MDC wary of Mugabe deal 'plot'

MDC wary of Mugabe deal 'plot'


Sunday, 17 August 2008 13:29 UK

As Zimbabwe's government and opposition continue to hold power-sharing talks, the BBC's Africa correspondent Orla Guerin reports undercover from inside Zimbabwe - where BBC journalists are banned - on opposition worries at whether promises will be fulfilled.

Many MDC supporters say they have been beaten by pro-Mugabe activists

After months of state-sponsored violence and intimidation, and a sham election run-off, it is easy to see why Zimbabwe's opposition MDC (the Movement for Democratic Change) has a problem with trust.

Many MDC supporters and officials we have spoken to here in Zimbabwe believe that the President Robert Mugabe has no intention of ceding any real authority to their leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Some fear that a power-sharing formula could be a trap at best, and a political death sentence at worst.

MDC insiders joke grimly that President Mugabe only wants to give Mr Tsvangirai one thing - responsibility for trying to fix Zimbabwe's ruined economy.

"You can never trust Zanu-PF," said MDC councillor Chengerai Mangezuo, who has the trademark of opposition activists - broken limbs. He is in hospital with two broken legs.

"Today they share power, and tomorrow they turn things upside down."

The MDC supporter in the bed opposite him agreed.

"Zanu-PF is not a party you can trust," said Rufaro Chakawarika, who also has two broken legs. "If we look back at what they promised people, they didn't do it. They might agree on some aspects and tomorrow it will never be fulfilled."

Betrayal fears

These two bedridden casualties of the fight for change agree on something else - that Robert Mugabe should face charges.
I would be happy to work very hard for this country as long as there is justice... and those that committed crimes are actually brought to book
Emmanual Chiroto, MDC lawmaker

"I would be happy to see him tried," said Mr Chakawarika, "so that in future he would not send his people to go in the country and attack innocent people. Once he remains in power this is going to happen again and again."

Mr Mengezuo believes that - as long as Zanu-PF holds power - his life is at risk.

"They want to have a by-election, so they will kill me to have it. They will come again, I know they will come again," he says.

These men like other opposition activists we have met say they still want to see an agreement, but only if it puts real power in the hands of Morgan Tsvangirai.

They argue that anything less would be a betrayal of all those killed since Zimbabwe went to the polls. Reliable sources here say the death toll has now reached almost 200.

Victim's story

Abigail Chiroto was one of them - a 26-year-old wife and mother, taken from her home in June, by armed supporters of Zanu-PF.

Mr Tsvangirai says he is prepared to compromise on a deal, but only so far

Her four-year-old son Ashley was abducted with her, and witnessed some of his mother's final anguish.

Ashley is now a solemn, withdrawn child. When we met, he shook my hand silently, then dropped his eyes to the ground.

"Since Ashley's mother was abducted, he doesn't talk much," said his father Emmanual Chiroto, an MDC MP, formerly mayor-elect of Harare.

But sometimes the little boy asks questions for which his father has no answer - like when will he be able to see his mother again.

"He wants to drive to the place where they left her, and make sure she is no longer there", said Mr Chiroto.

The MP wants justice for the church-going woman he calls his "perfect-partner for life".

"She was so nice," he said, "always encouraging me. We never had a quarrel. She can never be replaced."

He says there can be no new beginning for Zimbabwe, and no power-sharing agreement, unless the guilty are punished.

"I would be happy to work very hard for this country," he says "as long as there is justice and the rule of law is respected, and those that committed crimes are actually brought to book. But without that I feel that my wife died for nothing."

'Painful days'

While the opposition wants justice, many of President Mugabe's henchmen want a blanket amnesty. It is understood that his hardline security chiefs are particularly concerned about that.

Many Zimbabweans have been hit hard by the economic crisis

Mr Mugabe's critics say he is simply going through the motions, and trying to repair his image by appearing to be willing to share power.

The opposition maintains that Morgan Tsvangirai knows his foe, and is not going to be fooled by that.

For this weary and broke nation, there is a great deal at stake. Only real change will trigger an international rescue package - Western donors do not plan on lining the regime's pockets.

One newspaper here says these are "painful days, of hoping and waiting".

For many in Zimbabwe it is a hungry wait, but opposition supporters may be hungrier than most.

Government grain supplies - such as they are - do not go to opposition strongholds, and foreign aid organisations have been banned from operating.

"Our people are hungry," one MDC official told me this week.

"The government is doing this deliberately, because when people are hungry, they are pliable."

But hungry or not, many opposition supporters are not ready to swallow an agreement that leaves Robert Mugabe in control here. Better no deal at all, they say, than a bad one.