ZIMBABWE – MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has warned foreign diplomats in Harare not to be swayed by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent overtures to the West, insisting the Zanu PF politician remains an unrepentant hardliner.
In a Friday address to journalists in Harare, Tsvangirai also threatened to sue Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere for meddling in the affairs of MDC-T run authorities.
But first in the line of fire was Mnangagwa whom he savaged for recent comments the country’s elections were a no-go area for United Nations observers.
“This is a position which has been taken by the executive but ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) is supposed to be an independent body,” Tsvangirai said.
“The critical question is, what is ZEC going to do to protect its integrity and its independence against executive interference in the running of elections.
“Where does this put ZEC’s independence in terms of its credibility?”
Mnangagwa, appointed co-VP during a turbulent December 2014 Zanu PF congress, has widely been thought to be President Robert Mugabe’s choice of successor although renewed squabbles within the ruling party look set to ruin his ambitions.
Soon after becoming VP, Mnangagwa lost no time in charming the hostile West, mooting a possible policy shift towards reengagement.
His charm offensive, although in sharp contrast with President Mugabe’s pro-east and anti-west stance, impressed many, including diplomats.
The vice president is seen as the best of a bad lot by the West and recently European Union diplomats as the cash-strapped government seeks financial aid.
“We are engaging with the EU, and last week Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa met their country representative here, as part of that re-engagement process,” Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in an interview Tuesday, declining to provide more details.
“We believe that by June this year, we will have fulfilled our obligations and hopefully be eligible for fresh funding.”
But Tsvangirai on Friday felt the anti-UN observers stance by Mnangagwa showed he had not changed.
“Mnangagwa’s statements confirm that he is a hardliner; that he has always been and not the reformist or pragmatist that some in the diplomatic community had begun to think he is,” said the former Prime Minister.
“I was with one of the ambassadors and he was talking about Mnangagwa being a pragmatist,” Tsvangirai said.
“I said pragmatist as far as other issues are concerned but a hardliner as far as governance and democracy are concerned.”
The MDC-T leader also took time to voice his frustrations against Kasukuwere’s iron fisted handling of local authority affairs which last year saw him summarily suspend Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and a handful of his councillors for alleged corruption.
“…You have a minister of Local Government who is the political commissar of Zanu PF who is interfering with the independence as is the law by the Constitution that the councils shall run local authorities without interference,” he said.
He accused Kasukuwere of failure to observe a subsequent court ruling reinstating the suspended councillors.
“Where is this man’s power or legal authority going to end, we can only suspect that the whole intention is to use his political commissariat work to undermine the independence of local authorities
“We will continue to challenge him even if means taking him to the Constitutional Court and I think we have a very strong case that this minister is acting outside the law.”