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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Vows to Remain in Unity Gov't Despite 'Provocations'

Mr. Tsvangirai told supporters this weekend in Bulawayo that despite what he characterized as the harassment of MDC supporters in a bid to provoke the breakup of the unity government, his party would not leave it

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has accused hardliners in the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, in league with the police, of attempting to provoke his Movement for Democratic Change formation to pull out of the unity government, and has also sworn that his former opposition party will not fall into that trap.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s statement closely followed the release on Sunday of top aide Jameson Timba, a minister of state who was arrested Friday on charges that he had undermined President Mugabe's authority. Timba was alleged to have published an opinion piece in a weekly newspaper intimating Mr. Mugabe had lied about the outcome of a recent summit of the Southern African Development Community in Johannesburg.

He was freed after the High Court ruled his arrest was unconstitutional.

Mr. Tsvangirai told supporters Sunday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, that despite what he characterized as the harassment of MDC officials and members in a bid to provoke the breakup of the unity government, his party would not leave it.

Mr. Tsvangirai said the MDC would stay put even if he himself was arrested, as former information minister Jonathan Moyo of ZANU-PF has recently urged.

Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, another senior MDC official, is currently being tried on charges he misused his office in connection with a fuel purchase contract, charges that the MDC says were politically inspired. Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Tsvangirai MDC, is under pressure to resign over low pay for public workers.

The ZANU-PF-leaning Sunday Mail newspaper accused Biti of having a romantic affair with a married woman working in his office. The newspaper also published Biti's phone numbers which it said he was using to set up trysts with his subordinate.

Douglas Mwonzora, spokesman for Tsvangirai's MDC formation, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his party will not quit the government because it is committed to the people’s welfare.

Mr. Tsvangirai "is realizing that the people of Zimbabwe are enjoying the peace and the little prosperity that there is, and he wants that to continue. Therefore, he wants us to stay put in the government," Mwonzora said.

ZANU-PF parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo denied ZANU-PF was trying to push the MDC out of the unity government, calling the charge childish. "We can not influence the arrests of other government members," said Gumbo. "How do we do that?"

Political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga told VOA's Ntungamili Nkomo that the Tsvangirai MDC cannot leave the inclusive government because it is benefiting from power sharing.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwean liberation war veterans and ZANU-PF militants besieged the offices of Finance Minister Biti on Monday demanding his resignation over his refusal to increase civil servant salaries as Mr. Mugabe had earlier promised.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare.