Zimbabwe’s new PM intends to restore freedom

Reading time 3 min.

Zimbabwe on Wednesday came a step closer towards the formation of a new government of national unity, when the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister in a low key ceremony.

By Richard Lapper in Harare

The appointment forms part of a deal agreed late last month that was designed to break a four and a half month-old political impasse which has seen the country sink even more deeply into economic and humanitarian crisis.

At a rally in Harare after the signing ceremony, Mr Tsvangirai made an appeal for national unity. He urged members of his Movement for Democratic Change and Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF to put aside their differences and begin a process of national healing, recognising the contribution of each party “to the nation’s history and its future”.

He said it was his priority to restore freedoms, re-establish rule of law, and promote an independent media. “Our liberation war was fought to provide freedom to all Zimbabweans and we intend to restore them.”

Mr Tsvangirai pledged to begin tackling the country’s humanitarian crisis with every means possible. The international community needed to be persuaded that the new transitional administration could function, he said. To tackle the crisis, he said he needed the help of the country’s professionals, and pleged that all civil servants would be paid in foreign currency by the end of the month. In return, he asked them to return to their desks and resume work by next Monday.

A new cabinet – in which President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF will have 15 ministries and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change 13 portfolios – is expected to take office on Friday. A small rival MDC faction – led by one of two new deputy prime ministers, Arthur Mutumbara, will take three positions.

Under pressure from South Africa and other smaller neighbouring states, the three parties decided to share power last September, but until two weeks ago had been unable to agree a formula.

Zimbabweans have welcomed the unity pact even though Mr Tsvangirai has been unable to secure complete control of any of the country’s security forces, one of his original demands after his supporters were subject to violence during last year’s election campaign.

Mr Tsvangirai won the first round of elections but withdrew from a second round of the contest in June, handing victory to Mr Mugabe.

In talks designed to secure a unity government Mr Mugabe has, however, also made concessions, agreeing to cede control of six of the 10 governorships that handle provincial affairs as well as some of his powers to designate senators.

The new administration faces huge challenges. Establishing confidence between members of rival parties following decades of often-violent hostility will be testing. Mr Tsvangirai, who has good relations with the US and European Union, has promised to head the effort to win international economic assistance.

But Zimbabwe’s economy has been in freefall and the country’s needs are immense. Many donors are concerned that Mr Mugabe will use his influence to channel funds to cronies.

Financial Times

Zimbabwe  Read latest news and features from Zimbabwe : business, politics, culture, life & style, entertainment and sports
Support Follow Afrik-News on Google News