Dumisani Muleya/Conrad Dube
THE collapse of the African Union (AU) initiative to broker talks between Zanu PF and the MDC will stick a knife in the heart of Zimbabwe’s ailing economy, MDC leader, Morgan Tsva
ngirai, has warned.
Tsvangirai said the failure of AU attempts to mediate in the political impasse stemming from disputed election results would be disastrous for Zimbabwe’s haemorrhaging economy.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Tsvangirai said President Robert Mugabe’s rejection of AU envoy, former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano as mediator, showed he had crossed the line of rational political engagement.
“The AU mission was stillborn and has been aborted,” Tsvangirai said. “For sometime President (Thabo) Mbeki (of South Africa) and his Nigerian counterpart, President (Olusegun) Obasanjo have been searching for a solution, but they have been frustrated by Mugabe. Most African leaders now understand that the problem is not us, but Mugabe.”
Tsvangirai said Obasanjo’s initiative was an attempt by African leaders to deal with a long-running problem on their doorstep.
“When I met President Obasanjo (in Abuja in June) he suggested he was thinking of approaching Chissano to be the mediator but he needed Mbeki’s backing,” Tsvangirai said.
“I didn’t have problems with that, knowing fully well that Chissano had established his democratic credentials. He negotiated with Mozambique’s opposition Renamo, handed over power to his successor smoothly, and on that basis I endorsed it.”
He said Mugabe’s close friendship with Chissano was also taken into account. Chissano was Mugabe’s best man at his wedding to Grace in 1996.
“President Mbeki agreed because he wants to be part of the solution to the Zimbabwe crisis,” he said. “We want Mbeki to be part of the solution but he should realise that this issue is now beyond South Africa’s capacity. It is now a United Nations, an AU, a Sadc (Southern African Development Community), in fact an international issue. We must engage within that framework.”
Tsvangirai said Mbeki was sticking to “quiet diplomacy” because “he sees Mugabe as a man who is not easily influenced by others”.
“Mugabe is intransigent, defiant and mistrustful,” he said. “His rejection of Chissano’s involvement is consistent with his policy of shooting down other people’s proposals without an alternative.”
What then is the way forward? “There will be no way forward with regards to talks between the MDC and Zanu PF, but a continued stalemate is not sustainable,” Tsvangirai said. “The MDC can do without talks, but Zanu PF cannot in the end do without talks. Zanu PF will destruct if it remains on its current path.”
Asked why the MDC seems desperate for talks with a party which is not interested, Tsvangirai said: “We are not begging for talks, but we realise that that’s the only alternative at the moment.”
Tsvangirai said he was “committed to democratic resistance to the Zanu PF dictatorship” and would not “act in an irresponsible manner”.
“Over the past five years we have tried elections, court action, diplomacy, mass action and dialogue, but this hasn’t worked.”
Has the MDC failed then? “No, we haven’t failed. I believe experience is the best teacher,” he said. “There is need for new strategies and tactics but we won’t take people to the streets so that they are killed by the military,” he said.
Tsvangirai went further: “Let’s be realistic, if Zanu PF is prepared to beat up four women on a protest in the streets, what more a group of people? What is needed is a critical mass of people to confront this regime but it’s easier said than done.”
Tsvangirai said the MDC, which he described as a “post-liberation political formation”, had done its best under difficult conditions. “We have been constrained by resources, the environment, publicity and propaganda,” he said.
Asked if the MDC had not been its own worst enemy by failing to situate itself strategically across the political spectrum, he said: “Our credentials are clear, we are a local post-liberation party. It doesn’t matter what Zanu PF says because we can’t be defined by them.”
Has the MDC made a compelling ideological case against Zanu PF to mount a credible challenge for power? “We have been explaining our policies and what we represent. Our economic paradigm and policy is that we want a market economy with a social conscience,” he said.
“People must first read our policy documents and criticise us on that basis. The problem is we debate on the basis of personalities,” he said.
He denied there was infighting and dismissed allegations of tribalism in the party. “There is no infighting. There is no leadership or power struggle in the party. When parties go for events like congresses there is always a contest for positions,” he said.
“But it’s not like in Zanu PF where you have a (Emmerson) Mnangagwa faction and a (Solomon) Mujuru camp. We have processes for leadership and organisational renewal in the MDC and if there are incompetent leaders people will say so.”
Tsvangirai said there was no tribalism in the MDC. “We know Zanu PF is trying to foment tribalism in the MDC. Zanu PF has a lot of regional tendencies and tribalism,” he said.
“But let me say this clearly, tribal politics and ethnic barbarism have no future in this country. There are leaders who want to defend their positions and power through tribalism. The politics of tribalism is primitive and we must all of us as a nation destroy ethnic mindsets and get on with modern politics,” he said.