Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe Tuesday doubled down on his support for underfire Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara despite calls by his fellow Southern Afican Development Community (SADC) leaders to dumb him.
Mr. Mugabe told Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, leader of one of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations that he will continue treating Mutambara as a principal in government issues.
SADC leaders meeting in summit in Maputo, Mozambique, told Mutambara that he will no longer be treated as one of the unity government principals.
Mutambara has been locked in a leadership wrangle with Ncube who argues he should be named Global Political Agreement principal having replaced the deputy premier as leader of the MDC party.
Mutambara has so far lost two High court challenges over his ouster and is appealing in the Supreme Court.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the SADC appointed mediator in Harare, refused to meet Mutambara in Harare last week Tuesday.
Mr. Zuma's position was later endorsed by fellow regional leaders despite a spirited campaign by Mr. Mugabe to defend Mutambara at the summit.
President Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba was qouted in the Herald newspaper Tuesady claiming that Mutambara is still a principal despitte the SADC resolution.
In an interview in Maputo, Mutambara said Mr. Zuma was misleading himself in snubbing him as he is challenging Ncube's leadership of the party.
But president Zuma's international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu told VOA there are no further dealings with Mutambara.
MDC secretary general Priscillah Misihairambwi Mushonga, who accompanied Ncube to the meeting with the president, told VOA that Mr. Mugabe has remained adamant that he will side with Mutambara though acknowledging that he cannot impose him on SADC leaders.
Political analyst Professor John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe said Mr. Mugabe&rsquo's position on Mutambara is no longer sustainable.