CANCER-stricken Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai last week returned home from treatment in South Africa and immediately shrugged off calls for him to step down from the helm of the opposition party.
Instead, he delved into the on-going civil unrest, urging President Robert Mugabe to swallow his pride and initiate national political dialogue to end the crisis.
“An election in a crisis like this cannot be the solution. What is needed, as we have called for before, is to have a national dialogue on this issue,” said Tsvangirai in an exclusive interview with Studio 7 to be broadcast tomorrow.
“ZANU-PF thinks that it has a monopoly of trying to resolve this issue. As it has been demonstrated that it cannot solve the problem…a solution can be found, at least to calm down the waters. What you need is a temporary soft landing of the crisis and you cannot resolve that by going to another crisis. Of course I am not saying elections should not be held, but held in an environment in which the outcome is not going to be disputed,” he added.
Tsvangirai said his party has persistently warned government not to take the simmering crisis lightly, but instead deal with it decisively and in a peaceful manner.
He said it was folly for ZANU-PF to attribute the disturbances to a third force.
“What third force? Every economic and social ill that the country is facing falls directly on the ZANU-PF responsibility. People are hungry, people have no incomes, people are unemployed, and people are living in abject poverty. How do you look for a third force when the real sentiment expressed by the people is so evident. All it requires is some degree of urgency on the part of ZANU- PF to deal with the crisis as any government anywhere in the world will do. Deal with the concerns that people are raising and the problem will go away, but if you think you are going to apply pressure, and like a good spring, the rebound is going to be more forceful,” he said.
The government has accused France and the United States of America of being complicit in the civil unrests which culminated in the burning down of a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority warehouse in Beitbridge town a fortnight ago. Skirmishes soon followed in Bulawayo, Harare and other major towns last week.
Close to 200 citizens have been arrested over the disturbances in the past week and human rights organisations have accused the police and other security agents of gross human rights abuses, including brutality against defenceless citizens.
Social media has been awash with video recordings of police brutalising some of the arrested suspects, sparking another diplomatic stand-off between Harare and Western capitals with some diplomats suggesting the formation of yet another government of national unity akin to that formed in 2009 following a prolonged dispute over results of the 2008 general elections. Others are calling for early elections to deal with the present crisis.
“We don’t believe in violence. Violence is not a solution, but if the State is at the fore-front of unleashing violence against the people, it is the State that it is destabilising the country,” added Tsvangirai, who is currently under pressure from within and outside his party to quit politics before he is completely incapacitated by his ailment.
But a defiant Tsvangirai, who has been laid low by cancer of the colon, said he was on the path to recovery and lashed out at those demanding that he vacates his post for new leadership.
Though he sounds clearly under the weather in the recording, he said his aliment is a temporary set-back, adding that he had recovered from the initial shock of being diagnosed with colon cancer and was in touch with the situation on the ground despite being absent from work due to his sickness.
“Do we really conclude that if somebody is sick, he necessarily is out; can we be so conclusive that when people fall sick that will be the end of the story? We don’t work like that. Sickness is a temporary affliction, which one can overcome.
“How many people have fallen sick and have recovered from their sickness and what has that to do with handing over leadership? What has the leadership to deal with sickness?” he asked.
His deputy Thokozani Khuphe is currently the acting MDC-T president despite party insiders claiming that she is one of several senior party officials angling to step into Tsvangirai’s shoes.
Other officials being bandied around as likely replacement for Tsvangirai are party chairperson Lovemore Moyo, secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and national executive member Nelson Chamisa.
All the alleged top contenders have vehemently denied presidential ambitions and have since thrown their weight behind Tsvangirai as reports of jostling for the post continues to emerge from Harvest House, the headquarters of the MDC-T.
Insiders claim Khupe’s leadership has dismally failed to take advantage of last week’s nationwide shut-down, saying it would have been a different ball game if Tsvangirai was fit and about.