21 March 2002

Tsvangirai stronger after flawed poll

Morgan Tsvangirai, the vanquished leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who lost a close but flawed election to President Robert Mugabe last week, is likely to emerge stronger and the real winner in the long run, analysts said this week. Tsvangirai insists he was robbed of victory by Mugabe who he says abused state machinery to rig the poll through pre-election violence and intimidation and by denying thousands of urban voters the chance to cast their ballots. The analysts said Mugabe’s international reputation was now in tatters and that the 78-year-old Zanu PF leader was more isolated now than before the poll widely condemned in Western capitals and in Zimbabwe as heavily flawed. On the other hand Tsvangirai, who turned 50 last week, is emerging as the real power broker in Zimbabwe, if not the power behind the throne, said University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political analyst Elphas Mukonoweshuro.

Mukonoweshuro said Tsvangirai’s emergence as a major player in Zimbabwean politics was demonstrated by the flurry of activity among African leaders now anxious to meet the MDC leader but who in the past had shunned him. Malawian President Bakili Muluzi and Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano, the leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community, took time from celebrating Mugabe’s victory in Harare on Sunday to visit Tsvangirai. South African leader Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo, part of the troika that make the Commonwealth’s special team on Zimbabwe, on Monday joined the well beaten track to meet Tsvangirai for talks. "The meetings between Tsvangirai and the African leaders are a clear demonstration that in any equation which needs to be put in place in order to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis, Tsvangirai will have to feature very prominently," Mukonoweshuro observed.

Brian Raftopoulos, another UZ political analyst, said the MDC leader’s huge support base shown by his strong run for Mugabe’s office in the just-ended poll had finally convinced regional and African leaders that he was a man to reckon with. "There is now recognition among African leaders that Tsvangirai is a force and the MDC is a force that needs to be respected," Raftopoulos told the Financial Gazette. He said Tsvangirai could emerge much stronger from the current political crisis in Zimbabwe because senior officials of his party had rallied around him. Raftopoulos said there were few options left for Tsvangirai to force a re-run of the election because many Zimbabweans were tired of mass stayaways and Mugabe had enough power to thwart any moves to remove him from power. "Obviously Tsvangirai is in a very difficult situation because the state machinery is still very intact and Mugabe has the support of the regional leaders," he said.

Mukonoweshuro however said the MDC leader could adopt a wait-and-see attitude because he would not lose much by refusing to participate in the proposed government of national unity that would, in the eyes of many, legitimise Mugabe’s administration. "Tsvangirai does not have to do anything because anyone can see that although Zanu PF has political power, it does not have the capacity to manage," said Mukonoweshuro. He said Mugabe would always be haunted by the fact that he did not have the legitimacy to govern because his victory was only recognised by a few African countries. Both Mukonoweshuro and Raftopoulos cautioned Tsvangirai from bowing to pressure from African leaders and some Zimbabweans to join the proposed government of national unity. So while under normal circumstances it is the victor who takes the spoils, in Zimbabwe it might be Tsvangirai - and not Mugabe - who will emerge as the real winner in the long run after the country’s most bitterly contested election in 22 years. (ZWNews / Financial Gazette)


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