Would Zanu-PF accept Tsvangirai as president?

Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and Patrick Chinamasa (R) photographed in 2002 Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC has spent four years in government with Patrick Chinamasa (R) of Zanu-PF

Zimbabwe's Justice Minister and Zanu-PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa is a tall, urbane lawyer with a fantastically messy desk and a self-deprecating cartoon on his wall about greedy lawyers.

As Zimbabwe inches towards a new constitution and a crucial new election designed to end four years of power-sharing between Zanu-PF and the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mr Chinamasa is at the heart of the negotiations.

When it comes to the tussles over constitutional drafts, stakeholder conferences and the finer points of organising elections, Mr Chinamasa offers an encouraging narrative of progress made, of gentlemanly disagreements overcome or put to one side and of law and decorum observed.

Zimbabwe's Justice Minister and Zanu PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa talks to the BBC

It is an enticing picture of a country that has, undeniably and against steep odds, made impressive progress in some respects over the past four years.

The economy has been saved from collapse, schools are functioning, and - for all their public disagreements and the heavy-handed efforts of the security forces - Zimbabwe's political leaders are still talking.

But the picture is incomplete.

Towards the end of our interview in Mr Chinamasa's office, I raised the seemingly innocuous issue of the theoretical possibility that the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party won the 2008 parliamentary election, might win the presidency.

Start Quote

If those countries impose for him [Tsvangirai] to win, that result will not be acceptable. We will not accept it. We will just not accept it. Isn't that clear?”

End Quote Patrick Chinamasa Justice minister

Senior Zimbabwean military officials have publicly stated that they would not accept Mr Tsvangirai - currently prime minister in the power-sharing government - as head of state, and it seemed appropriate to ask Mr Chinamasa whether that was Zanu-PF's official position or whether he would like to state, for the record, that the will of the people would be respected, whatever the outcome.

'Asking for trouble'

Mr Chinamasa's answer, which I have transcribed below, is highly revealing.

"He [Tsvangirai] cannot win. He has been campaigning and mobilising against the interests of Zimbabweans on many issues, whether talking about land, seeking to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle.

"And this is where the military comes in…. Young people participated in the liberation struggle to gain control over our resources.

"Many friends died and are buried in unmarked graves.

Zimbabwean soldiers pictured on 8 October 2012 Zimbabwe's military do not want to see Morgan Tsvangirai as head of state

"Now if anyone is going to say: 'When I come into power I'm going to reverse that,' they [the military] have every right to say: 'Please - you are asking for trouble. You will be asking for trouble.'

"He [Tsvangirai] will be asking for trouble to seek to reverse the land reform programme.

"There is no-one who is going to accept any enslavement."

I asked the minister what he meant by "trouble" and if he was suggesting that he would not accept a Tsvangirai presidency under any circumstances.

Initially he said: "You could put any interpretation on it that you want."

But when I asked him for his own interpretation he said: "I know he [Tsvangirai] is the front of (sic) the countries that impose sanctions.

"And if those countries impose for him to win, that result will not be acceptable.

"We will not accept it. We will just not accept it. Isn't that clear?"

So there you have it.

If Mr Tsvangirai wins - and I am not suggesting that is either likely or certain - and if Zanu-PF claims he has done so because of foreign support, then Zanu-PF's justice minister will not accept the result.

Is that a fair interpretation, and what does it say about the prospects for a democratic election in Zimbabwe next year?

Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Well that is Africa for you

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Tsvangirayi lost it when he picked up a fight with the army generals. Imagine in Obama rubbing everything American at the time he decided to run for presidency. He could even have been killed. There are sometimes Tsvangirayi just acts like he is not Zimbabwean. He is just too anti-Zim for me to be president.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The average age of a Zimbabwean is?

    I am 57 and was an active territorial soldier in that war.

    I am a surviving veteran.

    The kids today masquerading as veterans most certainly are not.

    Their acts of liberating land and other property that does not belong to them are nothing but criminal.

    I trust they will be brought to justice eventually?

    Even if it is by that great tockolosh in the sky?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Tttt - Could you direct us to where the MDC says it will reverse the land reforms (zanu pf's phrase)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Like anywhere in the world, the country’s values need to be respected. A successful teacher of the word of God can not deviate from Jesus’s teachings for it forms the back born of Christianity. We are saying anyone who will not respect the gains of our freedom, the main reason why people perished in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe, then such characters will not rule zimbabwe

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Tsva seems to forget when he talks about reversing LR. I don’t totally agree with LR but if we reverse then what? Are we really supposed to forget what our elders fought for? Freedom & the right to live on our land. Are we supposed to live in that same box Smith shoved us into-is that fair? Both men should NOT Lead. Zim must have an intelligent person(NONwestern puppet)out there who CAN Lead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I still can't help laughing when I read about the war veterans fighting for "The peoples" rights. I was born towards the end of the war and am 34 years old. Some of these "veterans" are younger than me! Typical African story of one political party being as useless and corrupt as the other. If only Zim had oil then maybe there would be some US/EU assistance from the suffering Zimbabwean populace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    ZANU-PF and the military will never accept a win by anybody other than themselves. After all these years abusing the Zimbabwean people and enriching themselves by treating the state coffers as their own personal bank account, they simply have far too much to lose. They will never allow anybody to take control who might actually investigate and prosecute what has gone before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    In the late 70's I lived in Zambia and at night the Russian made tanks would come through Lusaka from Angola with the Cuban tank commanders on their way to fight for Mugabe in "Zimbabwe" against Ian Smith. Now Mugabe rules a country by fear and intimidation and will not accept democracy.
    What was it all for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    ZANU PF has proven yet again that it is an imposing, plundering & murderous party that will do anything to remain in power all in the name of ‘the struggle’.
    ZANU PF has eroded peace, certainty, freedom, transparency, accountability & justice- the very reason why the electorate are looking for an alternative leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Anyone who has read any literature on Mugabe would know that he is no democrat, cares little for his own people and that he has used brute force and terror to stay in power. His 'land reforms' were a complete disaster for Zimbabwe and had nothing to do with 'liberation' or black empowerment; rather, they were intended to reward or placate soldiers and veterans, thugs many of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    You're kidding! When has there been anything democratic under Mugabe. Why do they bother to have elections at all, as they are so obviously rigged, and foreign nations take no action whatsoever. I once stood in a queue for 16 hours to vote, and when I got in I saw that my parents had both already voted. Unfortunately both my parents had been dead for 5 years!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Mugabe is a highly intelligent man that pushes indegenous interests BUT uses thoroughly primitive means to get his way.
    Tsvangirai is a dull high school dropout that is used by foreign powers to protect their economic interests in Zimbabwe.

    Two flawed men with one horribly worse than the other.

    Its clear that with such a choice, I proudly vote for Mugabe!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    The land reform in Zimbabwe is a delicte issue that has to be evaluated on It's merit to Economic growth.The issue is not owning land but the ability to utilize it for growth. Mr. Morgan Tsavangerai has served as PM for a long time which is a proof of his competance.The land issue should not be a factor for his re election & the people should be free to pick the right person for Nation building.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Tsvangirai must never be allowed anywhere near statehouse until they become themselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The only reason people like ZanuPF, Chinamasa and the army get away with their undemocratic actions is because the Zimbabwean populace allow them to. When leaders don't listen to the people then the only way is revolution; learn from France, Russia, China, Egypt, Libya etc. Ordinary Zimbabweans took up arms against their colonial oppressors so why not against their own home grown oppressors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I voted for Tsvangirai in 2008 but never again. His Ordinary Level of education (multiple sittings) has been on display lately and I can't imagine such a myopic person ever becoming our prez. We can do better than that...a lot better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Zanu-PF will never relinquish power; they have degrees in violence and they will show this again at the next election. Bunch of .............

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Zanu(PF) has never been a democratically elected government. We should not be surprised that they are disinterested in the will of the people. They have made a laughing stock of British attempts to bring democracy to our nation. With finance from diamond money they will now impose themselves more brutally than ever before. What did the Brits expect when they sent Smith down the toilet?



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