Zimbabwe PM warns of tough year ahead

HARARE — Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday warned of "dangers and difficult choices" ahead of possible elections later this year.

"As we enter our 32nd year of liberation, there will be many treacherous voices trying to convince you to cast away your determination for a new and democratic Zimbabwe," Tsvangirai said in a statement before Monday’s Independence Day commemoration.

"The coming year will also hold many challenges, dangers and difficult choices."

The message comes as tensions grow in the power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai, ahead of elections Mugabe has vowed would be held later this year.

In the latest incident, police detained co-minister for national healing Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and a Roman Catholic priest after addressing a memorial services for victims of a government crackdown on dissidents in the 1980s. Tsvangirai insists elections should only be held when conditions are ripe.

Without giving names, he said the country was being held at ransom by a clique of people.

"It is a fact that there are some among us who are determined to take this country back to the dark years of repression, violence and intimidation," Tsvangirai said.

Meanwhile, The Standard newspaper reported that Tsvangirai has taken a decision to replace Roy Bennett’s seat in the Senate, after he had missed 21 consecutive seatings while exiled in South Africa.

The 53-year-old white ex- farmer was picked by Tsvangirai for the deputy Agriculture minister job, after the formation of the unity government.

He was arrested in February 2009, shortly before he was to be sworn in, over accusations that he had funded a plot to topple Mugabe five years ago.

Mugabe has refused to swear him in pending his legal woes.

"It is true that Bennett’s period of absence outlived the stipulated time in parliament," said Nelson Chamisa, the spokesman for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change told the privately-owned Standard.

According to the newspaper, ministers are required to have a seat in the upper or lower houses of parliament and after losing his seat, Bennett is not eligible to become minister.