Mugabe hands key ministries to own party, angers MDC

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has allocated three important government ministries to his ZANU-PF party, angering the opposition and threatening a power-sharing deal.

A government notice on Saturday showed Mugabe had allocated to his party the powerful ministries of defense, home affairs — which is in charge of the police — and finance, a crucial portfolio to the resuscitation of Zimbabwe’s devastated economy.

Mugabe and main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai have been deadlocked over how to share key ministries and on Friday agreed to call in Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, who has mediated in negotiations to end a long-running political crisis.

The cabinet impasse has outraged ordinary Zimbabweans who had hoped a September 15 power-sharing agreement would end an economic meltdown.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the opposition had not agreed to the allocation.

"This is ZANU-PF’s arrogant wish list that puts the whole deal into jeopardy. It is unilateral, contemptuous and outrageous," Chamisa said.

"The MDC totally and absolutely rejects this nonsense. ZANU-PF is taking people for a ride and there is a price for that."

The September power-sharing deal allows Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, to retain the presidency and chair the cabinet, while Tsvangirai, as prime minister, would head a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.

ZANU-PF will have 15 seats in the cabinet, Tsvangirai’s MDC 13 and a splinter MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara three posts, giving the opposition a combined majority.

According to the government gazette, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF will also be in charge of the Foreign Affairs, Justice and the Media and Information ministries, while the MDC will take control of the Health, Public Service and Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs portfolios.

While the politicians bicker, Zimbabwe’s economy continues to implode with official inflation at a new record 231 million percent, while shortages of food, foreign currency, water and electricity continue to bite.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on Saturday introduced a new higher denomination 50,000 Zimbabwe dollar note, barely two weeks after launching 10,000 and 20,000 dollar notes.

Zimbabweans will now be able to withdraw Z$50,000 from their accounts daily, enough to buy three loaves of bread. Previously people could take out Z$20,000 after the central back capped daily withdrawal limits, blamed for long queues at banks.