Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai facing political oblivion

by Andrew Harding  BBC Africa Correspondent

The whispers and the sniping have been around for years. He’s “not clever” enough. He loves his golf a little too much. He’s brave, for sure, but no strategist.

Today Zimbabwe’s thrice-failed presidential contender, Morgan Tsvangirai, must surely be facing the real possibility of political oblivion following his party’s crushing defeat in last week’s election – and there are plenty of people who feel he deserves it.

Even if the allegations of massive rigging are comprehensively proven, and Zimbabwe’s neighbours eventually grumble and huff about a re-run, President Robert Mugabe has no reason to fear any serious challenge to his now formidable grip on power.

So why blame Mr Tsvangirai?

Some critics argue that the MDC leader’s defining mistake was his decision – after pulling out of the 2008 election because of the rising violence against his supporters – to join President Mugabe in a power-sharing government. As such, the argument goes, Mr Tsvangirai enabled his rival to cling onto power at the moment when he was weakest.

Mr Tsvangirai’s move was certainly controversial at the time – and bitterly opposed by some of his closest colleagues in the MDC – but I personally think it was a noble move. Zimbabwe was in a deep crisis – the economy in meltdown. By joining a unity government, Mr Tsvangirai seemed to be putting the broader interests of a bruised population ahead of his own. A more cynical – and yes, perhaps pragmatic – politician might have gambled that he could profit from an ever-deeper national crisis.

But to my mind, Mr Tsvangirai’s mistake was not in grudgingly agreeing to share power with Mr Mugabe, but in refusing to stand up for himself in government.

A coffin draped in the flag of Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC is carried by Mr Mugabe’s supporters in a celebratory rally near the Zimbabwean capital, Harare

Abusive relationship

On the very first day, when Zimbabwe’s army commanders refused to salute him as Zimbabwe’s new Prime Minister, Mr Tsvangirai should have quietly stood up, told the visiting dignitaries that he was sorry they’d come on a wasted journey, and walked out of the deal. That would have shown a few people.

By failing to do so he signalled to President Mugabe that he was the compliant, junior partner in an abusive relationship that endured until last week. To extend that metaphor, Mr Tsvangirai – the battered victim – kept talking up the close working rapport he’d established with Mr Mugabe, pontificating about the importance of reconciliation, and hoping that with time and effort, his partner would mend his ways and democracy would follow.

Instead, Mr Mugabe – by turns domineering, and contemptuously polite – blocked, parried, and changed the rules as he went along, until he finally rushed Zimbabwe into an election on his own terms.

Some say Mr Tsvangirai should have pulled out of that election ahead of time, when it became clear that Mr Mugabe had no intention of allowing time for a proper voter registration period, or of revealing the now highly suspect voters roll.

Instead, Mr Tsvangirai went ahead and legitimised an election that he now describes as a sham. Was it another noble move, or a combination of naivety and over-confidence? At some point soon that question may be answered by his own party activists, and – much further down the line – by Zimbabwean voters.

Compare 2013 parliamentary election results with 2008

via BBC News – Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai facing political oblivion.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 18
  • comment-avatar
    Ginga 7 years ago

    I think you should take into consideration that these elections were rigged on a massive scale, so why blame Morgan.What about the other parties?Who knew all these dirty tricks will happen.Too many wolves around Morgan, i.e. SADC, AU, ZANU PF ,Chihuri,Israel, China, Zanu_PF Police , Courts, ZEC, etc.If all these are fighting you do you think you can succeed?Morgan for life.

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      fortune 7 years ago

      as a leader commanding a lot of support he must have plan B IF CAN”T THEN HE IS USELESS

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      Mr Harding,you write all this rubbish from your air conditioned Office in london when clearly revealing that you know absolutely shyte about Zim politics.Its easy to sip your Earl Grey tea bought from one of your Sainsbury outlets and dont even begin to acknowledge/comprehend what the Zim masses went through post 2008 elections.Children,women,elderly,youths were brutalised,arms/limbs cut.Credit to Tsvangirai for pulling out of the sham elections then.People just wanted peace and relief from the marauding green bombers.Right honourable Tsvangirai would have had mutiny on his hands if he didnt join the GNU.I find it really hard to believe that you are indeed who you claim to be.I am 99.999% sure you are one of the resident CIO in Uk and chose to Use an Anglo Saxone name so as to fool the people that you are a white guy and therefor give weight to your light case,you Want to sanitise the situation.Leave Zim politics to the Zim people.Isn’t it a surprise that suddenly all these white guys are crawling out from their comfort zones to launch all these anti Tsvangirai sentiments???If you are who you claim to be shame on you and at best just go and lick Camerons hairy backside and leave Zim alone.Save navo pamberi-mberi nyangwe Matibili aka rigga election.

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    nesbert majon 7 years ago

    Tsvangira never did anyrhing wrong. On joining GNU he was forced by the SADC community and the population. Initially the PM never liked to be part of that GNU but pple began to say he was selfish and all pple thought the GNU was good for the economy

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      fortune 7 years ago

      THATS A LIE,HE WAS SUPPOSE TO DO WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE HE LEAD HE ZANUPF HIMSELF,HE MUST STOP PLAYING SUFFERING PEOPLE

  • comment-avatar
    nesbert majon 7 years ago

    Tsvangira never did anyrhing wrong. On joining GNU he was forced by the SADC community and the population. Initially the PM never liked to be part of that GNU but pple began to say he was selfish and all pple thought the GNU was good for the economy and for sure it did work as the galloping inflation was arrested and the US dollarvwas introduced. If we begin to blame the PM on this we are of short memories. He played a crucialvrole to steady the economy by being part of the GNU. On this sham election there was nothing he could. If he had pulled iut of the elections Mugabe was going to go ahead and still win the elections. Instead of blaming the PM we must blame SADC and Mugabe who failed to allow reforms before the watershed elections. He used this concort staffed by zanu pf sympathisers to announce elections date before the reforms. Even SADC allowed Mugabe to go ahead with this before all reforms were done.

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    Jonathan Hondoyedzomba 7 years ago

    Tsvangirai must go back to his party and find out if they still want him as their leader

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    This man has done his best and there is no need to mock him. He just needed to be with the people on homos and not demonise others at sadc. He was far out witted.

  • comment-avatar

    Andrew Harding BBC African Affairs Man has never got anything
    right yet, and this piece is even worse than usual. bc

  • comment-avatar
    Danboy True Zimbo 7 years ago

    The MDC was naïve. It mistakenly thought that Morgan was a good brand instead of realizing he was a liability. Shining shoes, expensive suits and psychotic love for women – the man was just out of touch

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    Shame 7 years ago

    Mr Editor , to be frank, I am surprised this is the Zimbabwesituation site reporting like this. Since when did you turn your back on Moregay TsvanCry. A whole paper born again? Flip flopper, political news turncoat, globtrotter e.t.c e.t.c.

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    chimsoro 7 years ago

    You reap what you sow!

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    Codza 7 years ago

    I think Morgan did what he could. Only problem is he was punching above his weight. He is not mentally equipped to stand up to those cunning wolves in Zanu. One, he should not have accepted a junior role in the gnu, it was never power sharing, if you read the document you can see clearly who was going to be in charge. The treatment that he got in the gnu was showing, it was obvious he was called in to prop up the zanu machine, which he did very well. Now that his work is done, he has been spitted out. Surely they thought that zanu pf was just calling for an election in order to hand over power?????, that’s the height of naivety!!! When all is said and done, Morgan has gone as high as he will ever go. Most of the things which were happening around him in government he did not know how to deal with them. Mdc needs not only a brave leader but also an educated one.

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    the affected 7 years ago

    Zim bye bye! Zanu is finishing it off for good!

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    Mkast 7 years ago

    Our dear prime minister never had a plan from onset he just thrived on pple,s good will n trust but now he manufactured his demise,, its the zim electorate that put u in the office not sadc ,eu, or courts.

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    You dont have to have a host of Degrees to be a good leader.Zanu PF is replete with Drs,Professors etc and what did that amount to???The country is in this quagmire but was being governed by Vafundi.Zvekungoti heee Morgan haana kudzidza hapana zvazvinobatsira tarisai vacho vakadzidza kuti nyika vaisiyepi.Tungani twumadhara twemumaruzevha umo twusingombogona kana kunyora zita rako asi twuchitonga moto moto.Look at Jonathan Moyo,Gideon Gono ,Tafataona Mahosso,the list is endless,the other side we have Dr Dabengwa,Professor Mutambara,Professor Ncube.You guys you kill me with laughter

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    Zanu pf failed to agree with smith and resorted to the battlefield,thats the last card not zvime you can’t negotiate with zanu pf and win tsvangirai

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    juggle 7 years ago

    Mugabe is a strategist like it or not, but he needs people who can implement policies properly for Zimbabwe to run properly