03/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Zimbabwe's New Prime Minister Must Tackle His Toughest Challenge Yet

Linda Moyo celebrated the swearing in of Zimbabwe's historic unity government yesterday behind bars at Harare central police station.

The young activist was one of 10 women arrested on the eve of the unveiling of the new government for attempting to exercise their right to protest. Fellow activists said she had wanted to test whether or not things in her country had really changed. Hers was added to the long list of names that Morgan Tsvangirai, who took his oath of office as Prime Minister, has demanded be released.

The arbitrary arrests acted as a reminder that Mr Tsvangirai faces the toughest political assignment in the world. According to one member of the new unity cabinet, speaking on condition of anonymity, the Prime Minister's success or failure could be clear within 10 days.

The first litmus test will be the sacking of Gideon Gono, the man who has bankrolled the Mugabe regime from his post as head of the central bank. "Clearly he's got to go," said the source. "Otherwise there will be no coherence on the economy and the international community won't give us the time of day." Mr Gono is one of the main figures blamed for the hyperinflation that has rendered Zimbabwe's currency worthless. With unemployment running at 94 per cent and many public servants on strike for a living wage, Zimbabwe needs a massive injection of foreign aid. But few, if any, countries will be willing to commit funds without a clear change of the guard. Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said increased aid would "depend on the new government's actions".

The Zimbabwe cabinet source said he expected Mr Gono would be fired early next week along with the attorney general. There would be serious consequences, he said, if it doesn't happen in that timeframe. "Clearly we've got to move very fast. If we don't pay the army next week then we're in big trouble," he added.

After the swearing in, Mr Tsvangirai pledged to swiftly pay civil servants in foreign currency to "get the country back to work". Other key demands from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) include the release of political prisoners and an immediate "end to land invasions and restoration of the rule of law".

While many within the MDC remain sceptical over the future of the unity government, others have been reassured by the intervention of South Africa's caretaker President, Kgalema Motlanthe. "The chances have been increased by a more proactive South Africa. Without Motlanthe we wouldn't be at this point," said an MDC source.

Mr Tsvangirai won more votes than Mr Mugabe in the presidential poll last March despite widespread intimidation, and his MDC won a majority of seats in parliament. Mr Mugabe's response was to unleash the security forces in a campaign of intimidation and murder that left hundreds dead.

The violence compelled Mr Tsvangirai to withdraw from the presidential run-off and Mr Mugabe's unopposed re-election was dismissed as illegitimate by the EU and African observers.

The new venture comes just as the main precedent for Zimbabwe's deal - Kenya's power-sharing administration - is in danger of falling apart. The Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the President Mwai Kibaki, who like Mr Mugabe was accused of election-rigging, have failed to establish an effective administration. The east African nation recently declared a national emergency due to famine; there are chronic fuel shortages and analysts have warned that corruption is spiralling out of control.

The starting point for Zimbabwe is far worse than it was for Kenya a year ago. It has had its worst harvest since independence and a cholera epidemic has killed 3,500 people. Mr Mugabe's inner circle still controls the military and the police, and hundreds of political prisoners languish in jail.

Jenni Williams, founder of the women's activist group Woza, whose members, including Ms Moyo, were arrested on Tuesday, said the women were facing "intensive questioning for hours" while the politicians were at the swearing-in. "This is a government for politicians, not for people," she said. Ms Moyo, seven other Woza activists and two female lawyers had still not been charged or released last night. "They cannot get a conviction so this is just harassment," added Ms Williams.

Zimbabwe's villains and victims

Tendai Biti

A gifted young lawyer among the founders of the MDC, he has been one of the most vocal critics of Mugabe. Arrested and beaten and most recently charged with treason he is now the finance minister and tasked with clearing up the mess created by years of looting and mismanagement.

Roy Bennett

White farmer who took on and beat a Zanu MP at the start of the land invasions despite being beaten up. Famously wrestled Zanu MP Patrick Chinamasa to the ground in parliament after being goaded over the seizure of his farm. Jailed for 8 months and left for South Africa after release. Now back in Harare as a deputy minister.

Elias Mudzuri

Was threatened, beaten up, suspended and locked out of his office after winning election to become mayor of Harare. Had to contend with Zanu youth who surrounded town hall chanting "Mudzuri should be beaten up, he must be killed and he must be removed." A trained engineer he was yesterday appointed as energy minister.

Patrick Chinamasa

Main architect of Mugabe's subversion of the legal system he has fired or intimidated judges who refuse to toe the line. A voracious collector of stolen farms, his wife seized a tobacco farm then pocketed international award for its record crop. Lost his seat at last year's election but expected to be named in cabinet.

Perence Shiri

Spearheaded the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s. Leading voice in Joint Operations Command, clique used by Mugabe to violently control the country. Nicknamed Black Jesus. Planned and carried out terror campaign against opposition after March 2008 election defeat. Retained as head of Zimbabwe's airforce.

Gideon Gono

The man who printed money to meet needs of Mugabe regime and bankrupted the country. The ageing autocrat's personal banker has sanction use of reserve bank where he's governor as piggy bank for party elite. Has seen inflation reach into sextillions while acquiring more than 70 houses including Harare mansion larger than Mugabe's.

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