Church leaders appeal to SADC as violence escalates

"We, the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, received the news of the fallout between Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front with concern," the group said in an October 25 statement.

"To us this may indicate the first step towards the disintegration and failure of the inclusive government," stated the grouping that includes Roman Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Evangelicals and Pentecostals. "We are concerned that the collapse of the inclusive government may lead to widespread violence in the country which will have a negative impact on the region."

Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed a power-sharing government in February after a violent run-up to a controversial presidential run-off election in which long-time ruler Mugabe was sole candidate after pre-poll violence led Tsvangirai to withdraw at the last minute.

The new government has been shaky since its formation, with Mugabe accused by his opponents of delaying the implementation of the power-sharing pact, including swearing in provincial governors from Tsvangirai’s party and others from a smaller faction of the MDC led by former student leader Arthur Mutambara. Mugabe’s security apparatus has also detained MDC-appointed officials on a number of occasions.

"We, as representatives of the Christian community still pray and hope that the agreement can be retrieved and made to work," said the Christian alliance. "It is clear to us that the total failure of this transitional government may lead to chaos and bloodshed."

Earlier in October, Tsvangirai’s party announced "disengagement" from the unity government after a magistrate’s indictment on Tsvangirai’s choice for deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett, to face trial in the high court on terrorism charges.

The MDC was reported on October 27 to have boycotted a scheduled meeting of the Cabinet.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara had reached a deadlock when they met the previous day to try to resolve the outstanding issues.

The Christian alliance said it would approach regional leaders in Southern Africa to appeal to them for an urgent solution to the stalemate.

Tsvangirai held a series of meetings with regional leaders including South African President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, to urge them to help save Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government.