Zimbabwe’s MDC opposition returns to the trenches
By Peter Biles
In echoes of the chaotic events of 2008, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has painted a bleak picture of the state of the nation, a year after the 2013 elections. In a recent address at Chatham House in London, the MDC-T President said: “It is with a heavy heart that I stand before you while my beloved country is fast decelerating towards an inevitable economic implosion. About 85% of Zimbabweans are unemployed….[this] has become an issue of national stability if nothing is done in the very immediate future”.
His warning of an economic and social meltdown came as Zimbabwe cut its 2014 growth forecast from 6.1% to 3.1%.
Tsvangirai claimed that Robert Mugabe’s government cannot manage to pay the wages of its workers and the provision of basic services such as health and education has become a luxury. “A million vulnerable children are out of school because government cannot afford to pay their school fees”, he added.
Tsvangirai recounted how a government minister “ran for dear life” recently, after telling a restive crowd of flood victims that money intended to compensate them, had been diverted to pay civil servants because “government was broke”. “Such has become the magnitude of our crisis that government itself does not know when it will raise next month’s wage bill”.
Asked about Zimbabwe’ controversial Marange diamonds, Morgan Tsvangirai said that while his Movement for Democratic Change had been in a coalition government with Zanu-PF from 2009-13, there had been no revenue from diamonds. This, he described, as “the greatest grievance”. “They’ve disappeared through corruption and other means”, he said. “The people have not benefited”.
Tsvangirai also told his London audience that Zimbabwe needed to rejoin “the family of nations” in order to attract investment and development assistance. “Zanu-PF’s focused and confined ‘Look East’ policy has not yielded direct fiscal support. We have had a myopic foreign policy that overlooks the significance of the broader international community”.
As so often in the past, Tsvangirai blamed President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party for Zimbabwe’s woes, rather than admit to difficulties caused by the fractured MDC opposition. It was suggested to him that MDC factions had spent more time “fighting each other”, but Tsvangirai insisted that the future of the MDC was very bright, and “the only hope for change”. “We may bicker and some may choose to go their separate ways but that is the nature of democracy”, he added.
Tsvangirai said he was proud of the MDC’s record during four years in government, and he had no regrets about having entered a coalition after the signing of the Global Political Agreement in Harare in 2008. He made it clear however, that the MDC would not do the same again, if such a scenario arose. “Some have wrongly assumed we are desperate for a second taste of a unity government, but that is not true”. “Some of us have chosen to take permanent residence in the trenches until democracy is achieved in Zimbabwe”.
In a withering critique, Zimbabwe’s government-controlled Herald newspaper said Morgan Tsvangirai’s Chatham House address had been “tired, devoid of any substance and pointless”. “It was a mishmash of sweeping statements minus any specifics. It was his usual ‘stolen election mantra’ and a veiled invite for further interference from what he casually terms ‘the international community’, the newspaper said.