Motlanthe congratulates Tsvangirai, Mutambara

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pretoria - South African President and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chairperson Kgalema Motlanthe has welcomed the swearing in of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and Arthur Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister in Zimbabwe.

"The swearing in of the Prime Minister and Vice Prime Minister is an important milestone towards the formation of an inclusive government in Zimbabwe as the people of Zimbabwe march towards national reconciliation, economic recovery, reconstruction and development," said Mr Motlanthe in a statement issued shortly after the swearing in ceremony.

The 56-year-old leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mr Tsvangirai, took the oath of office administered by President Robert Mugabe at an official ceremony at Mr Mugabe's official State House compound in Harare on Wednesday.

Thokozani Khupe, the Deputy Leader of the MDC and Mr 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.

Mr Tsvangirai's party also holds the Health Ministry, another key post given the country's cholera epidemic.

President Motlanthe said the SADC and the international community's role would now turn to helping the country recover.

"Ours as SADC and the rest of the international community therefore is to heed the voice of the Zimbabwean people and seek in word and deed to assist them as they begin the process of rebuilding their country and addressing a myriad of economic challenges facing their country," he said.

In this regard, Mr Motlanthe reiterated the call for the lifting of sanctions against the country to help create a climate conducive for the reconstruction and development of Zimbabwe.

"South Africa and indeed the entire SADC region stands ready to support the people of Zimbabwe morally, politically and economically as they embark on this difficult path of reconstruction and development of their country," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai had won the presidential election against Mr Mugabe but by only a small margin last year. Mr Mugabe boycotted the subsequent run-off election, leading to deadlock that has worsened a crisis marked by hyper-inflation, food shortages and a deadly cholera epidemic.

The parties signed an agreement establishing a government of national unity, however they could not agree on the allocation of key ministries.

Implementation of the power-sharing deal only came after increased pressure from southern African countries, fearing a total meltdown in the once-prosperous Zimbabwe.

The president also congratulated the leadership of SADC and the SADC Facilitator on the Zimbabwean Dialogue, former President Thabo Mbeki "for their efforts in assisting the people of Zimbabwe to address their political challenges."

Mr Mbeki attended Wednesday's inauguration, as well as Swazi King Mswati III, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and the foreign ministers of Angola and South Africa.