‘We Are Past the History of Acrimony and Polarisation’ – Prime Minister's Interview

Tsvangirai spoke to IPS in Johannesburg on May 8; excerpts of the interview.

IPS: What progress has the unity government made so far?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Our assessment of the progress of the unity government is that it is a positive development. We are very satisfied with the performance of this government.

There have been some incremental gains that we have scored. We have opened up schools, we have opened up hospitals. We have reduced inflation to almost three percent. We have stocked shops with plenty of food and goods available in the shops.

So Zimbabweans see this as a positive step and they are cautiously optimistic.

IPS: What challenges are there now besides what you have achieved?

MT: The challenges are many. Mostly economic but there are also political challenges. You know that we still have outstanding issues which we have been discussing, and on which we are making slow progress but [which] sometimes act as a damper to the confidence of the people because they see this as a reluctance of some of the co-signatories to implement the Global Political Agreement. And that affects the confidence of people.

But I think that on the economy, it is big challenge to get the liquidity necessary, support in the balance of payment, support in the lines of credit of our businesses to start working again.

IPS: Talking about the constitution, we still have some very bad laws like the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which prevents journalists from operating without first seeking accreditation from the Media and Information Commission (MIC). Are we likely to see some reforms very soon in that regard?

MT: Absolutely. This weekend [May 8] there is an all-stakeholder’s conference on media reforms in the country and I am sure that one of the [expected] legislative reforms as far as freeing up the media is the AIPPA, to ensure that we create the media environment that will allow for media to operate without any restriction. It’s part of the Global Political Agreement.

Once the conference is concluded, a commission is going to be set up next week or a week after to look at how to open up radio stations and other voices in the media to be heard. And I think that is a very positive step.

IPS: Presently there are some differences of opinion between your government and some NGOs like the National Constitutional Assembly, in terms of how the constitutional process should go forward. What is your view?

MT: There no disagreement about the need for a people-driven process. But you must understand this constitutional process is born out of the agreement between the political parties.

One of the issues that has been a subject of contestation is that the parliamentary select committee which will be in charge of running with the constitutional process is an inadequate instrument of ensuring broader participation.

But we have never argued about broader participation of the civic society and anyone. We don’t want to exclude anyone. So there is no basis that the process that we are embarking on constitutional reforms is anything other than a people driven process.

No one is going to impose a view about what constitution will come out Zimbabwe other than the people of Zimbabwe.

IPS: Prime Minster, you have called for farm seizures to stop with immediate effect and you have instructed the police to act against whoever is continuing the seizures. But it seems your directive is falling on deaf ears why?

MT: Yes, I am sure that you must understand that we have always budgeted for some resistance and these are signs of forces that do not want to see this inclusive government progress. And therefore it’s something that will manage.

It’s a question of managing these forces, managing these elements – few in number. But they cannot stop the process of the inclusive government. It’s irreversible.

IPS: In your own view who do you think is behind the land seizures?

MT: Well, they are not many; I mean we have asked the Minster of Land to do a national assessment. You will note that these incidents may happen here and there but its not a national thing.

So we have asked for a national assessment, once that national assessment has been done, we do a land audit. And once that land audit is in place, we do a land commission which will then be responsible for rationalising the land reform programme.

But we will make progress on the land reform.

IPS: We also hear the armed service chiefs are still reluctant to salute you.

MT: To me, this is not an issue. I can’t spend my time preoccupied about salutes when people have no food and hospitals are not working, schools are not working. I think there are much greater issues at stake now to be concerned about whether an individual likes me or not.

But institutionally, I must emphasise the fact that what I know is that as part of the executive, the armed forces are loyal to the constitution and are loyal to the civilian authority. That’s what I know.

IPS: Your party named Roy Bennett to the post of deputy minister for agriculture, but he was arrested on treason charges shortly before he should have been sworn in. This situation has dragged on and on. When will he be sworn in?

MT: Well, he will be sworn in very shortly. There is an agreement that it’s not a personal issue. He faces charges, but as the argument goes, a man is not convicted until he is found guilty.

So we don’t want to convict Roy Bennett just because charges has been laid against him. He has not been found guilty and therefore must be appointed. And no one appoints Roy Bennett other than myself because I have the sole responsibility of appointing those that save in government, from our side.

So it cannot be a refusal of anyone to put a restriction or a veto over the appointment of Roy Bennett.

IPS: Everybody expected the issues around the appointment of provincial governors, ambassadors to be taken care of very quickly but you are still delaying. Are we likely to see the appointments soon?

MT: This is a marriage, my dear. This is a marriage. In marriage there are ups and downs and it’s how you manage your conflicts, how you manage your disagreements.

I can assure you that very shortly we will be making an announcement, because we have been talking about how to complete these so-called outstanding issues and very shortly we will make an announcement on what progress we have made – or lack of it – on these outstanding issues. And you wait until that announcement is made.

IPS: Finally, how would you describe your relationship between you, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara?

MT: Well, our relationship is a workable one. We have very productive discussions. Where we have problems we sit down and try to iron them out.

We may not necessarily agree, but certainly there is room for engagement, for disagreeing, for discussing, for dialogue.

To me that is the most productive relationship in terms of ensuring that this coalition works and works for the people of Zimbabwe. You know the history of acrimony and polarisation: we are past that.