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Africa
Tsvangirai halts unity co-operation
Zimbabwe PM says Mugabe party "unreliable" but not quitting government.
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2009 08:09 GMT
Roy Bennett was arrested on the same day the unity governmnet was created - February 13 [AFP]

Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has suspended cabinet meetings following the detention of one of his aides on terrorism charges.

Speaking at a news conference in Harare, the capital, on Friday, the premier said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would disengage from the ruling Zanu-PF until "all outstanding issues are fulfilled".

The decision not to attend meetings with ministers from the Zanu-PF party does not bode well for the unity government that was formed only in February this year, though Tsvangirai said he had not pulled out of the agreement completely.

Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Harare, reported:

"Tsvangirai will not participate in cabinet meetings. This means that Zanu-PF and President Robert Mubage can not effectively push forward any policies, policies to do with land and the economy.

"The bad side for Zimbabwe is that the country is at a standstill, which is what analysts say the prime minister is trying to achieve - to make this country ungovernable so that maybe the president will be forced to meet him and address these outstanding issues."

Arrest

The boycott of cabinet meetings comes after Tsvangirai's own candidate for the post of deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett, was sent back to prison.

"The banditry charges are trumped-up and they poison the letter and spirit of the inclusive government"

Movement for Democratic Change party statement

Bennett is now awaiting trial on charges of possessing arms for the purposes of banditry, terrorism and inciting acts of insurgency.

The MDC treasurer, Bennett was originally arrested on February 13 - the same day the unity government was sworn in.

He was then freed on bail in March 2009.

But the decision to return him to prison was a serious attack on the credibility of the inclusive government, according to MDC members.

Concerns over unity

In a statement issued on Thursday, Tsvangirai's party accused Mugabe's Zanu-PF of being behind Wednesday's court order, saying it was an attack on the unity agreement.

"The banditry charges are trumped-up and they poison the letter and spirit of the inclusive government," the statement read.

Ian Khama, the president of neighbouring Botswana and a rare critic of Mugabe in southern Africa, warned that the pact was in danger of collapsing if the parties failed to agree on key issues.

"It is limping along and there is a real danger that the whole thing could collapse," he told the AFP news agency in Gaborone.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed the unity government in February nearly a year after disputed polls and major international sanctions plunged Zimbabwe into deeper economic and political chaos.

Bennett, a white former coffee farmer whose land was expropriated under Mugabe's land reforms, was arrested on his return from South Africa where he had fled after being implicated in an alleged plot to kill the president.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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