Tsvangirai blasts Makoni at press conference in South Africa

By Tererai Karimakwenda
13 February, 2008

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai was in South Africa Wednesday where he addressed international correspondents about recent events regarding the March 29th elections. Tsvangirai revealed that on February 23rd the MDC would unveil their election manifesto and the party’s plans to reverse Zimbabwe’s decline, which he said was a product of ZANU PF misrule in the last thirty years.

Journalist and writer Geoff Hill, who is also the deputy chairperson of the Foreign Press Association in South Africa, said the main theme of Tsvangirai’s speech was the emergence of Simba Makoni as a presidential candidate. The MDC leader welcomed Makoni to the ranks of the opposition and reminded him that opposition leaders in Zimbabwe face arrest, beatings, tear gas and treason trials.

Hill said Tsvangirai then hit hard at Makoni, saying that the former finance minister had taken too long to finally speak out about the situation in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai accused Makoni of saying nothing during Operation Murambatsvina, when the government destroyed homes and businesses, displacing nearly a million people.

He also said Makoni watched while people were tortured, teargassed and opposition members were beaten. “Makoni knows this, he’s seen it from the safety of the ZANU-PF Politburo. He may soon experience it first hand”, said Tsvangirai.

Hill agrees that Makoni may have to answer for his silence quite soon, but he also believes he could do damage to Tsvangirai and Mugabe in the presidential poll. Hill admitted that Makoni’s problem is that he has no political party with structures in place.

In his speech, Tsvangirai dismissed comments made by Thabo Mbeki during his state of the nation address last Friday, that the MDC and ZANU-PF had managed to resolve their major differences over a framework for next month’s elections. He said: “Changes in the law, negotiated by President Mbeki, have not changed the behaviour of the dictatorship. Democratic political campaigns are not permitted in Zimbabwe.” Giving a recent example, Tsvangirai told the gathered press that this past weekend an MDC rally was broken up by armed riot police in the town of Kadoma.

Robert Mugabe’s birthday falls on February 21st this year. Hill said there are plans to celebrate it two days later on Saturday, February 23rd. This is the same day on which Tsvangirai said the MDC would unveil their election manifesto. Hill laughed at the irony of this situation, but he believes the MDC manifesto will be received with much more enthusiasm.



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