Tsvangirai sworn in as Zimbabwe’s prime minister (Lead)

February 11th, 2009 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare, Feb 11 (DPA) In an historic development, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was Wednesday sworn in as prime minister of a unity government headed by his arch-rival, President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai, 56, will be responsible for the formulation and implementation of government policy. Mugabe, 84, remains head of state and government.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, dressed in a grey suit, was administered the oath of office by Mugabe at State House in Harare.

The longtime opponents clasped hands stiffly afterwards.

MDC vice president Thokozani Kuphe, and the leader of an MDC splinter faction, Arthur Mutambara, were also sworn in as deputy prime ministers.

Several regional leaders and members of Zimbabwe’s 31-ministry unity government, due to be sworn in Friday, attended the ceremony held in a marquee on the lawn of the presidential residence.

Tsvangirai was due to address a large crowd of his supporters for a victory rally. The crowd had started gathering in a football stadium in Harare starting in the early morning.

Wednesday’s ceremony took place under the cloud of continued state oppression against MDC members and rights activists.

A group of around 30 political prisoners were still in detention, despite Tsvangirai insisting the detainees, whom the state accuses mostly of conspiring to topple Mugabe, be released before he take office.

Tsvangirai’s inauguration ends five months of bickering between the MDC and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party over the implementation of a September power-sharing accord.

The MDC last week gave in to regional pressure to join the government to try to alleviate the suffering of Zimbabweans.

Thousands of Zimbabweans have died of cholera in recent months, mostly for lack of clean water, and around seven million cannot adequately feed themselves. Mugabe’s populist policies are widely blamed for the situation.

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