Business, Economics and Jobs

Mugabe arrests cabinet minister


Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai speaks during a press conference in Harare on March 2, 2011.


Jekesai Njikizana

As expected, Zimbabwe's unwieldy coalition government is falling apart.

The government which forces political foes Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to work together has never functioned properly. As president, Mugabe held all the power.

And let's face it, Mugabe, 87 and in power for 31 years, is a master manipulator and he outfoxed Tsvangirai and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at every turn.

Now, as he prepares to take Zimbabwe into new elections, it looks like Mugabe is throwing out any sign of working with the MDC. For weeks Mugabe's militias and security forces have terrorized Tsvangirai's followers in Harare and in the rural areas. That is how Mugabe campaigns — through violence and threats.

On Thursday police arrested one of Tsvangirai's cabinet ministers and the Supreme Court removed his party's speaker of parliament from office.

Tsvangirai told a press conference that Energy Minister Elton Mangoma had been picked up at his office in central Harare at 8.45 am by three plainclothes policemen. He said he did not know what Mangoma was being accused of, but denounced the action as an attack on the two-year-old coalition.

Tsvangirai said that Mangoma and over 100 other supporters of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who had been arrested so far this year are all innocent victims of Mugabe's dictatorship.

Also Thursday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku handed down a judgment that effectively removed the MDC chairman Lovemore Moyo from the position of speaker of parliament, after ruling that he had not been properly elected by the MDC-dominated legislature shortly after the party won parliamentary elections in March 2008, beating Mugabe's Zanu-PF for the first time in 28 years. Chidyausiku and the Supreme Court are well-known supporters of Mugabe. The International Bar Association has said that Mugabe has packed the Supreme Court with judges who support.

"The country is in crisis," Tsvangirai said on Thursday. "The arrests and the violence over the past three months, Thursday's actions, and Mugabe's total disregard of the coalition agreement meant there was now obviously a breakdown in the relationship between the two parties in the coalition."

Tsvangirai said it was time for "a clean divorce" in the form of fresh elections. But he said the election would have to be overseen by neighboring countries because Mugabe has a well-documented history of using violence and rigging to seize elections.

It's odd that Tsvangirai is calling for neighboring countries to assure fair elections, because those countries have steadfastly sided with Mugabe. The African Union, the United Nations or the Commonwealth would be a better bet to make sure the elections were are fully free and fair.