Tsvangirai tackles his toughest challenge

tsvangirai_m.jpgZimbabwe's new Prime Minister 'has 10 days to prove himself' against Mugabe inner circle, as more activists arrested.
Linda Moyo celebrated the swearing in of Zimbabwe's historic unity government yesterday behind bars at Harare central police station.

The young activist was one of 10 women arrested on the eve of the
unveiling of the new government for attempting to exercise their right
to protest. Fellow activists said she had wanted to test whether or not
things in her country had really changed. Hers was added to the long
list of names that Morgan Tsvangirai, who took his oath of office as
Prime Minister, has demanded be released.

The arbitrary arrests acted as a reminder that Mr Tsvangirai faces the
toughest political assignment in the world. According to one member of
the new unity cabinet, speaking on condition of anonymity, the Prime
Minister’s success or failure could be clear within 10 days.

The first litmus test will be the sacking of Gideon Gono, the man who
has bankrolled the Mugabe regime from his post as head of the central
bank. "Clearly he’s got to go," said the source. "Otherwise there will
be no coherence on the economy and the international community won’t
give us the time of day." Mr Gono is one of the main figures blamed for
the hyperinflation that has rendered Zimbabwe’s currency worthless.
With unemployment running at 94 per cent and many public servants on
strike for a living wage, Zimbabwe needs a massive injection of foreign
aid. But few, if any, countries will be willing to commit funds without
a clear change of the guard. Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband
said increased aid would "depend on the new government’s actions".

The Zimbabwe cabinet source said he expected Mr Gono would be fired
early next week along with the attorney general. There would be serious
consequences, he said, if it doesn’t happen in that timeframe. "Clearly
we’ve got to move very fast. If we don’t pay the army next week then
we’re in big trouble," he added.

After the swearing in, Mr Tsvangirai pledged to swiftly pay civil
servants in foreign currency to "get the country back to work". Other
key demands from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) include the
release of political prisoners and an immediate "end to land invasions
and restoration of the rule of law".

While many within the MDC remain sceptical over the future of the unity
government, others have been reassured by the intervention of South
Africa’s caretaker President, Kgalema Motlanthe. "The chances have been
increased by a more proactive South Africa. Without Motlanthe we
wouldn’t be at this point," said an MDC source.

Mr Tsvangirai won more votes than Mr Mugabe in the presidential poll
last March despite widespread intimidation, and his MDC won a majority
of seats in parliament. Mr Mugabe’s response was to unleash the
security forces in a campaign of intimidation and murder that left
hundreds dead.

The violence compelled Mr Tsvangirai to withdraw from the presidential
run-off and Mr Mugabe’s unopposed re-election was dismissed as
illegitimate by the EU and African observers.

The new venture comes just as the main precedent for Zimbabwe’s deal –
Kenya’s power-sharing administration – is in danger of falling apart.
The Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the President Mwai Kibaki, who like
Mr Mugabe was accused of election-rigging, have failed to establish an
effective administration. The east African nation recently declared a
national emergency due to famine; there are chronic fuel shortages and
analysts have warned that corruption is spiralling out of control.

The starting point for Zimbabwe is far worse than it was for Kenya a
year ago. It has had its worst harvest since independence and a cholera
epidemic has killed 3,500 people. Mr Mugabe’s inner circle still
controls the military and the police, and hundreds of political
prisoners languish in jail.

Jenni Williams, founder of the women’s activist group Woza, whose
members, including Ms Moyo, were arrested on Tuesday, said the women
were facing "intensive questioning for hours" while the politicians
were at the swearing-in. "This is a government for politicians, not for
people," she said. Ms Moyo, seven other Woza activists and two female
lawyers had still not been charged or released last night. "They cannot
get a conviction so this is just harassment," added Ms Williams.

Zimbabwe’s villains and victims

Tendai Biti

A gifted young lawyer among the founders of the MDC, he has been one of
the most vocal critics of Mugabe. Arrested and beaten and most recently
charged with treason he is now the finance minister and tasked with
clearing up the mess created by years of looting and mismanagement.

Roy Bennett

White farmer who took on and beat a Zanu MP at the start of the land
invasions despite being beaten up. Famously wrestled Zanu MP Patrick
Chinamasa to the ground in parliament after being goaded over the
seizure of his farm. Jailed for 8 months and left for South Africa
after release. Now back in Harare as a deputy minister.

Elias Mudzuri

Was threatened, beaten up, suspended and locked out of his office after
winning election to become mayor of Harare. Had to contend with Zanu
youth who surrounded town hall chanting "Mudzuri should be beaten up,
he must be killed and he must be removed." A trained engineer he was
yesterday appointed as energy minister.

Patrick Chinamasa

Main architect of Mugabe’s subversion of the legal system he has fired
or intimidated judges who refuse to toe the line. A voracious collector
of stolen farms, his wife seized a tobacco farm then pocketed
international award for its record crop. Lost his seat at last year’s
election but expected to be named in cabinet.

Perence Shiri

Spearheaded the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s.
Leading voice in Joint Operations Command, clique used by Mugabe to
violently control the country. Nicknamed Black Jesus. Planned and
carried out terror campaign against opposition after March 2008
election defeat. Retained as head of Zimbabwe’s airforce.

Gideon Gono

The man who printed money to meet needs of Mugabe regime and bankrupted
the country. The ageing autocrat’s personal banker has sanction use of
reserve bank where he’s governor as piggy bank for party elite. Has
seen inflation reach into sextillions while acquiring more than 70
houses including Harare mansion larger than Mugabe’s.

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