On Thursday, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told journalists that a lot of progress was being made at the unnecessary and on-going talks between his Movement for Democratic Change party and Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.
“I want to assure you there is progress,” Tsvangirai told a media briefing in Cape Town on Friday, once again volunteering himself as Mugabe’s Public Relations Officer in the troubled so-called government of national unity, constituted about ten months ago.
A few weeks ago, the unity government came to the brink of collapse as Tsvangirai herded his cabinet ministers away from the government in total frustration, in what he called “disengagement”.
He ordered his half of the government to vacate government offices and work from their party’s headquarters, claiming that Mugabe was not implementing the Global Political Agreement signed between them last year.
Prior to that, Tsvangirai had travelled the world reciting paeans on behalf of Mugabe and telling everyone who cared to listen that all was well within the government of national unity and that significant progress was being made.
But people did not believe what Tsvangirai was saying, pointing out that what was on the ground contradicted Tsvangirai’s exaggerated optimism.
But Tsvangirai went to the USA, the UK, Germany and Europe, repeating the mantra that significant progress was being made and that there was “no going back”.
Fast forward to a few months later. Mid October 2009.
“It is now time for us to assert and take our position as the dominant party in this government. In taking this path, we are guided by the fact that we are the trustees of the people’s mandate and therefore the only one with the mandate to remain in government,” said Tsvangirai on announcing why he was boycotting cabinet and partially divorcing his ally in government. “For that reason, the MDC for now cannot renege on the people’s mandate. However it is our right to disengage from a dishonest and unreliable partner.”
But to justify his partial withdrawal from the government in mid October, Tsvangirai had to itemize all the things that were not going on well, and the list was long.
First, he had to remind us that his partner in government was “dishonest and unreliable”.
There were many “outstanding issues” that he said remained unresolved and accused Mugabe of deliberately delaying the implementation of the GPA.
Among the issues were the swearing in of provincial governors, rescinding the appointments of Reserve bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney general Johannes Tomana, the cessation of farm invasions and also the swearing into office of Tsvangirai’s confidant, Roy Bennett, whom Mugabe refuses to swear in as deputy Agriculture minister. Bennett is currently on trial for possession of arms of war. The state alleges he wanted to remove Mugabe violently.
Tsvangirai also complained about the continued arrest of his party members.
After only three weeks, Tsvangirai called off the boycott and returned to cabinet with his ministers, apparently having been assured by SADC that the outstanding issues would be dealt with.
SADC’s remedy was an ultimatum to both leaders to sit down and resolve their differences within two weeks (up to November 15). And South African President Jacob Zuma would then visit for a first hand briefing.
“We have suspended our disengagement in the government,” Tsvangirai told reporters after talks at an emergency regional summit in Maputo as he announced his return to government only three weeks after walking out. “Within 30 days all issues must be cleared,” he said, with confidence he did not feel.
But the deadline came and went as Mugabe, Tsvangirai and their ministers went on world tours, attending sublime international conferences and visiting insignificant countries that really had nothing to do with the long awaited revival of Zimbabwe.
We were to learn on Wednesday, when Finance Minister Tendai Biti presented his budget speech to parliament, that in less than a year, this government had gobbled up US $28.6 million for foreign trips (to October 2009).
However, this snub went to SADC and ended up on Zuma’s doorstep. Because no meetings had taken place in Zimbabwe, Zuma was forced to cancel the trip to Zimbabwe.
“Now that these issues are being attended to, we want to open a new chapter and say that the inclusive government is consolidating and that we need to build momentum to ensure we can reconstruct the country,” Tsvangirai said on Thursday.
But the man does not seem to understand that he is dealing with truly “dishonest and unreliable partner”.
He is now back parroting enthusiasm
which is lacking everywhere else. The fact that they all rushed to the airport, leaving important business unattended and snubbing both SADC and Zuma speaks volumes about this group of leaders.
“Sorry Mr Prime Minister. I do not TRUST your statements,” said Tich Pasipanodya, a regular contributor to the Zimbabwe Times. “Many a times you have made optimistic speeches only for the reality to disappoint the people of Zimbabwe. We will have to wait for proper outcomes. I am not very optimistic about these talks.”
One writer wished Tsvangirai would keep quiet on announcing “progress” that is not there. He said that it is interesting to note that Tsvangirai can forget so quickly that just four weeks ago, he announced disengagement due to the lack of progress and now with further unnecessary negotiations having resumed just a few days ago, he has already started muttering about progress again, long before the talks have been concluded.
For us Zimbabweans, every day brings us the reality that trusting these people is now a risk.
The negotiators are putting personal interests first. In second place they put their party interests and the nation comes last.
Even though Zimbabwe is in such a mess and the people are suffering, these negotiators are sitting pretty and do not find any reason to upset the status quo.
We are now afraid to hope yet we see unprecedented pressure being slowly applied to all the negotiating parties.
I am encouraged by the presence in Zimbabwe of SADC Secretary General Tomaz Salom├úo who “quietly slipped into Zimbabwe on Wednesday”, a day after Zuma’s three member facilitation team left Zimbabwe.
The team, “which comprised Zuma’s political adviser Charles Nqakula, anti-apartheid struggle veteran Mac Maharaj and Lindiwe Zulu, International Affairs Adviser to the South African leader”, met the three leaders in the coalition government but reportedly refused to comment on any issues regarding their visit.
There is evidence that some pressure, however subtle, is being applied. It is our hope that the pressure shall be maintained on all the participants, including Tsvangirai, because left on their own, these people do not seem to be in a hurry to conclude the outstanding issues.
SADC and South Africa must not let up or lose momentum. They have to keep a very close eye on Zimbabwe and force the principals to behave like the responsible leaders they should be.
Zimbabwean leaders have caused enough distress in the country, have wreaked enough havoc on the region and have embarrassed Africa enough.
Only a concerted effort to keep these people in line will bring emancipation to Zimbabweans and relieve our neighbours of the unnecessary economic burdens of hosting refugees who otherwise would be doing better in their countries, save for these party leaders who all appear to have put their personal interests ahead of the nation.