10 March 2002

Top Zanu-PF man wants government of national unity under Tsvangirai

Robert Mugabe's government has little hope of solving Zimbabwe's problems, renegade Zanu PF MP and former Justice Minister Eddison Zvobgo conceded in an exclusive interview on the eve of elections. He added that the country's hopes lay with a government of national unity, with the rival Movement for Democratic Change – and with Mugabe's bitter opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, as president of Zimbabwe. In the run-up to elections, Zvobgo has been increasingly at odds with Mugabe and his henchmen, particularly with regard to Information Minister Jonathan Moyo's attacks on press freedom. As chairman of the parliamentary legal committee, Zvobgo first put up - and then withdrew - his opposition to the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill, which he described as "a calculated and determined attack on the freedoms of Zimbabweans".

On Friday, March 8, night, he said of his opposition to the Bill: "Upholding the constitution is a duty which I have to pursue, regardless of the consequences. Any person who brings a Bill that is bristling with arrows that are pointed at the heart of freedom to my committee, I will have no hesitation in setting that legislation aside." Of Zanu-PF, the party he helped establish in the bitter war of independence against Rhodesia, Zvobgo candidly admitted that it, and not the world at large, had failed Zimbabwe - particularly with regard to the land issue. "Some factors were beyond our control, but others were within our grasp and either we mismanaged the situation or we hesitated and lost an opportunity. Clearly, we have not finished what we set out to do. The devil which spoilt everything was when we decided to take the land. It was only when we did that that we became anathema to the World Bank, the IMF and our own financial institutions, who pointed out that, once we took the farms, banks ended up with useless pieces of paper [title deeds]."

Zvobgo maintains that Zanu PF remains the most popular political force in the country but admitted the party had lost support in key areas in recent years - particularly among urban voters. Of the violence that has marred the election campaign, he admitted that, in some areas, "gruesome acts have been committed but it's been difficult to identify the perpetrators". Violence is contrary to Zanu PF policy, he said, but "you will find people in every party who take the law into their own hands". On the possibility of a coup if the election went against Mugabe, Zvobgo said there were people in Zanu PF who "would never support a coup. We are a democratic people and . . . I cannot see what would be gained by any attempt. Even if it succeeded, it could never be permanent." Of Zimbabwe's future and of a solution to its problems, he said: "Solving the problems of the country would be much harder to achieve under Zanu PF. People would fall over themselves to support president Tsvangirai. Although I would not accept a ministerial position in any government, I believe that, because of the magnitude of the problems and the . . . fracturing of our society these problems have caused, a government of national unity would make matters easier." (ZWNews / Sunday Times, SA)

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