Time Interviews Tsvangirai

By Jesse Taylor
Sunday, June 15, 2008 23:58 EDT
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Time Magazine interviewed Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday:

What do you say to those who are calling for this runoff to be scrapped, claiming that there’s no way the election can be free and fair, and urging you to form a joint government with Mugabe?

This is democracy on trial. Do people want democratic change, or do they just want accommodation of a loser? Why did we go into the election if that was the case? We could easily — before the election — have negotiated a government of national unity without having had to subject people to this violence. Now my view is that there is no basis that the runoff should be scrapped, because no one has got the legal constitutional power to scrap it. The conditions are not free and fair; in fact, the conditions are so hostile for the opposition that talk of an election under these circumstances is ridiculous. So I think that what is important is to go ahead with the runoff, see what the international observers can do to mitigate against some of the extreme cases and just get down to resolve the issue. Perhaps that will be the way of resolving the issue.

This is the fundamental issue at work in Zimbabwe – is Tsvangirai a perfect leader? No. But he is an alternative to Mugabe seeking legitimate power in a legitimate manner. Capitulation to a joint government, even if it doesn’t legitimize Mugabe per se, still allows for Mugabe to justify force as a method of democratic participation and provides an obvious public relations selling point for him – these beasts knocked at our great foundation, and Mugabe tamed them.

After the first round of elections in March, you told TIME that the country was entering a new phase, which was about the transfer of power and easing Mugabe out of office. Do you still see it like that? How has the post-election violence changed the game?

It still remains the focus. It is the transfer of power. It’s a contest for power now; it’s no longer about voting in terms of what percentages, et cetera. It still remains, How do we transfer power from a man who believes he has got the divine right to rule forever and who does not respect the will of the people, because the will of the people was expressed clearly on March 29, and it will be reaffirmed again on the 27th of June. But still the remaining question is, Will he concede? Will he accept a smooth transition? That still remains a vexing question.

The issue here, of course, being the response of surrounding nations. If the community at large treats the MDC as the legitimate leaders of the country following an election victory (or at the very least casts doubt on Mugabe’s far more likely rigged results), Mugabe’s transition becomes an issue of accepting the will of the world at large. If the results are regarded as a dispute between rival factions, Mugabe will still lead the largest and most powerful faction in the country, and retain military control over a failing state.

Go ahead and read the rest.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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