Zimbabwe: No more hunger or violence, says PM Tsvangirai
February 11, 2009
Mr Tsvangirai took the oath of office under a white tent on the lawn of Mr Mugabe’s presidential mansion, although the two men’s body language – they barely looked at each other and exchanged the briefest of handshakes – gave the lie to talk of a “unity government”.
The swearing-in caps nearly a year of turmoil that began last March, when Mr Tsvangirai won a first-round presidential vote. After a campaign of intimidation that left at least 180 dead, he pulled out of the run-off vote, leaving Mr Mugabe to claim a one-sided victory widely denounced as a sham.
A power-sharing deal brokered by South Africa was signed last September, but its implementation was repeatedly delayed while key Cabinet portfolios were divided out. Those concerns were finally addressed when the parties agreed to name co-ministers to home affairs, which oversees the police, and to create a new National Security Council that will give all parties control of the security forces.
Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change will control the finance ministry, however, firmly putting the onus on him to fix world-record inflation – prices double every day – and 94 per cent unemployment.
Both Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Mugabe, speaking at State House after the swearing-in, acknowledged the mistrust that marred their negotiations and which critics say could undermine their unity government.
“We are all aware that the road has been long, tedious and often frustrating. It’s has not been easy to overcome the deep-seated mistrust,” Mr Mugabe said. “I offer my hand of friendship and co-operation, warm co-operation and solidarity in the service of our great country Zimbabwe.
“If yesterday we were adversaries… today we stand in unity. It’s a victory for Zimbabwe.”
While welcoming Mr Tsvangirai’s appointment, the European Union warned that the new government would have to prove itself before receiving major economic aid. “We are ready to support the economic and social recovery of Zimbabwe once the new government shows tangible signs of respect for human rights, the rule of law, and macro-economic stabilisation,” the EU said in a statement.
Coverage of the swearing-in ceremony on Zimbabwean state television and radio broke down before Mr Tsvangirai, 56, had a chance to address the gathering. Television did show the swearing-in of Mr Tsvangirai’s two deputies, Arthur Mutambara, head of a breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Thokozani Khupe, who splayed her hand wide in the MDC salute as she took her oath of office.
Both shook hands with Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, unlike Mr Tsvangirai, although he did greet many of the diplomats and dignitaries present, including Didymus Mutasa, the outgoing Minister for State Security, who has been responsible for the violent repression of MDC activists over the past few years.
Also present was the former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who mediated in the power-sharing talks, as well as President Guezuba of Mozambique and King Mswati III of Swaziland.
The challenges facing Zimbabwe would daunt even the most experienced of administrators. More than half the population needs emergency food aid and unemployment is at 94 per cent.
Public hospitals are closed, with doctors and nurses unpaid, exacerbating a health crisis in a nation where 1.3 million people have HIV and cholera has hit nearly 70,000 people since August, killing about 3,400.