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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Morgan Tsvangirai facing political oblivion
August 05, 2013
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.
thrice-failed presidential contender, Morgan Tsvangirai, must surely
be facing the real possibility of political oblivion following his
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?
argue that the MDC leader's defining mistake was his decision after
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
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.
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
signaled 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
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
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
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