Zimbabwe's long-troubled government of national unity faces further strains as embattled Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara is said to be seeking a Cabinet reshuffle that would target his opponents in the smaller Movement for Democratic Change formation.
Sources said the power struggle in the MDC wing could strengthen President Robert Mugabe’s hand in determining the timing of new elections this year, as he has argued that the government is so divided that new elections are urgently needed.
Political sources say Mr. Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are likely to scotch any move by Mutambara to settle political accounts. He is said to wish to fire his main rivals in the MDC formation: Trade minister Welshman Ncube, elected president of the formation in its congress last month; Regional Integration Minister Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga; and Education minister David Coltart.
Political sources say Mutambara is likely to seek the reshuffle when Mr. Mugabe returns from Singapore where officials of his ZANU-PF party said this week that he has traveled for follow-up treatment after an operation to correct an eye cataract.
Mr. Mugabe has declined to swear in Ncube to replace Mutambara as deputy prime minister despite Ncube's election as party president, displacing Mr. Mutambara, noting a pending court case in which disgruntled members have challenged Ncube's election.
A spokesman for Mutambara's faction of the now-divided MDC formation, Morgan Changamire, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Mutambara has a mandate for a shuffle of the MDC formation's ministers. But Nhlanhla Dube spokesman for Ncube's faction, said Mutambara has no mandate to fire or hire ministers.
Political analyst Earnest Mudzengi said Mutambara’s move is not likely to have a major impact on the cohesion of the already fractious unity government. The power-sharing arrangement, launched in February 2009, has been in place for just over two years.