Mugabe forming new government with Mutambara – Report

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has started preparations to form a government despite opposition objections, firing dozens of ministers from his ZANU-PF party to clear the way for a new cabinet, state media said on Saturday.

The firing of 12 ministers and deputies who lost their seats in March parliamentary elections is the clearest sign yet Mugabe may act on his threat to form a government without the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a MDC splinter faction, signed a power-sharing pact on September 15 but it has been held up by a row over cabinet posts.

Under the deal, Mugabe would remain president and Tsvangirai would become prime minister. But the MDC says a new government cannot be formed because Mugabe allocated powerful ministries to his ZANU-PF and relegated the MDC to a junior partner.

Tsvangirai last month turned down Mugabe’s invitation to be sworn-in saying several outstanding issues remained.

George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesman told the state-owned Herald newspaper that Mugabe had started forming a new government.

"What I can tell you is that President Mugabe has already started preparing an administration," Charamba said.

"He is taking steps towards an early realisation of the formation of a new government as per the mandate given to him by all three parties to the dialogue."   

Analysts say a government without international support would be doomed and could worsen an economic meltdown and a humanitarian catastrophe, which has been made worse by a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,600 Zimbabweans.

The United States has said it will no longer support a unity government headed by Mugabe. Britain, the former colonial power, says the 84-year-old leader should step down.

Mugabe’s party accuses Tsvangirai of taking instructions from London and Washington to sabotage the unity government, something the MDC denies.

The Herald said Mugabe had met Mutambara, leader of the MDC splinter faction, this week on the formation of a new government. Mutambara has in the past said he would not join a government without Tsvangirai.