CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Sunday he would stay in the government and challenge President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to implement last year’s political deal in full.
Tsvangirai said last week his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was suspending last month’s cabinet boycott, which it imposed in response to what it said was Mugabe’s refusal to abide by the provisions of the agreement.
On Sunday, Tsvangirai told party supporters at a rally in Chitungwiza outside Harare the boycott was a wake-up call for Mugabe not to regard his party as a junior partner in the fragile nine-month-old coalition.
“We will not leave, our people told us that we should fight from inside. Why should we leave when we are the majority party?,” said Tsvangirai in a mixture of English and vernacular.
A meeting of the Southern African Development Community in Mozambique last week gave Mugabe and Tsvangirai 15 days to resolve the issues threatening to derail the unity government, after which South Africa, which has been facilitating a rapprochement, would step in.
Tsvangirai said South African President Jacob Zuma would visit Zimbabwe after two weeks, a sign that Thabo Mbeki, the former South Africa president who helped seal the unity government deal, might no longer be involved.
The MDC had accused Mbeki of siding with Mugabe and ZANU-PF during last year’s negotiations. Mbeki denied the allegation.
“ZANU-PF has this window of opportunity to demonstrate goodwill and that they are committed to the unity government and commit themselves to the SADC resolutions,” said Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai did not say what his party would do if Mugabe failed to meet its demands but political analysts say the two rivals have little choice but to work together to stop the improving economy from plunging back into crisis.
The MDC has accused Mugabe of being a “dishonest and unreliable partner” for refusing to implement power sharing fully, particularly regarding senior appointments such as governor of the central bank and attorney general.
The former opposition party also says ZANU-PF is persecuting MDC officials and stifling media and constitutional reforms vital for the holding of free and fair elections in the next two years.
Mugabe says he has met his side of the deal and insists the MDC should campaign for the lifting of Western sanctions against ZANU-PF, including travel bans and a freeze on general financial aid to Zimbabwe.
“If ZANU-PF thought this (cabinet boycott) was a joke, you have learnt one lesson ... that you must regard the MDC as an equal partner and not a junior partner,” Tsvangirai said.
Editing by Andrew Dobbie