Morgan Tsvangirai and The Pull-Out That Is Not A Pull-Out - An Analysis

Tendai Biti at the press conference today where Morgan Tsvangirai announced his and the MDC pull-out from cabinet. The presence of such phrases as "paradigm shift" in Tsvangirai's statement betrayed Biti's hand in it.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 October 2009

So, by now, you have digested the full transcript of the statement I posted here from Morgan Tsvangirai soon after I left his press conference at Harvest House.

You, like millions of other Zimbabweans, must be wondering what exactly this is all about.

A journalist at the press conference also asked Tsvangirai to "explain to me like a 4 year old: what has the MDC just done?"

Tsvangirai responded by stating that the MDC had caused a "Constitutional Crisis" and got impatient with the reporter, asking if he had not just explained that there was now a constitutional crisis in Zimbabwe.

Another reporter asked what the MDC would do next, "What is Plan B?"

Tsvangirai responded that there was was no need for a "Plan B or Plan C or Plan D"! Clearly, he and his party have no clue what to do next.

You must understand that Morgan Tsvangirai was pushed to do this solely because Mugabe has been refusing to see him since Wednesday. That has hurt him deeply, because he believed that he was now friends with the dictator.

Although he announced today that he will be boycotting government business and said this included the Monday meetings with Mugabe, it is almost certain that Tsvangirai will rush to Mugabe the moment the dictator signals that he wants to see him.

That is all that Tsvangirai wants.

He revealed during the press conference today that the MDC has not even written to SADC over the issue of his "pull-out" from government. He had to be asked by a journalist whether he had informed SADC and he responded that his party would do this "in due course".

Yet in his introduction, he bemoaned the fact SADC had not reviewed ministerial allocations nor had it reviewed the GPA after the six months they stipulated had expired. SADC leaders are likely to ignore him now as they have been doing all along.

This is because his action of pulling out of the Cabinet and refusing to convene the Council of Ministers is meaningless.

All he has achieved is to ensure that Mugabe has free reign, using the executive powers vested in him in the Constitution of Zimbabwe to make even more changes.

This is the same scenario as we had when Tsvangirai signed the agreement in September last year and then refused to join government. Mugabe went ahead and appointed Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana. When Tsvangirai eventually joined government and protested over the appointments, he was told that he could not have been consulted because he was not part of government.

So, Mugabe is likely to do more of the same, since the MDC made the mistake of confirming his powers as contained in the current constitution.

Early reports already indicate that Mugabe responded to the MDC leader's statement by telling his ministers, 'How can you negotiate with someone who has said they won't engage you?" You can rest assured that this will be his line to SADC leaders and anyone who asks.

He will say he never refused to meet the PM but was busy and was waiting for the Monday meeting.

Now that Roy Bennett has been granted bail, he will also point to this as evidence that he is not meddling with the judiciary. Tsvangirai has already said before to Jacob Zuma that he accepts the principle of letting Bennett have his day in court. He said he was not against the prosecution of Bennett but was unhappy at the delay in giving him an opportunity to clear his name in court.

Now Bennett will have that chance, with his trial starting on Monday while he is out on bail.

In essence, therefore, the MDC decision today means nothing. It does not even mean the Constitutional crisis that Tsvangirai says it means, because the post of Prime Minister has no role in government according to the constitution, apart from Amendment arising out of the GPA, which Tsvangirai allowed to be passed while containing a full confirmation of Mugabe's powers as contained in the current constitution.

Mugabe will plough on regardless and soon enough, he will summon Tsvangirai and Tsvangirai will run to his best friend to start drinking tea again and talk about inconsequential matters.

This grandstanding is only a part of Tsvangirai's strategy to try and save his skin within the MDC, where senior ministers are unhappy at what they see as his total capitulation.

Please note that Tsvangirai has said that he is not leaving government. He has not pulled out of government but is simply boycotting cabinet and the Council of Ministers until Mugabe starts playing with him again.

Soon after the press conference, Tsvangirai got into his four-car motorcade outside Harvest House and, with sirens blaring, traffic being cleared out of his way, headed towards Munhumutapa Building, Mugabe's offices, from where he works.

Tsvangirai's ministers will continue to carry out their duties, to attend to government business and run their ministries, but they will not sit with ZANU PF in cabinet.

If he had gone all the way and stopped his ministers doing government business, it would have opened the door for people like Gideon Gono to step into the shoes vacated by the likes of Tendai Biti.

So the MDC is still in a government that Tsvangirai confirmed today treats them like a "third-rate, treasonous" element.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed. Except that the MDC ministers will not be sitting down to have tea with their ZANU PF counterparts until Mugabe starts being friends with Tsvangirai again.


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