Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Chaibva bemoans western hand in opposition puppet politics.

‘Opposition should recognise President’

Herald Reporters

A SENIOR MDC member yesterday said the opposition should unreservedly recognise President Mugabe as the constitutionally-elected Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces if meaningful political dialogue is to be initiated.

Mr Gabriel Chaibva’s comments came as the MDC-T top leadership — Morgan Tsvangirai and his secretary-general Tendai Biti — have issued contradictory statements regarding their party’s position on talks with Zanu-PF.

While Tsvangirai and Biti want the presidential run-off result to be considered null and void, Mr Chaibva said it was time the opposition leadership accepted the reality that President Mugabe is the Head of State.

"Unless Arthur Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai are prepared to approach President Mugabe, shake his hand and say ‘Mr President’, we will not move forward and there can be no talks," said Mr Chaibva.

On his suspension as MDC spokesperson for attending President Mugabe’s inauguration on Sunday, Mr Chaibva said he had no regrets over the suspension because in the long term what he did was the right thing.

"In 2002, we said we would not recognise President Mugabe’s legitimacy and where did that get us? We cannot keep on engaging in actions that do not take the nation forward. It is time to think of the wishes of the people," he said.

He said there was a serious lack of visionary leadership, strategy, clear ideological orientation regarding the land issue and lack of effective organisational capacity.

"We have to be frank with ourselves and admit our failures. But, more importantly, we have to be honest with ourselves and do what is expected of us as leaders.

"Political confrontation and polarisation has not helped and we need to now sit down and move forward," Mr Chaibva said.

Mr Chaibva said the opposition had under-estimated Zanu-PF and overestimated itself hence the continued friction that could lead to its total collapse.

"We risk a complete and total rejection of the people. Let’s be frank, even if the African Union was to come and organise another election you will be surprised to find most people would vote for President Mugabe. So, our politics should be relevant to the people and that is why we have to talk and chart a new way forward," he said.

He urged the opposition leadership not to be foolish because the people would leave them behind as they moved forward saying the people do not vote for change in the context of getting a new president.

"They do it in the context of socio-economic change. And as leaders we must be at the forefront of working for that change. We should forget personal ambitions and put the people first," he said.

Mr Chaibva added that as a senior in the MDC he was aware of foreign influence in opposition politics, which needed to be cast aside to create ground for dialogue.

"Some people will say it is not true but I will tell you it is there and it was quite influential in perpetuating disunity in the opposition.

"When the MDC split, we made it clear that we were for land redistribution. We were nationalist and pan-African.

"But the providers of capital see this as a threat to their permanent economic interests in Zimbabwe. That is why just before the elections the two MDCs failed to unite.

"The Americans and the Germans produced a report telling Tsvangirai that he would win 85 percent of the vote on March 29 and that he didn’t need the support of Mutambara. It’s ironic really that they thought they would get 85 percent."

Mr Chaibva reiterated that Zimbabweans should not lose this opportunity for dialogue and national reconciliation, pointing out that failure to do so could lead to dire consequences for the opposition.

"In 1992, Angola held elections between President Eduardo dos Santos and Jonas Savimbi and it ended in a run-off.

"Savimbi decided to listen to his foreign backers and boycotted the poll and the country descended into chaos that ended in his own death resulting in a weakened Unita going back to the negotiating table in 2002," he explained.

Mr Chaibva, who urged Zimbabweans to be wary of external influences in local politics, said these were dangerous similarities.

He said these examples were encouraging analogies to draw from African history and Zimbabwe’s own history.

"Who would have thought that in 1980 people like Ken Flower (head of CIO under Ian Smith) and General Peter Walls would be incorporated in the administration?"

He said his stance was not meant to have him included in President Mugabe’s next Government but that he was merely doing so for the sake of the country.

Mr Chaibva yesterday attended the burial of former Zimbabwean ambassador to Sudan Cde Lloyd Gundu at Heroes’ Acre in Harare.

There are serious rifts within MDC-T where Tsvangirai is willing to negotiate on set conditions while his secretary-general Biti has dismissed outright prospects for talks. This emerged yesterday after the two issued separate statements.

Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, Tsvangirai said that his party was committed to a negotiated solution to the crisis the country is facing.

"We are not dismissing the question of talks but we are saying it cannot just be dialogue for the sake of dialogue; it has to be principled dialogue to find a solution to the crisis," he said.

Although he dismissed reports that there were talks currently taking place between Zanu-PF and his party, Tsvangirai said:

"Lessons are that at the end of the day, conflicts are resolved through negotiations."

The opposition leader said there was no substitute for sitting down to map the way forward, taking examples from conflicts that had taken place on the African continent. However, in his statement, Biti said the June 27 presidential run-off that was won by President Mugabe had "totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement".

"It is now the firm view of the MDC-T that those who claim they have got a mandate to govern should govern. Chitongai tione,’’ he said.

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