Mugabe praises coalition in about-turn


    Robert Mugabe, who has been in power for 30 years, entered into the coalition in 2009 with longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who became prime minister.

    Deep rifts in the two-year coalition have raised serious doubts about its future. Over the weekend Mugabe said he regretted joining the coalition and wanted early elections to bring it to an end.

    But after meeting with his coalition partners Monday, Mugabe said that the deal has given Zimbabweans "a sense of togetherness."

    "Just because we go at each other’s throats at party level, let people not think we are a dysfunctional government," Mugabe said at the year-end press conference with Tsvangirai at his side.

    Mugabe said the unity government had made progress despite disputes between its leaders over the pace of reform, the appointment of senior government officials and the return to the rule of law after years of political and economic turmoil.

    On Monday, after about an hour of talks at Mugabe’s State House office complex, the two main coalition leaders exchanged pleasantries, despite Mugabe’s remarks that he regretted the coalition at the weekend annual convention of his party.

    Tsvangirai told reporters he wanted to convey "a positive evaluation" of the power sharing deal but said there was still deadlock on some key political issues in the coalition agreement.

    "We have made gains" in economic reform and public services," he said. He said shortages of money and resources had prevented further gains.

    Mugabe said the power sharing deal had an official lifespan of two years that expires in February but the rewriting of a new constitution would need to be completed before any fresh elections can be held.

    Mugabe has called for national elections in mid 2011. A new constitution is slated to be put to a referendum before then, but public canvassing for constitutional reform and redrafting of the new document is way behind schedule. The completed version is unlikely to be complete by May as scheduled.

    The nation’s coalition was formed after violence marred elections in 2008 and Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party boycotted a presidential runoff poll, citing torture, intimidation and illegal arrests of his supporters.

    Tsvangirai’s party has called for international election observers to monitor any future polls to deter further violence and ensure a free and fair poll.