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Zimbabwe Unity Government Tense Ahead of Zuma Mediation Visit

Tensions have risen within Zimbabwe's national unity government ahead of a visit Thursday by South African President and Southern African Development Community Chairman Jacob Zuma, who has been asked to mediate longstanding unresolved issues.

Those ongoing disputes over fulfillment of the Global Political Agreement underlying the unity government turned acrimonious Sunday when Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, head of one formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, told a cabinet retreat in Nyanga that last year's elections were fraudulent, leading ZANU-PF ministers to walk out.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and other top officials of the larger MDC formation moved to patch up the dispute, but the state-controlled Herald newspaper, close to ZANU-PF, quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Monday as saying the former ruling party in future won't participate in any forums in which Mutambara is scheduled to speak.

Mutambara, Mr. Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe - the three principals in the unity government - were expected to meet before Zuma's visit to smooth things over.

One ZANU-PF source told VOA that the party was angered when the Tsvangirai MDC wrote to Attorney General Johannes Tomana demanding an investigation into the alleged murders of 180 MDC supporters during the turbulent 2008 election period.

Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that tensions are to be expected in the unity government by nature of the diverse political parties it brings together.

Researcher Knox Chitiyo of the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London said that despite mounting tensions, the unity government is not likely to collapse.

Mutambara himself was unapologetic saying it was not his intention to offend his unity government partners - but the deputy prime minister told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that every Zimbabwean must be clear why the inclusive government had to be formed.

Elsewhere, a survey carried out by the Mass Public Opinion Institute and leaked to the press was said to show a collapse in popular support for President Mugabe and ZANU-PF since the formation of the unity government. A leaked version of the poll showed ZANU-PF would find it hard to muster 10% support in free and fair elections whereas the Tsvangirai formation of the MDC was likely to garner support of at least 57%.

The Tsvangirai MDC meanwhile dismissed a report saying Mr. Tsvangirai met with National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku recently in a bid to resolve differences on constitutional reform and agreed to seek a modification of the Global Political Agreement which would expand the role of civil society in the revision process.

The Zimbabwe Times report said the NCA and other groups "convinced" Mr. Tsvangirai to ask his governing partners to amend Article 6 of the power-sharing agreement.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his party meets regularly with the NCA and other civic groups but there was no meeting or agreement such as the Zimbabwe Times described in its report.

The NCA has launched a campaign calling for a "No" vote in the eventual referendum needed to approve the draft constitution to be prepared by a parliamentary committee.

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