Tsvangirai begins work as Robert Mugabe struggles to contain his henchmen

HARARE – Prime Minister designate, Morgan Tsvangirai is not waiting for his former bitter rival, President Robert Mugabe to give him the nod to begin the seemingly uphill task of restoring Zimbabwe's once prosperous economy to its past glory.

Zimbabwe’s so-called power-sharing deal is two weeks old, and no power has been shared and many are starting to fear a slide back to de facto dictatorship.

Mr Mugabe in power since independence has been accused of stalling the process after he chose to spend nine days in New York before he could swear in the new government.

On Monday, Mr Mugabe finally returned from his trip to the United Nations General Assembly after it was rumoured that he was not due until next Friday, amid criticism that he did not appreciate the gravity of the crisis bedevilling the country.

He promised a new government before the end of the week but showed no signs that he was worried the delays could further escalate the humanitarian crisis in his country.

Business as usual

However, Mr Tsvangirai who has led the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader since its formation nine years ago, promising Zimbabweans a break from the business as usual approach to the country’s multifaceted crisis has been on the ground to get an appreciation of the mammoth task that lies ahead.

Analysts say the new government’s first task is the restoration of the economy saddled with the world’s worst rate of inflation at over 12 million per cent and shortages of almost all basic commodities.

Mr Tsvangirai’s style, which contrasts sharply with Mr Mugabe’s dithering, has given many Zimbabweans renewed hope the deal might work after all.

Relying on his party’s own resources since he has not been formally appointed to his position, the Prime Minister designate has met the food industry, bankers, the mining industry and farmers to get an understanding of the fundamental problems facing Zimbabwe’s economy.

As Prime Minister his envisaged role will involve mobilising support to revive the comatose economy and his consultations were a reflection of what he considers to be priority areas, MDC says.

Mr Eddie Cross, a senior MDC policy advisor said Mr Tsvangirai did not get "a pretty picture" during his consultations.

Industrialists were working at 10 per cent of their capacity and could not fund the necessary recovery in their activity if the wider economy was stabilized and returned to growth.

The miners said three quarters of all gold mines were closed and overall the industry was operating at 20 per cent of capacity.

"The bankers said they feared for their staff as crowds of people gathered at all banking halls and ATM ‘s in a desperate effort to gain access to their funds as inflation, now at over a billion per cent per annum, simply destroyed their savings and salaries while they stood in queues," Mr Cross said.

Talks to form the unity government stalled more than a week ago after Mr Mugabe, Mr Tsvangirai and Professor Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the small formation of the MDC failed to agree on how to share key posts in the new government.

The failure to form a government has raised doubts over whether the power-sharing deal clinched after seven weeks of tortuous negotiations could stand the strain given deep-seated mistrust, especially between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai.

But the leaders admit the deal is the only way out of the country’s political and economic crisis, which has spawned an unprecedented exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries and serious food shortages.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s labour movement has rejected the power-sharing deal saying it left too much power in the hands of Mr Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), is a powerful constituency in opposition politics in the country and has strategically aligned itself with the MDC, which it gave birth to nine years ago.

It expressed concern that Mr Tsvangirai’s role was "ceremonial."

"The deal does not provide power-sharing, rather it creates a ceremonial prime minister and an executive president," ZCTU president, Mr Lovemore Matombo told journalists in Harare."

(The deal) gives the prime minister a supervisory role of government business and the prime minister is at the mercy of the president.

"It was a rushed document only meant for political accommodation of the MDC (opposition party) in an inclusive government."

Under the deal, Mugabe will remain president and head of government but will relinquish some of his presently wide-ranging powers to Mr Tsvangirai who becomes prime minister while Prof Mutambara will be appointed deputy prime minister.