Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai won't attend summit without passport

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by Wayne Mafaro

HARARE - Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party said on Tuesday its leader Morgan Tsvangirai will not attend an extraordinary summit of the regional SADC grouping that will discuss the country's stalled power-sharing deal if he is not issued a passport.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders are set to hold an emergency summit on Zimbabwe in coming weeks after the regional grouping's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security failed on Tuesday to persuade Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe to reach agreement on the composition of a government of national unity outlined under last month's power-sharing accord.

The 15-nation bloc has not yet stated where and when it will hold the emergency summit but MDC secretary general Tendai Biti told journalists in Harare that Tsvangirai would not attend the summit if it is held outside Zimbabwe - unless he is given a passport.

"We will not travel on an emergency document. It's an insult," said Biti, adding that the matter of Tsvangirai's passport was now a "political issue" and not just a simple case of whether the MDC leader was given the travel document.

Tsvangirai, who is prime minister designate under the stalled power-sharing deal, has not been granted a normal passport for months, and requires emergency travel documents every time he leaves the country.

The MDC says the refusal by Mugabe's government to issue Tsvangirai with a passport is symbolic of the veteran leader and his ruling ZANU PF party's insincerity and lack of commitment to genuinely sharing power with the opposition.

Biti told the news conference that agreement on the distribution of powerful ministries among the parties to the power-sharing agreement could be reached in just two days only if there was commitment on the part of ZANU PF.

"The core of our differences with ZANU PF is the pure lack of sincerity on the part of ZANU PF," he said.

Tsvangirai refused to attend a summit in Swaziland last week in protest at long delays in receiving his travel papers. He even refused an offer to travel to Mbabane in King Mswati III's private jet, insisting he would only leave Zimbabwe with a passport and not an emergency travelling document.

Meanwhile Biti said agreement was yet to be reached on the allocation of at least 10 key ministries, 10 governor's posts and the composition of a proposed national Security Council - contrary to a statement by SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salamoa that the ministry of home affairs was the only one yet to be agreed upon.

"We identified 10 key ministries which we believed are supposed to be shared equitably. However, there is an attempt to ignore or overlook these fundamental principles and hence the claim in some circles that only the portfolio ministry of Home Affairs is outstanding. Nothing can be further from the truth," said Biti.

The MDC secretary general also said the issue of appointment of permanent secretaries of ministries and ambassadors as well as what he said was the question of "fraudulent alteration of the agreement" agreed upon on 11 September still had to be discussed.

The opposition claims that alterations were made to the original agreement reached on September 11 which they say is different to the one eventually signed on September 15 by Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a breakaway MDC faction.

Biti said: "It is clear that there is so much that still has to be done and a lot of goodwill, patience and wisdom, which so far has not been evident or has not been exercised."

Zimbabwe's historic power-sharing deal that was brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of SADC retains Mugabe as president while making Tsvangirai prime minister and Mutambara deputy prime minister.

The bare bones agreement allots 15 Cabinet posts to Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party, 13 to the Tsvangirai-led MDC and three to Mutambara's faction.

However it is silent about who gets which specific posts and the rival parties have since the signing of the agreement wrangled over who should control the most powerful ministries such as defence, finance and home affairs.