Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday took President Robert Mugabe to task for naming permanent secretaries to many ministries, among them some held by Mr. Tsvangirai's own Movement for Democratic Change under the unity government formed less than two weeks ago by the MDC in partnership with Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
He also demanded that Mr. Mugabe follow through on what Mr. Tsvangirai said was a commitment by the head of state to release political detainees, either on bail or outright, among them deputy agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett.
Mr. Tsvangirai said the announced appointments represented a violation of the power-sharing agreement to which he, Mr. Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara subscribed in September 2008, leading to the government's formation on February 13.
The prime minister told journalists and members of the diplomatic corps that Mr. Mugabe's appointments violated not only the September global political agreement but the constitution, therefore the appointments were "null and void" under the law. He said permanent secretaries in place as of Sept. 15 would remain in place in "acting capacity" until further notice.
Mr. Tsvangirai tacitly chided Mr. Mugabe, declaring, "there is only one government running Zimbabwe – one government, with one vision and one agenda – democratization and stabilization. There is no room for residual parallel structures that attempt to manipulate the process and procedures of government for personal or political gain."
Added Mr. Tsvangirai: "This government will not allow a parallel force within its structures or any unconstitutional or unilateral actions which serve to impede progress."
Mr. Mugabe's office issued no immediate response to Mr. Tsvangirai's comments.
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.
Touching on other sensitive and unresolved issues that were to be settled once the unity government was launched, Mr. Mugabe said the leadership of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Office of the Attorney General needed to be settled. Gideon Gono, widely criticized for stoking hyperinflation through the massive printing of money, and Johannes Tomana, criticized for his alleged abuses of the rule of law, respectively remain in place.
Mr. Tsvangirai deplored the latest wave of invasions of white-owned farms, which observers see as a last-ditch attempt by elements of Mr. Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF party, to confiscate potentially valuable properties before a new dispensation takes hold.
Finally, Mr. Tsvangirai said the vexed question of political detainees had to be resolved - his MDC formation's treasurer, Bennett, has languished in jail in the Manicaland province capital of Mutare since Feb. 13, accused of possessing weapons with the intention of committing 'terrorism, banditry and sabotage." Bennett's lawyers and Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC have dismissed the charges as trumped up for political reasons.
About 30 MDC and civil society activists, among them Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko, are also held, some without being charged months after they were abducted by apparent agents of the state security apparatus and later handed over to police.
Mr. Tsvangirai asserted that he, Mr. Mugabe and Mutambara had agreed last week that those detainees who have been formally charged should be released on bail, and those who face no charges should simply be released. "This has not yet happened," he said.
"Indeed, rather than allowing the judicial process to take its course with regard to the granting of bail, the Attorney General’s office is wilfully obstructing the release of all detainees by abusing the appeal process and this must stop forthwith."