HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai said last Saturday that a new power-sharing government must be formed within days to avert a humanitarian crisis.
Tsvangirai told reporters that a new government needed to make an international appeal for food aid for the estimated 5.5 million people who would need it by January.
He said there was a near-standstill in the farming, industry and mining sectors of the country’s crumbling economy.
“It is imperative that a government is formed in the next few days and begins to implement plans to ensure our people have food and do not die of starvation,” Tsvangirai said.
The formation of a unity government by Tsvangirai and rival President Robert Mugabe has stalled over the allocation of ministerial posts.
Mugabe, who signed a power-sharing agreement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change on Sept. 15, remained out of the country after attending the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe is in “a state of emergency in the area of food security with disastrous consequences if we take too long to attend to the crisis.”
Food and manufacturing industries were working at 10 percent of their capacity and mining was down to 5 percent of capacity. Fertilizer shortages were hampering efforts to produce 800,000 tons of grain needed to carry the country through to April and avert mass starvation, he said.
Tsvangirai said aid agencies were already helping to feed about 4 million people, about a third of the population.
He said Mugabe in New York had underplayed differences between the two sides in finalizing the 31-member cabinet.
Under the deal, Mugabe’s party gets 15 seats in the cabinet and 16 go to Tsvangirai and a smaller breakaway opposition group led by Arthur Mutamabara.
Mugabe remains president and head of the cabinet, but as prime minister Tsvangirai heads a new council of ministers responsible for government policies.
“The social, political and economic challenges facing our country are unprecedented,” Tsvangirai said. “The uncertainty over to the finalization and conclusion of negotiations [on a new government] are causing unnecessary anxiety and agony.”
Tsvangirai’s party narrowly won control of the Harare parliament in elections in March. He won a presidential vote but not by enough votes to avoid a presidential runoff poll in June.
Tsvangirai boycotted the runoff, citing a wave of intimidation and state orchestrated violence against his supporters blamed on Mugabe militants and police and troops.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, blames Western sanctions for the economic collapse. But critics point to his 2000 order that commercial farms be seized from whites. The often violent seizures disrupted the agriculture-based economy.
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