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Comment: A reality check

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s trip to Europe, the United States and Scandinavian countries has turned out to be a reality check not just for him alone but for Zimbabweans in general. While Tsvangirai is well-meaning and trying his best to rescue the country from international isolation and economic crisis, his tour has confirmed that the root cause of the problem lies at home, not abroad.

Attempts by President Mugabe and his cronies to situate the causes of our crisis outside the country will not help anyone. 

All dictators always blame everyone except themselves, especially outsiders and real or perceived “imperialists”, for problems of their own making. 

As we stated on this page last week, there are sanctions which ought to be removed, but they are not the cause of this economic crisis. Zimbabwe was slapped with sanctions by the West for repression, human rights abuses and policy disputes, particularly over land reform.

Until we deal with the causes of those sanctions, we are not going to resolve the situation because a wrong diagnosis by definition cannot lead to a correct prescription. Similarly, we can’t resolve the economic crisis unless we correctly identify its causes.

The external factors, including sanctions, aggravated the situation, not caused it.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told Tsvangirai on Monday at The Hague that his government would not give Zimbabwe economic and financial aid until serious political and economic reforms are implemented.

The message to Tsvangirai couldn’t have been clearer: no reforms, no money! By implication, the economic sanctions imposed on Harare would remain in place until reforms and mindset shift are adopted.

Tsvangirai told journalists at the La Fontaine-zaal at The Hague on Sunday that he was hopeful the unity government would get international support, but tacitly admitted that he was not going to get aid. “No dollars and cents” were discussed, he said, and therefore no funds would be coming besides humanitarian aid.
Tsvangirai yesterday met US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton and is today expected to meet President Barack Obama.

These are crucial meetings which should indicate the direction of Harare’s diplomatic relations with the West and the broad international community.

However, the tone for the meetings had already been set by the US Senate on Tuesday. In a resolution, the US Senate said financial restrictions, travel bans and the arms embargo on Zimbabwe, Mugabe and his cronies would remain in place until reforms were executed.

This was the same message Tsvangirai got at The Hague. The US Senate insisted on a new constitution, the restoration of the rule of law, respect for human rights, upholding of property rights and cessation of politically-motivated violence.

It said other problems such as media tyranny and land invasions must stop.

The Senate indicated Zimbabwe was coming from a background of pervasive and systematic abuse of human rights, which included “unlawful killings, politically-motivated abductions, state-sanctioned use of excessive force and torture by security forces against the opposition, student leaders, and civil society activists”.

It observed that since there hasn’t been much reform to stop “ongoing illegal activities” to put Zimbabwe on an irreversible path to democracy, most of the sanctions would remain in place.

It was clear Clinton and Obama would raise the same issues with Tsvangirai who actually anticipated it as shown by his admission that there could be no cover up of the situation on the ground like he tried to do on new land grabs.

Tsvangirai said in Washington on Wednesday he will “not gloss over the issues” but will make the case that Zimbabwe’s “irreversible” democratic transition merits American support.

But herein lies the problem. When Tsvangirai left for the trip, it was clear he would have a mountain to climb convincing a sceptical world that things were changing in Zimbabwe.

It would have been better if he had first ensured a paradigm shift in government, critical reforms and other benchmarks of recovery before going on the trip.

To plainly demonstrate the point, as Tsvangirai was leaving Harare Zanu PF hardliners in government were defying a court order to allow journalists to cover Comesa without official state accreditation.

Four journalists who had obtained a court order in their favour last Friday were barred from covering Comesa by the same inclusive government Tsvangirai practically heads.

How then do you convince the West to remove sanctions when government still blatantly flouts the rule of law by ignoring court orders and refuses to stop impunity, still harasses opposition and civic activists by dragging them to the courts on political charges, arrests journalists and lawyers, allows the army to meddle in civilian matters and does nothing to halt land seizures?

The constitution-making process –– which is supposed to lay a foundation for a new Zimbabwe –– is all but collapsing into confusion.

The flawed and partisan process faces stiff resistance from the public.
So Tsvangirai was bound to be asked: What has changed in Zimbabwe? His case would always have been untenable, even with the best of endeavours.

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