Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tsvangirai under pressure to return home to finalise power sharing deal

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai talks to people outside the Kingdom Bank in the capital Harare in September last year. Photo/REUTERS 

By KITSEPILE NYATHI, NATION Correspondent

HARARE, Thursday

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has come under renewed pressure to return home from Botswana to finalise the stalled power sharing agreement with President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF and save the crisis torn country from sliding further into anarchy.

Mr Tsvangirai is already in his third month outside the country has resisted pressure from Mr Mugabe and a section of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters for him to join a unity government proposed in the September 15 pact.

The Prime Minister-designate has been ensconced in Botswana since November last year after his temporary travel documents expired while he was outside the country.

President Mugabe's government, which had denied Mr Tsvangirai a passport for more than six months, was forced to issue the MDC leader the travel document on Christmas Day after the opposition threatened to withdraw from the power sharing arrangement.

Urgent meeting

The MDC has reportedly written to South African President Kgalema Motlanthe asking him to convene an urgent meeting between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai to discuss the formation of a government.

"Everyone has been calling for Tsvangirai to return home so that the party's principals can discuss the formation of a new government according to the September 15 political settlement because there is no reason for a meeting to be held outside the country," said Professor Welshman Ncube, the spokesman of the smaller faction of the MDC.

"Tsvangirai has been asking for a passport and he got it. He should come back, we should go ahead and implement the agreement without further delay."

In the past few days, the State media has been reporting about alleged divisions in the MDC over whether to join the unity government.

A Constitutional Amendment Bill giving effect to the unity government will be tabled in parliament on January 20.

The MDC can choose to vote against the Bill if its demands for an equitable sharing of key ministries are not met. But Mr Mugabe has threatened to form a government alone if the other parties are not interested and call fresh elections within a year.

"These next few days before parliament convenes are very crucial and this means that Mr Tsvangirai should be back home directing the party," a senior member of the MDC executive said.

"He is playing into Zanu PF's hands by remaining outside the country for so long, now Mr Mugabe's people are coming up with all kinds of conspiracies that there are power struggles in the MDC."

An online publication on Thursday quoted a senior MDC official saying Mr Tsvangirai had put back plans to return to Zimbabwe until after the weekend.

This was after he spent two days in South Africa consulting his lieutenants on the way forward.

Zimbabweans have pinned their hopes on the success of the unity government to end the country's deadly economic decline, poverty and disease.

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