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Tsvangirai gets passport back

Dumisani Muleya

OPPOSITION Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai will now be able to lead his party’s diplomatic offensive in the region over the Zimbabwe crisis after he got his pass

port back following his acquittal last week on treason charges.

The passport was seized by the state when he was charged with high treason in 2002.

“I got my passport this (Wednesday) morning after some resistance,” Tsvangirai said. “Now I will be able to travel mostly in the region and across Africa to reinforce the diplomatic work that has been done by the party in the 20 months when I couldn’t travel.”

The release of Tsvangirai’s passport follows his acquittal on trumped-up treason charges in which it was claimed he had plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe in 2001.

There were reports Tsvangirai might not get his passport back due to the second treason charge. However, the surrender of the passport was not part of the bail conditions on the current treason case. Tsvangirai is due to appear in court over the case on November 3.

The first treason allegations were sparked by discredited Canadian businessman Ari Ben-Menashe after he held three meetings in London and Montreal in 2001 with MDC officials.

Tsvangirai, who narrowly lost the 2002 presidential poll to Mugabe, said plans were under way to arrange meetings with regional leaders to discuss Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.

“We are still in the process of organising meetings mostly in the region and in Africa because that is where we should now concentrate,” he said.

“As soon as that is done, I will start travelling to meet regional leaders to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe.”

MDC officials met President Thabo Mbeki last month in Pretoria and are expected to meet other regional leaders soon. Mugabe also met Mbeki in New York last month.

Tsvangirai said it was important to have a free and fair election in Zimbabwe as that would enable the country to start a recover programme from extended periods of political instability and maladministration.

He said a free and fair election was not only in the interest of Zimbabweans but also the region and Africa in general.

Tsvangirai said the only way that this could be achieved was through forcing Zanu PF to comply with Sadc norms and standards on elections.

Government is under pressure to comply with the Southern African Development Community principles governing democratic elections.

The principles require the establishment of independent electoral institutions. Zimbabwe’s electoral institutions are controlled by government. The standards also require government to adopt “measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud, rigging or any other illegal practices throughout the whole electoral process to ensure free and fair elections”.

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