November 14, 2008 / 1:55 PM / 11 years ago

Zimbabwe opposition shuns power-sharing government

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC will not join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe until all issues in power-sharing talks are resolved, a party official said on Friday after a meeting to decide whether to take part.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters chant slogans as they protest outside the venue of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Sandton, November 9,2008. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The party also said it had uncovered a plot to assassinate its leaders, further increasing chances that deadlocked negotiations will collapse.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai has accused Mugabe of trying to take control of the most powerful ministries and freeze out his party in violation of the September 15 agreement seen as the best hope of rescuing Zimbabwe’s economy.

MDC Vice President Thokozani Khupe told reporters that a meeting of the party leadership had resolved not to join a government until all outstanding issues in the talks were concluded.

The constitution also had to be changed to enact a unity government and to provide for the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister, she said.

“Neither Robert Mugabe nor ZANU-PF has the legitimacy to form a government,” Khupe said, confirming an earlier Reuters report. She said the MDC would campaign against any attempt by Mugabe to form a government now.

ILLEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional grouping of nations, failed at a summit last Sunday to persuade Zimbabwe’s rival parties to settle their differences and move on to the daunting task of rescuing the economy.

John Makumbe, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer and Mugabe critic, said the MDC’s stance could mean the opposition hoped to bypass the SADC, hoping the African Union and United Nations could put pressure on Mugabe.

“This leaves two options, the first being an illegitimate Mugabe government for the next five years. The second would entail bypassing SADC and taking the matter up to the AU and the U.N. I think the MDC will take that route,” Makumbe said.

Khupe said the party implored SADC and the continental body, the African Union, to ensure the Zimbabwean crisis is settled.

The MDC decision came after a meeting of the party’s executive on Friday to decide on whether to join a government with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF under a shaky power-sharing deal.

Khupe did not expand on the party’s allegations of an assassination plot.

“The (MDC) national council notes with concern ... the crafting of an assassination plot intended to eliminate the leadership of the MDC,” she said.

The MDC vice president said Tsvangirai was absent from the executive meeting of the party as he was out of the country, meeting SADC leaders to explain the MDC’s position.

She refused to discuss other details of his program.

Although Tsvangirai flatly rejected a resolution at the SADC summit calling for the two sides to share control of the Home Affairs ministry — the main sticking point — a minority of the MDC executive had appeared to favor joining the government.

Political analyst Makumbe said if Mugabe named a cabinet unilaterally, the economy could suffer further.

“If Mugabe proceeds to unilaterally name a cabinet, the consequences will be dire for the economy. Given how bad things are and how (much) worse they would turn, he might even run the risk of being overthrown.”

Additional reporting by Nelson Banya; Writing by Marius Bosch; Editing by Giles Elgood

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