August 23, 2009 / 11:49 AM / 10 years ago

Mugabe's party walks out of cabinet review meeting

HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe’s party walked out on Sunday of a meeting of cabinet members to review the work of a unity government it has formed with its opponents, angry over charges of election-rigging.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses delegates at the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) annual People's Conference in Bindura about 90 km (56 miles) north of the capital Harare, December 19, 2008. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

In a sign of the serious tensions in the six-months-old power-sharing administration, ZANU-PF members said they had abandoned the meeting over “provocative statements” by the head of a small political faction in the three-party coalition.

“The meetings were going on very well until this morning when Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara made some very provocative statements that the parliamentary and presidential elections of last year were all fraudulent, null and void,” Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told Reuters.

“We, members from the ZANU-PF side, walked out in protest at the reckless and irresponsible utterances by Professor Mutambara because they are intended at undermining the legitimacy of a party in the inclusive government,” he said.

Mugabe formed the joint administration with arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai in a bid to end a decade of political and economic crisis.

This weekend’s discussions were meant to review the new unity government’s economic programmes. Meetings were chaired by Tsvangirai, head of the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and now prime minister.

There was no immediate comment from Mutambara or his faction of the MDC.

Chinamasa said Mutambara had apologised for his statements, but ZANU-PF doubted his sincerity.

Asked whether this meant the unity government was in danger of collapse, Chinamasa told Reuters: “No, not at all. This is a very specific reaction to a specific problem.”

Political analysts believe the Zimbabwe coalition members have little option but to hold together but there is serious tension over reforms, policies and appointments.

Many analysts say cooperation between the two MDC parties and ZANU-PF is crucial to win vital funding from donors who are demanding faster political and economic reforms.

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