Zimbabwe Referendum - Mugabe and Tsvangirai Cosy Up
The referendum on the Zimbabwe Constitution, slated for the end of this week has given birth to the spectacle of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai campaigning on the same platform as President Robert Mugabe.
Both men are urging their supporters to vote yes, even as Tsvangirai now screams blue murder and insists that the elections that will follow in July will not be free and fair. There is intimidation, apparently, and even killings and deaths.
So why the embrace, seems to be the question most posted to me on this page in my absence.
Simple: Tsvangirai has the constitution that he wants, even though he would like more power in the hands of the president.
Mugabe simply does not care. He is sick and tired of what he calls "this multi-headed monster" - the Unity Government. He is impatient for the elections to come, sure he will wallop the MDC. He made this clear in an address to chiefs recently.
The Constitution is flawed, he said. but ZANU (PF) supporters must vote yes. Whoever wins the elections, Mugabe said, can then change the constitution to their taste.
So the urging of supporters to vote Yes is simply to get the whole thing out of the way . The referendum is of no significance to Mugabe, clearly. The referendum will not determine who rules the country. The elections will.
So, throw Morgan a bone.
Then use the referendum as essentially the beginning of the ZANU ( PF) General Election campaign. Tsvangirai will get his yes, and that will be the end of it.
The presidency and running of the country is where the real game is and Tsvangirai is simply playing into those hands brilliantly. Only recently did he realize that, while distracted by his excitement at the bone thrown him, ZANU (PF ) was already busy locking up votes.
Emboldened also by the fact that two research results coming from conservative groups in London and Washington both say Mugabe is more popular than Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe, the veteran Zim leader has now decided to also have a little fun with the Europeans.
A couple of weeks after giving the nod to the constitution, Mugabe told members of the ZANU (PF) politburo that he had also agreed to the yes vote to show the world that Europe was not sincere when it spoke of lifting sanctions after the referendum. He fully expects that these will remain, as will ZIDERA in the United States.
And he will take that into the election, now.
One of the things most underestimated by Mugabe's opponents in the west is that, in any country anywhere on earth, people tend to naturally revolt against what they see as an imposition from outsiders.
It has helped Mugabe a bit so far, this sentiment.
So, by taking the insincerity of the EU into the election, he will simply be playing up that nationalistic sentiment, telling all and sundry that the Europeans will only lift sanctions when an MDC government is in power.
They are, in other words, holding Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans to ransom because of their love for an MDC-T government.
Of course, propagandists will tell you about sanctions being targeted, and this is to be expected. But is working against the MDC-T with the general population. Whether we like it or not, the issue of sanctions touching every aspect of the ordinary Zimbabwean has been effectively drummed in by ZANU (PF). The MDC has failed to capitalise or even change strategy on this issue.
Sticking to the same script even as evidence points to its lack of impact, they are intent on preaching only to their congregation and Mugabe is aware of this. He will milk the sanctions thing and, now that we have a much more improved economic situation, there will not be an element of "throw the bastards out" at the next election, which benefited Tsvangirai and the MDC-T during hyperinflation because the suffering had reached such proportions that people simply wanted it to end, no matter what that took.
This is no longer the case and Mugabe is counting on the MDC-T continuing to behave as though we are in hyperinflation, forgetting that the dollarised regime has now shifted the goalposts closer to ZANU (PF) than MDC-T.
Still, this referendum is nothing but an inconvenience that Mugabe wants out of the way so that he can wallop the MDC-T at the next elections. This is why Mugabe and ZANU PF are not spending any money on the Yes, campaign, although Yes is also their position. They are letting Tsvangirai spend millions campaigning for a Yes vote, keeping their US$250 million war-chest to fight the elections, to be held probably in July.