PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wound up his hectic three-week tour of Europe and the United States this week where he was seeking to re-establish cordial relations and canvass aid to prop up the inclusive government.
The trip was mired in controversy from the start over Tsvangirai’s mandate with government spin doctors saying the MDC-T leader was sent by Mugabe to lobby for the lifting of economic sanctions and to raise capital to revive the country’s comatose economy.
On the other hand, MDC-T insisted that Tsvangirai and his entourage had a mandate from cabinet to re-establish severed relations with the West in his official capacity as the “leader of government business”.
Tsvangirai told the media in Germany that the trip was his own idea.
“I was not sent by anyone, it was my own initiative,” he said. “I told the president that it was time to reengage with the rest of the world following a cabinet resolution on reengaging the EU and other Western countries. I took the initiative —— I would have stayed at home, no-one would have sent me so I think it’s just a myth cultivated to promote a certain position which is not the objective of the inclusive government.”
The whirlwind tour took Tsvangirai and his team to Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Norway and the US.
Besides the controversy over Tsvangirai’s mandate, the tour has also sparked fierce debate in political circles over the manner in which the prime minister defended the inclusive government and political reforms so far, and downplayed disturbances on farms and human rights abuses.
During his trip, Tsvangirai was told categorically that donor countries wanted to see meaningful reforms before loosening their purse strings to bankroll economic revival.
European countries and the US only pledged US$180 million. The money falls far short of the US$8,3 billion the government says is needed to rebuild the shattered economy.
The Western countries that made pledges to Zimbabwe said they would not give the aid directly to government, but channel it through non-governmental organisations and the United Nations.
They also told the prime minister that they want Harare to take further steps towards democratisation and economic reform.
The issue of a new constitution, media reforms and free and fair elections were some of the benchmarks set before more substantial aid would be forthcoming.
Analysts this week gave varying views on the Tsvangirai trip, especially on its mandate and achievements.
Lovemore Madhuku, a political analyst and National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, accused Tsvangirai of jumping the gun during the tour and of lowering the threshold of democratic forces by claiming that the government was making meaningful reforms.
“Claiming that the inclusive government is working on media and constitutional reforms when that has not happened on the ground is dangerous,” Madhuku said. “The current reforms are below standard and it is too early for Tsvangirai to attribute any success to the all-inclusive government.”
Madhuku argued that Tsvangirai should have limited himself to explaining why he entered the unity government with Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, president of the MDC.
The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) was also incensed by some of the utterances the premier made, especially on farm invasions.
Trevor Gifford, the president of the CFU, this week said Tsvangirai was “playing a game” in order to raise financial support for the unity government after the premier said cases of farm invasions were being blown out of proportion by the media.
John Robertson, a Harare-based economist, said while the aid provided by the West would go a long way in dealing with the humanitarian crisis, it will not change the economic pressures the country was facing.
“Zimbabwe does not need to always think of aid but we need credibility that will enable us to borrow and use the money to resuscitate infrastructure, provide industrial funding, improve water supplies and help the financial sector,” Robertson said. “For our credit rating we need to carry out the reforms the West is demanding.”
Robertson was optimistic that the US and the West would fully commit themselves to Zimbabwe once media reforms have been embarked on, a new constitution is in place and free and fair elections are held.
“The message (to Tsvangirai) was loud and clear,” Robertson said. “There is need for rapid reforms and Tsvangirai had an opportunity to explain why change is not fast.”
He said besides the Western countries, Zimbabweans abroad also showed that they were not happy with the progress of the inclusive government when in London they booed Tsvangirai when he asked them to return home and rebuild the country.
Germany pledged 25 million euros in development aid and indicated that the money would be channelled through the World Bank and NGOs.
Chancellor Angela Merkel added that Berlin would give Zimbabwe more support if there were tangible reforms. US President Barack Obama promised US$73 million in humanitarian aid and no development aid. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told Tsvangirai that all politically motivated violence taking place in Zimbabwe should be stopped while the rule of law and freedom of the media must be established before the Scandinavian country reconsiders aid to Zimbabwe.
Reinfeldt made it clear his country was not happy to give support to Zimbabwe with Gideon Gono at the helm of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
“Zimbabwe must provide greater transparency in its financial system and start reforming its central bank,” he added.
However, the conditions attached by the West to Zimbabwe before the resumption of development aid have irked Harare with Zanu PF’s politburo reacting angrily to the conditions. Â
Zanu PF’s deputy secretary for information and publicity Ephraim Masawi, reading a statement from the politburo on the conditions attached by the West last week, said: “These governments, in an imperialist and neo-colonialist way, are bent on their regime-change strategy and appear to ignore in an arrogant way not only the sovereign right of the Zimbabwean people, but also the fundamental decisions taken by the Sadc community on Zimbabwe and its appeal and demand for sanctions to be lifted.”
BY LOUGHTY DUBE