OUTGOING Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s dream of becoming Zimbabwe’s second executive president seems to be evaporating in a mist of shock and disappointment as another defeat at the hands of President Robert Mugabe looms.
Report by Faith Zaba
A visibly dejected Tsvangirai, dressed in a black casual jacket and chequered white, red and blue shirt with his trademark black cap, told journalists yesterday in Harare that his MDC-T party would not accept the elections results after indications Mugabe — following a dramatic recovery since his humiliation in the first round of the presidential poll in 20008 — is heading for a landslide victory.
As he spoke to journalists, Tsvangirai, now swimming in the deep end, appeared to be resigned to his fate. With a tone of exasperation, Tsvangirai said: “In our view, that election is null and void.” The outgoing premier said he met with the chair of the African Union (AU) observer mission, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the Sadc observer mission Bernard Mmembe and diplomats based in Zimbabwe to discuss the situation.
Tsvangirai, who last week said he is poised to win the presidency and return the country to the world community after years of isolation despite his protests the process was flawed, now looks set to be forced off the political stage under a cloud of defeat.
Wednesday’s elections are the third he has contested since he sprung onto the political scene in 1999 when he founded the MDC. He lost elections in 2002 and in 2008, amid allegations Mugabe rigged the polls, and now.
Tsvangirai rose from being a mineworker to become the symbol of resistance to Mugabe’s repression before he became prime minister in 2009.
However, after four years in the power-sharing coalition, his fortunes, as shown by public opinion polls and results of this week’s elections, plunged as he found it difficult to convince voters that he was capable of delivering change. Following months of convoluted negotiations while hyperinflation ravaged the economy, he finally became prime minister in 2009 in a power-sharing government, which, as these elections now show, was a poisoned chalice.
Although Tsvangirai remains a charismatic public speaker and a brave leader after enduring arrests, detention and vicious assaults, his stock is falling after joining the inclusive government, showing signs of ineptitude, poor judgment and personal indiscretions.
While he looked destined for terminal decline following his party was defeated in the 2005 parliamentary elections, Tsvangirai bounced back as the world was outraged by pictures of his head injuries and bruises all over the body after he was brutally assaulted in police custody and Mugabe seemed to support the savagery, saying the veteran trade unionist “deserved” such treatment for defying police orders.
That jolted former South African president Thabo Mbeki and other Sadc leaders into action, resulting in the commencement of serious negotiations leading to the reforms before the 2008 general elections. Those negotiations went further after the polls to produce the Global Political Agreement and the outgoing coalition government.
Tsvangirai was once a Zanu PF member, but his trade union activities led him to take a stand against Mugabe during the 1990s. He then rose to prominence in 2000 when he and the newly-formed MDC led a successful movement to block the passage of constitutional reforms that some claimed would have consolidated Mugabe’s power.
After his new party nearly defeated Zanu PF in 2000, Tsvangirai controversially lost the March 2002 presidential election to Mugabe. This provoked widespread allegations that Mugabe rigged the result.
This led the United States (US) and European Union (EU) to impose targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his allies. Coupled with the political and economic meltdown which followed, Mugabe’s grip on power became tenuous while Tsvangirai’s rise was meteoric.
However, it seems Tsvangirai’s popularity started to wane after he became prime minister, with many formerly ardent supporters disappointed by his failure to bring real change.
Political analysts accuse Tsvangirai of becoming complacent and arrogant while failing to secure democratic change.
Commentator Blessing Vava said: “Tsvangirai’s decline mainly has to do with the way the MDC-T relaxed when it joined government.
“Tsvangirai’s team was too pre-occupied with luxuries like cars and houses rather than focusing on issues affecting ordinary people and the need for change.
“They also became complacent and arrogant. While Mugabe and Zanu PF used the inclusive government to regroup, they relaxed in there. Tsvangirai and MDC-T must take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions in the last four years. They have no one else to blame but themselves.”
- 1952: Born in Gutu, Masvingo province
- Leaves school early to seek employment
- 1974: Started working in a mine
- 1988: Became secretary-general of ZCTU
- 1997: Organised anti-government strikes
- 1999: Helped form MDC as its leader
- 2000: MDC won 57 parliamentary seats
- 2000: Charged with treason, later dismissed
- 2002: Controversially lost elections to Mugabe
- 2003: Charged with treason for second time
- 2005: MDC splits under Tsvangirai’s leadership
- 2007: Brutally assaulted at a police station
- 2008: Defeats Mugabe in first round
- 2009: Sworn in as prime minister
- 2013 Loses polls to Mugabe, risking oblivion