Mugabe to form government without MDC

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will form a new government soon but he says the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change does not want to join, state media reported.

Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC have failed to reach agreement in over one month of post-election power-sharing negotiations aimed at ending a political crisis that has worsened Zimbabwe's devastating economic decline.

"We shall soon be setting up a government. The MDC does not want to come in apparently," state-owned newspaper The Herald quoted Mugabe as telling government officials on Tuesday after opening parliament.

Mugabe, who was booed and jeered by opposition members when he opened the assembly, has said he is still hopeful of agreement in the power-sharing talks.

The MDC said it remained committed to talks but the party insisted on an inclusive government. "We remain committed to a dialogue process that is going to produce an acceptable outcome for all the players, an inclusive government. We are against this unilateralism and arrogance," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

New parliament speaker Lovemore Moyo, from the MDC, said talks were continuing. He said the heckling of Mugabe in parliament was regrettable but reflected MDC frustrations over the political deadlock in the country.

Mugabe was re-elected unopposed in a June vote boycotted by Tsvangirai because of violence and condemned around the world. Political commentator Lovemore Madhuku, head of Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly pressure group, said both sides were now hardening their positions and the power struggle was getting more complex.

"He (Mugabe) could go ahead as he says and form a new government, but he will be governing without the control of parliament," Madhuku said.

"The MDC will obviously try to make it difficult for Mugabe's government by, for instance, refusing to approve the budget. But in our current set-up, parliament has limited influence in governance."

Regional heads of state in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have failed to push the parties into a deal. Analysts say Mugabe seeks to convince the group that Tsvangirai is holding up progress by insisting on executive powers.

"He (Mugabe) may simply decide to go ahead without them (the MDC). He will obviously tell other SADC governments that he has been reasonable and offering them (MDC) posts within his government," said Professor Steven Friedman, political analyst at the University of Johannesburg. "But I think that at least some SADC countries will see through that and will say that this is not a real settlement."

Economic recovery is also likely to depend on convincing Western countries that are heavily critical of Mugabe. The economic price of the deadlock is rising by the day.

Severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages are worsening. The hardships, which also include the world's highest annual inflation rate of over 11 million percent, has already driven millions of Zimbabweans to neighbouring countries.

Mugabe criticised his former cabinet strongly. "The Cabinet that I had was the worst in history. They (only) look at themselves, they are unreliable, but not all of them. The people are suffering...," The Herald quoted him as saying.

The opposition party said three of its deputies were arrested at parliament on Tuesday on what it called trumped-up political violence charges. MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti's treason case was on Wednesday postponed to 17 November, the party said in a statement.