Zimbabwe opposition decides to join government

Fri Jan 30, 2009 4:14pm GMT

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition decided on Friday to join a government with President Robert Mugabe next month, ending a paralysing political deadlock that has worsened the desperate economic and humanitarian crisis.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been under heavy pressure from southern African leaders, announced the decision after a meeting of his Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC) National Council. He is now set to become prime minister.

"Now is the time for us to put aside our political differences, to prioritise the welfare of the people," Tsvangirai said in a statement after the decision in Harare.

It could be a step towards saving the ruined economy of the once prosperous country, where half the people now need food aid and Africa's deadliest cholera epidemic in 15 years has killed 3,100 people and infected 60,000.

But it is unclear that old foes Mugabe and Tsvangirai will be able to work together effectively to persuade Western states to provide the investment and aid needed by a country with the world's highest inflation rate and an almost worthless currency.

"Without the support of those governments, the deal will have major difficulties in really opening the way for a turnaround of the situation in Zimbabwe," said Mike Davies, Middle East and Africa expert at risk analysts Eurasia Group.

Zimbabweans have been longing for a new leadership. The few who have jobs line up for hours outside banks to withdraw enough to buy a loaf of bread. Millions have fled to Zimbabwe's neighbours, straining regional economies.

Some rejoiced after the announcement on Friday.   Continued...

<p>Zimbabwean opposition leader and Prime Minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai (L) addresses the media at Harare international airport, January 28, 2009. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo</p>
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