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Tsvangirai still PM, says Govt
Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2009

By Mabasa Sasa and Takunda Maodza
October 20, 2009 - The Herald

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is yet to formally communicate his party's decision to "disengage" from the inclusive Government amid revelations that the Prime Minister yesterday left the country without Cabinet authority on a 10-day tour of the region.

According to regulations governing the Executive, Government officials do not leave the country without getting authority through the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.

It is understood that the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Ian Makone, tried to get permission for his boss when Mr Tsvangirai was already on his way to the airport.

MDC-T sources revealed that Mr Tsvangirai will visit Mozambique, Angola, the DRC, South Africa and possibly Botswana, presumably in a bid to canvass support for his "partial pullout" and will be back in Zimbabwe on October 29.

"Makone, as a senior civil servant in the PM's Office, tried to facilitate the Cabinet authority but it was too late. He wanted money for the journey, which he is also going on, but the funds could not be released at such short notice.

"We were told that the Chief Secretary needed sufficient reason to release the money, like what benefit the trip would be to Government as a whole," said the source.

Government sources confirmed that the PM did not have Cabinet authority while officials in his office could not be reached for comment.

Mr Tsvangirai announced the "partial pull-out" last week following MDC-T treasurer Roy Bennett's indictment for trial on terror-related charges.

The decision immediately drew ire from both inside and outside the party, with people questioning why Mr Tsvangirai was prepared to put the national interest at risk over the white former commercial farmer, and Rhodesian Security Forces member.

Yesterday, President Mugabe's spokesperson, Mr George Charamba, said as far as the Head of State and Government was concerned, Mr Tsvangirai was still the PM because he had not communicated anything to the contrary in a formal manner.

"Government is not run through media statements. In the same way that President Mugabe formally appointed him to the post of Prime Minister he must also communicate any decision to disengage, or whatever it is they are calling it, in a formal manner.

"This can be done orally or in writing but in a formal manner. From that point of view nothing has happened. Until the communication is done formally the President has no reason or any grounds to think or know otherwise."

Mr Charamba said today's Cabinet meeting would go ahead as scheduled and the agenda had already been sent out to all ministers.

"There has been no indication in writing or through the Chief Secretary that there will be no attendance en bloc from MDC-T's side."

Regulations require ministers unable to attend a Cabinet meeting to tell the Office of the Chief Secretary in advance.

Further, Cabinet decisions are not made by a quorum or through a vote and so any resolutions made today are binding on all ministers.

Yesterday Deputy PM Professor Arthur Mutambara said he and his MDC ministers would attend the meeting.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare, DPM Mutambara said he had thrice met Mr Tsvangirai over his decision to "disengage".

"We are there in the middle to promote dialogue, to push the national agenda," he said.

The DPM appealed to parties in the inclusive Government to desist from grandstanding at the expense of the national interest, saying MDC-T should not "be carried away".

"There are times to think of what is good for Zimbabwe not our parties . . . This country demands that we work together," he said.

Meanwhile, partial details emerged yesterday of the events leading to Mr Tsvangirai's announcement on Friday that MDC-T would not be attending Cabinet nor would he chair the Council of Ministers, which he previously complained had met too few times.

MDC-T sources said pressure from "some Western countries and NGOs" to act started as soon as Bennett was indicted and it was clear he would soon face trial.

The sources said a small group of officials met on Thursday morning with some of them saying the party should announce a "collapse of the inclusive Government" while others said that was too drastic a decision.

"The (party) president was supposed to have a Press conference on Thursday morning but the meetings dragged on.

"Later that day Mr Tsvangirai met representatives of various donor countries and told them about the route they thought was best," the sources said.

The representatives are from the European Commission, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Norway, France, Switzerland, Holland and Australia.

The representatives, the sources said, said a "partial pullout" was the best option.

On Friday morning Mr Tsvangirai reportedly then met a group of ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe after realising "that Thursday's meeting had the potential to re-affirm assertions that MDC-T took directives from Western countries".

However, that meeting was not sanctioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the relevant officials only found out about it just before it occurred.

"Prior to that a senior official (name supplied) also met the ambassador of a Nordic country (name also given) to brief him on what had happened.

"I can tell you that he told the ambassador that the announcement that Mr Tsvangirai was about to make would ‘catch (President) Mugabe by surprise'.

"He also intimated to the ambassador that they had decided on calling it a partial pullout so that they could continue using State institutions to advance the party's agenda," he said.

This ties in with MDC-T spokesperson Mr Nelson Chamisa's statement earlier this year to the International Crisis Group that they had entered the inclusive Government to take power from inside.

It also tallies with sentiments by the ICG's deputy president in his testimony to the US Senate Sub-Committee on Africa on September 30 that MDC-T had calculated that it could better further its cause by entering the inclusive Government.

Observers yesterday said the talk of a "partial pullout" added weight to allegations that MDC-T was forming a parallel government.

"From the very start the donors talked of setting up a Multi-Donor Trust Fund. This is a means to channel resources to a parallel structure without it getting into State coffers.

"You essentially create a structure that rivals a formal institution and then start working to erode the influence of the latter.

"This is why we had (US President Barack) Obama telling the world earlier this year that America would channel all resources to NGOs.

"They are empowering NGOs so that they act as quasi-ministries. Now they have said they are disengaging. This is, in a nutshell, a bureaucratic cessation and would not be accepted anywhere in the world."

Internet news reports yesterday said Sadc executive secretary Dr Tomaz Salamao would today fly to Mozambique to meet President Armando Guebuza to discuss MDC-T's "disengagement".

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