- MDC - Robert Mugabe - Zimbabwe
REUTERS - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has started preparations to form a government despite opposition objections, firing a dozen ministers from his ZANU-PF party to clear the way for a new cabinet, state media said on Saturday.
The firing of nine ministers and three deputy ministers who lost their seats in March parliamentary polls is the clearest sign yet Mugabe may act on his threat to form a government without the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a MDC splinter faction, signed a power-sharing pact on Sept. 15 but it has been held up by a row over cabinet posts.
Under the deal, Mugabe would remain president and Tsvangirai would become prime minister. But the MDC says a new government cannot be formed because Mugabe allocated powerful ministries to his ZANU-PF and relegated the MDC to a junior partner.
Tsvangirai last month turned down Mugabe's invitation to be sworn-in saying several outstanding issues remained.
"What I can tell you is that President Mugabe has already started preparing an administration," George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesman told the state-owned Herald newspaper.
"He is taking steps towards an early realisation of the formation of a new government as per the mandate given to him by all three parties to the dialogue."
Analysts say a government without international support would be doomed and could deepen an economic meltdown and a humanitarian catastrophe, worsened by a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,600 Zimbabweans.
The United States has said it will no longer support a unity government headed by Mugabe. Britain, the former colonial power, says the 84-year-old leader should step down.
Mugabe's party accuses Tsvangirai of taking instructions from London and Washington to sabotage the unity government, something the MDC denies.
Mugabe met Mutambara, leader of the MDC splinter faction, this week on the formation of a new government. Mutambara has in the past said he would not join a government without Tsvangirai.
"They did meet and agreed that the nomination of cabinet ministers can only be done collectively by the leaders of the three parties, and so they resolved to do whatever is necessary to have a meeting of the three leaders," Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the MDC faction told Reuters.
In the envisaged unity government -- brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki -- Mugabe's ZANU-PF will have 15 ministries, Tsvangirai's MDC 13 and three will be allocated to Mutambara's group.