January 5, 2009 / 7:41 AM / 11 years ago

Mugabe set to form government in February: report

MacDonald Dzirutwe

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses mourners during the burial of National Hero, Gordon Tapson Sibanda at National Heroes Acre in Harare, Zimbabwe December 23, 2008. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is expected to form a new government by the end of February despite stalled talks with the main opposition party, the state-run Herald newspaper said on Monday.

The veteran leader, who started a month-long holiday this week, began preparations for a new administration last week when he fired nine ministers and three deputies who lost seats in last year’s parliamentary election.

The move was seen as the clearest sign yet he had lost patience with talks on forming a power-sharing government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The Herald said a senior ruling ZANU-PF party official, Nicholas Goche, met Sydney Mufamadi, the representative for mediator Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s former president, on Saturday to discuss ways of ending the impasse.

“The president has had enough of games from the opposition and he made this quite clear in his meeting with MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara,” a source told the newspaper. Mutambara heads a splinter faction of the MDC.

“They agreed that a government should be put in place sooner rather than later,” the paper said.

It would most likely be in place by the end of next month, the source said.

Mugabe, Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main MDC grouping, signed a power-sharing pact on September 15 but it has been held up by a dispute over cabinet posts.

Mutambara has in the past said he would not join a government without Tsvangirai.

The Herald said Goche and Mufamadi also discussed a letter, apparently written by Tsvangirai to Mugabe, which said the opposition leader was not prepared to take up the post of prime minister, as agreed in the September deal.

Tsvangirai won a presidential election in March last year but by too few votes for an outright victory. He pulled out of the subsequent run-off, citing violence against MDC supporters.

A leading human rights campaigner, Jestina Mukoko, and several opposition activists have been charged with recruiting or attempting to recruit persons to overthrow the government, raising further doubt over the formation of a unity government.

On Monday a magistrate deferred the case of the 16 activists to Tuesday and Wednesday pending proceedings in a higher court.

Magistrate Olivia Mariga said she would on Wednesday decide whether seven opposition activists should be placed on remand after lawyers made an application to the High Court to have them treated at a private hospital because they had serious injuries.

Mariga will on Tuesday rule on whether to allow Mukoko and two other rights activists to receive treatment at the hospital and whether to release six others from custody.

“The examination revealed beyond reasonable doubt that they need urgent medical treatment ... they were tortured while they were in custody and sustained serious injuries,” lawyer Alec Muchadehama said.

The activists were examined at a prison hospital.

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