HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsComment: Propitiating Mugabe plan goes wrong for Tsvangirai

Comment: Propitiating Mugabe plan goes wrong for Tsvangirai


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is a frustrated man in the inclusive government.

The source of his frustration is obvious.

He feels that President Robert Mugabe is behaving badly again by “defying the law, to flout the Constitution and to act as if they own this country”.

The Prime Minister feels that Mugabe should consult him on key government decisions.

He cites the latest act of intransigence as the President’s redeployment of diplomats.

Tsvangirai dramatised his anger last week by writing to European capitals and to the United Nations imploring the host countries not to recognise the diplomats appointed without his input.

This does not appear to be working.

To rub salt onto the wounds, Mugabe is now using this latest incident to demonstrate his ascendancy in the inclusive government and to bully the Premier.

Mugabe was over the weekend daring Tsvangirai. “Who are you in the process?” He put the boot in. “Sleeping people (read Tsvangirai), wake up and know the policies.”

The PM’s frustration is captured in his statement early this month when he tried to raise the ante regarding Mugabe’s intransigence.

“Zimbabweans will know that I have desperately tried to avoid a constitutional crisis in Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai said. “I have worked tirelessly to try to make this transitional government work, in the interest of all Zimbabweans.

He added: “I have worked and spoken in support of this government. But neither I, nor the MDC marking can stand back any longer and just allow Mugabe and Zanu PF to defy the law.”

But Tsvangirai and the MDC have “stood back” for too long. This has weakened the party’s parliamentary majority and confirmed Tsvangirai as a junior partner in the inclusive government.

Tsvangirai was warned early on in the life of the inclusive government of the dangers of propitiating Mugabe. The PM thought it was a good strategy not to antagonise Mugabe.

He accommodated Mugabe’s obduracy and even told us his meetings with the President were “cordial” saying Mugabe was “as human as you are”.

This strategy has gone wrong. Mugabe agreed to form the inclusive government because that was the only option available for him to get political legitimacy after the violent 2008 presidential poll run-off.

When he held hands with Tsvangirai and appeared in public as bosom buddies, his was to seek acceptance among his peers in the region. He got that.

By staying as President, he had access to the levers of power which he has used to entrench his rule, notwithstanding dwindling support. Mugabe has strengthened his grip on power. He now cites the law to justify his actions; and in many instances justifiably so.

In all this, Tsvangirai’s mistake was this belief that he could change Mugabe from a strongman who in 2008 commanded a “warlike” campaign to retain power, to a progressive democrat willing to share power.

Mugabe has now announced that he wants elections before June next year.

He no longer wants the inclusive government and by extension he is no longer willing to share power.

Mugabe is in election mode and Tsvangirai and the MDC are grousing about the President’s behaviour. It’s no brainer who has a headstart in the next polls.

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