- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

HARARE, Zimbabwe# (AP) | Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader returned home Saturday to face a dilemma: participate as a junior partner in a lopsided government of national unity or let President Robert Mugabe regain total control.

Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change insisted he would not be bulldozed into an agreement at a meeting Monday with bitter rival Mr. Mugabe and the presidents of South Africa, Mozambique and regional mediator Thabo Mbeki.

There is an acute concern that the long-standing political deadlock is exacerbating the country’s economic meltdown. In a rare visit, the head of the U.N. children’s agency said the 2,200 deaths from cholera were just a small example of the humanitarian crisis.

“The cholera outbreak is the tip of the iceberg,” said UNICEF head Ann Veneman “Over half the population is receiving food aid, health centers have closed and when the school term starts there is no guarantee that there will be enough teachers.”

Mr. Tsvangirai flew into Harare after two months abroad, much of it in neighboring Botswana. He was due to hold talks with his party on whether it should pull out of the power-sharing agreement, which was reached in September but never implemented.

Despite the accord, Mr. Mugabe’s party has grabbed nearly all the key ministries, appointed provincial leaders and reappointed the Central Bank governor blamed for the country’s dizzying inflation, officially put at 231 million percent.

“I will not be bulldozed into joining this government, which does not reflect the interests of the people,” Mr. Tsvangirai said in brief remarks at the airport. “I’m not going to betray them.”

But he stressed that he was still committed to the power-sharing agreement.

“I hope that we find a political solution to save this country from total collapse.”

Mr. Mugabe has warned that he will press ahead unilaterally if Mr. Tsvangirai will not come on board.

Mr. Tsvangirai won the first round of presidential elections in March but pulled out of the runoff vote because of violence against his supporters. Under the power-sharing accord, he would be prime minister, with Mr. Mugabe as president.

The current allocation of Cabinet seats gives Mr. Mugabe’s party control of nearly all the major ministries. The Movement for Democratic Change is holding out for the Home Affairs Ministry, saying this is the only way to rein in the police, which are accused of some of the worst violence and a recent wave of abductions of opposition supporters.

Mr. Tsvangirai has rejected proposals by southern African mediators to split the Home Affairs Ministry. The presidents of South Africa and Mozambique, and Mr. Mbeki, the former South African leader, will come to Harare on Monday to try to resolve the impasse.

Miss Veneman met Mr. Mugabe on Friday to discuss the growing humanitarian crisis. She told reporters in Johannesburg on Saturday that the 84-year-old ruler recognized the crisis but blamed international donors for turning their backs on Zimbabwe.


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