PM says hard-liners holding up progress

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Zimbabwe's prime minister said Wednesday that hard-liners left over from the old regime are endangering the country's future, but added that he remained committed to working with President Robert Mugabe's party.\r\n

Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, blamed residual elements from the old government for violating the rule of law and the agreement that created the unity government.

The situation is making foreign donors reluctant to grant development aid, he said in a speech marking his government’s first 100 days in power.

The coalition was formed to end years of sometimes violent political rivalry and allow leaders to concentrate on solving the country’s economic crisis.

What continues to plague Zimbabwe can be best described as a reluctance to accept the reality of the changes taking place within the country, Tsvangirai said, according to a text of his speech distributed by his Movement for Democratic Change party. This residual resistance represents an unwillingness to accept the fact that the new political dispensation is not only irreversible, but also offers the country the only viable way forward.

Tensions within Tsvangirai’s party are becoming increasingly evident. Critics in the MDC question why it should continue working with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party when MDC members, independent human rights activists and journalists still face arrest and harassment.

Last week, Tsvangirai objected to Mugabe when a judge revoked bail for a group of human rights and MDC activists accused of terrorism. After Tsvangirai’s intervention, the suspects were freed after a night in prison. The suspects, who had earlier complained of being beaten and tortured while in custody, face charges stemming from an alleged plot to overthrow Mugabe. Neighboring governments have said they believe the allegations are baseless, and human rights groups say the case is part of a campaign to stifle dissent.

This week, the editor and the news editor of an independent newspaper were arrested and charged with publishing falsehoods in an article about the abduction of opposition and human rights activists.

At a news conference last week, the MDC stressed the need to resolve disputes such as differences over how to share provincial governorships and other posts among the coalition partners. The MDC has complained about Mugabe having unilaterally extended the contract of his central bank governor.

And the MDC also is angry about Mugabe’s refusal to swear in its nominee for deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett. Bennett was charged just as the unity government was being formed with weapons violations in a case linked to long-discredited allegations that the MDC plotted Mugabe’s violent overthrow. He has been free on bail since March.