Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Arthur Mutambara’s comments during the retreat in the holiday resort town of Nyanga incensed the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ministers, who stormed out.
"We walked out of the meeting in protest to register our anger against reckless statement by one of the principals of the Global Political Agreement," Chinamasa told AFP.
"This is a government faction and there was no reason to undermine the other partner in the government. Besides this is not the first time he has done it and we felt that this was unacceptable."
Chinamasa added that ZANU-PF ministers will refuse to attend government meetings in the future unless Mutambara "is not given a role in the proceedings of the meetings."
Mutambara is a leader of a breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, who along with main MDC leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed an inclusive government with Mugabe earlier this year.
The deal, brokered by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, came after a year of political tensions following a failed election in March last year.
Tsvangirai — who chaired the retreat that was intended to review the performance of the unity government — later met with Chinamasa to find a solution to the crisis, but Mugabe’s ministers refused to return.
"We explained our position to the prime minister and he understood our anger and feelings," Chinamasa said. "We explained to him that, not out of disrespect to him, we could not continue participating in the meeting."
The rest of the meetings at the retreat were attended only by cabinet ministers aligned with Tsvangirai and Mutambara. Mugabe did not attend at all, as he is on a week’s holiday.