Zimbabwe's troubled national unity government moved a step closer to breakdown Friday as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change would cease to interact with its governing partner, the former ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, following this week's arrest of a top MDC official.
Mr. Tsvangirai told reporters in Harare his MDC would "disengage" from ZANU-PF "until such time as confidence and respect are restored among us," clearly alluding to the indictment of MDC Treasurer and Senator Roy Bennett on charges of possessing weapons for purposes of terrorism, and his incarceration following the related revocation of his bail.
A High Court judge reinstated Bennett's bail, which the Supreme Court had ordered granted, and Bennett was freed later Friday from the remand prison in Mutare, the capital of eastern Manicaland province where he had once been a commercial farmer.
But Mr. Tsvangirai said his decision also had to to with the mounting number of unresolved issues that have troubled the unity government since its inception in February, which he said remained unresolved because ZANU-PF has shown no commitment to doing so.
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.
Despite the mounting crisis, sources told VOA that a relaxed President Mugabe shifted his attention to sports in extending his best wishes to the Zimbabwe Warriors, the national soccer team, on the eve of its match against Mauritius in a regional tourney in Harare.
But ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo, a central committee member, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu the MDC decision to disengage was unfortunate.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, leader of a rival MDC formation, condemned the indictment and incarceration of Bennett and said he would try to mediate between the Tsvangirai MDC and ZANU-PF.
London-based political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga said it is not clear that disengagement by the Tsvangirai MDC formation will bring Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF around.
Human rights defenders hailed the decision by the High Court to reinstate Bennett’s bail.
Communications officer Kumbirai Mafunda of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the judicial system appeared to have found Bennett guilty even before he had been tried.