[DEBATE] : Latest Morgan Tsvangirai interview
tinashe_chimedza at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Aug 30 11:12:21 BST 2006
.. this is an interesting interview, buy why should Mugabe accept the MDC (divided) road map ? It seems the 'winter of discontent' is not coming in the short-run after all.
Political Transition Needed to End Economic Crisis, MDC Leader Says
August 29, 2006
Posted to the web August 29, 2006
By Margaret McElligott
Morgan Tsvangirai, founder and leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), ran for president in 2002 after decades of experience in Zimbabwe's labor movement. His party contests elections declared flawed by international observers, and he has been arrested and charged with treason twice.
The MDC broke into two factions last October, splitting over Tsvangirai's decision to boycott senate elections in November. The pro-senate group, headed by former student leader Arthur Mutambara, did contest over objections from the rest of the party, and tensions have remained high. Tsvangirai and Mutambara have met just once since the split, at a late July convention organized by church leaders. Informal talks continued in August and officials met in South Africa over the weekend. Tsvangirai told AllAfrica in an interview that opposition negotiations would continue, even if the eventual form of the party was undecided. Excerpts:
What is the sticking point in opposition talks?
We believe that there is more that unites us than divides us. But one of the sticking points is that are we talking of unity? Are we talking of cooperation? Are we talking of separate political formations? It is quite a complex issue, but certainly so far as the goal of serving our country, it's one that should motivate us.
What would you like to see happen?
I'd like to see that there is more cooperation and less acrimony across the divide. More focus on the objective and goal of the MDC, which is to confront the regime which has caused us all these problems, and more unity of purpose rather than unity of individuals.
What do you think of the role of the churches, the Christian Alliance, in trying to reconcile the MDC?
The church movement in our country is regarded by everybody as an impartial body, so I think that the Christian Alliance came in to provide that leadership at the convention and then became the rallying point of everybody.
What is the status of discussions about peaceful mass protests? Is there a timeline?
No, there's no timeline. You must understand that our people have been battered through state-sponsored violence, and you have to take that into consideration. But I think, however, it is important that preparedness becomes the basis of organizing mass protests and we are working on it. I believe time will come when we will be ready.
You are organizing now?
I said we are working on it structurally and organizationally. The convention was one point which has created a very important opportunity for people to work together in the democratic front, and we think that this is a process that is going on.
What do you see as the role of civil society?
The society in which we live demands that all democratic, like-minded people work together to create a democratic society. I'm sure that the civil society will benefit more in the democratic space that will be created by this joint action, and they will be able to cut out their work as defined in their autonomous chapters.
How much freedom do you have personally in terms of moving about the country and talking to people?
I think that over the last six years, democratic space has been closed in various ways. One is that you cannot hold a meeting of more than three people without seeking police permission, because it is considered political. As you know, there are no correspondents in the country. Newspapers have been shut down, and only state newspapers exist. The space for interaction is limited by those factors. But as we said, we came together in this convention as a demonstration that people actually can communicate, but, of course, in guarded tones, because the regime will respond violently to any type of organization.
You mention people being battered down. What was the economic situation like when you left Zimbabwe?
The state of the economy is catastrophic. If you look at some of the factors, some of the facts, it is untenable. For instance, inflation is over 1,000 percent. Unemployment is over 85 percent. About 90 percent of the people live below [the poverty line]. Food deficit is high in spite of the rains. Life expectancy has declined from 55 at independence to 35 now, an indication of a very catastrophic situation.
What has been the impact so far of the new currency?
The new currency has had an impact. It is almost another Operation Murambatsvina targeting people's savings and people's money. It is hiding the fact that cutting out the zeros, people were caught up with the fact that the dollar had been devalued by 250 percent. The net effect has been spiraling increases of prices, which again has impacted the ability of the people to survive on basic goods and services.
Were there many people that weren't able to trade in their money before the deadline?
I understand that the situation was chaotic because by Friday last week, some of the traders were not accepting old money, so people had to wait to go to the banks to change their new money, which they could not give normally in exchange for new money. What was happening was people were making deposits rather than taking any money in exchange for old currency.
You called for leaders at the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) meeting in Maseru, Lesotho, to put Zimbabwe on the agenda for discussion. Were you happy with the outcome of that meeting?
First of all, I had a mission to Botswana with the chairman of SADC, [Botswana President Festus Mogae], at which we presented this road map to legitimacy, which is a road map to the resolution of the national crisis and tried to influence them so that when SADC convenes, it takes that into consideration. I understand President Mugabe left early, but I'm sure that SADC leaders discussed the Zimbabwe crisis, the outcome of which was an expression of the deteriorating economic and social conditions in Zimbabwe. That's the only comment we heard.
What was the reaction to your visit in Botswana? There are many Zimbabweans trying to find work in Botswana. Do you see Botswana as a country that is receptive to some of the issues you're talking about?
Botswana has been severely affected by the influx of illegal Zimbabweans. These are economic refugees, and they're having a serious impact on the social and economic conditions in Botswana. So Botswana is receptive to a quick, speedy solution to the Zimbabwe crisis because it wants to normalize the relationship. When we were there, they were equally concerned about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.
How went your discussions with President Mogae?
I had a meeting with him and expressed these concerns. I think he shares the same concerns and wants to see a solution as a way of normalizing the relations between Botswana and Zimbabwe.
But he isn't prepared to start speaking publicly about it?
Oh yes. Diplomatically, it would be inappropriate for him to condemn, but I think that there are guarded comments about Zimbabweans talking to each other and finding a solution to save the country.
What has changed most since the November elections?
What is significant to what has changed in Zimbabwe is the economic meltdown has even had a very serious impact on the defenders of the regime. Those pillars of the regime have become less confident about the future than they ever were before. Secondly, there's a resonating convergence on the question of condemnation of what is happening in the country across the political divide. The convention was the culmination of the need for unity, the need to confront the regime, the need to find a way of resolving the crisis.
Do you mean that the people questioning are ZANU-PF supporters or voters?
No, the ZANU-PF supporters. They are equally affected by the economic situation that is prevailing. For instance, they are affected by food shortages. They are affected by currency shortages. They are affected by higher costs of living. The patronage system has collapsed, and the attack by the governor of the Reserve Bank was largely targeted at ZANU-PF elite, rather than the general population.
Have you met with ZANU-PF members who've been disillusioned by the economic situation?
They can't talk to you.
No. They would be concerned as to what would be the repercussions to be seen openly discussing with the leader of the opposition. But these are the expressions that we pick up with our contacts in Parliament, in our contacts everywhere with various ZANU-PF structures.
What do you think is likely to happen with ZANU-PF in terms of succession and the potential that may have for an opening of the political space?
The debate around succession has paralyzed ZANU-PF and hence the inability of the government to deal with the socioeconomic problems we are confronted with. It is an open secret that there are serious divisions within ZANU-PF. We wish the transition from the old generation would be one that would be exploited by the current nationalists, but unfortunately, the longer they stay, the more it is going to be fractious, especially within the ZANU-PF. And, of course, consequently, it will have an impact. Whatever ZANU-PF does with its succession program has a direct impact on the future stability of the country. We are hoping that President Mugabe and some of his ZANU-PF old guard realize that they have a role to play to have a smooth transition.
Are there people in ZANU-PF that you trust and hope would play a larger role in that transition?
Oh yes, of course. There are people everywhere. Every cloud has a silver lining. I'm sure that there are bad people in ZANU-PF, there are good people in ZANU-PF, as well as there are good people in MDC and bad people in MDC, but to a large extent, ZANU-PF has been captive to Mugabe's control, has been captive to the old, centralized political culture, which is the basis of why the MDC believes it's not really helpful for the country.
How do you see NGOs and churches being involved with discussions of the constitution and transition?
NGOs, as the broad civic society, have been champions for a new constitutional dispensation because the NCF had been at the forefront ever since the inception to fight for a new constitution. Remember that the new constitution is the demand of all Zimbabweans, because the Lancaster constitution was merely a political transfer document, but not a democratic document. Therefore, I think, across the political divide, it's one issue that there's national convergence on.
You mentioned that organizing will take time, because people are beaten down, but is it realistic to expect that people struggling for basic needs would be able to risk their safety to hold a protest?
Look, we understand that the economic effect has created a poor society, but also for how long can this regime hang on? It's about how you organize. In this instance, I think the people of Zimbabwe have to realize, first and foremost, the burden of the responsibility for liberating Zimbabwe is on them. And therefore it's an unavoidable demand on everyone to commit themselves to confront the regime. International solidarity, yes, but I think the first burden comes from Zimbabweans themselves. I think this has been widely accepted by all Zimbabweans now.
So many Zimbabweans have left the country. What impact does that have on what you can do and how you can organize?
Firstly, the brain drain has been catastrophic to the Zimbabwean economy. Any immigration of skilled manpower is detrimental to any progress in any particular society. But what it has also demonstrated is that four million Zimbabweans leaving the country is a serious indictment on the regime. Whether it is in the short-term possible to bring all these skills [back] is depending on how you resolve the national crisis in the first place.
How optimistic are you about prospects for resolution?
It's unavoidable. The crisis has to be resolved, not in the long-term, not in the medium-term, but as quickly as possible. I think the demand for resolution has become now the rallying cry of every Zimbabwean, and that's why I think the international community must also be in solidarity with this crisis, which has been on the international radar for a long time.
When you say short-term, do you mean the next year, or two years?
It can mean as short as in a month, two months, three months, four months, five months, but I think people have realized that we cannot continue the way we are continuing because it's unsustainable.
How has Operation Murambatsvina affected MDC, as hundreds of thousands of people living in informal settlements outside Harare lost their homes? Have you been able to track party supporters as they've moved?
I don't think that substantially we've lost support. I think the opposite has been the effect. These displaced people have carried their discontent into rural areas. They've mobilized in the rural areas. Some of the villagers who were not conscious of the impact of Murambatsvina all of a sudden become conscious because hordes and hordes of their own children were coming back in the villages. So we have not lost support. It has actually managed to enlighten the rural communities to the extent of the crisis and the brutality of this regime. No matter how they try to justify it, it has not resonated with anybody. We believe that Operation Murambatsvina has had a very serious effect on the ability of this regime in dealing with some of the socioeconomic consequences that we face.
How also has the economic crisis affected the government's ability to provide some of the services it used to provide to supporters?
For a very long time, this regime has depended more on impunity and patronage, but patronage has its limited effect. It depends whether it is continued, sustained patronage, but for the moment, there is nothing to sustain that patronage. The regime has had to use some of its strong-arm tactics by using traditional leaders in the rural areas to force people to meetings, force people to support some of its programs.
Zimbabwean journalists have written about land assigned to party members laying idle. Do you think there is a serious commitment among some members of ZANU-PF to look at how corruption in the land reform program is affecting the economy?
As you can imagine, the issue of land has now affected those who were proponents of land reform in a haphazard way, because the corruption has literally affected ZANU-PF more than anybody else, because of the manner in which that land reform was implemented. Now the chickens are coming home to roost [with] intra-party accusations of corruption in the allocation of land and in the manner in which agriculture has been affected by the haphazard manner of these policies.
So you mean people who thought they would be allocated land and weren't are now angry?
The effect is they were talking about one person, one farm, but now some of the chiefs have almost three, four five farms to one [person] so the corruption is quite evident. For us in the opposition, we didn't have a piece of it -- nothing to do with it -- because the methodology was totally inadequate.
The Financial Gazette alluded that you might be pushing for the United States to impose stronger sanctions. Do you support that idea?
We have always said that we don't support an international sanction regime against our country, but we support targeted sanctions, travel bans and things of that nature. This is what the international community has imposed. I'm surprised to the extent that people talk about sanctions indicate that Zimbabwe is not able to relate to any country because of economic sanctions. This is just a farce. There are no economic sanctions against the regime, against the country. What has happened is that people have been given travel bans in order to give them incentives to behave properly in the international community.
So you think it's fine the way it is?
Yes, the way it is is a reminder that Zimbabwe's leaders in the current regime are in a pariah status and that they need to work themselves out of that pariah status and be acceptable and legitimate leaders of the country.
Do you think leaders care? Does it help put blame for the economic crisis on the U.S. and Britain?
But you know that the truth of the matter is that the economic crisis has nothing to do with the U.S. and Britain and all these accusations. This is a state of denial and scapegoating. The truth is that this is misgovernance. This is corruption. This is patronage, which has affected the economic performance of the country. It is the haphazard nature in which the land reform has been implemented, and its consequences are coming home to roost.
What must happen in the coming months for there to be a peaceful, democratic transition?
What must happen is that we clearly see a road map to the resolution of this crisis based on three fundamental benchmarks. Firstly, I think the regime has to accept that it has to open up bridges with Zimbabweans so we can all craft out a destiny for the country together. It must accept responsibility for the mess it has created for the country. Two, part of that process would have to involve the crafting of a people-driven constitution, which is acceptable to all Zimbabweans. And, lastly, to accept that a legitimate government, supported by Zimbabweans, can only come out through a free and fair election. To me and to us in the MDC, we have put this through a road map, we have given [it] to ZANU-PF. We have given [it] to the diplomatic community. We believe it is the only way the crisis can be resolved.
Will you continue boycotting elections until that happens?
We will continue to use the elections. Of course, we know they are not free and fair, but it is a process that adds value to our political organization and our people want to participate in elections.
So the MDC will participate in elections in the future? Last year's boycott was an aberration?
Yes, we will participate in elections, but let me say that elections are not an exclusive option to us. We are going to compliment by putting pressure on the regime to accept the road map solution that we have proposed through the collective action of the party and the broad civic society. That is why the convention was called.
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