Tsvangirai letter blots Mbeki's role

Published Jun 2, 2008


By Deon de Lange

Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai has accused President Thabo Mbeki of secretly conniving to keep President Robert Mugabe in power.

The Movement for Democratic Change leader has consequently called on Mbeki to step down as mediator in the political conflict that has all but paralysed the country.

In a letter to Mbeki, dated May 13, Tsvangirai explained that while his party welcomed the Southern African Development Community's mediation initiative, it was Mbeki's own involvement to which the party "takes exception".

The letter lists a number of reasons why the MDC has lost faith in Mbeki as an impartial mediator and explains why the party has decided to pull the plug on his mediation effort.

These include accusations that Mbeki blocked United Nations Security Council discussions on Zimbabwe; that he suppressed a damning report on the flawed 2002 election; that he breached the principles of mediation by refusing to step aside despite one of the parties to the mediation having lost faith in his impartiality; and that he assisted the Mugabe government to obtain "weapons of repression" during the recent election in that country.

This is not the first time that Tsvangirai has expressed reservation about Mbeki's mediation role, but it is the first time that he has catalogued his grievances and unequivocally accused Mbeki of underhandedness. He criticised Mbeki for "publicly endorsing" the position of one side to the mediation - Mugabe - while undermining the MDC's efforts to appeal to the Security Council to "stop the carnage".

"It was you, the so-called 'neutral' mediator, who blocked a possible road to resolution of the crisis," Tsvangirai said.

It recently came to light that Mbeki suppressed a report by judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke that found the 2002 election to have been significantly flawed.

"If it is true that you both suppressed and ignored the detailed 2002 election report... then you certainly must stand down with immediate effect... Given the gravity of this allegation, I believe it is your responsibility to immediately and publicly explain to the Zimbabwean people any perceived complicity in perpetuating Mr Mugabe's rule in 2002," the letter tells Mbeki.

The MDC leader also makes the extraordinary claim that Mbeki is at least partly to blame for the fact that the MDC split into two factions in 2005.

He accuses Mbeki of precipitating the "misunderstandings that later led to a split" in the party by meeting secretly with members of the MDC's executive behind Tsvangirai's back.

"I urge in the future if there is any matter that requires my attention, that you please communicate with me directly, unless it has been otherwise arranged in writing," he says.

The now infamous footage of Mbeki and Mugabe smiling and holding hands in Harare - and the South African president's assertion that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe - appears to have been the last straw.

And in a scathing backhand, Tsvangirai points out that when Mbeki started mediating in the situation, Zimbabwe still had a functioning economy, millions of its citizens had not yet fled to other countries and tens of thousands had not yet died from impoverishment and disease.

"In fact, since the 29 March election, Zimbabwe has plunged into horrendous violence while you have been mediating. With respect, if we continue like this, there will be no country left."

Presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga on Sunday denied any knowledge of the letter, despite assurances from the MDC that they were in possession of an acknowledgement of receipt by the presidency.

"No such letter was sent. I have no knowledge of such correspondence," Ratshitanga said.

Leaving no doubt about the animosity that now exists between Mbeki and Tsvangirai, the latter concludes with this appeal: "While you may not have respect for me, I can only ask you to respect the position that I hold, which position and responsibility has been endorsed by the majority of Zimbabweans who voted for me."

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