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5.5 million Zimbabweans facing food crisis: Tsvangirai

A power-sharing government must be formed in Zimbabwe over the next few days to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the south African nation, its new prime minister designate said Saturday.

Prime minister designate calls for immediate formation of unity government

A power-sharing government must be formed in Zimbabwe over the next few days to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the south African nation, its new prime minister designate said Saturday.

Zimbabwe's farming, mining and other industries have come to a near standstill as the country's economy continues to crumble, Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters in Harare. 

An estimated 5.5 million people will require food aid in the coming months as a result, said Tsvangirai, who is leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change.

"I've had the opportunity to meet with food security experts, the food manufacturing companies and farmers to ascertain the qualities of food available," he said.

"I'm sad to report that my preliminary findings in this exercise show a state of emergency, with disastrous consequences if we take too long to attend to this crisis."

Tsvangirai said the only way to resolve the problem was for Zimbabwe's leaders to form the new government. Uncertainty over when that will happen, he said, is causing unnecessary agony and anxiety.

"It is therefore imperative that a government be formed in the next few days and begins to implement plans to ensure that our people have food and do not die of starvation," Tsvangirai said.

"The inclusive government will have to unequivocally make an urgent request for food assistance in order to see us through this period."

Squabbling over cabinet posts

The formation of a unity government has stalled as Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe continue to disagree over how to divide cabinet posts.

The two recently agreed to a power-sharing deal that allowed Mugabe to maintain his post as leader of the country, with Tsvangirai acting as his deputy.

Signed earlier this month, the power-sharing deal allows for 31 ministers — down from 50 — 15 nominated by Mugabe's party, 13 by Tsvangirai and three by a breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara.

Food and manufacturing industries are working at 10 per cent of their capacity, Tsvangirai said Saturday, while mining was working at just five per cent of its capacity. Formerly the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe is currently facing a shortage of fertilizer needed to produce enough grain to last it until April. 

Aid agencies are currently helping feed about 4 million people, or one-third of the population, in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said. 

Power-sharing deal  

While Tsvangirai's MDC party won legislative elections held in March, the party did not win by a wide enough margin to take power.

The MDC withdrew from the widely denounced run-off vote held in June, citing intimidation and violence against its supporters.

The recent power-sharing deal marked the first time Mugabe, a former anti-colonial leader who has been in control since 1980, has been willing to surrender some of his authority.

Mugabe,84, is currently out of the country after attending a United Nations summit in New York last week.

He called on the West to lift sanctions against his country in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, accusing them of genocide.

With files from the Associated Press