Tsvangirai wants trials for Zimbabwe violence

LONDON – Zimbabwe prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai was quoted on Wednesday as saying some senior members of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party could face trial over political violence, but not the veteran leader himself.

"I don’t think Mugabe himself as a person can be held accountable. But there are various levels of institutional violence that has taken place and I’m sure we’ll be able to look at that," Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.

"Let the rule of law apply … We all cry for the rule of law, and if somebody’s committed an offence he should be prosecuted."

In an interview with The Times newspaper, also published on Wednesday, Tsvangirai said the new government was committed to ensuring there would be no repeat of the violence, which he described as "the darkest period in our history".

"It can never be allowed to happen again," he said.

Tsvangirai will become prime minister under a power-sharing deal signed on Monday with Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for nearly three decades, and Arthur Mutambara, who leads a small breakaway faction of the MDC.

The agreement followed weeks of tense talks to end a deep political and economic crisis compounded by Mugabe’s unopposed re-election in a widely condemned vote in June. Tsvangirai pulled out of the poll citing violence against his supporters.

Zimbabweans hope the deal will be a first step in helping to rescue the once prosperous nation from economic collapse. Inflation has rocketed to over 11 million percent and millions have fled to neighbouring southern African countries.

In the Guardian interview, Tsvangirai acknowledged there was suspicion and mistrust between the MDC and ZANU-PF, and that working with former opponents would be difficult.

INHERENT SUSPICION

"There’s an inherent suspicion, there’s inherent mistrust of Robert Mugabe. It’s understandable given his history, given his role. It’s part of his legacy," Tsvangirai said.

"But he also must understand that the future is not in the hands of Robert Mugabe. The future is in the hands of those who are advocating a change of direction because that is what is going to rescue this country. And I think he appreciates that."

Tsvangirai said he hoped to sideline Mugabe — whom he described as "unrepentant, defiant, even when he was giving up" — and build a working relationship with ZANU-PF ministers.

"We will disagree. But at the end of the day we have to be motivated by what is the best interests of the country. I’ll try to encourage that," he said.

Under the power-sharing deal, Tsvangirai as prime minister will chair a council of ministers supervising the cabinet, headed by Mugabe. Control of the powerful security forces that have been key backers of Mugabe is expected to be split.

Tsvangirai said in the interview he expected some ZANU-PF ministers would try to sabotage his leadership, but that even Mugabe’s party was looking beyond the 84-year-old’s rule.

"In the process of change of this nature that (resistance) is expected, but it does not stop a train moving forward," he said, drawing parallels with independence in 1980.

Tsvangirai said white-owned farms seized by the government since 2000 would not be restored to their former owners.

"Don’t underestimate the political and economic consequences of land but we want to solve this once and for all so that never again should land be used as a political tool," he said.

"We don’t have any intention of going back to pre-2000."

The Times quoted Tsvangirai as saying Zimbabwe "must encourage farmers of all colours to produce".

"The issue of white farmers has to be discussed in the context of land ownership," he said. "That will be dealt with by an independent land commission, where the issue of multiple farm ownership will have to be dealt with."

He also urged Western powers not to withhold funds from the new government despite their dislike of Mugabe.

"One has to understand we have entered into this deal with the object of transforming this country. Mugabe may appear as an aberration to the West, but he has entered into an agreement with us," the Times quoted him as saying.

"They should have belief and faith with us, instead of being paranoid with Mugabe."