Harare. Zimbabwe’s main opposition will join a unity government early next month, the party’s leader said on Friday, offering hope that the country’s leaders can turn to addressing a humanitarian catastrophe.
Earlier this week, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change had rejected a recommendation from regional leaders that the coalition agreement stalled since September be implemented in early February. The reversal came amid speculation President Robert Mugabe would form a government on his own if the opposition did not come aboard.
“We met and we have decided to abide’’ by the regional leaders’ resolution, Tsvangirai said, after a high-level party meeting on Friday. “We are committed to joining the government of national unity,” he said, adding that he hoped Mugabe’s party would “treat us as equal partners.’’
The opposition had resisted joining a coalition with Mugabe until a dispute over how to fairly share cabinet posts was resolved after Mugabe insisted on keeping the most powerful posts for his ZANU-PF party.
The opposition also wanted attacks on dissidents to stop before it enters into the unity government first agreed to in September.
Mugabe’s party and leaders of neighboring countries have said the opposition should first enter the government, then resolve outstanding issues. With Friday’s decision, the opposition appears to have adopted that strategy.
After an all-night summit, the main regional grouping on Tuesday had called on Zimbabwe’s factions to swear in a prime minister, the post Tsvangirai is to hold in the unity government, on Feb. 11. Mugabe, in power in the southern African country since its independence from Britain in 1980, was to remain president.
Some of Tsvangirai’s allies say he never should have agreed to serve as prime minister in a government that left Mugabe as president.
Mugabe, meanwhile, was under pressure from aides in the military and government who don’t want to give up power and prestige to the opposition.
The threat of being frozen out of government by Mugabe and pressure from neighboring countries may not have weighed as heavily on the opposition as a sense that their country was in urgent need of a political solution so it could address a growing humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations said Friday cholera has sickened 60,401 Zimbabweans and killed 3,161 since August. Experts believe many more have been sickened without being counted because so few Zimbabweans are able to get to hospitals.