Guardian Africa Network
Guardian Africa Network

Tsvangirai: Zimbabwe still needs Mugabe

By Leo Cendrowicz

Morgan Tsvangirai is a man under pressure. Ahead of next year’s elections the Zimbabwean prime minister is trying to deliver a new constitution, revive a troubled economy and manage a difficult relationship with the country’s president, Robert Mugabe.

Yet one of Tsvangirai’s main concerns right now is keeping his love life from the headlines amid accusations of serial dating, illegitimate children and bigamy.

Three weeks ago Tsvangirai, 60, was forced to cancel his high-profile wedding because a judge ruled he was customarily married to another woman. Tsvangirai, 60, and Elizabeth Macheka, 35, went ahead with a lavish ceremony but did not sign the legal marriage register after a judge warned that it could lead to bigamy charges from his 12-day marriage last year to Locardia Karimatsenga, 39.

Speaking to the Guardian in his Harare residence, Tsvangirai said he had been the victim of a smear campaign. “I had two or three relationships and that was blown out of proportion,” he said. “If two consenting adults have a relationship what is wrong with that? I didn’t go and rape somebody. I didn’t go and take somebody’s wife.”

He said the media frenzy over his private life since his wife’s death in a car accident in 2009 had been fed by his political enemies. “They knew they could not pin me down on anything so they had to find something that they could point to as if they were angels. Some of these people who are writing about my so-called sexual scandals have a string of girlfriends, a string of wives and children. We fell apart, as human beings fall apart in relationships. It is natural. But to call it a scandal is a bit exaggerated.”

Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), heads a coalition government in an uneasy alliance with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. Despite the bitter rivalry between the two, Tsvangirai said Mugabe was still needed to help Zimbabwe transform into a functioning democracy. “Mugabe is part of the solution because of his grip on the party and the institutions of the state,” Tsvangirai said. “For the sake of his legacy and the sake of the future stability I hope that he behaves in a manner which observes the constitution.”

He said, perhaps hopefully, that Mugabe’s 88 years were catching up with him and he was contemplating retirement. “With his age he’s frail,” he said. “To tell you honestly Mugabe is not in a fighting mood to retain power. I think he has long given up that. He knows that time and tide has gone beyond him.”

Tsvangirai would not confirm reports that Mugabe often falls asleep during cabinet meetings but he admitted that the president, whose eyesight is fading, now only receives verbal briefing on key issues. “I don’t think he has that staying power to study, read and develop,” he said. “That time is gone.”

In 2008 Tsvangirai – leading in the presidential poll – pulled out in the face of brutal violence against his supporters. Tsvangirai himself was almost killed in 1997 when Zanu-PF henchmen tried to throw him out of a tenth floor window. But he insists he holds no rancour towards Mugabe. “He nearly killed me but what’s the use?” he said. “The way I was beaten and left for dead, I will never recover that, even if I were to beat him to the same extent. We learn a lot from reconciliation.”

“We have gone through an evolving relationship from very polarised positions – even you might say a love-hate relationship – because at some point we both realised we needed each other to resolve the critical national crisis we were facing.”

Asked about Mugabe’s legacy, he said it would be a “mixed fortune”: “from a hero to a villain and back again to someone who has managed a transition”.

If Mugabe is losing his grip on power at home, the tide is also turning among Zimbabwe’s neighbours. “He is now a liability to the region. And therefore they are asking if supporting Mugabe is really in the best interests of the region,” Tsvangirai said.

Zimbabwe has been subject to international sanctions for the past decade but the European Union says it will suspend most of them once a credible referendum is held on a new constitution – which could be as soon as next month. But Tsvangirai said the sanctions should be lifted already. “They are no longer an instrument of leverage,” Tsvangirai said. “The continuing restrictions are actually stifling any further reform.”

Since Tsvangirai became prime minister in February 2009 much has changed in Zimbabwe. Inflation, measured at 500 trillion percent in 2008, is now under 5%, mainly due to Zimbabwe adopting the American dollar. The economy, which halved in size in the decade to 2009, has grown by more than 7% a year since then – although unemployment is still estimated at 80% and millions are still dependent on food aid. “Leo Cendrowicz, the hyperinflation is gone,” Tsvangirai said, eager to highlight his successes. But he knows that the real test of the country’s progress, and his leadership, will take place next year, when the country goes to the polls.

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    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Almost everyone gave up on Morgan Tsvangirai years ago – EVERYONE tried to help him, but he is his own worst enemy.

    • MrK

      The problem is not Morgan Tsvangirai, the problem is that the entire onslaught against Zimbabwe is based on a truth that cannot be spoken, lest people understand that they are being told a bundle of lies.

      World Record Hyperinflation

      As much as they love (and they do) blame hyperinflation in Zimbabwe on land reform, they cannot show a single instance in economic or world history where land reform caused world record hyperinflation. Please go back as many thousands of years for an example if you wish.

      World record hyperinflation is a financial phenomenon, that always has a financial causes. The cause of hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic were the conditions of the Versailles Treaty, which forced Germany to pay to France almost as much as it had caused to fight WWI. Yes, the pre-requisites were set in the policies leading up to WWI and the fighting of WWI (getting off the gold standard in 1914, flooding the economy with Gold Marks), but it didn’t actually turn into hyperinflation until it became clear that because of the terms of surrender, Germany would be paying much of it’s production to France for decades to come.

    • MrK

      (Continued…) The same in Zimbabwe. Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe did not break out during the so-called farm invasions of 1999/2000. It broke out in 2002, when the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 came into force, from Jan. 1st 2002 onwards. ZDERA froze the lines of credit of the Zimbabwean government (Section 4C) at the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank, African Development Fund, Asian Development Bank, and several other banks listed in ZDERA (Section 3).

      This led to an absence of credit for the Zimbabwean governent, which turned up the printing press to compensate.

      Economic sanctions caused hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, sanctions drawn up by the (Rhodesian Front) members of the MDC for maximum damage.

      And this is the truth they cannot sell the Zimbabwean people. That the MDC is responsible for the destruction of their savings, and the loss of life that followed that act.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Morgan is an indecisive Waffler, incapable of making a decision and sticking to it. He will decide one thing today on the advice of X, and another tomorrow on the advice of Y.

      It is normal for a man to date a number of women before he chooses a wife, but that is ALL he seems to have been doing!

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      I have read about the fustrations of people who have tried to help Morgan, including George Soros.

      And I have spoken to one of them, who confirmed what has been written in spades!

    • Mandungula


      One cannot be in a position to utilize aline of credit without a means of servicing the debt facility. Without a viable revenue base that the Government could tax they turned to the printing press and thus precipitated the march towards the hyperinflation we experienced.

    • MLH

      Were I Zimbabwean, I’d still prefer him to Mugabe, thanks.

    • MrK


      ” Mrk Without a viable revenue base that the Government could tax they turned to the printing press ”

      This is simply incorrect. The trade surplus or for that matter tobacco exports did not collapse in the years of the farm invasions.

      In fact, from 2000 to 2001, both the trade surplus and tobacco exports grew. So there was no case of falling revenues before the introduction of ZDERA.

      *************** 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 exp
      Tobacco (US$ m) 548.8 594.1 434.6 321.3 226.7 203.8 206.9 up
      Trade Deficit -295.6 -322.5 18.2 108.3 305.2 387.9 231.3 200b

      Table 1: Zimbabwe – Key economic indicators, 2000–2007

      Notice that from 2000 to 2001, tobacco exports were up, and only fell in 2002. Jan. 1st 2002 is the year the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 came into force.

      Also notice the same happening with the trade deficit.

    • Sebi

      The low inflation, the economic growth and the food in the shops in Zimbabwe has got nothing to do with Tsvangirai and the MDC Party, it has got everything to do with the introduction of the US dollar as the official currency in Zimbabwe and this happened before Tsvangirai became Prime Minister. Zimbabwe started using the US dollar as early as October 2008 although they made the official announcement in January 2009, and Tsvangirai became Prime Minister on the 11th of February 2009. It is very wrong for Tsvangirai to lie, claiming credit for the introduction of the US dollar in Zimbabwe when he had nothing to do with that, it shows just how unethical and unprofessional he is. It’s a pity that he is going to use that lie to lure those voters who have a short memory to vote for him. The truth of the matter is that he has failed to deliver what Zimbabweans expected him to deliver when he became Prime Minister. Zimbabwe is still suffering from water shortages, electricity cuts, very poor service delivery in the state hospitals, poor road infrastructure and most state institutions and proceeds from the Marange diamond mines which should be used to benefit the whole country are still being used to enrich the pockets of politicians.

    • David

      @ Sebi. “… it shows just how unethical and unprofessional he is.”. He’s the unethical one? Wow, OK! That’s interesting. Why not look at the reason for the introduction of the USD. Why not look at the reasons for the water shortages, electricity cuts, poor road infrastructure, etc. And then ask, how is it that Grace can fly all over the world to do shopping and the like.

    • Sebi

      @David i am not saying Zanu PF is any better, I was not comparing the two parties at all, was only stating the lie of claiming credit for the low inflation, the economic growth and the food in the shops, when credit for that should go solely to the introduction of the US dollar as the currency used in Zimbabwe.

    • Sebi

      @David it is common knowledge that Gono’s economic policies caused inflation in Zimbabwe and that Mugabe and his ministers mismanaged the country and the result of that was water shortages, electricity cuts, poor road infrastructure, etc. My point is when the MDC agreed to enter into a coalition government with Mugabe we supported that move because we thought that if they became part of the government they would make sure that they solve all those problems. Three years down the line, they still haven’t solved those problems and i don’t know why they haven’t solved those issues. If you know why please tell me. In fact if you know of any achievements they did for the country for the past 3 years that they have been part of the coalition government let me know.

    • sgubhusenkwishi

      You cannot keep on betting for a loosing horse in a race, that would affect your finances badly and cost you a heart ache, at the same time dont forget that the same horse deserve a chance to graze to survive, it is not all about you and your hopes pinned on the horse to win a race. Give Morgan a chance to explore on women , it has been a long day for him fighting a loosing battle, kwa kwa kwa kwa!

    • The Creator

      I lost patience with Tsvangirai when he became boss of the MDC and immediately began promoting the neoliberal drivel about privatisation and spending cuts that he’d been devoting the previous five years to opposing when he was a trade union boss.

      He’s a hypocrite and an opportunist — and he knows darn well (as do his handlers) that the geriatric Mafia is still going to win the next Zimbabwean elections. And will deserve to, sadly enough.

    • ntozakhona

      Zimbabwe has proved the colonials wrong and South Africa has been vindicated in insisting that the Zimbabweans should be allowed to find own solutions to own problems.

      South African companies are now investing in Zimbabwe as if it is a newly discovered paradise despite its indigenisation policy. Economic emancipation is the only viable guarantor of stability in Southern Africa.

    • Mr. Direct


      Don’t kid yourself. Zimbabwe is a failed state.

      The colonials don’t care one bit what is happening there, other than concern over the deepening humanitarian crisis. The sanctions imposed on Mr. Mugabe do not hurt the colonials one single bit either.

      Face facts, the monster that was colonialism was kicked out of Zimbabwe long ago. The inept Mr. Mugabe has run a perfectly good country into the ground, but surprisingly managed to come out of that a very rich man. Looks like a model the South African Government should really try emulate.

      Start saving US Dollars now, you are going to need them….

    • MrK

      ” Face facts, the monster that was colonialism was kicked out of Zimbabwe long ago. The inept Mr. Mugabe has run a perfectly good country into the ground, but surprisingly managed to come out of that a very rich man. Looks like a model the South African Government should really try emulate. ”

      You just contradicted yourself. How did the ‘the monster that was colonialism’ create ‘a perfectly good country’.

      The problem with rhodies is that they can’t look beyond their own narrow self interest.

      If Rhodesia was heaven, it was a Whites Only heaven, in a country that was 95% Black. You see, if you were deported to one of the low rainfall areas, Rhodesia wasn’t so heavenly. 5% of the population owned 43% of the country, which much of the rest designated as nature reserves of various kinds.

      President Mugabe did not inherent heaven on earth. He spent a decade of his life in Smithy’s prisons. When after 15 years and 50,000 dead, technically Britain finally handed over the political reigns of power, the ZANU-PF inherited an economy that was completely focused on meeting the needs of 5% (now 1%) of the population, and ignoring any of the needs of 95% of the population. The majority had been forcibly displaced from their fertile fields, and mining was in the hands of Anglo-American De Beers.

      You may think this was ‘wonderful’, but you would be the only person to do so.

    • MrK

      Then, almost immediately, the apartheid government set out to destabilize the country through assassinations and sabotage. To do this, they created a Zimbabwean version of Renamo and UNITA, called Super ZAPU as part of Operation Drama.

      The purpose of Super ZAPU was to assassinate white farmers, blow up roads and bridges, and just generally make the new government look bad. In response to this insurgency, the Gukurahandi affair happened.

      Lastly, again, land reform did not cause world record hyperinflation – it never has in the history of the world and it did not do so in Zimbabwe.

      World record hyperinflation is a financial event, and it had a financial (legislative) cause – and that was the freezing of the Zimbabwean governt and economy out of the world financial system, a system that did not really exist until the neoliberal wave of the 1990s.

      That is why tobacco exports fell in 2002, and why the Zimbabwe Dollar did not crashdive until 2002.