New Zimbabwe crisis hurts aid effort

Highlighting the fragility of the new government, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said his MDC would disengage from President Robert Mugabe’s "dishonest and unreliable" ZANU-PF party in the country’s unity cabinet set up in February.

CAUTIOUS WESTERN DONORS

The power-sharing government formed by the old foes after a disputed election raised hopes that the country would gain the confidence of Western donors and secure billions of dollars to rebuild an economy critics say was destroyed by Mugabe’s policies, charges he denies.

The fresh turmoil in Zimbabwe comes after a court this week ordered the detention in prison of Roy Bennett, a senior MDC official, and ruled that he should stand trial on terrorism charges, evidence, Tsvangirai says, of political persecution by Mugabe.

Western countries have long been suspicious of Mugabe so the new crisis is likely to erode confidence they may have built up after the veteran leader and Tsvangirai said they would bury their differences for the sake of Zimbabwe.

DOES TSVANGIRAI HAVE ENOUGH WILLPOWER?

They are looking for tangible signs that both Mugabe is willing to implement reforms and that Tsvangirai will be able to assert himself enough to guarantee a safe political and economic environment for their billions of dollars of cash.

Tsvangirai suggested that may be way off, saying Bennett’s detention showed ZANU-PF was a "dishonest and unreliable" partner whose actions brought home the "fiction of the credibility" of the government.

ELECTION OPTION?

He said if the crisis escalated further, it would only be resolved by holding fresh elections under supervision of the United Nations and the Southern African Development Community.

Mugabe has already made it clear that he would reject outside political interference, so that may not be an option, leaving Tsvangirai with the challenge of outfoxing his wily and resilient rival while trying to repair the ruined economy from top to bottom.

Zimbabweans are likely to become further disillusioned, fearing that a protracted political struggle will just delay what is most crucial for millions — basic services, infrastructure and functioning hospitals and schools.