ZIMBABWE: Tsvangirai appeals for aid ahead of talks

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
JOHANNESBURG, 15 January 2009 (IRIN) -

Morgan Tsvangirai, embattled leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe's main opposition party, has urged humanitarian a

Speaking at a press conference on 15 January in neighbouring South Africa, Tsvangirai said it was unlikely that Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis would abate anytime soon, and criticised what he called the inaction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by Mugabe.

"The man-made humanitarian crisis continues," he said. "For a very long time, Zimbabwe will need humanitarian support. There is no medicine available and most of the government hospitals have shut down … Schools have failed to open their doors and our children are having their futures stolen from them."

A cholera epidemic has claimed more than 2,000 lives, according to the World Health Organisation, and Zimbabweans are facing critical food shortages, made worse by hyperinflation. The World Food Programme has predicted that 5.5 million people – half the population – will need food aid in the first quarter of 2009.

"With many shops now selling goods in foreign currency, particularly the US dollar and the [South African] rand, those Zimbabweans – particularly civil servants, the army and the police – who are earning Zimbabwe dollars can buy nothing with their monthly wages," Tsvangirai said.

Further talks with Mugabe, planned for the coming week, are to be mediated by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, and may be a step forward in resolving the country’s political, economic and humanitarian crises.

Despite the delay in implementing a power-sharing agreement, brokered by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, and signed in September 2008 by Mugabe and both factions of the MDC, Tsvangirai believes a political solution is still the best hope of saving the country from collapse.

Tsvangirai told the press that the upcoming talks would centre on a number of issues, including the equitable allocation of ministries, the appointment of senior government officials, and control of security organs such as the army and police, which remained crucial, given the continued abductions and allegedly unlawful arrests of his party members.

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