Tsvangirai predicts outright win

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has ruled out another unity government with Robert Mugabe, and is optimistic that he will win elections due to be held this year.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe’s Zanu PF party formed a unity government after violent and disputed elections in 2008.

But while the economy has since stabilised, relations between the parties have remained fraught and this year’s election is expected to be hotly contested.

Despite criticism from some MDC supporters that the party has failed to effectively use its position in coalition with Mugabe’s party, the Prime Minister remains optimistic he will secure enough votes to win this year’s polls.

“I won the last one, the only difference is that I did not win power, but I won an election, I have always said what makes people think that I will not win another one, so I am very confident that the support of the people is unwavering,” he told the Financial Times in London.

And if he wins, he maintains he could manage the transition from joint rule. “I don’t think it would be helpful for the country to go into another unity government,” he said.

“A unity government just creates paralysis,” he added, citing the slow pace of reform as a particular frustration.

Asked if Mugabe, who still dominates the political scene, would step down if Tsvangirai won, he said: “Mugabe is [almost] 90 years. The thing is that I am sure for him the most important motivating factor is legacy.”

The once acrimonious relations between the two parties have improved over the course of the past four years, he said.

Asked what would happen if Mugabe refused to leave power in the event of an MDC victory, he said: “I don’t see that playing out . . . that is a chaos scenario, the country will go back to what it was in 2008 and . . . no one wants that.”

Parliament’s term expires at the end of June and an election must be held by the end of October. A poll immediately after Parliament ended was unlikely, he said, because the new constitution needed to be signed into law and voter registration must take place.

He dismissed suggestions that Mugabe’s allies wanted an earlier poll because of the president’s age.
“He is a frail man, he is an old man, but I don’t think he is in that state of health where you would think that he would collapse tomorrow,” he said.

A graceful acceptance of defeat would allow Mugabe to enjoy the status of a retired founding father, he said.

Questions remain about whether attempts at reform, including the new constitution, will guarantee free and fair elections, especially as the security forces are deemed to be loyal to Zanu PF.

But while he acknowledged there might be “skirmishes” by local activists, Tsvangirai doubted the State-sponsored violence of 2008 would be seen this year.

He said the government would create an environment for “free and fair elections” with the help of the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.

Financing the poll remains an issue for the cash-strapped government. Authorities asked some telecom companies to pay licence payments in advance to help cover the costs of the referendum, he confirmed.

Tsvangirai says the election will be financed by internal resources with some external help.

The controversial indigenisation policy — which requires foreign-owned companies, including mines and banks, to transfer 51 percent stakes to black Zimbabwean entities — chased away much-needed investment, he said.

“We [the MDC] believe in broad-based empowerment policy, not indigenisation,” he said. “We need to attract people to the country rather than try to chase people away.”

Tsvangirai admitted there was a lack of transparency in the diamond sector, one that the ministers of Finance and Mines had been asked to tackle. Global Witness has alleged that diamond revenues provide off-budget financing to Zanu PF-controlled security forces.

“There is no accountability,” he said. “Eventually, Zanu PF may be siphoning some of the diamond money but we are not aware of it.”

Still, he added, in the context of continued reform, sanctions no longer served a useful purpose.

 If Mugabe ever did bow out, he would be able to live out his days in peace, he said.

“One would say let sleeping dogs lie . . . what is important is to ensure that there is stability, because stability is the basis for future progress.” — Financial Times

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