Mugabe Too Busy to Address Unity Crisis – Spokesman

The comments in a state-run newspaper reflect the contemptuous indifference with which Mugabe’s party has reacted to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s announcement Friday that he was withdrawing from the coalition until several disputes could be worked out, chief among them the trial of a top aide.

Getting the two sides to work together is crucial — and difficult given the hardening attitudes.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba, told The Sunday Mail that Mugabe was spending time arranging scholarships for students and welcoming soccer players in Zimbabwe for a regional tournament. Mr Charamba also doubles up as Robert Mugabe’s close security body guard.

”As for this needless excitement from (Tsvangirai’s party), I suppose the president will find time when the right time comes,” Charamba said.

Tsvangirai told reporters that members of his Movement for Democratic Change party would not attend Cabinet meetings or engage in other executive work with Mugabe’s party, but Tsvangirai said he remained committed to the unity agreement. ZANU-PF spokesman Ephraim Masawi said Friday the work of government would go ahead, and that ”we don’t have a problem with” Tsvangirai’s disengagement.

Charamba told The Sunday Mail that a Cabinet meeting would go ahead Tuesday as scheduled.

The unity government was formed at the urging of Zimbabwe’s neighbors after two violence-plagued elections left the country at a political standstill and in economic ruin. South Africa, the main regional power, has expressed concern for the future of the coalition.

South Africa Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane called Saturday for ”the speedy resolution of challenges in Zimbabwe.” U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Friday that Washington understood ”the frustration” of Tsvangirai’s party, and called on Mugabe to make the power-sharing agreement work.

In announcing the boycott, Tsvangirai cited the ”persecution” of a top aide, Roy Bennett, who faces trial on weapons violations charges. Bennett denies the charges, which are linked to long-discredited allegations that Tsvangirai’s party plotted Mugabe’s violent overthrow.

In addition to the Bennett case, Tsvangirai has condemned continuing human rights violations and unilateral moves by Mugabe to fill government posts. Mugabe has demanded that Tsvangirai do more to get international sanctions lifted and foreign aid and investment restored.

The coalition is Mugabe’s only hope for taking Zimbabwe out of international isolation, and it has brought Tsvangirai closer to power than any election.

Foreign governments and multilateral donors have expressed support for Tsvangirai, warmly welcoming him on a recent international tour. But concerns persist about propping up Mugabe, accused of trampling on democracy and ruining a once prosperous economy. Even with Tsvangirai in the government, donors prefer not to give money directly to Zimbabwe’s treasury, instead working through independent aid groups.