"Not helpful to get on the bandwagon about Gono" – Tsvangirai

Johannesburg – Zimbabwe’s prime minister has moved to defuse a looming crisis inside the country’s transitional government by denying that President Robert Mugabe has been set a deadline to meet demands from the Movement for Democratic Change, the former opposition party now in government.\r\n

“We had to express ourselves with the frustration with resolving some of the outstanding issues [including Zanu PF’s control of the central bank and the continued detention of MDC political prisoners] but there is no deadline,” Morgan Tsvangirai told the Financial Times 

Mr Tsvangirai said the MDC, which agreed to form a coalition government with Mr Mugabe in February, was still pressing for the appointments of Zanu-PF veterans as the governor of the central bank and the attorney general to be overturned but was confident of making progress. 

The central bank governor, Gideon Gono, presided over hyperinflation until Zimbabwe’s currency collapsed in November. International donors see his continuing presence in the government as a major obstacle that prevents them extending economic aid to Zimbabwe. 

“We are dealing with this,” said Mr Tsvangirai. “It is not helpful to get on the bandwagon about Gideon Gono but his appointment [and that of the attorney general] were flaws of due process.

“Who would want to put money in a bank where officials were saying ‘I will raid people’s accounts when I want,’?” he said. ”That doesn’t give credibility. Behind the scenes a lot of work is being done to ensure we have a credible reserve bank.” 

Mr Tsvangirai said that since government’s projected revenues were way below expenditures, budgetary support was “essential”. As for a campaign to raise credit lines and balance of payments “a billion US dollars would do us good this year”. 

The transitional government has been dogged by disputes ever since its formation, with Zanu-PF loyalists – the party of Mr Mugabe – using their control of state institutions to press ahead with takeovers of land owned by white farmers, hold more than a dozen MDC activists prisoner and block the appointment of the MDC’s deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett. 

Last week Tendai Biti, the finance minister, said that these and other issues had to be resolved by Monday. The formerly opposition party won the first round of elections last year before withdrawing from a second round after extensive violence against its supporters. Its national council is due to meet next Saturday. 

Mr Tsvangirai, however, said that 95 per cent of the disputed issues had been resolved and that only opposition from hard-line elements within Zanu-PF was holding up a more complete agreement. He said Mr Mugabe wanted to see the unity government succeed. “We don’t want to give any succour to those remaining forces that are resisting this process.”

Mr Tsvangirai, who like Mr Mugabe was in Johannesburg to attend the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma on Saturday, denied that the MDC was simply legitimising Mr Mugabe’s continued tenure in power.

“We work with an objective of moving away from the crisis and reaching the stage where we can have a free and fair election. My leverage over Mugabe is that there is no other option. Mugabe can’t go out and say I am going it alone. He can’t do it.” 

Mr Tsvangirai said that the transitional government had achieved a number of advances in its first few months in office. Inflation has been eliminated; civil servants were being paid an allowance and schools and hospitals had been reopened. “I can stand up and say there are achievements.” 

He also said that Zimbabwe could take an important step towards lifting restrictions on local  and international media in the next few days. This article was originally published in the Financial Times