Zimbabwe: ZANU PF asks Mugabe to form government

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HARARE - Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU PF party on Wednesday urged President Robert Mugabe to form an inclusive government immediately, government spokesman Sikahnyiso Ndlovu said.

Ndlovu, information minister in the old government and still holding that position pending formation of a new administration, said ZANU PF's communist-style politburo urged Mugabe to invite the opposition MDC to join government in line with a ruling by southern African leaders on Sunday.

He told journalists in Harare: "The ZANU PF politburo unanimously resolved that President Mugabe should, with immediate effect, proceed to form the inclusive government of Zimbabwe in full compliance with resolutions of the SADC extraordinary summit."

Ndlovu said, as ruled by the SADC summit, the disputed ministry of home affairs would be co-managed by ZANU PF and the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC party.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders at an emergency summit in Johannesburg on Sunday ruled that Zimbabwe's rival political leaders form a power-sharing government "forthwith" to end a debilitating political stalemate gripping the country since Mugabe's controversial re-election last June.

The SADC, which brokered Zimbabwe's September 15 power-sharing agreement, ruled that the MDC and ZANU PF co-manage the ministry of home affairs, in charge of the police and whose control had been a stumbling block to the formation of a unity government.

Tsvangirai - who wants the MDC to have sole control of home affairs - immediately rejected the call to co-manage the portfolio with ZANU PF and said his party would not join the unity government.

He will meet the top leadership of his party in Harare tomorrow to decide the next step forward, amid warnings by political analysts that he risks alienating himself from African leaders - whose support he will still need to oust Mugabe - if he insisted on defying the SADC ruling.

Ndlovu held out hope the MDC may yet change its mind and agree to join the inclusive government, telling reporters: "The President is going to invite the MDC, its premature to say they have refused."

The smaller formation of the MDC led by academic Arthur Mutambara has said it respects the SADC resolution to form a unity government but may not participate in the government if Tsvangirai stays out.

ZANU PF insiders say they expect Mugabe to leave slots open in Cabinet hoping for a change of heart by the MDC but that he would eventually fill up all positions and move ahead with running the country if the opposition continued to refused to join the government.

Such a step by Mugabe would effectively kill what had appeared an historic power-sharing deal and which analysts had said was the best opportunity for Zimbabwe to begin on new chapter of national healing and economic recovery.

The 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.

Analysts say only a government of national unity could be able to tackle Zimbabwe's long-running crisis marked by political violence and a bitter recession seen in the world's highest inflation of 231 million percent, 80 percent unemployment, shortages of food and basic commodities.

Western donor nations whose financial support is vital to any effort to revive Zimbabwe's crumbled economy have said they would back a unity government only if its executive head is Tsvangirai.