Zimbabwe's Mugabe Strangles Morgan Tsvangirai

Robert Mugabe is greeted yesterday (Saturday 30 January 2010) at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is attending the African Union Summit, at which, surprisingly, Zimbabwe has been elected into the Peace and Security Council of the continental body, the African Union. Mugabe is currently on a high, after getting the aid of the British in putting Morgan Tsvangirai on the back foot, getting the support of regional and African leaders for his calls for Tsvangirai to make Britain and "her allies"lift"sanctions against him.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 January 2010

In February 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai threw Robert Mugabe a lifeline, thereby assuring the loser of Zimbabwe's last credible presidential poll a continued stay in office.

Now Mugabe is using the very same lifeline given to him by Morgan Tsvangirai to strangle the MDC-Tsvangirai leader. Tsvangirai is feeling the heat. As I predicted early last year (when I said it will not be long before we hear Morgan Tsvangirai shouting at the British and Americans), Tsvangirai is now publicly calling the British Foreign Secretary names!

Zimbabwe's government-owned press and even newspapers in neighbouring countries have now openly turned against Tsvangirai, in stark contrast to the fake respect he has been accorded since he got into government. Local media says it is now time for Tsvangirai "to come clean on sanctions". Opinion pieces with dubious bylines in the same media is lambasting the MDC-T president for being dishonest and all efforts are being made to turn the population against Tsvangirai and the MDC for "causing the suffering of Zimbabweans" by calling for sanctions.

That Morgan Tsvangirai is feeling the pressure can easily be established by listening to his statements at the Davos World Economic Forum, where he complained that comments by Britain's Foreign Affairs Minister, David Miliband, are "uncalled for and unfortunate."

Damage limitation attempts by the British are not helping at all. Their statement, issued late last week, that they and only they will decide when to lift sanctions, have fallen completely on deaf ears.

The Zambia Post, which has all along been one of the most critical papers against Mugabe and applauded the late President Mwanawasa when he took a strong line against Mugabe's antics, has now flipped. Now the paper says Tsvangirai is to blame for the chaos in Zimbabwe and he has been dishonest.

In an editorial piece last week, The Zambia Post noted:

"All along, the MDC has been untruthful and insincere about their role in the sanctions against Zimbabwe by the US and the EU. They have maintained that they have no role in the removal of sanctions. The US and EU have also been untruthful and insincere about the effects of the sanctions. They have maintained that the only sanctions in place are “targeted” at the 203 members of President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle, who are only not permitted to travel or do business in Europe and America. To the contrary, the sanctions have not affected even one of the so-called targeted individuals. After all, they, including President Mugabe still travel to the US and EU.

It is clear for all to see that the sanctions have affected the poor and “untargeted”.
Here is how. It is common knowledge that because of sanctions, the US and EU have suspended all forms of balance of payments support, technical assistance, grants and infrastructural development flows to both government and private sectors and stopped all lending operations to the country. Yes, the humanitarian aid comes in and is channelled through US and European NGOs and agencies, not through the government. Is it not because of sanctions? The shortage of foreign currency resulted in the country accumulating external payment arrears. Zimbabwe's balance of payments position deteriorated significantly since 2000 from the combined effects of inadequate export performance and reduced capital inflows.

According to government figures, foreign exchange reserves declined as a result, from US $830 million or three months import cover in 1996 to less than one month's cover by 2006.
The foreign exchange shortages severely constrained the country's capacity to meet foreign payment obligations and finance critical imports such as drugs, grain, raw materials, fuel and electricity, leading to hunger, closure of hospitals, fuel shortages, power cuts etc.

We, as a newspaper, have been in Zimbabwe for almost three years now and we have not seen any of the so-called targeted people suffering. Instead, we, along with millions of the poor and untargeted people, have had to deal with everyday problems listed above.

Mugabe is chuckling to himself as I write (he is in Ethiopia for an African Union Summit), having managed to rally regional leaders like Jacob Zuma and Rupiah Banda, Amando Guebuza etc to his side. The comments by Miliband mean that the leaders now accept Mugabe's assertion that the MDC-T has it within its power to get balance of payment and IMF funds flowing back into Zimbabwe.

According to sources in ZANU PF privy to Mugabe's announcement of his conversations with them, the regional leaders themselves are now of the view that the British and American have shown extreme disrespect to them. As presidents and as a regional bloc, SADC (Southern African Development Community) leaders have called for "sanctions", especially the blocking of funds for balance of payment support, to be lifted and their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Now it emerges that the British and Americans say they will only listen to Tsvangirai? Jacob Zuma, the South African president, is said to have told Mugabe that, in that case, the British should stop bothering him (Zuma) to put "pressure"on Mugabe and instead rely on their all-knowing wise-man, Tsvangirai. Zuma is reportedly of the view now that the Zimbabwe problem, in light of the comments by the British Foreign Secretary, can only be solved by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and the British without involving other African countries "that have problems of their own."

As I said at the beginning of this article, Mugabe is where he is today because Tsvangirai did not press home his advantage in March 2008, when he out-polled the veteran Zimbabwe president. Instead, he threw it all away and blamed everybody but himself for capitulating, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

He has even blamed Simba Makoni, the man who ensured that the election in March 2008 was peaceful enough to be free and fair. He conveniently forgot that, if Simba Makoni had not run, that election would have been the same as all the others before it, violent and full of rigging at such a scale that there would not have been a second round. What happened in the June run-off would have happened in March 2008.

If Tsvangirai had held out to press home his advantage (Makoni says he would never have signed that deal if he was Morgan Tsvangirai), Mugabe would have gone ahead to form a government that would not have been recognised even by the African Union, which specifically endorsed Tsvangirai's request for a Coalition Government in Zimbabwe at the Sharm al Sheik African Union Summit held after the violent one-man presidential election "run-off".

Mugabe would not have managed to hang on for six months, let alone the whole year that he has now been lording it over Zimbabwe despite losing an election.

Yes indeed, that lifeline that Tsvangirai threw Mugabe is now being used by the latter to strangle the former, and it appears nobody is willing to fight in Tsvangirai's corner now, except the usual suspects, who use meaningless words like "must", "should"and "has to"when talking about Mugabe.

Meantime, a emboldened Mugabe is shouting back, "Make me!"



  1. I beg to differ with the analysis above. Well we should ask ourselves first the reasons behind the imposition of these restrictive measures or sanctions , whatever name you want to take. It was because of the gross violation of huma rights , election fraud , corruption, lack of press freedom , economic mismanagement and lack of democratic space in general. For as long as these problems are still there , the targeted and other forms of sanctions are not going to be removed. As we speak now things are all but relatively the same as before. State media is being abused , no press freedom , no judiciary independenc , slow progress on new constitution amongst a host of othe problems. Th GPA is also yet to be fully resolved..... So the onus is not on the MDC to remove sanctions but on the GPA partners to make good on implementing fully the GPA leading to democracy. Then sanctions can be lifted.


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