[A-List] Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Ready for Talks With Mugabe
critical.montages at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 20:39:28 MDT 2007
I thought that Mugabe's days were numbered, but it looks like he, a
consummate political survivor, has outmaneuvered all, which says a lot
about the quality of the opposition leadership. -- Yoshie
Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Ready for Talks With Mugabe
By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 3, 2007; A15
JOHANNESBURG, April 2 -- Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai said Monday he is ready to negotiate with President Robert
Mugabe without any preconditions, despite ongoing abductions and
beatings of anti-government activists there.
Tsvangirai, speaking at a news conference in Johannesburg, praised the
decision by regional leaders last week to appoint South African
President Thabo Mbeki to mediate negotiations. Tsvangirai has
criticized Mbeki in the past for not pressuring Mugabe aggressively
enough, but in Monday's remarks he voiced no discontent with Mbeki's
"These are new circumstances. I have no doubt in my mind that the
whole region is behind President Mbeki. . . . That is a positive
step," said Tsvangirai, who is seeking a new constitution that ensures
free and fair elections in 2008. "I am hoping that President Mbeki
approaches these [negotiations] with a new perspective."
Tsvangirai, who was in Johannesburg seeking medical treatment for
injuries suffered during his arrest and severe beating on March 11,
announced no new plans to mount demonstrations against Mugabe but
said, "The broad participation of the people is what's going to put
pressure on the regime."
Zimbabwean labor leaders plan a two-day national strike beginning
Tuesday. Though nominally about protecting workers' wages at a time of
hyperinflation, the strike is widely seen as a test of opposition
strength in the aftermath of the March 11 police crackdown. Tsvangirai
was among about 50 anti-government activists arrested for attending a
political rally when such meetings had been banned. Most were badly
beaten, and many remain in hospitals.
In the three weeks since those attacks, more than 100 other activists
have been arrested, abducted or beaten by government forces,
opposition leaders say. Mugabe has threatened more violence if public
protests against his rule continue.
The president has portrayed the opposition as seeking the violent
overthrow of his government after nearly 27 years in power. Police
have repeatedly accused Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for
Democratic Change, of orchestrating a series of bombings against
police stations and other government targets over the past month.
Tsvangirai denied those allegations on Monday and called on the
international community to increase pressure on Mugabe, who plans to
run for reelection in 2008, to leave office. The nation is seven years
into economic collapse, with some of the world's highest rates of
inflation and unemployment.
"It's the responsibility of the international community to keep a
crisis from escalating into a conflict," Tsvangirai said.
Also on Monday, Time magazine correspondent Alex Perry, a British
citizen based in Cape Town, was freed by Zimbabwean police after
paying a small fine for reporting without proper accreditation, news
reports said. He had been arrested on Saturday. Reporting in Zimbabwe
without government accreditation, which is rarely given, is a crime
punishable by two years in prison.
Mugabe opponents fear hope is already crushed before Zimbabwe general strike
·Two-day stoppage called for today and tomorrow
· Protests hit by hunger and lack of leadership
Chris McGreal in Harare
Tuesday April 3, 2007
Zimbabweans living in South Africa protest against conditions in
Zimbabwe. Photograph: Mujahid Safodien/AP
Zimbabwe's trade unions have called a two-day national strike from
this morning, ostensibly over the plummeting value of wages under
rampant inflation that has left many people unable to afford the bus
fare to work.
But many Zimbabweans view the strike as a demand for an end to Robert
Mugabe's 27-year rule. Previous attempts to call a strike have
flopped, in part because of intimidation by the police and army, but
also because almost anyone with a job in a country with 80%
unemployment is desperate to hang on to it.
If today's protest fails to prove a turning point it will also be
because, in the eyes of many Zimbabweans, the political opposition has
again missed the opportunity to capitalise on a surge of public anger
at home and one of the periodic bursts of pressure on Mr Mugabe from
abroad that followed the increasingly violent repression of the
There was a flicker of hope among many in Zimbabwe that their
president may have pushed things too far. But three weeks later, Mr
Mugabe appears emboldened and his opponents are still struggling to
"The MDC [the Movement for Democratic Change opposition] promised us
they would get rid of him years ago. We are waiting," said Debora
Mukasa, a market trader who says she now earns only enough to give her
children one meal a day. "What can we do? If we protest, the police
beat us or the army shoots us. I don't know how we get rid of this
Many ordinary Zimbabweans say they are waiting for the MDC to lead the
way. Its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, says he is waiting for the people
to rise up and then he will take charge. Felix Muzambi, a member of
the MDC's national executive, is among those who thinks that will not
"People are angry but they are passive. There is trouble here and
there, but they are not ready to go out and die for the cause. I think
they are looking for others to do it for them. They want Mugabe to go,
but it's hard to get them mobilised," he said.
The failings of the political opposition are reflected in the rise of
civic organisations and church-led protests through movements such as
the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, which has attempted to organise mass
"I'm not one of those who believes Mr Mugabe's fall is imminent," said
the leader of one prominent civic protest group, Mike Davis of the
Harare Combined Residents Association. "It will probably come from a
mix of pressures, but I don't think we can expect mass street protests
to be a factor until his last days. It will be other internal
pressures, particularly the economy, that will bring him down, when he
runs out of money to spread his patronage and those in Zanu-PF realise
they are going to lose everything."
Zimbabwe's Catholic archbishop, Pius Ncube, has called Zimbabweans
"cowards" for not taking to the streets to confront Mr Mugabe's
forces. But Mr Davis says he does not blame people for that.
"Just surviving day-to-day is so demanding for people. Some of the
people I know spend four hours a day walking to work and back because
the bus fare takes all their pay," he said.
"There are now more Zimbabweans working in South Africa than here.
They are the kind of people who could have been expected to join
protests, but they've had to leave to find work. That's provided
relief for Mugabe."
Some Zimbabweans persuaded themselves that the region's leaders would
tell Mr Mugabe he has to go at a summit meeting last week. But
Zimbabwe's president emerged proclaiming it a great victory because
his neighbours pronounced his rule legitimate and blamed Britain and
its allies for Zimbabwe's problems.
Then Mr Mugabe's many dissenters reassured themselves that the ruling
Zanu-PF's central committee meeting last Friday would produce a revolt
against his plans for another five years in power.
But the president proved as adept as ever at outmanoeuvring his
opponents, packing the meeting with dancing supporters singing
liberation war songs and turning it into a rally at which he stifled
all debate and engineered his confirmation by acclamation as the
party's candidate in next year's election.
Many Zimbabweans say that their country cannot sustain galloping
inflation and chronic unemployment and food shortages for much longer.
But they do not have to look far beyond their borders for examples of
how much further their own country could sink.
Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo watched the erosion of
their nation over three decades until there was hardly a proper road
outside a few major cities. The telephone system, hospitals and
schools rotted away. Today, most of Congo's population knows little
else but the rot.
For Zimbabweans, decline is still an aberration, but there is a fear
that if Mr Mugabe were to remain in power until 2013, just short of
his 90th birthday, a whole generation may grow up knowing not hope but
Ms Mukasa wants more for her children but doesn't see how it will come.
"I voted in the last election but I won't again. There's no one to
vote for and even if you do, the government won't let them win.
Someone has to help. Even God is failing us," she said.
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