Botswana says Zim national unity govt not the answer

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, – Zimbabwe's proposed government of national unity is not the solution to the country's deepening crisis, Botswana's foreign minister said Thursday in the run-up to the African Union summit this weekend.

Phandu Skelemani said new elections are a better choice than the coalition proposal that emerged from South African-mediated talks between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

"This government of national unity is not the best solution," Skelemani said in the Ethiopian capital, where ministers were meeting ahead of the AU summit Sunday.

Neighboring Botswana has been one of the more outspoken critics of Mugabe, and its president is one of the few African leaders to have openly condemned him.

Zimbabwe has been virtually without a government since a presidential election last March in which Tsvangirai won the most votes. Tsvangirai pulled out of a subsequent runoff against Mugabe because of attacks on opposition supporters.

Tsvangirai has said that before he enters a government, attacks on his supporters should stop and a fair distribution of Cabinet posts should be agreed.

The impasse has stranded Zimbabweans in a prolonged economic crisis, with hospitals, schools and sanitation infrastructure left to collapse.

The U.N. food program said Thursday that 7 million Zimbabweans _ 80 percent of the population by some estimates _ need food aid.

The U.N. also said Thursday that the toll from cholera has reached 3,095 deaths since the epidemic started in August. Health workers had earlier estimated the number of cases would start to drop at 60,000, but that figure is likely to be reached this week with no sign the epidemic is slowing.