Tsvangirai urges the World to save Zimbabwe

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the world on Monday to help end a "man-made" humanitarian crisis which has left hundreds of people dead in a cholera epidemic.

The spreading disease has underlined the collapse of the once relatively prosperous country, where deadlock between veteran President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai over a power sharing deal has delayed any hope of rescuing the ruined state.

"As I speak our country is consumed by a man-made humanitarian crisis with a recent outbreak of cholera so far having claimed more than 500 lives," Tsvangirai said in a statement after winning a Moroccan pro-democracy award.

"The food situation in our country is deplorable…may I use this platform to appeal to the rest of the world to move with speed to assist us address the humanitarian situation in the country as it has reached catastrophic levels," he added.

The World Health Organisation has put the cholera death toll at around 400, but Zimbabwean rights groups estimate that up to 1,000 people have died from a disease that is preventable and treatable under normal conditions.

The health minister said on Monday that cholera now affected nine of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.

Mugabe’s government says the health system and economy are collapsing because of sanctions imposed by Western powers it says are trying to oust him for seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks.

His critics say Mugabe, 84 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has ruined one of Africa’s most promising economies through reckless policies and gross mismanagement.

Unemployment is over 90 percent, inflation is officially at 230 million percent but widely believed to be higher.

The power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in September has offered the best hope for ending the crisis, but implementing it has been held up by disputes over ministerial posts.

POLITICAL SOLUTION NEEDED

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said a quick resolution of the political and economic crisis was needed.

"As long as we don’t have that, we will struggle and struggle," Parirenyatwa told Voice of America radio.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change accuses Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party of trying to marginalise it in the shared administration. Tsvangirai said the MDC would continue "peaceful democratic resistance".

"Our vision as a party is to set a precedent on our continent. A precedent of fighting dictatorships through democratic means," Tsvangirai said.

Mugabe was re-elected this year in a one-man poll that was boycotted by Tsvangirai, citing attacks on his followers. Mugabe accuses his foes of planning to reverse his land reform programme of taking over white-owned farms.

The government said it would defy the ruling of a Southern African Development Community tribunal that the land seizures were illegal under international law and should be stopped.

"They are day-dreaming because we are not going to reverse the land reform exercise," Didymus Mutasa, minister of state for national security, lands, land reform and resettlement, was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.