New Mugabe govt by February

January 5, 2009 12:00 am

, HARARE, Jan 5 – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe could form a new government by the end of February despite a stalemate in unity talks, state media reported Monday as the 84-year-old leader began a month-long holiday.

The report came after Mugabe last week fired 12 ministers and deputy ministers who failed to win seats in last year’s parliamentary elections, in his latest step toward forming a government after the disputed polls.

"A government was most likely to be in place by the end of February," the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper said.

The delay includes time for Mugabe’s annual month-long leave, and for parliament to approve a constitutional amendment to implement the power-sharing deal, it added.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki brokered the September 15 agreement to form a unity government with Mugabe as president and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.

But he has so far failed to break a deadlock on dividing power in a new cabinet, despite repeated interventions.

One of Mugabe’s negotiators, Nicholas Goche, met with Mbeki’s representatives on Saturday in the South African border town of Musina to update them on the political situation, the paper said.

"Goche met the South Africans on Saturday as part of the drive to ensure that this chapter is closed once and for all so that Zimbabweans can move forward," a unnamed source with Mugabe’s party said in the Herald.

"The president has had enough of games from the opposition," the source added.

Mugabe also met Saturday with Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway faction of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), but the paper did not give details of their talks.

Tsvangirai won a first round presidential vote in March 2008, but pulled out of a June run-off, accusing the ruling party of orchestrating attacks that left more than 100 of his supporters dead.

The unity accord was meant to haul the country from political limbo and halt its economic meltdown.

Instead the country’s crisis has only worsened, with a cholera epidemic killing more than 1,500 people across the country and chronic food shortages worsening.


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