Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tsvangirai fires four ministers after review

By Angus Shaw - Sapa/AP

Harare - Zimbabwe's prime minister fired four top Cabinet ministers and shifted a fifth to a new post on Wednesday, saying they failed a performance review after 16 months of troubled power-sharing.

All those involved were from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party. Tsvangirai has no power over ministers from President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in a unity government forged last year as a compromise after disputed national elections in 2008.

The Tsvangirai politician who shared the police ministry with a Zanu-PF official was shuffled to the housing ministry and the previous housing minister was dismissed. The ministers of energy, women and youth also were dismissed.

Tsvangirai told reporters the slow pace of restoring law and order, rehabilitating power infrastructure and achieving democratic reforms in general led to "a loss of confidence in the new administration among the electorate".

"As a result, I have decided on a number of changes needed to strengthen the performance of the MDC in government and outside government," he said of the first shuffle since he took office in February last year.

Mugabe rarely fires his ministers, most of them longtime Zanu-PF loyalists. Several Zanu-PF politicians have survived corruption allegations over the three decades Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai said that despite continuing disputes between MDC and Zanu-PF that have paralysed much of the government, Zimbabwe has seen improvements in the economy, health and education. He said the coalition was "the most practical means of moving forward and halting the needless suffering of the people".

Mugabe was scheduled to swear in Tsvangirai's new appointments on Thursday. Theresa Makone, a powerful Tsvangirai aide, takes over the police ministry post.

Tsvangirai said Roy Bennett, a top aide recently cleared of treason charges, was still his choice for deputy agriculture ministry. Mugabe has refused to swear in Bennett.