Tsvangirai sworn in as Zim Prime Minister

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Harare - Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has taken an oath to serve Zimbabwe under the title of Prime Minister.

Mr Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister in front of President Robert Mugabe at an official ceremony at Mugabe's official State House compound in Harare on Wednesday.

Thokozani Khupe, the Deputy Leader of the MDC and Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a break-away faction of the MDC-T, were sworn in as Deputy Prime Ministers.

Tendai Biti was announced as Mr Tsvangirai's Finance Minister. He will have the big responsibility of rebuilding the troubled economy. The rest of the cabinet in the new coalition government will be sworn in on Friday.

The day will bring renewed hope for the people of Zimbabwe who have been waiting for a peaceful agreement between the rival politicians so that the country's economic crisis and collapse of infrastructure can begin to be reversed.

The three political parties signed a power-sharing deal at the end of last year but failed to agree on the allocation of key cabinet ministries. Their continued disagreements held up the implementation of the unity government and raised concerns over whether they would ever be able to work together.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai had agreed to form a unity government after the run-off elections last year were discredited.

Mr Tsvangirai won a first-round presidential vote last March, but pulled out of a June run-off citing violence against his supporters, leaving Mugabe to declare a one-sided victory.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, as the Chairman of the Southern African Development Community, played a pivotal role in reviving the power-sharing deal calling for a SADC Summit In January to discuss the failed agreement.

President Motlanthe earlier this week told Parliament that the focus should not turn towards the work of dealing with both the humanitarian crisis plus the reconstruction of the economy.

Zimbabwe is struggling to fend off a deepening humanitarian crisis amid a cholera epidemic blamed on collapsed infrastructure and a desperate need of food aid, according to international agencies.

Inflation in Zimbabwe rose by 231 million percent in July, the last time official inflation figures were made public. However, analysts have put that figure at several billion percent.

The national currency, the Zimbabwean Dollar, has been repeatedly devalued and restrictions on the use of foreign currencies including the US dollar, the euro and the rand have been lifted by Harare.

Mr Tsvangirai is a former trade union leader known for fiery speeches, but his leadership skills in government remain untested.

Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has been internationally criticised as a dictator who lead Zimbabwe into ruin.