Mugabe hurts sanction hopes

The two will soon have been in an uneasy “inclusive government” for a year. The relationship remains difficult, Tsvangirai said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos where he tried to convince global leaders to take a new look at the African nation.

“How do you deal with a president who was determined to see your destruction? How do you deal with the level of acrimony that existed between us?” said the prime minister.

Tsvangirai and the veteran president, who is the subject of a western travel ban and asset freeze, now meet every Monday and then go to the regular cabinet meeting.

“I have taken a decision that we can work together, despite this acrimony, for the good of the country. There is a working relationship. Personally I don’t know what his intentions are but I think what is important is for us to ensure that we finish this transition.”

“I cannot predict that a coup will happen or derailment of the project, but I am satisfied that so far all the indications are that this process is irreversible.”

Tsvangirai pulled out of a runoff presidential election last year, citing deadly violence against his followers. Further trouble was only avoided when Mugabe agreed to set up a unity government with his arch-rival as prime minister.

Toxic issues, trips for aid

Tsvangirai said “toxic issues” remain with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party over control of the central bank, use of the attorney general’s powers and the share of other political posts.

But his foreign trips abroad are now devoted to getting aid, investment and trying to convince the international community to ease sanctions.

Tsvangirai met Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Davos. “His view is that the perception out there is still very negative as long as Mugabe is there.

“As far as we are concerned, the country has to move forward with or without Mugabe.”

Tsvangirai insisted there has been “significant progress” with the government’s dual aims of stabilising the country and “national healing” changes to improve democracy and make constitutional reform.

The Zimbabwe dollar was eradicated in favour of a multi-currency regime. Inflation, once estimated in the billions of percent, is now minus three percent, said the prime minister. “We are in a deflationary state.”

Tsvangirai said there can be no new Zimbabwe currency for at least two or three years until the country’s production base is functioning again.

On the political front, he said a constitutional referendum would be held in October and then he and Mugabe would set a date for elections in 2011.

“We have done so much in so little time,” he said. “However I would be the last to say that everything is rosy” and acknowledged international “scepticism” at the slow pace of implementing political change.

But he said: “This is a delicate moment, to support the process that is taking part in Zimbabwe.”

“We are not sliding back. Suddenly the country is moving forward and now is the time to look at the country in a more positive environment.”

Talks on Zimbabwe

The European Union meets on February 20 to discuss Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai would like them to take “a two stage approach” to ease some sanctions and acknowledge progress has been made.

He also wants foreign companies to return to Zimbabwe and is keen to renew links with China. The mining, tourism and agriculture sectors are all important to the government.

There is platinum, gold, diamonds and huge coal deposits in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said, adding that there is no limitation of profits being taken out of the country.

China broke off a business relationship with Mugabe’s party about five years ago, Tsvangirai said, but now China wants to renew links.

“They have said they will work with the inclusive government. What it means is that we will have to revisit some of the projects that were suspended five years ago.”

Tsvangirai called it a key relationship. “Who wants to avoid one of the biggest developing economies in the world?” he declared.

“Zimbabwe has to open up to all possibilities and I think that China is one of those possibilities.”

– AFP