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First 100 days Working With Mugabe

AFTER his first 100 days in office Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gave his assessment of the progress of the new unity government.

Peta: Isn’t the number of Zimbabweans still streaming into South Africa a vote of no confidence in this new government?

Tsvangirai: These people are economic refugees and I can understand why they are flooding into South Africa. They are coming for job opportunities. This government has only been in place for three months.You cannot create jobs in three months especially with the level of economic decay we have experienced.

Peta: But for economic recovery don’t you need a massive injection of aid from Western countries which remain reticent because Mugabe is continuing to flout the rule of law?

Tsvangirai: There has been some positive engagement with them. They have moved from total disregard of what has happened to scepticism and now they are saying there is progress, though not sufficient. So they all accept that there is change taking place and that change must be consolidated. They will eventually open (their purses). But any delays in giving Zimbabwe lines of credit and balance of payments support delays the recovery process and worsens the plight of the people of Zimbabwe.

Peta: Is it likely donors will provide money when violence continues on the farms, journalists are being harassed and your supporters are being jailed?

Tsvangirai: There are incidents in which it is reported that there are invasions on one or two farms but it’s all blown out of proportion. We have investigated examples of those so-called farm invasions. We have asked the Minister of Lands to give us a detailed report of what has been happening over all these so-called farm invasions and the outcry over that. We must also proceed with the land audit and setting up the land commission to resolve these disputes once and for all. (And) we want the full restoration of the rule of law.

Peta: How would you generally rate the performance of the government of national unity (GNU) in the first 100 days?

Tsvangirai: You need to look at both the performance of the government and the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave rise to the unity government. The two go hand in hand. Government has consolidated itself as a coalition government. But of course there are problems with the political agreement which I think are not insurmountable. The major concern has been the slow pace in implementing some of the outstanding issues in the GPA but we have hammered out almost 90% of them. There are a few areas of conflict but a large number have been resolved.

Peta: Why has it taken so long to clear the outstanding issues?

Tsvangirai: It’s a number of factors. I was away for almost a month (after the death of wife Susan) and also the fact that you cannot resolve some of these issues automatically as they need careful negotiation.

Peta: Will Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana be removed soon since that has been one of your key demands?

Tsvangirai: I don’t want to talk about individuals but the issue is being looked into by the inclusive government. We can’t all be preoccupied with Gono and Tomana at the expense of all the issues that the country is facing.

Peta: And what about the governors unilaterally appointed by Mugabe whom you also want fired?

Tsvangirai: There has been an agreement on that, not only on the formula but also on the issue of termination (of their contracts) which had been a sticking point.

Peta: By insisting that you will never pull out of the unity government, have you not put yourself at Mugabe’s mercy because he can do what he likes? And aren’t you overdoing your praise of Mugabe?

Tsvangirai: I am very much conscious of the leverage we have over the unity government; our confidence in the interim government is not cast in stone. I am saying so far, the government has consolidated. Whether you like Robert Mugabe or not is not the issue. I am saying so far the unity government is working and it’s working to the best interests of Zimbabweans. For the moment it’s an irreversible process but I cannot predict what will happen in future before the expiry of the transitional government. (However) I don’t foresee anything that will cause its rupture.

Peta: Are you committed to the unity government because you are now also on the gravy train, driving Mercedes-Benzes? And what about your MPs disobeying your order to return cars unprocedurally dished out to them by Gono?

Tsvangirai: For goodness’ sake, we are all earning only $100 a month. Is that a gravy train? These are petty issues to focus on. Cars allocated to the ministers don’t belong to them but to the state. As for MPs, we have said there is a government scheme for them to access vehicles (so there was no need to take Gono’s second-hand Mercs). The majority of the (MDC) MPs have returned these cars except maybe one or two. So there is no question of ill-discipline in our caucus.

Peta: What about the insubordination of the army generals who still refuse to salute you  which you spoke about at the Wits Business School?

Tsvangirai: I did not say there is insubordination. I said there is an attitude which is prevailing which creates an impression in the public domain that there is reluctance to accept the inclusive government. I have not seen anything that demonstrates that they are insubordinate. It’s all about personal attitudes. I cannot worry whether somebody has saluted me or not when there are more pressing issues needing my attention.

Peta: Do you agree that the sooner a new constitution is put in place and free and fair elections held, the better the chances are for a new legitimate government emerging out of those elections to raise aid for Zimbabwe’s recovery?

Tsvangirai: A constitution-making process is now in place. You can’t achieve a constitution in one day. But while we wait for a new constitution and fresh elections, we can’t recline on our laurels and fail to do something about the immediate social problems the people are facing (such as) opening of schools, hospitals and clinics. We will consider the issue of elections after 18 months. Electoral dates were not defined in the GPA because we did not want to start in an election mode from day one in view of all that had happened.

Peta: You recently said government was broke. With hindsight do you regret having promised foreign currency wages in the first place?

Tsvangirai: No, no, no. We said we would pay civil servants allowances in foreign currency, which we have done. We will continue to pay that. But I have said that at the moment the government cannot move to define salaries in foreign currency outside the $100 allowance. I have called for more time. We will make an assessment at the end of May and as the revenues of the government increase –– remember that no one is paying taxes — then we can look at the question of salaries. What people were talking about was that they wanted $1 500 salaries a month and I said ‘let’s be realistic’. That kind of money is just not there. And I want to tell you that Zimbabweans are grateful for the allowances because they can now go and buy something. The goods are back in the shops. With R1 000, people can use R500 to buy groceries and live with their families.

Peta: During negotiations you demanded control of Home Affairs and the police but you reluctantly settled for sharing it with Zanu PF. How has that worked?

Tsvangirai: It has worked fantastically. The two ministers have worked very co-operatively together.

Peta: But is your Home Affairs minister powerless to control the police and halt the continuing arrests of your supporters? Surely you don’t believe Jestina Mukoko and company were really plotting to overthrow Mugabe?

Tsvangirai: The recent arrests were not political arrests. They were procedural matters. If you are given bail in a lower court and then indicted to a higher court for trial, you have to negotiate a new bail condition. This is the mishap that occurred, especially with the case of Jestina Mukoko and others. These were not re-arrests but just a mishap to deal with their being indicted to a higher court. Either existing or new bail conditions had to be instituted. Once the state has charged people and you try to interfere, there will then be accusations that you are trying to interfere with the due process of the law. We say, well let the law take its course but it must take its course not selectively but in all cases. I don’t believe the charges (against Mukoko and others) are valid. But they have to go through the due process. If it’s harassment, it will be proven in a court of law. I went through the same process being accused of treason but in the end I was acquitted. But the issue is that if the state believes it has a case, then it should bring people to trial speedily.

Peta: Mugabe has been refusing to swear in Roy Bennett as deputy minister of Agriculture. Will he ever take up his post?

Tsvangirai: Yes, Mugabe has been resisting. He is saying Bennett is facing serious charges. But we have been saying that yes, he is facing charges but you don’t find him guilty before he has been tried by a court of law. Those are some of the things that have been irritating but eventually we are not going to budge on the question of Bennett being deputy minister of Agriculture. We have other ministers who have been charged. Biti and Matinenga are facing charges (but he swore them into office). It’s therefore a question of personalities. My appointments in terms of the GPA are my sole prerogative and Mugabe cannot veto them. I hope we don’t continue to create arguments over straight-forward issues.

Peta: And Mugabe appointed permanent secretaries in complete disregard of you.

Tsvangirai: Those are among the outstanding issues which are now being resolved. We are dealing with that. In terms of the GPA, we are supposed to appoint these people together in a consultative process.

Peta: How does it feel working with a man (Mugabe) whom you defeated in elections and who continues sitting in a chair that is rightfully yours?

Tsvangirai: Yes, let’s accept that we were bitter rivals. There was acrimony and vilification across the political divide between us. But we have agreed. We have negotiated in a protracted way and we have agreed. Once you have agreed, you have to work together. We are certainly working together in the spirit of advancing the GPA. My own personal views don’t matter but I put the national interests first. The GPA defines the destiny of Zimbabwe.

Peta: How is your personal relationship with Mugabe?

Tsvangirai: It’s a workable relationship and respectful. Yes we disagree but we don’t disagree to the point of shouting at each other. We disagree by dialogue and we search for solutions to the problems at hand. — The Star.

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