Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai briefed foreign diplomats in Harare on Tuesday on his contention that President Robert Mugabe's appointments of ambassadors to the United Nations, European Union and four countries were made without consultation within the unity government thus are "null and void."
But European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia said a letter from Mr. Tsvangirai to the EU which he received from the prime minister did not ask Brussels to reject the credentials of the Zimbabwean ambassador.
"We have received the letter from Prime Minister Tsvangirai addressed to [EU] President Baroso, but he is not asking for the revocation of the [diplomatic] mandate," Dell'Ariccia told VOA. "He is just stating that the appointment does not conform to the constitution of the country, and now the issue is being carefully considered by our headquarters."
Earlier statements by Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change had suggested that he would ask the UN, the EU, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and South Africa to reject the credentials of Harare's envoy.
Mr. Tsvangirai said last week that his party will no longer recognize appointments made by Mr. Mugabe without unity government consensus. Challenged appointments include those of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, provincial governors and judges as well as Ambassador Phelekezela Mphoko, posted to Pretoria, South Africa, and United Nations Ambassador Chitsaka Chipaziwa, among others.
The latest clash in the unity government has prompted South African President Jacob Zuma to dispatch his mediation team to Harare. Diplomatic sources in Pretoria said Mr. Zuma’s team will arrive in Harare on Wednesday.
Minister of State Jameson Timba, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai’s office, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the prime minister reiterated his position to envoys that Mr. Mugabe has violated the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing, and the Zimbabwean Constitution.
Responding, Rugare Gumbo, spokesman for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said Mr. Tsvangirai has taken leave of his senses and that Mr. Mugabe has acted within the constitutional scope of his office.
European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he has received Tsvangirai’s formal communication concerning Mr. Mugabe's diplomatic appointment to Brussels and has forwarded it to EU headquarters there.
"We have received Tsvangirai's letter and we are now consulting South Africa as well as SADC," said Riccia.
Political analyst Mqondobanzi Magonya said Tsvangirai’s position on appointments is a step in the right direction.
Beyond challenging the credentials of some of Zimbabwe’s envoys to the West, Mr. Tsvangirai will also boycott Wednesday’s cabinet meeting in an additional gesture of protest of what he calls unilateralism by Mr. Mugabe, said sources in his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change. If Tsvangirai follows through his threat, this will be the second time he has snubbed the Cabinet - he similarly boycotted the Cabinet in October 2009.
Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the prime minister will instead meet with victims of alleged ZANU-PF intimidation and violence in Manicaland, one of the country's more hotly contested provinces.
A related crisis was averted in the Zimbabwean Senate on Tuesday after provincial governors failed to show up in the face of an MDC threat to disrupt upper house proceedings if they took their ex officio seats.
The Senate was adjourned to November 9 after a brief session.
The Tsvangirai MDC is also toughening up its stance on the troubled constitutional revision process, saying it will boycott public comment meetings if the security of those participating is not guaranteed by authorities.
MDC Deputy Organizing Secretary Morgan Komichi said the party will discourage supporters from attending outreach meetings as its leadership does not want to put their lives in danger. An MDC supporter died last month of injuries sustained in a melee outside a constitutional outreach session in Mbare, a populous Harare suburb.
Komichi, who has been monitoring the constitutional outreach process for the party, said the party is tired of being abused and taken for granted by ZANU-PF and want the national police to start doing their job.
Political commentator John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere such developments reflect the extension of government discord into the constitutional process.
Note: This report incorporates a correction of an earlier version which stated incorrectly that Prime MInister Tsvangirai asked the EU and others to reject the credentials of envoys whose appointments he is challenging.