Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai was expected yesterday to name his Cabinet team to serve in a unity government with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, MDC officials said.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Tsvangirai would make an announcement at 10am, but did not provide details.
Senior MDC officials said party secretary-general Tendai Biti was frontrunner to be finance minister, a post that would charge him with reviving Zimbabwe’s collapsed economy.
“Barring any last minute changes I can say Biti will certainly be the man at finance,” an MDC official said.
Tsvangirai, whose MDC party agreed to form a coalition government with Mugabe last week, will be sworn in as prime minister today under the terms of last year’s power-sharing deal.
A Cabinet, comprising ministers from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC and a splinter MDC group, will be sworn in on Friday.
Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of southern Africa and one of the continent’s most promising economies but hyperinflation means prices now double every day, unemployment is rising fast and the currency is virtually worthless.
The finance minister will need to quickly spell out his plans for reviving the economy to reassure anxious Zimbabweans and to woo skeptical Western donors and foreign investors.
Mugabe’s regime, however, has reneged on an agreement to release dozens of opposition activists, who have been abducted and severely tortured to extract false confessions of terrorism.
Doctors’ affidavits seen by and reported in the Guardian newspaper showed a pattern of torture of many of the 30 political and human rights activists held by the state for months. Nine of the prisoners seen by doctors were subjected to simulated drowning, being hung by their wrists in handcuffs and beaten, and high-voltage electric shocks.
One man was hung upside down from a tree and dumped into a water-filled drum until he passed out. A 72-year-old man was held in a deep freeze before scalding water was poured on his genitals.
Human rights lawyers say the detainees have been tortured to force them to falsely confess to bomb attacks on police stations or plots to overthrow Mugabe, in an attempt by his regime to justify further state violence against the MDC.
Tsvangirai has demanded the release of the detainees, who include his own security chief and a former close aide, as a condition for being sworn in as prime minister.
A deal had been reached between the MDC and Nicholas Goche, a senior negotiator in Mugabe’s party, for 16 detainees to be released.
Some were to be taken to hospital on Friday and then quietly freed by a judge in order for the regime to save face. Eight were to appear in court yesterday on the understanding they would be freed. But none of the detainees was produced after the prisons commissioner, Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, refused to hand them over.
Zimondi is a hardline member of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which acts as Mugabe’s security Cabinet. JOC organized the campaign of terror, beatings and killings against MDC supporters during last year’s elections. The general has threatened violence against the opposition and recently he burst into a court and broke up a hearing on the release of some of the detainees.
The MDC is interpreting Zimondi’s intervention as evidence that the JOC intends to subvert the power-sharing administration by continuing the violence and intimidation against Tsvangirai’s officials and supporters.