MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week met with European Union officials and came out against the imposition of more sanctions against Robert Mugabe and his cronies.
Tsvangirai told European Union officials that imposing more sanctions on Mugabe would be counter-productive and instead urged the European regional grouping to focus their attention on providing assistance to Zimbabwe, especially humanitarian and medical assistance.
According to AFP, the French news agency, â€œTsvangirai said that, instead of more sanctions, the country must have emergency humanitarian aid. He said millions of people need food and medicine to counter the spread of cholera.â€
The EU has blacklisted 172 people linked to Mugabeâ€™s government and four companies believed to financially support Mugabe and his Zanu PF party. The EU also has frozen long-term aid projects in Zimbabwe and imposed an arms embargo.
Contrary to reports that the Zanu PF leadership was angry about Tsvangiraiâ€™s trip to Europe, Mugabeâ€™s office says the president is â€œdelighted that Tsvangirai is now doing what we have always asked: that he show his good faith by asking for sanctions to be lifted…â€
While not strictly true that Tsvangirai has asked for sanctions to be lifted, his comments in Strasbourg, where he attended the EUâ€™s International Day of Development, markÂ his most significant effort yet to repair what he himself has called â€œan element of mistrust between myself and President Mugabeâ€.
Mugabe had demanded that â€œthose who asked for sanctions should go and ask for those sanctions to be lifted.â€
This was never going to happen, of course, because Tsvangirai has no control over Europe or the United States.
However, as the crisis over the talks drags on, the EU and the United States had signalled that they would be ratcheting up pressure on Mugabe by imposing more sanctions. They were now considering an even wider net of sanctions to bring Mugabeâ€™s regime to its knees once and for all.
We can then safely say that the prospect of this happening has now been diminished, if not abolished, by Tsvangiraiâ€™s latest call for those additional sanctions not to be imposed.
What is even more interesting in all of this is how this relates to the announcement by the MDC that it will participate in government once the necessary instrument to make the GNU legal is signed into law. It marks a clear progression by the MDC towards participation in an inclusive government. By making moves to ensure that he can show his negotiating partner, Mugabe, that he is sincere and committed to the talks and to the success of any new government, Tsvangirai has also shrewdly ensured that Mugabe stays his hand and does not go ahead and impatiently appoint a one-sided government, a move hoped for by some hard-liners in his party.
Mugabe will now have to think twice and give Tsvangirai the benefit of the doubt that, perhaps, the prime minister-designate is indeed committed to ensuring that the agreement is realised and a government formed. It means that there will be no unilateral government by Mugabe. The sign outside the door now reads â€œAwaiting Developmentsâ€. Already, the government of Robert Mugabe has drafted Amendment No 19 to create the posts of prime minister and his deputies. The government has also prepared the nation for a long delay in the setting up of government by saying that people â€œshould be patient. Setting up a government is not an event but a process.â€ So prepare yourselves for us not to have a government until after January next year.
It is also instructive to note that Tsvangirai was invited to the European Union Day of International Development summit in his capacity as prime minister-designate of Zimbabwe. It points to a new era of relations between the Western powers and Zimbabwe. And it reinforces the claim made by Tsvangirai that he holds the key to the unlocking of international aid by the West.
What remains to be seen is if anything comes out of his attendance at the European Union Day of International Development summit. What deals will he be able to secure and under what conditions? Once a new government is in place? There is no doubt that he will be able to secure something, since the European Union is looking to strengthen his hand in the ongoing talks with Mugabe.
Before this week is out we should know exactly what Tsvangiraiâ€™s jaunt has brought Zimbabwe. One thing is certain, though: the New! Improved! sanctions that had been mooted by the US and the Europe in the last two weeks, which were heavier and more widespread, will now no longer be imposed on Zimbabwe.
What remains is the battle to actually formulate a government that can take advantage of this goodwill and harness any gifts Tsvangirai may be handed, be they moral or financial. Goodwill is being built towards Zimbabwe, but only a Zimbabwe in which the MDC is part of government.
By Denford Magora