Tsvangirai urges SADC to tame intransigent Robert Mugabe

HARARE – Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday called on next week's summit of regional leaders to push President Robert Mugabe to fulfil a power-sharing agreement and to speed up reforms.

Bitter rivals Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed a unity government in February to end a political and economic crisis, but have been feuding over implementing the pact, brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Tsvangirai told reporters he was frustrated by unresolved disputes with Mugabe and called on the annual summit of SADC heads, to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on September 7, to remove obstacles in the unity pact.

"In addition to being the guarantors of the agreement, SADC and the African Union also undertook to conduct a six-month review of the inclusive government," Tsvangirai said.

"While the exact timing, form and content of such a review has not yet been finalised, we urge SADC to place the issue of Zimbabwe for specific consideration during the forthcoming summit in Kinshasa."

Tsvangirai’s MDC accuses Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of failing to honour an agreement to reverse the appointments of the central bank governor, attorney-general and provincial governors.

Tsvangirai also says the veteran ruler is undermining the agreement through the arrest of several MDC lawmakers, and the MDC blames Mugabe for the slow pace of media and constitutional reforms.

ZANU-PF has, in turn, charged that the MDC has not fulfilled its pledge to condemn sanctions imposed by Western governments on Mugabe and his inner circle.

Regional governments, with the exception of Botswana, have largely shied away from openly criticising Mugabe, but analysts expect new South African President Jacob Zuma to take a tougher stance than his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, who was widely seen as sympathetic to Mugabe. 

Tsvangirai said it was notable that Zuma, who visited Zimbabwe last week to ease tensions in the unity government, had echoed the MDC’s call for the implementation of the political agreement. Zuma also urged Zimbabwe to meet Western benchmarks for aid.

"His purpose was not to resolve whatever perceived deadlock or dispute. He needed to evaluate the performance of the government over the last six months," Tsvangirai said.

"He has fully grasped the issues, which he will present to SADC."

Although Tsvangirai, who has previously said he was working well with Mugabe, said the unity government had made some progress on the economy and in easing political violence, endless wrangling undermined confidence in the administration.

"As a government, we cannot expect to be taken seriously by the people, the region and the international community, if we do not abide by the commitments we signed up to," he said.

The government, which says it needs about $10 billion to fix an economy wrecked by years of hyperinflation, has largely failed to attract financial aid, with key Western donors demanding broad reforms first.