HOW times have changed! Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who this week wound up his trip to Europe and the US now believes that the saga surrounding missing supporters of his party, allegedly abducted by the state – is a “speculative story”.
He also believes that farm invasions are not that widespread. He naively contends that there is no more repression in this country and that the inclusive government is working well and initiating reform.
This is deception writ large. The prime minister on this trip has been a huge disappointment. He now appears detached from reality and seems bent on running a private project which is out of kilter with his party’s position and the generality of his supporters. He was booed and heckled in London last weekend —— for the first time in his 10-year political career —— and he should not expect to be received at the airport in Harare any more warmly. His supporters want to know what he is up to and what games he is playing. He is simply off message and is fast becoming a victim of his own naivety. In a BBC interview this week he played down the issue of the alleged abductees who have still not been accounted for. He disclosed that the issue has become “a speculative story …because we have read (about) so many people who have run away from Zimbabwe, ended up in Botswana and South Africa, so you cannot say they have disappeared.Â So you have to take those facts very, very (much) with a pinch of salt.”
Really, Mr Prime Minister? The fate of Fanwell Tembo, Larry Gaka, Gwenzi Kahiya and others is no longer an issue now because of your “extraordinary working relationship” with President Mugabe.
We have not forgotten that just five months ago, the issue of the “abductees” was Tsvangirai’s bargaining chip before the inauguration of the GPA. Addressing a press conference in Gaborone, where he had been in exile for weeks at the beginning of the year, Tsvangirai said: “If these abductions do not cease immediately, and if all the abductees are not released or charged in a court of law by January 1, 2009, I will be asking the MDC’s National Council to pass a resolution to suspend all negotiations and contact with Zanu PF.”
“There can be no meaningful talks while a campaign of terror is being waged against our people,” Tsvangirai said.
When did the campaign of terror end and is he happy with the issue of the “abductees”?
His party subsequently issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned by the abductions of its members and civic society activists, which flies in the face of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by the three major political parties on 15 September 2008”.
The party at the time (January) said it had put in place a team of experienced legal attorneys and at a political level the party has sought the support and guidance of Sadc, the AU and United Nations, to ensure that the rights and freedoms of the abducted people were protected.
The fate of the abductees is not a speculative tale. It is a fundamental issue because it involves human lives. It is the duty of the government – of which Tsvangirai is a member – to protect its citizenry and ensure that the rule of law is protected. Tsvangirai’s recent statements do not offer any comfort to those whose properties are under threat and mere mortals whose rights are at the mercy of state excesses. Tsvangirai knows the true story of Zimbabwe and sweeping the mess under the carpet in order to propitiate his coalition partners is just an act of dishonesty that will not help the country in any way.Â In fact on his trip, Tsvangirai – whatever his brief was – only managed to dilute the impact of his message to Western governments by naively trying to convince them that all was well. Those listening to him saw through his antics. Their responses were consistent and concise. They want to see more reform which is what we expect the prime minister to champion on his return. He must come back to work and ensure that there is reform of media laws, archaic security laws and other repressive statutes at the state’s disposal. We want to see more business for parliament being generated from the prime minister’s office. Currently there is very little work going on as evidenced by parliament adjourning last week after sitting for just a week. We want to see his office taking a lead role in ensuring that disturbances on the land stop forthwith and that there is a bankable plan for the 2009-2010 faming season.
Failure to deliver on these issues and making statements that give hostages to fortune will be Tsvangirai’s undoing. Cynics have already started to say Tsvangirai has suffered irreversible damage. Perhaps it’s too early to say; but he must deliver on his quest to change Zimbabwe. He rose as a political force pledging a crusade against repression, graft and lawlessness. That is the change we want. Zimbabweans are not interested in hearing about how many cups of tea the prime minister has with the president. That is small talk which only trivialises Tsvangirai’s role in government. It is time to get real and spell things out. What obstacles remain and why are they not being addressed?