Tsvangirai Cannot Have It Both Ways

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Ahead of the crucial mediation efforts on Zimbabwe by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, one of the parties – Movement of Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai has thrown down the gauntlet.

Tsvangirai says he would participate in the mediation efforts led by Mbeki but would not participate in next year’s elections if President Robert Mugabe were to stand. He qualifies his stance by insisting that the dialogue must be transparent in order to earn his full participation.

The same Tsvangirai made hue and cry earlier this year when Zanu-PF contemplated the postponement of the Presidential elections to 2010 so that they are held at the same time as parliamentary elections. He wanted the presidential elections to be held in 2008. He is now getting what he wanted but has another demand. Mugabe must first go or else he would not come to the dance floor.

The recent SADC summit in Tanzania delegated President Mbeki to be its point man in setting up the stage for free and fair elections next year. Mbeki was tasked with initiating dialogue among Zimbabwe’s political formations, hence ensure free and fair elections.

Such dialogue should lower the political temperatures and tension in that country, so it is hoped. The dialogue must further create the necessary economic conditions so that the envisaged elections are held in a relatively safe environment where economics help deliver the desired political solution in Zimbabwe rather than stand in the way.

Hence, the SADC extra-ordinary summit’s call for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe. SADC leaders feel the sanctions will not help a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. They will hinder a free and fair electoral process.

Back to Tsvangirai. The opposition leader while on a recent visit to South Africa said something to the effect that if Mugabe were to voluntarily step down, he would not be pursued in courts for whatever crimes that Tsvangirai has in mind, thus leaving the possibility that if Mugabe did not vacate State House out of free will, he could be subjected to some Nuremberg-type trial.

First, Tsvangirai needs to be reminded that he cannot have it both ways. He cannot call for elections for 2008 and then ask Zanu-PF not to field a candidate of its choice. So far, Mugabe is the Zanu-PF candidate and only they can change this.

The opposition leader has no business telling Zanu-PF who to field during the coming elections and such pronouncements have the potential to torpedo Mbeki’s mediation efforts.

Similarly, it is preposterous for Tsvangirai to talk as if he were president of Zimbabwe with vested powers to forgive or offer amnesty to anyone, least of all a sitting president. To talk about punishing an incumbent president for perceived wrongs while working in cahoots with former Selous Scouts-cum-farm-owners is the height of folly.

Mbeki has a very difficult task ahead of him and it is important that all leaders of Zimbabwe help him succeed and not mess things up for him by making irresponsible and foolish statements.

Zimbabwe is at the crossroads and requires its statesmen – not rubble rousers and political hotheads – to pull it up from the abyss. This is what all Namibians of goodwill are praying and working for and indeed the people of the region and their governments.

Those participating in Mbeki’s mediation efforts must have cool heads. They must know that Zimbabwe is much more than their individual selves and the constituencies they represent. Zimbabwe is the cradle of life and love for all who live there. No one, including Tsvangirai, is bigger than that country.

Mbeki will need people with open minds and not a straight-jacket mentality.

This is no contest between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. It is all about Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai should never behave as if this is a matter about him or nothing.

The issue is not about sending Mugabe packing and inviting Tsvangirai into the palace. It is about normalising the situation in Zimbabwe through due processes such as elections and ending economic sanctions against that country so that Zimbabweans can have a normal life. As for who should lead the country, it is a matter for Zimbabweans to decide and not Tsvangirai.

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