October 17, 2009 3:00 am

Tsvangirai throws Harare coalition into disarray

Zimbabwe was thrown into political confusion yesterday when Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, said his party would -"disengage" from working with Robert Mugabe, the president, and his Zanu-PF party in the coalition -government.

Mr Tsvangirai said, however, that he and fellow Movement for Democratic Change ministers would remain in office as part of the power-sharing government formed in February.

"It is our right to -disengage from a dishonest and unreliable partner," Mr Tsvangirai told a press conference in Harare.

In practical terms the decision means that the MDC and its ministers will not attend cabinet meetings or other executive bodies, further undermining the coherence of an administration that has been beset by tension and -division since its formation.

The fresh uncertainty casts another cloud over the country's economic prospects, amid indications that some foreign investors are being tempted by Zimbabwe's mining resources and signs of greater monetary stability.

The latest crisis was prompted by the arrest and imprisonment this week of Roy Bennett, the MDC's designated deputy agriculture minister, on what the MDC considers trumped-up treason charges. His detention "has brought home the fiction of the credibility and integrity of the transitional government", the prime minister said yesterday. "It has brought home the self-evident fact that Zanu-PF see us as a junior, fickle and unserious movement."

Zanu-PF's unwillingness to revise its unilateral appointments of an attorney-general and central bank chief, the continued detention of MDC activists, as well as the refusal to swear in Mr Bennett all remain bones of contention.

Mr Tsvangirai has come under increasing fire from senior MDC figures for -failing to make more headway in his battles with Mr Mugabe and has demonstrated increasing impatience in recent weeks.

Just over a month ago at a rally to commemorate the first anniversary of a political agreement -brokered by Zimbabwe's southern African neighbours, Mr Tsvangirai said he was not prepared "to stand by while they violate the law, persecute our members of parliament, spread the language of hate and invade productive farms".

However, neither he nor his senior colleagues appear to be prepared to leave the government completely. An official said yesterday that pulling out was not an option because the MDC, which won elections in March 2008, was the only party that had a political mandate from voters.

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