Zim sighs with relief

HARARE - The swearing-in of Zimbabwe's former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister yesterday still leaves the question of how well he can work with old rival President Robert Mugabe to save the ruined country.

Here are possible scenarios for the new administration:

l A new power struggle could paralyse a government charged with easing the world's highest inflation rate and severe food and fuel shortages and rescuing a virtually worthless local currency.

l The fact that the two old rivals have got as far as this indicates their susceptibility to regional pressure as well as the dangers of total meltdown in Zimbabwe.

l However, the months of squabbling over posts in the new government have raised concerns that this will simply continue at the government level.

l Mugabe is regarded as one of the craftiest political operators in Africa and could easily find ways to undermine Tsvangirai, a fiery former union leader who has grassroots support but little of Mugabe's skill in pulling the strings of government.

l New deadlock would hinder formation of a democratic government and bold economic reforms such as reversing policies aimed at nationalising mines and banks.

l That would keep the already sceptical foreign investors and Western donors away, depriving the country of millions of dollars of aid. But if that money fails to come in, Mugabe could hold that against Tsvangirai and say it means his government has failed.

l Doubts will still hang over a joint administration even if Mugabe and Tsvangirai surprise the world by starting to work together smoothly.

l Analysts say they have chosen political allies, not economists or technocrats who command international respect, for their cabinet teams, running the risk of further mismanagement that could bring further economic decline.

l Millions of Zimbabweans who fled the suffering, many of them well educated and skilled, will also be watching closely to see if the new leadership can deliver. If they stay abroad, regional economies will be further strained and southern African leaders will come under renewed pressure to help Zimbabwe. - Reuters