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Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Zimbabwe cabinet to be sworn in

Morgan Tsvangirai (L) takes the oath as premier from President Robert Mugabe (R)
Robert Mugabe (R) swore his rival, Mr Tsvangirai, into office on Wednesday

The formation of Zimbabwe's unity government is due to be completed with the swearing-in of the new ministers.

The cabinet posts are split according to a power-sharing deal signed after months of political deadlock.

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF will have 15 posts and the two factions of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 16.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the BBC the country was "on its knees" and key priorities had to be dealt with.

He said the humanitarian situation needed to be tackled, with schools being re-opened and the cause of the cholera epidemic being eradicated.

"We have to find a solution to the country's crisis.

"Mugabe may be part of the problem, but he's also part of the solution. I am sure the reverse will also apply to me from their side.

"But we have reached the stage now where we say we have to have a negotiated settlement, for the sake of the people".

The formation of the government is going ahead despite MDC concern about the fate of imprisoned activists.

Mr Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years, has promised to co-operate in the unity government.

But the allocation of key ministerial portfolios has been highly contentious, and the new cabinet will bring bitter rivals face to face, the BBC's Peter Biles reports from South Africa.

New colleagues

Correspondents say much about the deal is unclear - in particular what happens in case the two leaders cannot agree on a particular issue.

The MDC will control the finance and health portfolios, while Zanu-PF retains its hold on defence, foreign affairs and agriculture.

KEY CABINET APPOINTMENTS
Zanu-PF:
Emmerson Mnangagwa, seen as a possible successor to Robert Mugabe, position not known
Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator of power-sharing deal, position not known
Sydney Sekeramayi, ex-defence minister, position not known
Didymus Mutasa, oversaw land reform programme, position not known
MDC:
Tendai Biti, lawyer and ex-student leader, finance
Giles Mutsekwa, lawyer with a military background, home affairs
Henry Madzorera, trained doctor, health
Eric Matinenga, lawyer who defended Mr Tsvangirai on treason charges, constitutional affairs
Roy Bennett, farmer, forced to flee Zimbabwe, deputy agriculture minister

The home affairs ministry, which is responsible for the police, will be split between the two parties.

The new government will have to deal with Zimbabwe's rampant inflation, a cholera epidemic and unemployment of at least 90%.

Some of those nominated by Zanu-PF as ministers have served in cabinet since Mr Mugabe was first elected in 1980.

Emmerson Mnangagwa has long been seen as a potential successor to Mr Mugabe and was accused of links to the 2008 election violence against the MDC.

Other nominees include former Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and former Land Minister Didymus Mutasa. The portfolios of the Zanu-PF nominees is not clear.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti is to take on the enormous challenge of finance, while as Health Minister Henry Madzorera will be in charge of tackling the cholera outbreak.

A Zanu-PF minister will be in charge of agriculture but their deputy will be the MDC's Roy Bennett, who lost his farms under Mr Mugabe's land reform programme and fled to South Africa, saying he feared for his life.

Mr Biti told the BBC that he had long been sceptical about the power-sharing, but he was now committed to it.

"Many of us wanted Mugabe's head, Mugabe had to go, but we failed in that quest, therefore let's make this thing work."

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

The fate of political prisoners will be seen as a test of whether the former rivals can work together, correspondents say.

Mr Tsvangirai, who was sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday, visited the jailed activists during his first full day in office.

"Some of them were given medical attention, and we hope that the process of the joint monitoring group will finalise this issue as early as possible.

"I'm confident they will be released," he told the BBC.

The MDC says more than 30 people, including 72-year-old man Fidelis Charamba, are still being held after being abducted and illegally detained.

They have been accused of subversion and recruiting fighters to overthrow Mr Mugabe - charges denied by the MDC.

The MDC agreed to the power-sharing deal in January after disputed elections last year led to months of political deadlock.

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