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Zimbabwe Unity Government Dispute Referred to African Organizations

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change said Sunday it is asking the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, guarantors of the unity government formed in Harare in February, to step in to arbitrate the resolution of issues still outstanding from that time and which have arisen since.

The MDC decision to refer the matter to SADC and the AU in effect recognized an impasse in talks under way for weeks among the signatories of the September 2008 power-sharing pact underlying the so-called inclusive government: Mr. Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, head of a rival formation of the MDC.

Political sources say Mr. Mugabe has refused to budge on the most important issues on the table including the leadership of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, now governed by Mugabe crony Gideon Gono, and the Office of the Attorney General, held by Johannes Tomana.

Some progress has been reported in recent days regarding the appointments of provincial governors, ambassadors and ministerial permanent secretaries. But whatever the progress it has been overshadowed by a series of arrests generally considered political, in one case of three newspaper employees, in another of a leading human rights defender. Elsewhere an MDC lawmaker in Manicaland province was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Observers say the security and judicial apparatus controlled by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and guided by hardliners of the former ruling party is bearing down on its main MDC partner on the one hand to destabilize the government and on the other to assert its power.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa, speaking from the southeast city of Masvingo where the party held a big rally on Sunday, said the MDC national executive called upon SADC and the AU because the government cannot operate under present circumstances.

Following months of delay in forming the unity government, SADC leaders urged the MDC to enter it though various issues were outstanding, saying these could be resolved once the government was up and running, through a multi-party consultative committee.

But resolution of such issues has come down to Mr. Mugabe's willingness to compromise.

Chamisa told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that party leaders also demanded an end to human rights abuses and arbitrary arrests.

Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported on the Masvingo rally.

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