Robert Mugabe goes on leave, may delay new regime

HARARE – Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has started a month-long annual leave, which could delay the formation of a government which a spokesman has said was being prepared by the veteran leader, state media reported on Sunday.

Mugabe has fired nine ministers and three deputy ministers from his ZANU-PF party who lost their seats in March parliamentary elections.

It was the clearest sign yet that he may act on his threat to form a new government without the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

But by going on leave for the next four weeks, Mugabe may only be ready to form the new government from early February.

"This is more of a retreat than actual leave. The President is very busy … working on structures of an inclusive government which must come too soon," George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesman told the state-owned Sunday Mail.

Mugabe traditionally spends his annual leave in the Far East but Charamba said the 84-year-old leader would only spend a small part of his leave outside Zimbabwe.

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.