Tag Archives: morgan tsvangirai

Is Tsvangirai an anti-gay bigot like Mugabe?

The BBC recently reported that Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister and head of the opposition MDC, had declared support for Robert Mugabe’s refusal to protect gay rights in Zimbabwe’s new constitution. If his comments are accurate, they represent yet another step backwards in the long walk towards tolerance and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe.

According to The Zambia Post, Tsvangirai said, “The President has spoken about gay rights, about some men who want to breathe into other men’s ears. I don’t agree with that. Why would you look for men when our women make up 52% of our population? Men are much fewer than women.” The two leaders were sharing the platform at an International Women’s Day celebration. Mugabe had declared that protecting gay rights in the constitution “is not debatable, it’s not up for discussion”.

As in many African countries, homosexual activity is still illegal in Zimbabwe and gay and lesbian Zimbabweans have faced decades of repression, persecution, blackmail and assault. Mugabe has had a long history of homophobia, describing gays as “worse than pigs and dogs” in 1995. His recent pronouncements on the constitution, while inexcusable, are therefore unsurprising.

Tsvangirai’s endorsement of Mugabe’s view, however, is bitterly disappointing. He is, after all, the leader of an organisation supposedly fighting for constitutional democracy and a respect for human rights.  Showing contempt for sexual minorities and the suffering they face in Zimbabwe on a daily basis, his comments undermine the credibility of his stated commitment to human rights, and reinforce an already bleak climate of discrimination and intolerance.

Tsvagirai’s remarks also contradict his very own party’s stance on sexual orientation rights. According to the Post:

Under the Bill of Rights section, the MDC position paper states that: “In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences, that is gays and lesbians should be protected by the constitution.”

I’m curious about the man’s motives. Did he think a spot of gay-bashing was an easy way to reach common ground with his [not so] erstwhile foe? Or does he really believe that gays are fair game, and that depriving them of their rights is the best way to ensure they conform to prevailing cultural “norms”. Perhaps he believes by letting persecution flourish – a good beating, the occasional raid, and some punitive fines – they will be “cured” of what he apparently sees as an “abnormality”.

One would have expected more empathy from a man in charge of a movement whose members face ongoing harassment – including arbitrary torture, kidnappings and arrests.

Tsvangirai has let the Zimbabwean people, and not merely its gays and lesbians, down. This is because, a country cannot be truly free unless the rights of all those who live in it are respected and protected. The first step towards that, albeit by no means the only one, is to have those rights enshrined in a constitution. He should be ashamed.

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Zim: blood diamonds and spineless Morgan

Earlier this month it was announced that Mugabe’s Kimberley Process cronies have decided to give him until June to withdraw the soldiers in the Marange diamond fields. The army runs smuggling operations and use forced labour in mines whose profits benefit Zanu-PF.

Human Rights Watch exposed the horrors of Marange in June. A task team from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme followed soon after and confirmed HRW’s findings. They recommended Zimbabwe be suspended from trading in diamonds.

But the horrors have continued. “As recently as late October 2009, [HRW] uncovered rampant abuses by the military in Marange including forced labour, child labour, killings, beatings, smuggling, and corruption,” says the rights body.

There is a clear case for Zimbabwe to be suspended. The gems from Marange are blood diamonds, extracted through the persecution and oppression of those living in the area. But no: Zimbabwe gets away with it. By letting them off the hook, “this diamond monitoring body has utterly lost credibility,” says Georgette Gagnon, HRW’s Africa director. She is absolutely right.

Having failed to do anything about the rights abuses and military occupation of Marange, over the past few months since abuses have been exposed, it is highly unlikely that Mugabe will implement the Kimberley Process’s recommendations by the agreed deadline. And with friends like South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, DRC and Russia — why should he? Doubtless they’ll rush to his defence in June next year.

So the army will continue its plunder. The diamonds will continue to be smuggled. The people — women, children included — will continue to be oppressed and exploited. And the revenues will continue to fund senior Zanu-PF apparatchiks’ lavish lifestyles. All the while, the country continues its implosion: blackouts roll across the country; people starve; hospitals have no medicine; sewage trickles in the street.

Perhaps we should all boycott purchasing diamonds (of course in these dark times it’s not like there are vast hordes rushing to the jewellery shop anyway). But let’s boycott nonetheless. If there was a significant drop in sales, perhaps the diamond-producing countries that allowed Zimbabwe’s shame to continue, will develop scruples. It’s worth a try.

After all, there’s very little one can do, it seems, except jump up and down — and weep, and pray that sanity may prevail in Zimbabwe. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s re-engagement with Mugabe in the sham “unity” government is a great pity. It means his threats are empty. Mugabe can continue regardless. Do you really think Mugabe’s going to fall in line within thirty days like Tsvangirai’s demanded he do? And what then — another deadline?

The unity government has failed to stop Zanu-PF’s reign of terror: human rights continue to be violated with brutal impunity. And the country continues to fall apart. Tsvangirai is an appeaser. His dalliance with Zanu-PF makes me curious: is he stupid, naïve, or has he been bought by Mugabe’s machine? He reminds me of Neville Chamberlain, and the British prime minister’s desperate attempts to secure “peace in our time” in the months before World War II. Well, as that tragic history showed us, appeasement only led to immense suffering, cataclysmic violence and upheaval.

If Morgan Tsvangirai really cares about his country and the members of his party that continue being persecuted, he must act decisively and abandon the marriage he should never have agreed to. Mugabe needs his foe — and bedfellow — to maintain his legitimacy. If the latter walks away, the promise of aid, investment and all the other lifelines that would prop up the Zanu-PF regime will be pulled away.

I admit, it’s not easy for old Morgan. His job is difficult. And lonely. Shamefully, the SADC (which should stand for Southern African Dictators’ Club thanks to its tireless support for Mugabe’s tyranny) is not interested in true democracy taking root in Zimbabwe. Rather, the regional body craves a continuation of the postcolonial aristocracy in which despotic psychopaths can pillage and persecute freely because they are somehow entitled to. SADC’s logic appears to be that such ghastly behaviour is reward for having liberated their countries from the Europeans.

But the threat of regional alienation is no excuse for Tsvangirai to be co-opted by SADC. It is no excuse for him to become the useful idiot acting out SADC’s wilful contempt for the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people. Zimbabwe has suffered long enough. It is time Tsvangirai stops talking and starts acting.

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Was Tsvangirai crash an assasination attempt?

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister and leader of the opposition MDC, has been in a car accident with his wife, who tragically lost her life in the incident.

Radio SW Africa reports:

Susan was seated behind the driver of their car when a haulage truck encroached onto their lane. Their driver swerved and the truck crushed the right hand side of the vehicle, behind the driver. Their landcruiser veered off the road and rolled three times.

Reports we have received say Susan survived the intial impact and when she was pulled out of the vehicle she was talking, but clearly in great pain. But a close family friend told us she lost consciousness on the way to Harare’s Avenues Clinic, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Initial reports suggest she might have broken her back and suffered multiple leg fractures.

This is Zimbabwe, the indispensable blog maintained by human rights NGO Sokwanele, suspects that there may have been foul play:

Foul play is suspected. We’re now hearing that the tyre blew out, that the axel was faulty. It’s very unclear at the moment, but foul play is supected.

This wouldn’t be altogether surprising, especially when Zanu PF has been known to have used car “accidents” to dispose of political opponents before.

And, according to This is Zimbabwe, when Deon Theron, vice-president of the Commercial Farmers’ Union, tried to take pictures of the accident his camera was confiscated and he was arrested.

It all looks very, very suspicious.

Our hearts go out to Morgan Tsvangirai and his family.

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Why Africa’s leaders can’t solve Zimbabwe crisis

Robert Mugabe, the embattled Zimabwean despot, has no intention of relinquishing power. He’s even said as much. And this is merely confirmed by the ongoing abduction, incarceration and torture of opposition activists and a bloody-minded refusal to share key ministries in the proposed unity government.

The SADC (Southern African Development Community) is only too aware of the Zanu PF agenda – and this makes its efforts to force the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) into a government in which it will be no more than a junior partner all the more chilling. The SADC is using the unity government as a legitimising mechanism to keep Zanu PF in power. It knows that it needs the  MDC to provide Zanu PF with a veneer of democratic respectability. But this is not what Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people chose at the ballot almost a year ago.

Yet again the SADC has refused to acknowledge the manifestation of the Zimbabwean people’s democratic will – but this is hardly surprising when SADC observer missions sunnily declared successive Zimbabwean elections “free and fair” – despite overwhelming displays of Zanu PF-sponsored intimidation and rigging.

Indeed, the SADC’s track record has shown that African leaders are incapable of resolving the Zimbabwe crisis. Not because they aren’t able to – but because they do not want to. Why? Simply because our region’s leaders are not democrats. Most share the belief that liberation movements have a divine right to rule, plunder and pillage their respective fiefdoms. Lip-service is paid to democracy and transparency provided such concepts do not challenge postcolonial ruling elites.

When Zimbabwe’s groundswell of democratic opposition to Zanu PF was met with brutal repression, Southern African leaders (with one or two pitiful exceptions) either spoke in support of Mugabe or remained shamefully silent. As Zimbabwe descended into a maelstrom of economic devastation and oppression, both quiet diplomacy and Mbeki’s mediation proved spectacularly successful in propping up Mugabe’s contemptible regime. South Africa has even adopted a proactive approach, working tirelessly to prevent the Zimbabwean tragedy from being discussed in the UN Security Council.

Tsvangarai and his party should treat the SADC – and its brazenly partisan mediation efforts – with the contempt it deserves.

As I have suggested before, an interim government must be installed by the United Nations. This government, staffed by non-political technocrats, can handle humanitarian operations to ensure the rollout food supplies and healthcare countrywide as well as the operation of essential services many of which are at a standstill.

The UN must demobilise the security and army, and provide a “peacekeeper” contingent of soldiers and police to ensure safety and security.

And then, some time next year, proper elections must be held – free and fair elections implemented and monitored by the international community.

Zimbabwe deserves nothing less.

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Mbeki’s Zim negotiations were self-serving

This piece was written (and published on Thought Leader) before the announcement that a deal had been brokered between Zanu PF and the MDC. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not this will truly result in Zimbabwean’s people democratic will being respected. The details that have thus far been outlined about the unity deal show it to be fragile and clumsy. Has Tsvangirai sold out? Who holds the power? Zanu PF is claiming they do, but we will only know for certain in the days and weeks to come.

President Thabo Mbeki’s latest attempt to get Zimbabwe negotiations back on track smacks of self-serving desperation — an attempt to salvage a bloodstained legacy and ensure an easy exit for the murderous tyrant he seems quite happy to consider a friend.

Mbeki as a mediator has no credibility anyway. His antipathy towards the MDC and its leader is well known — as is his implicit support of Mugabe and the brutal suppression of democratic will and political dissent that has accompanied the dictator’s systematic destruction of a once-prosperous nation.

As the suffering of the Zimbabwean people continues, with starvation salaries for those lucky enough to be employed and chronic shortages of food and medicines, it is only too clear that Mbeki has never had the best interests of the ordinary people at heart. He has nailed his unwavering support for a “liberation” elite to the mast, with devastating consequences.

It was inevitable that these farcical negotiations between Zanu-PF and the MDC would flop — because the former has been (and continues to be) extremely reluctant to relinquish its iron-fisted grip on the Zimbabwean people and, of course, all the perks that comes from the wanton pillaging of the state.

Had the South African government even a shred of integrity — or held the belief that human rights and a sustainable democracy are sacrosanct — it would have condemned the behaviour of our neighbour’s government a long time ago.

But its willingness to support an illegitimate regime financially and politically and give the thumbs-up to the sham elections of the past eight years has meant that South Africa and its president are complicit in the Zimbabwean catastrophe.

It is not too late for Mbeki to redeem himself (a little). He could do this if he were to stand up and denounce Mugabe, and do everything in his power — such as imposing smart sanctions — to ensure that the results of the March 29 elections are respected and acted upon. The Zimbabwean people deserve nothing less. But of course that will never happen, and their unnecessary suffering will continue until the inevitable collapse of Mugabe’s crumbling regime.

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Morgan pulls out

MDC presidential contender Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of Friday’s election, citing the wave of violence and intimidation of opposition supporters at the hands of Zanu PF-affiliated thugs. It’s disappointing, in one respect, but wholly understandable – especially considering that Mugabe has made it quite clear that whatever the result of the vote, he will not be relinquishing power.

The big question is what will happen now? At least the international community and media – after what seems like years of virtually ignoring Zimbabwe – are focusing their attentions on the beleaguered nation. Finally the human rights abuses are receiving widespread coverage and condemnation. Zimbabwe can be swept under the carpet no longer, in part due to the courageous role ordinary citizens are playing in recording abuses, and disseminating the information into the blogosphere and mainstream media.

Let’s hope a solution can be found before any more innocent lives are lost.

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