Leaders to meet over GNU crisis

HARARE – Top six leaders expected to meet next week after fuming Morgan Tsvangirai threatens to serve 'divorce papers'

The top six leaders of Zimbabwe’s unstable Government of National Unity are set to hold a crisis meeting next week in a bid to prevent the collapse of the GNU following the arrest of a senior cabinet minister and the ousting of the Speaker of Parliament this week.

Government insiders said President Robert Mugabe, his co-vice-presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his two deputies, Thokozani Khuphe and Arthur Mutambra, are expected to convene an emergency gathering to tackle problems in the GNU which erupted following dramatic events that left the government in turmoil.

Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma, a senior MDC-T official, was arrested on Thursday on "criminal abuse of office" charges.

Police said Mangoma had flouted tender procedures in a $6-million fuel deal.

Mangoma will stand trial at the High Court on March 28. On Friday he was taken to the notorious Harare remand prison. The minister was arrested at his offices and initially detained at Harare central police station before being transferred to Braeside police station.

Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe said Mangoma would have to apply for bail at the High Court because he had no jurisdiction to preside over the matter.

Chris Mutangadura, the chief law officer in the Attorney General’s Office, served the indictment papers in court showing charges under the Criminal law (Codification and Reform) Act and Procurement Regulations.

The state has lined up six witnesses to testify against Mangoma, including his permanent secretary Justin Mupamhanga.

On the same day Mangoma was being arrested, the Supreme Court made a ruling that nullified the election of Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo, who also belongs to the premier’s party.

The two incidents angered Tsvangirai who on Thursday confronted Nkomo – the acting president while Mugabe was away in Ethiopia – over the issue. The prime minister also slammed judges over the Moyo issue.

His spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka confirmed that his boss met Nkomo, but could not reveal details of the meeting. "The prime minister met the acting president yesterday (Thursday) over the arrest of the minister and discussed the issue," he said. "However, I cannot disclose any details to the media."

Insiders said Tsvangirai grilled Nkomo on Mangoma’s arrest until the latter revealed that he was "out of the loop".

"Tsvangirai asked Nkomo why Mangoma had been arrested and also why he was not consulted on the issue. Nkomo was at sixes and sevens but it appears Mugabe had authorised Mangoma’s arrest without consulting anybody," a senior government official said. "Nkomo sounded vague and seemed unaware of what was really going on. It looks like it’s a plot by Mugabe and those very close to him."

Government officials said the next few days would be decisive in determining the fate of the GNU. Tsvangirai is also expected to deal toughly with Mugabe at their usual meeting tomorrow (Monday).

Besides, cabinet is expected to hold an extraordinary session soon to discuss the fate of the GNU. There were fierce clashes in cabinet on March 1 over the issue of the inclusive government and outstanding Global Political Agreement (GPA) issues.

Tsvangirai told business executives in Harare on Thursday that there were too many problems in the unity government and he was frustrated although he wanted to stick it out and fight. However, he later said he was mulling pulling out of the unity government. He said he was now pushing for a "clean divorce" with Mugabe.

But MDC secretary general Tendai Biti later said the party was not in the process of "serving divorce papers on Zanu-PF".  – TimesLive