| Issue 386
and Regional Affairs
Washington, June 20, 2009 – Morgan Tsvangirai compared himself to Nelson
Mandela as he sought to explain his decision to share power with Robert
Speaking to The Times on Sunday, before his visit to Europe this week,
the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe — who is facing growing criticism that he
has become an apologist for the regime — said that he now had a
“functioning working relationship” with President Mugabe, 85 — the man
who in recent years had him jailed, beaten and threatened with death,
and whose 29-year rule has led his country to near collapse.
“I can’t stand up and defend his past,” Mr. Tsvangirai said in his
Washington hotel, minutes after an Oval Office meeting with President
Obama. “But I want to say here that the situation in Zimbabwe is no
different from Poland, where the Solidarity organization was in
cohabitation with the Communists in the transition.
“Nelson Mandela went for two years with the former apartheid leaders in
order to create that transition [in South Africa],” he added. “So we are
not in a unique position. Transitions of this nature are important,
because you soft-land a crisis in order to create a better basis for
Mr Tsvangirai is on a three-week world tour, during which he hopes to
persuade the West to increase aid to his shattered nation.
In recent days, and to a skeptical audience, he has argued that Zimbabwe
is now “on an irreversible transition to democracy” — a case he will
make when he arrives in London on Saturday.
Under the terms of his power-sharing agreement, Mr Mugabe has retained
control of the police, military, intelligence service, media and
criminal justice system.
Opposition leaders are still being arrested and white-owned farms are
still being illegally seized.
Sitting in on the interview was a US-based representative of The Herald,
the Mugabe-controlled state newspaper which has belittled Mr.
Tsvangirai’s trip each day since he left the country a week ago. The
reporter insisted on reciting long questions read verbatim from copious
longhand notes, which appeared to be an attempt to take up the time
allocated for the interview.
Mr. Tsvangirai insisted that Mr. Mugabe now understood the dire problems
facing the people of Zimbabwe, where hyper-inflation has destroyed the
economy, Aids is rampant and the country’s infrastructure is in ruins.
“He is not stupid. He’s astute and he’s clear about what he wants to do.
We both appreciate the fact that we have a national responsibility to
define the destiny of the country. Only through working together are we
able to respond to our people’s needs.”
Such a stance from Mr. Tsvangirai, who for a decade was Mr. Mugabe’s
implacable foe, is threatening his credibility and drawing criticism
from reformists, who say that he should be speaking out more boldly
against Mr. Mugabe’s abuses. The Prime Minister, however, appears to
believe that the best way to achieve reform is from within. Just as Mr.
Mugabe realized that “he needed to share power if he was going to make
progress, we have shifted the arena of our struggle in order to have
full democracy in our country,” he said.
Mr. Tsvangirai appeared optimistic and did not talk about the death of
his wife in a car crash earlier this year, an accident that he survived.
He insisted that the country’s inflation rate had dropped from 500
billion per cent to 3 per cent — a claim that is not supported by
He left his meeting with Mr. Obama with a promise of $73 million in
humanitarian aid “and no development aid”, a reflection of Washington’s
decision to limit its assistance and keep sanctions in place until Mr.
Mugabe is out of power.
“I must confess when I came [to Washington] I found the mood to be very
skeptical,” Mr. Tsvangirai said. “But as time went on, and we explained
our case, I think there has been an appreciation that Zimbabwe is in a
Source: Times research, January 15, 2009