Leave Mugabe Alone, Says Tsvangirai

Cabinet Swearing-in: Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe pats Tendai Biti's hand soon after he was sworn in as Finance Minister (top pic) and watches as his new Defence Minister and now confirmed heir, Emmerson Mnangagwa, signs his appointment papers

Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has told the world to leave Mugabe alone and stop personalising the politics of Zimbabwe.

Speaking to the veteran London Guardian Southern African Reporter, Chris McGreal, Tsvangirai "called on the world "to get over" President Robert Mugabe and stop seeing him as the principal problem facing his country" according to a report published by the paper yesterday on its website.

Tsvangirai spoke to McGreal yesterday, a couple of hours before he was due at State House to see his ministers sworn in by Mugabe and just over an hour before Bennet was arrested at Charles Prince Airport in Harare.

So thoroughly has Tsvangirai been outwitted by Mugabe that he practically spent the whole hour of the interview acting as Mugabe's biggest apologist.

"Unfortunately," said Tsvangirai, "people are preoccupied with Mugabe as a person. People need to stop talking about him as the only issue. Mugabe is part of the solution. He is not the obstacle we are now facing." 

Clearly, Tsvangirai has taken seriously Mugabe's words to him, first uttered just before they went together to South Africa in January for the last SADC Extraordinary Summit on Zimbabwe. 

Back then, Tsvangirai had gone to see Mugabe to tell him to concede ground on Home Affairs and other security ministries. The Prime Minister told Mugabe he was under immense pressure from "hardliners" in the MDC who were looking to scuttle the deal unless Mugabe conceded on these issues.

Mugabe responded by mockingly telling Tsvangirai that he also faced the same problem with his own hardliners, who wanted to him to dump the agreement with the MDC and form a government alone. This conversation was publicly confirmed by Mugabe's spokesman towards the end of January. as he mocked Tsvangirai in his weekly column.

So now, Tsvangirai takes this mockery seriously and is basing his entire approach to the GNU on the false "fact" that Mugabe should be sympathised with because he is a victim of hardliners in ZANU PF.

So badly has Tsvangirai been played, in fact, that he also defended Mugabe's continued detention of Jestina Mukoko and scores of other MDC supporters on terrorism charges.

Asked about his failure to get them released even though he is now Prime Minister, Tsvangirai told the London Guardian:

" The problem is not Mugabe. It lies elsewhere. It is others. We need to overcome that."

The naivety is breathtaking and I really can not believe that Tsvangirai has fallen for this. As one man who was at Mugabe's side almost daily from 1975 to the mid-1980s said to me: "Mugabe is firmly in control within ZANU PF and Tsvangirai needs to disabuse himself of the notion that Mugabe is a victim just like him. All the events we see now are being controlled by him. No one dares say anything against him and it does not matter who they are: army, air force or whatever."

Mugabe has apparently told Tsvangirai that the army are dead set against the new Prime Minister, as are the heads of the police and the air force. Yet on Tuesday, while driving to Mount Darwin with Perence Shiri, the commander of the Air Force, as Tsvangirai announced his cabinet picks, a high-ranking ZANU PF member tells me the Air Force commander was upbeat about Tsvangirai's acceptance of the GNU.

Shiri told this source that this was the end of Zimbabwe's problems and he looked forward to the modernisation of the Air Force as Zimbabwe's financial position improved. He even said in two to three years, the Air Force of Zimbabwe would have surpassed the South African Air Force in terms of technological advancement and general prowess.

"We have the talent, mudhara," was how he was quoted to me by his travelling companion, " we have the people. We just need the other resources and on that, Tsvangirai is good for the Air Force."

I am still, quite frankly, in shock that Tsvangirai would fall for such a well-known and tired "Good Cop, Bad Cop" routine. His new-found sympathy for Mugabe is misplaced. Mugabe is still firmly in the driving seat otherwise he would have been replaced at the head of ZANU PF if he was as powerless as he has now convinced Tsvangirai he is.

The same source who drove with Shiri on Tuesday tells me that the boycott of Tsvangirai's inauguration by the Chiefs of the Armed Forces (Service Chiefs) was agreed with them by Mugabe. Although the thought itself was the brainchild of General Chiwengwa, the Commander of the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe, Mugabe actively encouraged it. He is said to have thought that it was a good idea because it would show the world that Tsvangirai had no power base within the armed forces. This would strengthen Mugabes hand, since the world would see him as the only man with a hold over these armed forces.

The idea was to also psychologically intimidate Tsvangirai even as he took the oath of office. It has worked. In his interview with the Guardian, Tsvangirai alludes to this animosity towards by the Armed Forces by saying "they" will not succeed. "The region will not accept a coup. The world will not accept it. We know they are disgruntled and the leadership challenge is negotiate away these areas of disgruntlement."

It is now almost certain that Tsvangirai will seek to align himself with Mugabe in what he believes will be united front against the hostile armed forces chiefs. Almost certainly (mark my words), Tsvangirai will soon be seen in Western capitals arguing that sanctions and other measures against Mugabe need to be lifted "in order to strengthen Mugabe's hand against the people in his party who are against this deal".

The complete subjugation of the MDC has now been achieved. This was the reason people were against Tsvangirai getting into bed with Mugabe. They feared that the man would be outwitted at a much higher intellectual level and this has now come to pass.

Tsvangirai now obviously believes Mugabe's nonsense that the president is powerless to stop the abductions of MDC supporters, the arrests of people like Bennet and so on.


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  1. The obsession with President Mugabe by Western countries had become annoying.Their arguments had lost any grain of logic. It was just pure hatred.I believe the sanctions are hurting ordinary masses, and that they are unfair. I do not see anything wrong if the Prime Minister speaks against them.He will actually be speaking for the rest of the Zimbabwean people, not for political expedience as an opposition leader, but as a Prime Minister of the whole country.Which is why I see Tsvangirai's position as very tricky, for him to serve the nation aswell as advance the interests of the opposition at the same time will be conflicting. It is very true that the suffering of the masses sustained the opposition, otherwise without the suffering the opposition would have withered and suffered.

  2. Denford, as a South African waiting for things to settle down in Zimbabwe so I can go and live there, I am afraid that I have to agree with your position that RGM is an extremely adroit politician dealing with a well meaning but clueless opposition.

    I don't think I will ever be able to claim to understand black politics, except to say that the concept of fair play does not play a very large role - at least, in the type of scenario currently being played out in Zimbabwe (or Kenya). Or South Africa for that matter.

    Anyway, shame, poor old Mr Mugabe, having to play his cards so as to not annoy other 'senior players'. I agree with you, he is fully in control. What a shame for the people forced to still live there - how they manage, I can't imagine.

    Andrew Scott.

  3. I am *stunned* to learn this. How has Tsvangirai been so thoroughly co-opted? Based on coverage here in the States, I thought that he personified a glimmer of hope for a new day in Zimbabwe. Now it sounds like he's becoming Mugabe's "mini me".

  4. I hope you are right Denford, as you have been on several analyses in the past, but I beg to differ with you on this one for several reasons.
    1) RGM was humiliated at the 29 March elections and had thrown in the towel.
    2) He was annoyed by the apparent de-campaigning that he suffered at the hands of his so-called lieutenants and stalwarts in ZANU PF in that the parliamentary and senate votes were inexplicably higher than the presidential votes. He has NOT forgiven ZANU PF for their "sins".
    3) He does not trust Munangagwa and there is no love lost between the two after the spate at State House where EDM is reported to have labelled RGM a sell-out to the GPA and MDC.
    4) JOC have literally been pushing RGM around much to his chagrin and crest-fallen ego. RGM is not one to easily forget and forgive when he is cornered by people he regards disdainfully. He is fully aware that EDM is deeply unpopular within the army, ZANU PF and the electorate.
    5) RGM is also fully aware that ZANU PF is DEAD and whoever will contest the next presidential elections under a ZANU PF banner will receive a thorough and embarrassing hiding. However, RGM is not prepared to go down in history as a failure. His only pre-occupation, imho, is the redemption of his character and a dignified, graceful exit from the political landscape whenever that will be. Therefore it makes sense for him to endear himself to Tsvangirai who has the support of the masses than to EDM and JOC. I see him successfully doing so by scapegoating JOC, sanctions and all for his dismal showing while Tsvangirai has already engaged in reputation repair for him, as you quite rightly point out. In short he knows which side of the slice is buttered, though grudgingly so!, but if that achieves the end, why not?
    5) RGM knows that if Tsvangirai can get results, then he (RGM) will benefit immensely, and is more than ready to sacrifice all and sundry to achieve that.
    Time will tell how everything will pan out, but one thing is certain, RGM is a sly politician.


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