Tsvangirai calls for Africa leaders' help

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party yesterday invited the African Union (AU) and a regional group to help break a deadlock in its unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was committed to the power-sharing agreement, but wanted to see more respect for civil rights, the rule of law and the implementation of political reconciliation.

Long-time rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formed a unity government in February after months of wrangling but sharp differences remain over issues such as the review of the posts of central bank governor and attorney general.

The MDC's National Council agreed that the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - which brokered the Zimbabwe power-sharing deal - should step in to break a deadlock with Mugabe on issues still unresolved under their Global Political Agreement (GPA).

"The National Council resolved that all outstanding issues be referred to SADC and the AU as guarantors to the GPA," the MDC said in statement.

"The transitional government should also urgently deal with issues of governance, national healing, democratisation and the rule of law," it said.

Tsvangirai and Mugabe's formation of a unity government in February raised hopes of an end to years of political tensions and an economic meltdown. But progress has been slow because of turf wars in government departments and the appointment of some senior state officials.

The MDC is angry at what it says is the persecution of its supporters, many of whom have cases pending in the courts for allegedly plotting to oust Mugabe.

The party has also protested against a fresh wave of farm invasions by Mugabe's ZANU-PF members and last week's arrest of two independent journalists and a top human rights lawyer.

Tsvangirai told an MDC rally in southeastern Zimbabwe after the party's national council meeting that there was no alternative to the power-sharing deal with Mugabe.

"This was and is the only practical solution for us to move forward and it has to work for the sake of all Zimbabweans," he said.

"We are committed, and the others must show their commitment too by addressing what we are raising on political freedoms, rule of law, respect for the agreement," he added.

The MDC council also said Mugabe - who has quietly refused to remove ZANU-PF political allies he appointed to head the central bank and the attorney-general's office - should allow government-owned media more freedom.

Western donors have demanded that the unity government carry out wider political and media reforms and release all political prisoners before committing funding.

The southern African country, ravaged by a decade of economic decline blamed on Mugabe's policies, urgently needs cash to revive its stricken industries. It estimates it needs a total of $8.3 billion to restore the economy.

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