On the eve of his swearing-in as prime minister in a national unity government, Movement for Democratic Change founder Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday announced the ministers he has selected and in response to suggestions his MDC might be swallowed up by the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, asserted his party will maintain its independence.
"No one is joining anyone," Tsvangirai responded to a journalist at a news conference in the capital, Harare. "Mr. Mugabe has got executive authority; I have executive authority."
He told reporters, "We are aware of the shortcomings. But we are also aware of the potential of responding to the needs and concerns of Zimbabweans."
Prime minister-designate since the signature last Sept. 15 of a power-sharing accord that has taken close to five months to implement, Tsvangirai was scheduled to be sworn into office on Wednesday with the entire cabinet to be sworn in on Friday to form the government.
Parliament meanwhile approved a law Tuesday to create a National Security Council on which both Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe will sit, giving the MDC, long in opposition, more visibility and a modicum of control over an often repressive security apparatus. The police and the army were deeply implicated in deadly post-election violence in April-June 2008, and the feared Central Intelligence Organization works directly under Mr. Mugabe's office.
Tsvangirai named Tendai Biti, secretary general of his MDC formation and senior negotiator in power-sharing talks, as minister of finance - a key post given hopes that international donors will be more willing to channel humanitarian and reconstruction funds into Zimbabwe through an institution outside the control of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF, including the central bank.
Former air force officer Giles Mutsekwa was named co-minister for home affairs. Control of the ministry, from which the Zimbabwe Republic Police depend, was hotly debated and the Southern African Development Community proposed that the ministry be shared.
Dr. Henry Madzorera was named minister of health, a critical position in view of the cholera epidemic that has claimed nearly 3,500 lives and is still ravaging large areas of the country as humanitarian relief agencies warn of insufficient funding to keep battling the disease.
Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare on the news conference in which Tsvangirai announced his ministerial team.
Reporter Blessing Zulu spoke with political analyst Charles Mangongera, who said the appointment of Biti to the Finance Ministry and the naming of rival MDC member Abednico Bhebhe to the Ministry of Water was a master stroke by the opposition leader.
African leaders were due in Harare to witness Tsvangirai’s swearing-in on Wednesday, among them President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and King Mswati of Swaziland. Representing South Africa will be former President Thabo Mbeki and Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, while incumbent President Kgalema Motlanthe is slated to attend ceremonies for the constitution of the government on Friday.
A spokesman for Tsvangirai confirmed he met with President Mugabe on Tuesday to finalize the appointments of provincial governors. But the vexed question of political detainees was unresolved as human rights lawyers warned their physical condition is deteriorating.
But Pretoria-based political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group said the tangled detainees issue is unlikely to hold up Tsvangirai’s swearing-in as head of what Zimbabweans call an "all-inclusive" government.
A lawyer for MDC members and others held on accusations they conspired to overthrow the Mugabe government, Beatrice Mtetwa, told VOA her clients will appear in court Wednesday for a routine remand hearing. She declined to comment on speculation that they could be released on the same day that Tsvangirai is sworn into office.
Among them is Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko, abducted from her home on Dec. 3 by suspected Central Intelligence Organization agents and later produced by police in connection with the alleged conspiracy to mount a coup against the government.