Tsvangirai: Coalition Govt not in danger
By Angus Shaw
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s troubled coalition government is in no danger of collapsing despite accusations that President Robert Mugabe’s party is blocking reform, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Tuesday.
Tsvangirai, a former opposition leader who joined Mugabe in the unity government in February, spoke to reporters a day after one of Tsvangirai’s top deputies said their party was considering disengaging from the coalition.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change has complained about harassment and arrests of Mugabe’s opponents and Mugabe’s unilateral appointments of top officials. But Tsvangirai said Tuesday that leaders must stand by their political commitments.
“There are frustrations,” Tsvangirai said of the comments Monday from his deputy, Thokozani Khupe, about disengaging. But “I can assure you there’s no pulling out of this agreement. There’s no reason the government is going to collapse.”
Some of Tsvangirai’s supporters within and outside his party had questioned the wisdom of entering the coalition, and tensions within the Movement for Democratic Change have been evident for months. But Tsvangirai has long insisted he sees the coalition as the only way to move Zimbabwe forward, and, so far, his opinion has prevailed.
Khupe said the latest irritant came when Mugabe rescheduled the weekly Cabinet meeting from Tuesday to Monday because he was going to be out of town for an African Union summit in Libya. At a news conference, Khupe depicted that as a snub to Tsvangirai, her party’s leader, saying he should have chaired the meeting in Mugabe’s absence.
Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed their coalition after being pressed by neighbors to end a decade of violent confrontation and work together to resolve the southern African nation’s severe economic crisis.
Tsvangirai said Tuesday he and Mugabe would discuss problems in the coalition when Mugabe returned from the AU summit.
Tsvangirai’s party earlier had called on the neighboring countries in the Southern African Development Community that pushed for the coalition to step in to help sort out problems, but the prime minister said Tuesday that Zimbabwe’s leaders could come to a resolution.
“We can do this on our own,” Tsvangirai said. “We don’t even need SADC.”
Tsvangirai’s party has objected to Mugabe’s appointment of loyalists as the central bank governor and the attorney general, the arrests of and attacks on independent rights activists and Movement for Democratic Change lawmakers, and the seizures of white-owned farms.
The Movement for Democratic Change also accuses Mugabe loyalists of blocking democratic and media reforms.
Tsvangirai returned Monday after a three week trip to Europe and the United States he said was aimed at re-engaging with Western nations after a decade of isolation for Zimbabwe.
“The visit was an overwhelming success,” he said at Tuesday’s news conference. “We should be humbled by the number of friends we have internationally and for their desire to work with us to rebuild our country.”
Each leader he met, including President Barack Obama, pointed to delays over reforms and the need for a return to the rule of law after years of political and economic turmoil.
Tsvangirai said such concerns were “legitimate.” While he was away, police beat peaceful protesters and political violence and intimidation continued in Zimbabwe.
Aid, trade and travel restrictions imposed by Western nations on Mugabe and his top aides remain in place. Tsvangirai said attempts by Mugabe hard-liners to block reform made it difficult to persuade the West to lift “restrictive measures.”
Mugabe’s party blames sanctions imposed by the West for the southern African country’s economic meltdown. Critics point to the collapse of the agriculture-based economy after the seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms that began in the former regional breadbasket in 2000.
Tsvangirai’s trip garnered nearly $500 million in humanitarian aid to be disbursed mainly through independent aid organizations, a move that has irked Mugabe’s party.
Human rights groups criticized Tsvangirai for glossing over human rights violations and accused him of being an apologist for Mugabe while in the West. During his trip, Tsvangirai described Mugabe — who previously tried to use violence to crush the MDC — as an “an indispensable, irreplaceable part of the transition.” Tsvangirai has made similar comments at home.
Abel Chikoma, head of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum, said Zimbabwean exiles who jeered Tsvangirai in Britain and many of his party’s supporters at home wanted Mugabe out of office immediately.
“Tsvangirai finds himself having to defend the indefensible,” Chikoma said.