Accepting a human rights award in the United States on Monday, Tsvangirai said sharing power with long-time rival, President Robert Mugabe and leader of the smaller MDC formation Arthur Mutambara, was “uneasy yet progressive”.
“In Zimbabwe today the Movement for Democratic Change has formed a coalition government with the former ruling party. This was not an easy decision, nor is it a comfortable arrangement,” Tsvangirai told delegates in Washington DC after receiving the Averell Harriman Democracy and Human Rights Award from the National Democratic Institute (NDI). “However, it (coalition government) represents another step in Zimbabwe’s difficult but certain transition to a true democracy.
“Reforming those institutions that formed the pillars of persecution for the previous regime has been painstakingly slow, but it is essential if we are to build a new Zimbabwe.”
The coalition government has been affected by constant disputes over policy inconsistencies, slow pace of reforms and the failure to fully consummate the power- sharing deal.
The premier received the award, which is given to individuals and organisations working to strengthen and expand democracy, jointly with the Network of Chocó Women of Colombia, an umbrella group of 52 civil society organisations.
Previous recipients of the NDI award include former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, South Africa’s outspoken cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former US presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.
Tsvangirai said Zanu PF’s “elitist and repressive” tendency against opposition parties was slowing down democratic reforms.
“Because the MDC faced a ruthless opponent against which we were only willing to deploy peaceful, democratic agents of change, we have had to be patient — separating long-term objectives from short-term tactics,” he said.
The MDC leader commended recent United States Senate proposals by Senators Russ Feingold, John Kerry and Johnny Isakson, to introduce a new law that would replace the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) of 2001.
Zidera was passed by the US to push the then Zanu PF government to adhere to internationally accepted democratic principles. Zanu PF, however, says Zidera is aimed at undermining Mugabe and the Zimbabwean economy to create conditions for a change of government.
The proposed new US legislation, Tsvangirai said, signalled a “new phase designed to assist us in building new cooperation to receive much-needed support for our efforts”.
His remarks on sanctions resembled a familiar tone as he appeals for a revision of the West’s sanctions policy that Mugabe has used as an excuse for not fully implementing the GPA.
Mugabe has demanded that Tsvangirai should do more to campaign against the sanctions.