MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai is reported to be courting African leaders to explain the situation in Zimbabwe and we hope he has finally seen the light and this will be the beginning of engagements between his party and leaders on the continent.
Comment: NewsDay Editor
An enduring criticism of Tsvangirai is that he is a Western puppet — whether true or false — and he has not helped changing this image either, as he is seen as constantly hobnobbing with the West, but with a seeming disdain for African leaders.
While support and relations with the West are important, networking with African leaders could be more beneficial for the local opposition, as they seek to dump the puppet tag.
Even African leaders have somehow shown contempt for Tsvangirai, as the opposition have — by commission or omission — allowed President Robert Mugabe to characterise them as such when he meets other heads of State and government on the continent.
Mugabe’s mantra, whether ingenious or disingenuous, has been to claim that Africa is under neo-imperial attack, with Tsvangirai being a Trojan Horse.
The message is that if Tsvangirai were to take over in Zimbabwe, regime change would spread across Southern Africa and ultimately the whole continent.
By engaging African leaders, whom he has criticised in the past, Tsvangirai can explain his party’s position and illustrate that the issue in Zimbabwe is not neo-colonialism, but economic decay brought about by poor leadership.
In discussions with African leaders, Tsvangirai has to accept that he is coming from a position of weakness built by years of mistrust and scepticism and a hint of paranoia, but this should not in any way frustrate him, as this could prove a masterstroke when electoral disputes arise, as they are bound to.
In the past, African leaders, except a handful, have been quick to endorse Zimbabwe’s evidently flawed electoral process, not because they believe they are free or fair, but rather, they seem to have faith in Mugabe rather than Tsvangirai.
As the adage says; better the devil you know. They know Mugabe’s excesses, but they feel he is better than Tsvangirai, not because of something the MDC-T leader did, but because the lines of communication between them and the Zimbabwean opposition are all but non-existent.
Tsvangirai needs to impress on the African leaders that democracy in Zimbabwe is non-existent, freedoms of speech and association are regularly trampled upon, while the economy and social services have tanked.
He should show that were he to be in power, he would create better relationships on the region and the continent, while improving social services and the economy, which would reduce the need for Zimbabweans to flood other countries, where some strain social services out there.
Tsvangirai should show that he comes as a friend and can be trusted to lead an African country without necessarily delivering it to the West.