MDC Statement on Morgan Tsvangirai's Passport Application

The MDC wishes to make it clear that while there is no valid legal or logistical reason why President Tsvangirai should not be issued with a new passport, the significance of this issue is far greater than the travel document in question.\r\n

For purposes of clarification, and for the avoidance of doubt, President Tsvangirai neither refused nor boycotted the meeting in Swaziland. It is Zanu PF, which stopped the President from attending this meeting. Zanu PF’s behaviour is an affront to African institutions and processes.

The failure by the Zanu PF-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs to issue a passport to President Tsvangirai is a stark illustration of the lack of trust and goodwill exhibited by Zanu PF towards the MDC and towards the political agreement the main Zimbabwean parties are meant to be implementing.

The insistence by Zanu PF on issuing President Tsvangirai temporary travel documents limiting the countries to which he can travel puts the entire political agreement in jeopardy. It showcases Zanu PF’s lack of sincerity in implementing the political agreement signed by the three political principals on 15 September 2008.

While every Zimbabwean is entitled to a passport under the country’s constitution, President Tsvangirai, having the mandate of the majority of Zimbabweans, should be issued with such a document in order that he can represent the people of Zimbabwe regionally and internationally.

Several political events on the ground serve to illustrate Zanu PF’s lack of genuineness and commitment to the political settlement. These include the unilateral appointment of provincial governors, the convening of Parliament without consent of the MDC, the unilateral allocation of key ministries to Zanu PF, the swearing-in of the two Vice Presidents, the continued use of hate speech and hate language by the public media. It also includes the politicization of food aid and the deployment of soldiers in preparation of by-elections even though the political settlement has frozen all by-elections in the interim.

The history of President Tsvangirai’s application for a new passport just goes to show the condescending and petty-minded attitude of Zanu PF towards the MDC, with which it is meant to be forging a new political reality, and the individual who is now the Prime Minister designate.

President Tsvangirai’s previous passport was full and no longer valid for travel and thus he applied for a new passport in June 2008.

Many other Zimbabweans have applied and have already been granted passports since the date of President Tsvangirai’s application.

After months of waiting for his new passport, President Tsvangirai took his case to the High Court and then the Supreme Court, where he was told that the matter was not an urgent one.

In the meantime, if he wants to travel, despite being the leader of the largest party in parliament and the Prime Minister designate, President Tsvangirai has to apply for a temporary travel document on a case by case basis. This is despite the fact that the MDC has learnt that his passport was ready weeks ago and is awaiting authorization from President Mugabe
before it will be released. Indeed, in a democracy, as Prime Minister designate, President Tsvangirai would have been issued with a diplomatic passport as a matter of protocol.

This does not bode well for the implementation of the political agreement that is under negotiation. If the two parties cannot learn to trust one another, then working together for the betterment of the Zimbabwean people may prove impossible. Indeed, if Zanu PF cannot trust President Tsvangirai with his own passport in his pocket, how can it be expected to work with him as the Head of Government of Zimbabwe?

While the MDC thanks the SADC and the African Union for continuing to focus on the Zimbabwe crisis and for rescheduling their meeting from yesterday in Swaziland to next week in Harare, this may be in vain if Zanu PF continues to display such a blatant lack of trust. The failure to issue a new passport to President Tsvangirai prior to next week’s meeting will be taken as an indication that Zanu PF is not willing to proceed in the spirit of the agreement and therefore, the attendance of President Tsvangirai at next week’s meeting will serve only to present a false impression of the relationship between Zanu PF and the two MDCs.

Meaningful negotiations cannot proceed while Zanu PF continues to hold Mr Tsvangirai hostage and prisoner in his own country.  President Tsvangirai, like any other Zimbabwean, is a prisoner in his own country. As the saying goes, "Prisoners don’t negotiate."

Hon Nelson Chamisa, MP
Secretary for Information and Publicity