HARARE - A buyount opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, yesterday promised his supporters “better” times ahead, while coming out clearly for the first time that he was prepared to work with the Zanu PF formation linked to former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
Speaking to his supporters after touring an exhibition of MDC victims of political terror in Harare yesterday, ahead of his “state of the nation address” that he delivered later, Tsvangirai said he was ready to work with former liberation stalwarts who had previous links to President Robert Mugabe.
“I as Morgan Tsvangirai and the party I lead are prepared to work with Zimbabweans of all shades and political colours to bring back the country to sanity,” he said emphatically.
The former prime minister in the Government of National Unity said this in response to sentiments by some of the gathered MDC victims of violence and torture at the hands of Zanu PF, who said that they were against their party engaging with the likes of Mujuru and former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa whom they accused of having been part and parcel of Zanu PF’s terror campaigns.
Tsvangirai’s comments also followed growing calls for the country’s opposition to work together for Zimbabwe’s sake, as well as recent pronouncements by the likes of Mutasa who has openly admitted that the opposition leader and the MDC won the 2008 polls hands down although Zanu PF later used violent methods to deny them power.
Tsvangirai also said it was now apparent that the majority of Zimbabweans shared the MDC’s view that the electoral playing field was undemocratically skewed in Zanu PF’s favour, which meant that it could not deliver a free and fair election.
“That convergence means that for once, the majority of Zimbabweans are united on the one key issue which is to ensure that the next election is not only truly free and fair, but credible as well.
“We must begin to address, once and for all, the contentious issue of a disputed legitimacy which is the root cause of our current national crisis,” he said.
The MDC president said his party was always “motivated by the needs of everyone” whenever it took important decisions, adding that although a few people had not wanted the opposition to enter into a government of national unity with Zanu PF the majority of Zimbabweans appreciated “the respite that we provided in that process”.
“But you cannot stop people from being emotional, and you cannot blame them for being emotional because they know the characters who victimised them in their constituencies,” Tsvangirai said.
The opposition leader said although Zimbabweans were currently experiencing “untold suffering” owing to Zanu PF’s misrule, brighter times were “beckoning on the horizon”, particularly given that a grand coalition of opposition forces was taking shape.
“I see the true grand coalition not as the unity of individuals or leaders of political parties, but as a unity of Zimbabweans who possess shared values and convergence on the patriotic goal to take our country forward,” he said.
The spokesperson of the “original” Zanu PF that uses the slogan People First, Rugare Gumbo, as well as former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, and the former Zanu PF chairperson for Mashonaland West, Temba Mliswa, have been championing a grand coalition with all parties in the country to end Mugabe’s controversial three and half decades in power.
“Today, I promise Zimbabweans that we are on the brink of an exciting political moment and they will see us as political leaders converging on those issues that matter most to us all.
“It is on this score that I can tell you here that on the 11th of July in Harare, I will be joining other Zimbabweans from various political backgrounds at a prayer meeting for Itai Dzamara, that is being organised by the church,” Tsvangirai said as he remembered his supporters who were tortured and killed ahead of the sham 2008 presidential elections run-off that had a beaten Mugabe contesting against himself.
Abandoning his recent cautious approach, the veteran opposition leader also warned Mugabe and the government that he was ready to act “to rescue Zimbabwe from the brink of total economic collapse”.
“We in the MDC committed ourselves in 1999 to changing our government democratically, within the law and without violence. We have stuck to those principles and we have neither beaten one policeman nor broken a single window in the past 16 years while we ourselves have been beaten, abducted and killed.”
“I am not sure whether we can maintain that stance into the future. One thing is for sure, the present situation is untenable and unacceptable and perhaps the time has come for us to take matters into our own hands and force the changes that are needed,” Tsvangirai said.
Piling up pressure on the regional and continental bodies Sadc and the African Union -- which are both ironically chaired by Mugabe -- Tsvangirai said Africa was “duty bound to insist on the implementation of both the Constitution and the reforms agreed,” for free and fair elections to take place in Zimbabwe.
“Twice in the past 10 months I have written to heads of states of Sadc and Africa on these issues and I will be directly engaging them in due course. The people’s victory has been stolen from us for far too long and it is time to draw a line in the sand and be the captains of our destiny.
“The people’s sweet victory and the realisation of the national dream can only be postponed or delayed but never abandoned,” he said.
In his state of the nation address later, the former prime minister reiterated that although the MDC had over the past decade borne “the full brunt of Zanu PF and state-sponsored violence”, its patience was “fast wearing thin”.
With Zanu PF deep in the throes of debilitating and seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars that have resulted in the expulsion of some of its leading lights such as Mujuru and Mutasa, Tsvangirai said Mugabe had now “clearly forgotten about real issues” afflicting long-suffering Zimbabweans.
He also stuck to his guns about his “no elections no reforms” stand, emphasising that the prospects of finding “a convergence” with the former Zanu PF stalwarts and other opposition parties were high.
“There has been convergence around the issue of non-participation from most players in the opposition party circles, including even those who only a few months ago were in the top echelons of Zanu PF.
“They have come out in the open to laud our decision not to legitimise this charade masquerading as legitimate elections,” Tsvangirai said.
Mutasa, the former State Security minister and close Mugabe confidante, recently slammed the June 10 by-elections as dubious in a rare admission where he also conceded that Tsvangirai was right in boycotting elections at the moment as they were characterised by gross irregularities.