Ministers traded insults while discussing issues of sanctions, diamonds and the political violence that has engulfed the country, the sources said. It has since been resolved that a special cabinet meeting be held to address the contentious issues.
The Tuesday meeting came up with a number of decisions that could indicate Mugabe’s willingness to make concessions on various outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader has been a nominal deputy chairperson of the Cabinet because Mugabe has previously been denying him the chance to chair the meetings in his absence.
In most cases, Cabinet meetings were postponed because the 87-year-old leader was not available to chair them.
“The Prime Minister chaired a heated cabinet meeting on Tuesday,” said one source who attended the meeting.
“This was after the President had excused himself and left the room. We were actually shocked by that development because this has never happened before.”
The sources said even after Mugabe came back Tsvangirai continued to chair the meeting.
“I am not sure why he left the room but Tsvangirai chaired until the meeting was finished,” said another source. “I think he (Mugabe) might not have been feeling fine or he has changed his position that the PM does not chair those meetings.”
Cabinet convened only once this year on Tuesday after having last met on December 18 before Mugabe took his annual leave.
A fortnight ago, Mugabe said he could convene meetings twice per week to make up for the time he was away on leave.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka confirmed that the Prime Minister chaired last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
“The Prime Minister indeed chaired Cabinet at the request of the President which is not anomalous because he is deputy to the chair of Cabinet,” said Tamborinyoka.
“In fact, this is what should happen, especially in the absence of the President to ensure that Cabinet continues to transact business of the people.
“The absence of one principal must not stop people’s business from being transacted by this important body.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba were fruitless.