Tsvangirai under pressure to end cabinet boycott

Tsvangirai joined arch-rival President Robert Mugabe nine months ago in a coalition to try to end a decade-long political and economic crisis, but his MDC announced a fortnight ago that it was "disengaging" from the government over a dispute with Mugabe on the implementation of the power-sharing agreement.

"We are listening to the issues and the views being raised by the two parties, and we are counselling all of them … that it is important that they should remain engaged in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe," said an official with a Southern African Development Community (SADC) delegation which is on a two-day visit to Harare.

The MDC’s decision to boycott cabinet meetings and interaction with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, illustrated the difficulties of the power-sharing deal and has further delayed efforts to rebuild Zimbabwe’s shattered economy.

The SADC official, who declined to be named, said Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change should fight its cause from within the government.

"SADC is ready to help the Zimbabwe parties to reach an understanding on those matters where they have differences," he added, but declined to discuss specifics.

A three-man SADC ministerial mission, accompanied by several senior officials, met representatives of Tsvangirai’s main Movement for Democratic Change, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and those from a small faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara, also part of the unity government.

The team is due to meet Mugabe and Tsvangirai separately later on Friday before winding up their two-day review trip.

Neither the MDC nor ZANU-PF have disclosed details of their discussions with the SADC delagation. But official sources said they both presented complaints against each other.

Besides refusing to swear-in some of its members into government, the MDC accuses ZANU-PF — which it calls an "arrogant and unreliable partner" of persecuting its officials and delaying media and constitutional reforms that will be key to holding free and fair elections in about two years.

Mugabe says he has met obligations under the power-sharing deal and maintains the MDC needs to campaign for the lifting of Western sanctions against his ZANU-PF, including travel restrictions and a freeze on general financial aid to Zimbabwe.

ZANU-PF also says the MDC must end a propaganda campaign by its supporters abroad, and should ask its Western backers to shut down what it calls "pirate radio stations" broadcasting into Zimbabwe from Britain and the United States.

"We are owed more than we are in debt because the issues the MDC are raising are not in the global political agreement that we signed, and some of them are meant for propaganda purposes," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told Zimbabwe