaders to come forward and be sworn into office in line with the Sept. 15 agreement."

Government sources say Mr. Mugabe is moving ahead to form a government because MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister designate under the power-sharing accord signed by the two parties Sept. 15, spurned his invitation to join a national unity government.

Tsvangirai received the letter Christmas day and sent his response two days later saying all outstanding issues first had to be satisfactorily resolved. These include the composition of the cabinet and other top political appointments - governors and ambassadors.

Tsvangirai has also demanded a halt to abductions of MDC and civic activists by state agents and the release of about 40 individuals abducted since October who resurfaced recently in police hands only to be charged with conspiring to overthrow the government.

Rival MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara is said to have told Mr. Mugabe this week that it would not be possible for him to enter a unity government that didn't include Tsvangirai.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe in a brief interview that he was in the dark, and referred questions to Chief Cabinet Secretary Misheck Sibanda, who however could not be reached.

Secretary General Welshman Ncube of the Mutambara MDC formation told VOA it would spell disaster if Mr. Mugabe attempted to form a government without the MDC.

Chief Whip Innocent Gonese of the Tsvangirai MDC grouping said Mugabe has been making many illegal decisions which threaten the future of the power-sharing process.

Offering a legal perspective, Chairman Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly called Mr. Mugabe’s latest move academic, offering the opinion that the president and his ministers were in any case operating outside the bounds of the constitution.

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