MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has ruled out staying in a coalition with Zanu PF’s President Robert Mugabe after the forthcoming election, accusing his old foe of plotting to steal the poll.
A political deal brought Tsvangirai into government in 2009 after Mugabe claimed victory in a bitterly disputed presidential contest that cost hundreds of lives.
But in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Tsvangirai said he was not willing to repeat the experience.
As he prepares to run for the Presidency against Mugabe for a third time, he made clear that if he lost on July 31, he would refuse any invitation to stay on as Prime Minister. Calling the survival of the coalition a “regressive step”, Tsvangirai insisted: “The people of Zimbabwe are desperate to start on a new plate and actually give proper direction and proper policy direction to revive this economy, give people hope and actually start all over again.”
Tsvangirai said that when he first became Prime Minister, he worked “very effectively” with Mugabe. But the President broke off co-operation in the run-up to this year’s presidential poll.
In particular, Mugabe announced the date of the election without consultation and failed to carry out agreed reforms designed to ensure a free and fair contest. The election was called “without other members of the coalition knowing what was taking place”, Tsvangirai said. He said that Mugabe was “determined to retain power by whatever means”, adding: “It is definitely clear that the military is the one in charge of this process and that Mugabe’s government doesn’t believe in a free and fair vote.”
He accused the authorities of padding out the electoral roll with dead voters in order to create room for rigging.
“From our analysis, you have 100 000 people above the age of 100,” he said. “That number is definitely fictitious.”
Meanwhile, only a quarter of young voters aged between 18 and 25 – who are more likely to support Tsvangirai — are understood to have been registered.
“The voters’ roll has become the centre for the rigging mechanism,” he said.
Mobs loyal to Mugabe killed hundreds of people before the last two presidential elections in 2002 and 2008. This time, however, there has been little bloodshed.
Instead, Tsvangirai said that his opponent was relying on rigging to guarantee victory.
“Although there is relative peace, the administration of the vote is so chaotic I can only foresee disaster,” he said.
He cast doubt on the fitness of Mugabe (89), who is fighting his seventh general election after 33 years in power. The President “will go down in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest contestant in any election,” he said.
If Tsvangirai wins, he pledged to serve no more than the constitutional limit of two terms as President. “If I find that I don’t need to go in for a second term, I’ll give up then,” he added.
Speaking from his home in the capital Harare, Tsvangirai stressed the achievements of his MDC-T party in the coalition. His ministers had cut inflation, delivered water and sanitation and reopened hospitals that were in crisis when the new government was formed in 2009. But he insisted there would be no reprisals against Mugabe or his Zanu PF party. Tsvangirai said he “will not be part of” any effort to bring a case against his opponent before the International Criminal Court.
“I have no intention of dragging this country in to another instability,” he said. “I will not be engaged in any retribution. We have so much to do to resuscitate and revive this economy for the sake of the people. My forecast is how can we provide Zimbabwe with hope again. So the question of retribution and revenge is not even part of our agenda whether it is Mugabe or the generals.
“It is not going to bring back our loved ones who have been killed, maimed and tortured.”
Tsvangirai was also adamant that Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms would not be overturned. “I think politically you cannot reverse the land reform programme even with its mistakes,” he said. “We know the torture and violence that took place with that. What we need to do is to say this is a political decision because this has already gone so far. For the stability of the country it’s better that we compensate rather than try to say ‘go back to your land’.”
Some accuse Tsvangirai of profiting from his time in power, pointing to his comfortable home in Harare and another in Johannesburg in South Africa.
When I put this charge to him, he angrily replied: “I’m living in this house which is a State house, it’s not my personal house. I don’t have a house in Johannesburg – I’m renting for my kid, I’m renting a three-bedroom house for my kids who are going to school in Joburg.”
Tsvangirai also promised that, if he won the Presidency, he would not move into State House, the official residence of British governors and of Mugabe from 1980 onwards. “I’ve got my little house here,” he said. “It is comfortable enough and I don’t need to go into any particular stately house in order to prove, to prove what?”