Robert Mugabe Clashes With Tsvangirai

HARARE – THE inclusive government faced its sternest challenge yesterday when the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai warned he would not accept President Mugabe’s unilateral decision to strip the Information and Communication Technology Ministry of its control over the contested communication portfolio.\r\n

The Ministry, headed by MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa, has control over parastatals such as Tel One, Net One, Transmedia and Zimpost. It is also in charge of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), which regulates the telecommunications sector.

More worryingly for Zanu PF and President Mugabe, the Interception of Communications Act, a widely condemned piece of legislation crafted to ensure state security apparatus can spy on citizens, falls under the Ministry.

An anonymous source quoted by The Herald on Friday announced that President Mugabe had “decisively acted” on the matter, moving the communications sector from Chamisa’s ministry to Zanu PF stalwart Nicholas Goche’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development.

There was no explanation why the sector was not moved to the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity, which had previously claimed it.

Mugabe’s announcement, however, drew a sharp response from the Prime Minister’s office yesterday amid indications that the matter could shake the foundations of the inclusive government.

The PM’s spokesperson James Maridadi said the announcement was “null and void” and devoid of any legal effect. He said the manda-tes of the ministries had been agreed by the three principals during the negotiating process, and there was no way one of them could change them to suit his preferences.

In a sign that Tsvangirai was ready to take Mugabe head-on over the matter, Maridadi said the President had actually “violated the law” when he made the announcement. The Standard

“This is a violation of the spirit of the GPA and the law, the Prime Minister does not support the violation of the law. He cannot be seen condoning this,” Maridadi said.

Chamisa, who learnt from The Herald about Mugabe’s decision to strip him of the communications portfolio, said the President’s decision would not affect his ministry.

“I have challenges taking and accepting instructions through The Herald. In any case, I have a contract with the people through the three principals of the various political parties.” He said he had not received anything that showed his ministry had changed.

“I am in charge of the communications sector which is under the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT)”.

Sources said yesterday Mugabe’s move was hardly surprising, given that it was clear from the start that the President wasuncomfortable with Chamisa taking charge of the telecommunications sector.

Mugabe’s displeasure, sources said, was mirrored by Webster Shamu, the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, who fought an open battle with Chamisa over the control of the parastatals.

Shamu turned up at a function called by Chamisa, sparking a verbal spat in front of reporters.

Following the public stand off, there were behind-the-scenes manoeuvres aimed at wrestling the control of the department from Chamisa, resulting in Friday’s announcement.