Zimbabwe Prime Minister to swear in Cabinet

Harare – Zimbabwe's new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai set to work on Thursday to bring his top aides into Cabinet posts where they will have to strike a delicate balance with their erstwhile adversaries.

The tightly controlled state media glowed over Tsvangirai’s inauguration on Wednesday, with headlines in the Herald newspaper proclaiming "Goodwill, optimism engulf State House".

But the paper also sounded a note of caution about how the new unity government will work with 84-year-old Robert Mugabe remaining as president.

"The formation of the inclusive government is not an end in itself but the beginning," it said.

"Any turn around in economic performance and the state of social services delivery would not come on a silver platter," it said. "The real work had only just begun."

Mugabe has yet to announce who he will appoint to the ministries set aside for his Zanu-PF party, but the new unity government already seems certain to create strange bedfellows.

Slashing zeroes

Tsvangirai has appointed his senior aide Tendai Biti, who led the negotiations on the unity accord, as finance minister with the unenviable task of rebuilding an economy shattered by world-record inflation while luring back sceptical foreign investors.

Biti, who had been accused of treason by Mugabe’s government, will have to co-ordinate his policy around central bank chief Gideon Gono, whose five-year tenure has seen the value of the local currency evaporate while inflation has hit astronomical levels.

Gono has slashed 25 zeroes off the local currency to keep the banknotes from topping the trillions.

Tsvangirai and Mugabe are sharing control of the home affairs ministry, which oversees the police.

The co-minister from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is Giles Mutsekwa, a former air force official who three years ago was accused of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.

He will share control over a police force accused of widespread human rights abuses against MDC supporters, with 30 activists still detained on charges of attempting to overthrow Mugabe’s government.

Tsvangirai has also named deputy ministers who will have to work with Mugabe’s choices on the defence, agriculture and foreign affairs portfolios.

Agriculture was once the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, but has been decimated by nearly a decade of mismanagement following Mugabe’s violent land reform scheme.

No title to land

The land reforms forcibly seized white-owned farms for resettlement by blacks as redress for colonial-era inequalities.

But the new owners were often inexperienced, not given any support, and not handed a formal title to the land, which prevented them from obtaining bank finance for their new farms.

The new deputy agriculture minister will be Roy Bennett, whose coffee plantation was seized during the reforms, and who was jailed after scuffling with a Zanu-PF minister in parliament.

They and other officials will have to resolve deep mistrust built up over a decade of violence and bitter accusations between the parties, to work together to resolve the economic crisis that has turned into a humanitarian emergency. – AFP