Zimbabwe's prime-minister-designate must travel without passport

Other News Materials 19 November 2008 00:23 (UTC +04:00)

Zimbabwe's embattled prime-minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai Tuesday charged that entrenched Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had denied him a passport, forcing him to travel on special documents through Europe, dpa reported.

"It is really ridiculous that the prime minister of a country has no passport," Tsvangirai said in Paris. "I hope that this changes soon."

Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who wrested the title of prime minister from Mugabe's rulling party after the opposition won the first parliamentary majority in nearly 30 years, is expected to arrive in Germany on Wednesday on a journey to campaign for more support for his country.

Zimbabwe has slid into a serious humanitarian crisis in the last several years of Mugabe's disastrous leadership.

"The situation is catastrophic," Tsvangirai emphasized. "The reason however is not a natural disaster but rather mismanagement and corruption."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the current head of the European Council, reassured Tsvangirai support would be forthcoming as famine stalks the country. But he made no concrete offers.

The European Union has already made 10 million euros (12.6 million dollars) available for Zimbabwe, Kouchner noted.

"The biggest problem is access to those in need, and the government is responsible for that," Kouchner said.

Tsvangirai appealed to Mugabe to conclude the negotiations over a government of national unity "as quickly as possible."

"His party is in the minority, he can't afford to break off the talks," Tsvangirai said.

The prime-minister-designate also suggested that at age 84, Mugabe should start thinking about retiring.

Mugabe, the one-time African revolutionary leader who overthrew white minority rule in the former Rhodesia, has served as head of state in the southern African country under one title or another since 1980.

Since the late 1990s, Mugabe has stayed in power using a combination of farm and business seizures to keep supporters happy and brute police and mob terror to silence critics.

The policies have reduced the one-time bread-basket of southern Africa to a mere shadow of its former thriving self.

Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been in tough negotiations for months, with the assistance of regional leaders, over the makeup of a new government.

But Mugabe has refused to let go of the key ministries for his party, including home affairs, information, local government, foreign affairs and defence.