Welshman hopes Mugabe, Tsvangirai will meet

Welshman Ncube, Industry and Commerce Minister and secretary general of a splinter Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told industrialists that Tsvangirai’s decision to disengage from Mugabe ZANU-PF had shaken renewed investor confidence in the country.

The MDC boycott has sparked the country’s biggest political crisis since the formation of a new administration and while analysts say the decision may not mean the end of the fragile coalition, it will put pressure on regional leaders to act.

"I am happy to say that in the last 48 hours the political leadership of the three political parties have resolved that they need to holistically look at the issues that have led to the current situation," Ncube said.

"We hope that in the next two to three days there will be a meeting of the three leaders to discuss those issues."

Ncube’s boss and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara met Mugabe on Monday over the MDC boycott.

There was no immediate comment from ZANU-PF or MDC.

ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC and a splinter group led by Mutambara formed a unity government this year that many Zimbabweans and investors had hoped would help rebuild a shattered economy.

The MDC accuses Mugabe of failing to implement terms of last year’s political deal, such as appointments of senior government officials, including a new central bank governor and the attorney general, and the swearing-in of Tsvangirai’s nominee for the post of deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett.

Mugabe has refused to swear in Bennett, who faces a trial on terrorism charges, until he is acquitted, but Bennett denies the charges that carry a maximum death sentence upon conviction.

Ncube said the MDC boycott had knocked renewed investor interest in the country and was impacting on negotiations with two foreign investors that the government has short-listed to buy shares in the country’s steel manufacturer ZISCO.

"They are beginning to ask whether it is worth it, asking us ‘what if the unity government unravels, how can we be certain that the unity government will be there by the end of the year?’" he said.

Ncube, who was launching a survey of the state of the manufacturing sector, said the country’s political problems had impacted heavily on the economy and that sanctions were also hurting Zimbabwe.

Western donors have been sceptical about Mugabe’s commitment to genuinely share power with Tsvangirai and continue to hold on to badly needed aid to rebuild collapsed schools, hospitals and public infrastructure.

The government said early this year it had secured almost $2 billion in lines of credit from African countries and financial institutions, but Ncube said the release of the funds was delayed by bureaucracy.