ZANU-PF asks Robert Mugabe to form new government

HARARE – Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF asked President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday to form a new government with immediate effect, a fresh sign that a power-sharing agreement with political rivals is collapsing.

Zimbabweans, faced with the world’s worst inflation and acute food shortages, hoped that a Sept. 15 deal would end the southern African country’s ruinous political and economic crisis.

"The ZANU-PF politburo unanimously resolved that President Mugabe should, with immediate effect, proceed to form an inclusive government in compliance with resolutions of the SADC summit," senior party official and Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told reporters.

The Sept. 15 deal envisages power-sharing with the opposition MDC of Morgan Tsvangirai but it has run into stalemate amid MDC charges that ZANU-PF is trying to seize most of the main ministries.

A summit of regional leaders said on Sunday that Zimbabwe should form a joint government immediately and the main rivals should share control of the disputed home affairs ministry to try to end the impasse.

Tsvangirai rejected the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) proposal, saying Mugabe’s "utter contempt" for the MDC meant it was certain to fail.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday declined to comment on ZANU-PF’s move, saying his party would decide on whether to continue power-sharing talks and its participation in a unity government after a leadership meeting on Friday.

Mugabe will invite the MDC to submit nominations for a power-sharing cabinet, another ZANU-PF official said.

"It is premature to say they (the MDC) have rejected when they have not formally rejected," ZANU-PF deputy information and publicity secretary Ephraim Masawi said.

Asked when Mugabe will name the new cabinet, Ndlovu said: "Anytime from now, the president is going to implement the SADC resolution."

Tsvangirai, who would become prime minister under the power-sharing deal, has accused ZANU-PF of seeking to relegate the MDC to the role of junior partner.

Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has forced millions of its citizens to flee the country, many of them moving to neighbouring South Africa, Africa’s biggest economy.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Wednesday that the the European Union and United States should help Zimbabwe develop its agriculture and attract investment rather than impose sanctions that have hurt Zimbabweans.

Washington and Brussels have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Mugabe and other senior Zimbabwean officials. U.S. sanctions also bar Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with them.

"They (the sanctions) hurt the ordinary people … if you have sanctions against the government then obviously investors will not want to deal with that government, tourists get frightened," Dlamini-Zuma told Reuters in Brussels.