Don't make us pay for working with Mugabe – PM Message to G20

PM Morgan Tsvangirai's message to G20 – In his first article since taking office Zimbabwe's Prime Minister states his ambition to move from aid to trade with the West

On February 11, 2009, I took an oath as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe to work relentlessly to create a society where values are stronger than the threat of violence, where the future happiness of children is more important than partisan political goals and where a person is free to express an opinion, loudly, openly and publicly, without fear of reprisal or repression.  

To create a country where jobs are available for those who wish to work, food is available for those who are hungry and where we are united by our respect for the rights and dignity of our fellow citizens.

This is the country we are working to build and although Zimbabwe is not yet a democracy, it is on its way to becoming one. Our success on this journey will depend on this new, transitional Government, our people and the international partners who will work with us to realise this vision for our country.

The political agreement that lead to the formation of this new Government is not perfect. I have stated my concerns on many occasions, as has President Mugabe.  

I have also stated that it is a workable agreement and by that I mean that it can help to alleviate the suffering of the Zimbabwean people and allow the country to move forward peacefully to a new constitution and fresh elections.

With regard to the former, the new Government has already made small but significant progress. We have started paying civil servants a monthly allowance to allow the public sector to begin working again and provide an essential stimulus to the economy. We have overseen the opening of hospitals and schools, the taming of hyperinflation, the lowering of prices of basic commodities and the rationalisation of utility tariffs. Most importantly, this new political dispensation has delivered hope to a country devoid of optimism or expectation.

These achievements are a fraction of what the country requires to start functioning normally again. It was, however, the knowledge that we could make an immediate and positive impact on the lives of all Zimbabweans that guided my party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to enter the agreement brokered by the regional Southern African Development Community.

As I write this article, I know that we made the correct decision. The past six weeks have proved what we are able to do, not just as a party, but as part of an inclusive Government. For, in deciding to embrace the political pragmatism of our regional neighbours, we entered this administration in the spirit of the agreement, embracing its inclusivity and abiding by its letter with regard to the implementation of the transitional measures it contains.

Before entering this Government, we knew that most public servants, and Zimbabweans from all walks of life, were desperate for the positive commitments that the agreement contained. We also knew that elements of the old regime would resist these measures and attempt to obstruct any positive progress.

Happily, we underestimated the number of people who would embrace the opportunities that our country now has, but, sadly, we were correct in allowing for the residual resistance that we are now experiencing from a small faction of non-democratic hardliners.

However, those who try to stand in the way of progress will either realise that it is neither in their personal interests nor the nation’s to continue their obstructionist tendencies, or they will be swept aside by the overwhelming momentum being generated as we move forward as a nation.

This does not mean that the success of this new Government is guaranteed. Today Zimbabwe stands at a critical juncture that requires the MDC to stay true to the ideals upon which it was founded. It requires Zanu (PF) to embrace the commitments of this new agreement and it requires all of its citizens to stand up for their rights as enshrined in the new political agreement. This is also the time for the West to stand by the people of Zimbabwe as they move towards the goal of freedom and prosperity.

I can think of no contemporary example of a people who have stood by their belief in democracy more determinedly, peacefully or bravely than Zimbabweans. Despite a decade of persecution and violent provocation, Zimbabweans have refused to compromise their democratic ideals or their belief in a future of dignity, prosperity and hope by lashing out at their opponents in anger or despair. As Prime Minister and the leader of the largest political party in Zimbabwe, I am immensely proud of my nation and its peoples.

Zimbabweans should not have to pay a further price for their determination to stand by their democratic ideals because the new Government does not meet or match the “clean slate” or “total victory” standards expected by the West. As stated earlier, this new Government is not perfect, but it does represent all Zimbabweans – it is positive, it is peaceful, it is committed to a new constitution and free and fair elections and, with international support, it will succeed.

As Prime Minister, I am responsible for ensuring the formulation of policy by the Cabinet and its implementation by the entire Government. It is my responsibility to ensure that the commitments that this new Government has made to restoring the rule of law, instituting a democratising legislative agenda, ending persecution and freeing the media are implemented in the shortest possible time. In this, the new Government is only now beginning to realise the muscle that it has and to flex that muscle.

The West has been, and continues to be, the most generous provider of humanitarian support, of which all Zimbabweans are aware and grateful for. As a proud nation, we look forward to the day when we can develop our relationship with the West beyond merely being a beneficiary of emergency aid. We want to become a true economic partner and an investment opportunity for those who respect the true value of our natural resources and our sovereignty over them.

Indeed, as the leaders of the G20 meet in London to consider measures to deal with the economic challenges facing their countries, I encourage them to view Zimbabwe and other partners in Africa as investment opportunities with the potential to stimulate their own economic growth.

As Prime Minister, I ask you to work with me and the people of Zimbabwe and to engage with the efforts of our new transitional Government. I ask you to share our vision for our great country, to work with us to rebuild our nation and to walk with us on this promising phase of our journey to a true and lasting democracy for Zimbabwe.

Morgan Tsvangirai is Prime Minister of Zimbabwe (The Times – UK)