Mugabe, Tsvangirai show rare unity in ceremony

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, celebrated independence from Britain together for the first time on Saturday, a possible sign that political tensions are easing.

Their co-operation is vital if Zimbabwe is to rebuild an economy that
has been ravaged by hyperinflation and unemployment at around 90
percent. Millions need food aid and the country’s infrastructure and
institutions are a shambles.

The image of Mugabe and Tsvangirai standing together to celebrate the
29th anniversary of the end to colonial rule would have been
unthinkable during years of hostilities between them.

But Tsvangirai’s MDC says some hardliners in Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) are
still trying to scuttle the coalition government which the two men
formed in February.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Zimbabwe’s unity
government on Saturday for progress in implementing reforms, but said
more must be done.

In a message to the Zimbabwean people, timed to coincide with the
anniversary, Clinton made no mention of when or whether the United
States would lift sanctions or offer substantial aid to help rebuild
the shattered nation.

"We commend the efforts the transitional government has undertaken and
the progress it has achieved towards reforms that will benefit the
Zimbabwean people," Clinton said.

Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist, rose to become the biggest threat
to Mugabe’s tight grip on power as leader of the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC).

At the national stadium in the capital Harare on Saturday, Mugabe told
thousands of supporters: "We need to create an environment of
tolerance, and treat one another with dignity and decency, irrespective
of … political affiliation."

"There is need for national healing to put behind the atmosphere of
hostility and polarisation which had regrettably become a feature of
our national politics."

Unusually, Mugabe refrained from attacking Britain, one of his
favourite targets, but he repeated a call for Western countries to lift

After just two months, the unity government looks shaky with most
outstanding issues unresolved. These include the review of the
appointment of central bank governor Gideon Gono, a Mugabe ally, and
that of the attorney general, who has publicly stated his support for
Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) party.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai are yet to agree on how to share out 10 influential provincial governorships and other senior posts.

Mugabe stoked tensions last week when he unilaterally transferred the
supervision of the telecommunication industry from an MDC cabinet
minister to a ZANU(PF) official, a move Tsvangirai said was null and

"It’s a delicate situation, particularly for Robert Mugabe, who is
engaged in a delicate balancing act of placating the hardliners in his
party and sticking to his agreement with Tsvangirai," Eldred
Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of
Zimbabwe, told Reuters.

"But what they have definitely delivered, in terms of empirical
evidence we got from a grassroots survey, is hope and optimism," he

The government is broke and is seeking at least $2 billion in emergency
funding to restore basic services and pay salaries. Analysts say the
administration needs to speed up changes such as reversing
nationalisation laws and opening up political and media space to
attract donor aid.


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