HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Distorting Tsvangirai’s Goodwill Mission

Editor’s Memo: Distorting Tsvangirai’s Goodwill Mission

PRIME minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s trip to Europe and the US has elicited a variety of reactions from Zimbabweans.

There are conflicting perspectives between Zanu PF and MDC-T sympathisers on the merits of the trip. Both are overwhelmed by a third, internet-savvy and well-networked lobby for whom anything short of an anti–land reform “revolution” in Zimbabwe won’t do.

Premised on the fact that Tsvangirai’s tour is to call for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the same nations on Zimbabwe, diehards in Zanu PF say the MDC called for the sanctions as part of its regime change agenda and should therefore call them off.

MDC supporters on the other hand deny that their party called for the sanctions, whose existence the party leadership has vehemently denied until very recently. Instead they argue that President Mugabe and his party invited the sanctions through human rights violations and that Tsvangirai is being used to do the dirty work for Mugabe and the coalition government.

Then comes the powerful locally-based civic lobby. For this camp, every day brings forth fresh calamities: political arrests, Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana still in office, farm invasions, no new provincial governors or neutral permanent secretaries and the MDC still part of government!

For this group, the coalition government has utterly failed, Tsvangirai has been bought, human rights violations have worsened, sanctions must stay and there should be no aid to Zimbabwe. There has been no “change” and Tsvangirai should be told as such on his doomed tour.

Unfortunately none of the three positions makes Tsvangirai’s case on his European and American tour any easier. It is as if the whole nation were on a masochistic campaign to perpetuate its misery in exchange for international pity and charity.

It is not easy to grasp the specific purpose of Tsvangirai’s trip from the tendentious reporting in the state media that he has literally been ordered to go and call for the lifting of sanctions and then beg for financial assistance.

Nothing could be more presumptuous. From what platform would Mugabe make such an order? How would Tsvangirai be expected to execute it as if he had power over those from whom he needs help?

Tsvangirai appears to be aware of the hurdles in his way. He is aware of the conditions for assistance. He knows government has done very little to meet these conditions, even where there is no need for donor support like media reform.

He was therefore modest about his mission: to engage “with our partners”. He said Zimbabwe had been in isolation for the past 10 years and needed to reengage.

I doubt that he expects to be given any money immediately. The IMF is still demanding its pound of flesh of US$133 million. The best he could expect were face-to-face conversations with the leaders of the nations he is visiting and putting across his case no matter however weak.

They have deigned to listen to him, making it a goodwill mission, an icebreaker. They could very well have refused to meet him. He has a chance of responding directly to their reservations.

So far the discourse between Zimbabwe and the “international community” has been heavily mediated.
But then to read the state media, you would think Tsvangirai accepted the “brief” from Mugabe to go to Europe so that he could prove whether he had the open sesame to unlock foreign aid.

That explains headings like “Dutch government turns down Tsvangirai” as if he were on a personal mission.
Similarly, to listen to howls of protest from MDC supporters about Tsvangirai being used by Mugabe, you would think they expect him to bring the “billions and billions” of dollars Finance minister Tendai Biti claimed were being blocked by the US’s Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act to hand them over to Mugabe.

However, to me Tsvangirai’s achilles’ heel on his tour is the sudden volte-face of the MDC on the existence of sanctions, and the party’s denial that it called for their imposition at the height of its vicious fight with Zanu PF.

This is an invidious position for Tsvangirai because he must tell his hosts either that he was put under pressure by Zanu PF to admit there were more than “targeted” sanctions on Zimbabwe, or that all along the MDC was politicking. Both don’t do his image and that of his party much good.

Second, for the MDC to deny calling for the sanctions is at once to undermine its case and also to lose the moral authority in calling for their lifting. If the party didn’t call for the imposition of sanctions it can’t determine if the conditions for their removal have been satisfied.

That puts the issue beyond its power.

This is politics. It means the coalition can never do enough if doing so removes the pretext for the non–delivery of promised aid. It’s now a question of how well Tsvangirai knows his “partners” and in turn to what extent they believe he is still of strategic value to their interests.

The lesson is simple enough: Zimbabweans must have the honour to carry out political and legal reforms because they are necessary for its national well-being.

This should not be done to purchase foreign aid. The fight over donor money is a symptom of a nation which has lost its soul. No foreign taxpayer anywhere in the world owes us money.


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