Five questions for Morgan Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe’s elections must be held within a year. Already election manoevering is occurring. Everyone hopes that the violence and mayhem of 2008 will not be repeated. Free and fair elections on a new constitutional basis are essential. Most of the attention has been focused on the political machinations of the major parties, and the alliances, divides and clashes between factions, especially within ZANU-PF. But what about policy? Sadly in the fraught context of Zimbabwean political debate, the substantive, policy issues that should underpin political positions often get lost.

Here are five questions for Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister and leader of the MDC-T grouping in the government. MDC-T won the parliamentary elections in 2008, and Tsvangirai would almost certainly have won the presidential election too had electoral violence and intimidation not been the victor. In the next year, Morgan Tsvangirai hopes to be the next president of Zimbabwe. I wonder what his policy positions are? The MDC-T website is not that revealing, and commentaries from party members are not always consistent. So, if anyone happens to meet Morgan Tsvangirai, here are some questions it would be really interesting to know the answers to.

  1. After your recent visit to China, what do you think China’s role will be in Zimbabwe’s transition before and after the next elections? (The visit was it seems more than the normal trade delegation. High level contacts were made. Is China really preparing for a transition, and will China move beyond its rhetorial position of not interfering in political processes? Does China have too many commerical interests in Zimbabwe now to accept continued chaos? Will China really contemplate dumping its long-term partner since the liberation movement? Of course no-one will be able to answer these questions, but the changing position of China may be more important than the positions of the EU, UK, or US in the coming years).
  2. Is coalition government in Zimbabwe a permanent and necessary feature in order to encourage inclusive, national development? (The GNU cobbled together in the aftermath of the disputed elections of 2008 was a compromise. There is much debate as to whether it was right for the MDC to get involved. They probably had no option. But with Zimbabwe’s politics so divided and divisive, is coaltion government not the most likely outcome of any political contest in the near future? In Europe it’s the norm, and we even have a coalition government in the UK (replete with warring factions). Will the MDC accept a new government of national unity under a new constitutional arrangement after the next elections in order to maintain national unity, or is going it alone and reconfiguring politics forever the only route?)
  3. Given that the MDC has confirmed that the land reform is irreversible, what alternative narrative on land can the MDC offer to counter that of ZANU-PF which will appeal to rural constituencies and is not dominated by white commercial farmer interests? (I have commented before on the policy vacuum in the opposition around land and rural development issues. The MDC’s contribution appears to be led by a very narrow perspective – Roy Bennett and Eddie Cross. Both come from a very particular position and history, and seem unable to grasp the implications of the changes brought about by land reform, frequently harking back to the past and not looking forward to the future (see the latest from Eddie Cross). Yet in important respects, the land reform provides an opportunity for the opposition movements. An emerging ‘middle farmer’ constituency now exisits on some of the thriving A1 and (some) A2 farms. These are not ‘cronies’, beneficiaries of patronage, but people with land wanting to make something of their businesses. They are sceptical of the land grabbing elites, and are potential if not current MDC supporters. But what does the opposition offer to counter the violent, nationalist narrative of ZANU-PF? A return to the assumed hey-day of commercial agriculture, or something different? Where are the opposition intellectuals who can offer an alternative narrative that will appeal to a wider rural consituency? In the longer term the MDC will have to win elections by being more than ‘not ZANU-PF’. It needs a progressive alternative narrative on land that it can articulate as policy).
  4. When should donors like the UK remove ‘restrictive measures’ and other ‘sanctions’, including the block on funding going to resettlement areas? Do these measures do more harm than good in political terms? (This is a long-running discussion on which I have commented before. There appears to be some movement, but as with all complex diplomacy it is slow and painful. Meanwhile people have to live, schools have to be run, and a generation is missing out. Weaning Zimbabwe from aid dependence is a good thing of course, but clearly there are major challenges of investment right now, and even if it is only the diplomatic signalling rather than aid flows per se, this will have a big impact. Meanwhile of course, on a very different basis, the Chinese and others are engaging altering the playing field perhaps for ever).
  5. How will Zimbabwe deal with its debt? Does a HIPC deal make sense, or can Zimbabwe channel mineral revenues effectively to reduce it independently without resuming a reliance on the IMF, and its associated conditionalities? (Again I have commented on this issue before. But dealing with debt is going to be key for any new government. Add in the debts associated with settling the compensation for improvements on the former white commercial farms taken over under fast track land reform (an additional USD1.5-2 billion), the total is not far off $9bn – a massive amount given the capacity of the economy. The trade off between going it alone versus signing up with the IMF is a real one, and will affect the economy and politics for decades, as did the ESAP era of the 1990s).

So if you happen to bump into Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti or others, do pose these questions, and let us know via a comment on the blog what you found out! Or if you have answers to or perspectives on any of the questions above, do feel free to share them.


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2 responses to “Five questions for Morgan Tsvangirai

  1. Needlandtoo

    I am one person who strongly support the land reform but was not eligible to apply because of my age. I am 31 years now and would also still want access to land. Is there any room for continuity in the program so that youths who did not benefit from the land can benefit in the future or have access to buying leases. What is the future because certainly reform should not end here.

    Hi Needlandtoo – You are raising a really critical issue about land reform: what happens when all the land is taken, and what happens to the next generation? Effective reform requires a continuous process of turnover with those eager to take on land being given the opportunity and those unable or unwilling to use the land passing it on. This is difficult to manage but essential for the long term sustainability. This will be a key challenge in the coming years, as 12 years on there are many in your position. See the blog on young people and land reform

  2. Pingback: Greatest hits. Your favourite posts in the past year | zimbabweland

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