Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the world should no longer see President Robert Mugabe as the main problem in the country as a new unity government tries to rescue the ruined economy.
Speaking to Britain's Guardian newspaper before a unity cabinet was sworn in on Friday, Mugabe's old enemy Tsvangirai said it was time to move on to urgent issues, such as widespread poverty, high unemployment and crippling hyper-inflation.
"Unfortunately people are preoccupied with Mugabe as a person. They need to get over it. This has gone beyond Mugabe. People need to stop talking about him as the only issue," MDC leader Tsvangirai said in an interview on the Guardian website.
But a new political crisis could erupt soon in Zimbabwe and deepen the scepticism of Western countries whose confidence in the new administration is seen as essential for Zimbabwe's economic recovery.
The arrest of senior MDC official Roy Bennett before new ministers took oaths on Friday is likely to fan tensions between Mugabe and Tsvangirai after they ended months of deadlock over a power-sharing deal designed to rescue their ruined country.
Bennett, the MDC Treasurer General, was charged with treason and is being held at a police station in the city of Mutare in the east of the country, the MDC said. He was due to become deputy agriculture minister in the new government.
Bennett had been living in exile in South Africa after fleeing the country about two years ago because police wanted to question him in connection with the discovery of an arms cache in eastern Zimbabwe.
Police officials have not been available for comment on Bennett's case.
Foreign investors and Western donors want concrete signs of stability in Zimbabwe. They have made it clear that funds will not flow to the once promising nation until a democratic government is created and economic reforms are made.
"People have set benchmarks. We have to earn the confidence of the international community. Their scepticism is justified. This is 29 years of one-man rule," Tsvangirai said.
"But I'm quite certain if we start moving on the benchmarks, that will be the basis for incremental support. It's a process of engagement."
Zimbabweans face unemployment above 90 percent and prices that double every day. Half the 12 million population need food aid and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 3,500 people.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have named party stalwarts to the cabinet rather than technocrats seen as having the expertise Zimbabwe needs to escape its crisis. Political analysts have suggested that could lead to further mismanagement.
Some ZANU-PF members in the new cabinet have held ministerial posts since independence from Britain in 1980, when Mugabe came to power.
Tsvangirai said he did not believe the old government's hardliners would be able to stay in power or stage a coup.
"The region won't accept it. The world won't accept it. They can't get away with it," he said in the interview.
"We know the agreement does not have support from all parties. The leadership challenge for us is to negotiate away these areas of disgruntlement. We can do that and we are going to begin by getting people back to work."
Last Mod: 15 Şubat 2009, 11:48