Zimbabwe cabinet to meet without MDC

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will chair a weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday without members from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party, which boycotted the unity government last week, state media reported today.

Tsvangirai announced on Friday that his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party would disengage from Mugabe's "dishonest and unreliable" ZANU-PF party in the country's coalition cabinet set up in February.

The move has sparked the country's biggest political crisis since the formation of the new administration in February this year, but Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said the MDC's boycott was a poor protest.

"As you will certainly see on Tuesday, cabinet will be held. The agenda for the meeting has been circulated and decisions that are binding will be taken," Charamba told the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper.

"As for this needless excitement from the MDC, I suppose the President will find time when the right time comes."

Mugabe is likely to be joined by ministers from a smaller MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara in the cabinet.

A key test of the MDC's decision may come next month when Finance Minister Tendai Biti - who is a senior MDC leader - is due to present the 2010 budget.

Analysts say the MDC's decision may not mean the end of the power-sharing government but it will put pressure on the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional body under whose auspices former South African President Thabo Mbeki brokered a settlement in Zimbabwe last year.