â€œWE must not betray those who lost their lives during the countdown to the sham June 27 presidential election run-off,â€ bellowed MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
â€œThey didnâ€™t die in vain. The MDC will not be party to a bad all-inclusive government deal.â€
The 15 000-strong crowd which thronged Sakubva Stadium in Mutare on Sunday roared, ululated and clapped in approval of the former trade unionistâ€™s words.
Tsvangirai was in the Eastern Highlands to appraise his supporters on the political settlement signed between him, President Robert Mugabe and the leader of the smaller faction of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, on September 15 in the capital.
With songs being belted out encouraging Tsvangirai to remain resolute, the MDC leader did not mince his words on what he wants from the deal.
His speech was punctuated by party slogans and from time to time he took to the dance floor in appreciation of the MDCâ€™s combative songs penned by Glen View legislator Paul Madzore.
â€œWe are saying to Mugabe we need power-sharing, not grabbing. We are deadlocked on allocation of ministries. Zanu PF wants to take all key ministries and leave us as junior partners in the all-inclusive government,â€ he said. â€œWe are saying no to grabbing. If they insist on power-grabbing, we will go back to the trenches until we get what we want.â€
Tsvangirai said the MDC entered into negotiations that culminated in the pact after realising the continued free-fall of the economy and the suffering Zimbabweans were enduring.
â€œDespite that we won the elections in March, we agreed to engage Zanu PF after realising that our people were suffering; they are now in war with donkeys for wild fruits as a result of hunger stalking the nation. There are no jobs and hospitals have now been turned into death traps, not places of healing,â€ he said amid applause from his supporters, most of them wearing MDC regalia.
With the assistance of former South African president Thabo Mbeki, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara agreed to form a unity government whose cabinet would be made up of 31 ministers.
The 84-year-old Mugabe would remain president, Tsvangirai prime minister and Mutambara one of the two deputy prime ministers. The other deputy would come from Tsvangiraiâ€™s party.
On cabinet posts, Mugabe would have 15, Tsvangirai 13 and Mutambara 3.
â€œSince the day of signing we have been haggling on the allocation of ministries between the three parties. Mugabe is saying that the inclusive government must be by Mugabe,â€ Tsvangirai said. â€œWe are saying no to that kind of dictatorship. We are not going to sell out and agree to a deal where Mugabe remains with power. We are in the majority in parliament and that should be reflected in the inclusive government.â€
He said the deadlock was on the allocation of cabinet posts, 10 provincial governors, institutional reforms, the appointment of ambassadors, permanent secretaries and heads of government departments and parastatals.
Tsvangirai said his party had respect for African institutions like Sadc and the African Union, which wanted the deal to be implemented.
He explained to his supporters that his failure to travel to Swaziland to attend a Sadc organ on politics, defence and security meeting a fortnight ago because government had refused to renew his passport, was a test of sincerity on the part of Zanu PF.
â€œFailing to go to Swaziland had nothing to do with the passport. It was a test of sincerity on Mugabeâ€™s part,â€ Tsvangirai said. â€œIf Mugabe wants an agreement he must do everything to respect the MDC. If you cannot give me a passport, how will you entrust me with the keys of the government?â€
The MDC leader told his supporters that his party had lost confidence in Mbeki as mediator of the Zimbabwe crisis, but did not give details.
He said: â€œWe respect former President Mbeki, but we are saying if you come to deal with the Zimbabwe issue you must come with clean hands. We respect the African Union and Sadc. These institutions do not belong to anyone. The institutions must support the people of Zimbabwe, not a particular individual.â€
â€œAt our meeting tomorrow (Monday) the Sadc troika should help us put finality to this confusion. If we fail, the matter should be referred to a Sadc summit and later the African Union.â€
The troika meeting has since referred the Zimbabwe issue to the Sadc summit after Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to agree on how to distribute ministries between them at Mondayâ€™s meeting.
Speaking at the same rally, MDC Womenâ€™s Assembly chairperson Theresa Makone vowed that the party would not enter into a marriage with Zanu PF until Mugabe agrees to cede the finance and home affairs ministries.
â€œWithout the two ministries we are not going to be part of a unity government. We will rather go back to the trenches,â€ Makone said.
Youth chairman Thamsanga Mahlangu said if the deal collapsed the MDC should push for fresh elections.
â€œWe will demand fresh elections under the United Nations. This time around we will not permit Mugabe and Zanu PF to intimidate us,â€ Mahlangu said. â€œWe are prepared to go back to the trenches and finish off Mugabe and Zanu PF.â€Â Â
After the Sakubva rally, Tsvangirai and his team went to Mutungagore Business Centre, Nyazura, for another report-back rally where he addressed over 5 000 villagers.
He told the excited crowd that he had been touched by the level of hunger in the country and pledged that once in government the MDC would make food one of its top priorities.
This followed the villagersâ€™ narration of harrowing experiences of how they and their families were going for days without food and have to survive on wild fruits.
At Mutungagore Primary School Tsvangirai was given wild berries to eat.
â€œI know you are suffering and once the MDC is in government, I will put the food crisis as a first priority,â€ he said.
By Constantine Chimakure