THE recent good working relationship between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has all but broken down in bitterness and recrimination after the president’s recent unilateral appointments which outraged the premier and re-ignited their fierce rivalry.Mugabe’s and Tsvangirai’s relationship deteriorated further this week after the prime minister boycotted cabinet for the second time this month. Instead of attending Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, the most important gathering on the government calendar, Tsvangirai chose to travel to Zambia to meet President Rupiah Banda to brief him on Mugabe’s increasing unilateralism within the inclusive government.
Mugabe said this week he wants the referendum on the new draft constitution in March and elections in June next year. His relations with Tsvangirai will almost certainly get worse towards elections.
Tsvangirai went to Zambia on Tuesday morning and returned in the evening for the MDC-T’s consultative meeting at Glen View 1 in Harare. Tsvangirai has been holding consultative meetings to find out what his supporters think about the current political situation in the country and his continued stay in the collapsing inclusive government. The move might culminate in the MDC-T pulling out of government, precipitating the collapse of the coalition in which Mugabe and Tsvangirai were awkward political bedfellows.
Tsvangirai’s trip to Zambia is also part of the consultations on the state of the inclusive government. The MDC-T leader is expected to hold more meetings with regional leaders, including South African President Jacob Zuma, as part of his diplomatic campaign to resolve the current political stalemate in the country.
Tsvangirai on October 7 wrote to Zuma complaining about Mugabe’s unilateral appointments of provincial governors, judges and ambassadors without consultation. He said the appointments were “unconstitutional, null and void”.
Besides staying away from cabinet on Tuesday, Tsvangirai has also not attended his Monday meetings with Mugabe on October 11, 18 and 25. The premier boycotted cabinet on October 12, but attended last week’s meeting before keeping away on Tuesday.
While Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka was not available for comment, ministers who attended cabinet on Tuesday said the premier was not there.
“He was not there for the second time inside three weeks,” one minister said. “It shows there is something wrong. His relations with Mugabe have deteriorated and the bad blood is back. There is now a lot of mutual animosity, hostility and bitterness between them.”
Another minister said Tsvangirai was now boycotting cabinet and his Monday meetings with the president because he has felt betrayed by Mugabe.
“Tsvangirai feels betrayed by Mugabe and he is very disappointed with him,” the minister said. “This explains his behaviour and actions of late.”
Tsvangirai recently spoke publicly about betrayal by Mugabe, in a move which left his critics feeling vindicated. Tsvangirai’s critics insisted right from the beginning that trusting Mugabe betrayed political naivety on the prime minister’s side because the president had a record of letting down even his own political loyalists and allies.
“Events of the past few months have left me sorely disappointed in Mr Mugabe and in his betrayal of the confidence that I and many Zimbabweans have personally invested in him,” Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare on October 6.
Tsvangirai had decided in 2008 to put aside his personal and political differences with Mugabe and work together with him in the inclusive government. After a number of meetings, the two started warming up to each other, boasting in public their working relationship was now cordial. They even castigated the media for trying to cast aspersions over their new-found friendship.
Tsvangirai went all over the world, defending Mugabe and reminding everyone he was a liberation struggle hero whose besmirched legacy could still be rescued.
However, when Mugabe told Tsvangirai at their Monday meetings on October 4 that he had appointed governors arbitrarily, the prime minister was stunned and felt betrayed. He summoned his party’s national executive on October 5 to discuss the issue and the following day he addressed journalists expressing his disappointment with Mugabe.
The premier told journalists he felt betrayed and was “sorely disappointed”. He even referred to Mugabe and his loyalists as his “yester enemies and tormentors”, revealing his bitterness. Mugabe and his previous regime harassed Tsvangirai, arrested and charged him with treason on a number of times. In 2007 police brutally assaulted him at Machipisa police station after blocking him from addressing a political meeting in Harare.
In a flurry of activity after their October 4 tense meeting, Tsvangirai on October 7 wrote a series of letters to Mugabe, Zuma, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, European Union Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Swedish Prime Minister Frederick Reinfedt and Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku expressing outrage at the president’s actions which he described as “nonsensical and rank madness”.
Mugabe has also been on the offensive, worsening their mutual hostility. He has also referred to Tsvangirai’s complaints as “nonsensical”.