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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Delivers Oblique Criticism of President Mugabe

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, accused by some in his party of being overly respectful to his partner in government, President Robert Mugabe, on Friday issued a veiled criticism of the head of state for refusing to step down following last year's elections.

Delivering the keynote speech on the first day of a workshop on "A Shared National Vision for the Next 30 Years," Mr. Tsvangirai told delegates he envisages “a Zimbabwe where political leaders are elected to serve the people and not their own interests, where incumbents stand down gracefully if they lose an election," an oblique reference to Mr. Mugabe.

The prime minister added that his vision is for the army and police to work for the people.

Mr. Tsvangirai, head of the main formation of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, outpolled Mr. Mugabe in the first round of presidential voting in March 2008, then declined to contest a June runoff to protest political violence against his supporters.

The national vision conference in Harare also featured remarks by Vice President Joyce Mujuru,former Home Affairs minister Enos Nkala and Edgar Tekere, former leader of the now defunct Zimbabwe Unity Movement, and former presidential candidate Simba Makoni, now leading a new political party called Mavambo/Kusiile/Dawn.

Political analyst Walter Mbongolwane told VOA reporter Brenda Moyo that Mr. Tsvangirai’s tough comments came as a surprise because the prime minister has been making an effort to get along with President Mugabe in their power-sharing arrangement.

Analyst Themba Dlodlo of the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the prime minister’s vision for Zimbabwe could be achieved - but only if a democratic constitution is written and adopted.

From Harare Mr. Tsvangirai traveled to the northern Zambezi River resort town of Kariba, to open a workshop on the country's business-labor-government negotiating forum.

Mr. Tsvangirai urged the three components of the tripartite forum to work together. He praised the unity government for bringing the nation together.

The prime minister said the partners in government are working together on a constitutional revision, economic reforms and national healing in the wake of electoral violence.

He promised his government would put the group's recommendations into practice.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions President Lovemore Matombo told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu of Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he welcomes the government’s commitment to the tripartite negotiating forum after years of neglect.

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