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PM Tsvangirai’ Shock Reception at London’s Southwark Cathedral

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Nothing could have prepared me, or, indeed I believe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his entourage, for the shock reception and outright rejection of his message to Zimbabwean exiles living in the United Kingdom. Like the more than 1 000 Zimbabweans who turned up at the Anglican cathedral to listen to the Prime Minister, by 11am l was already at London Bridge, frantically asking for directions to the famous cathedral, not wanting to miss the opportunity to hear Morgan speak. I saw and greeted numerous familiar faces from home, and eagerly joined a group of women who spontaneously broke into song and transformed the meeting into a rally of sorts. Although invitations to the meetings had indicated that the meeting would start promptly at 12, when the clock struck 1 with evidence that Morgan had arrived, no-one complained.

When the Prime Minister arrived people packed in the cathedral jostled to catch a glimpse of Morgan and his team, and to snap away a photo or two on their mobile phones. The Prime Minister was scheduled to address the people and then have a question – and – answer session, all in time for meeting to end at 3pm. However, just ten minutes into his prepared speech, the Prime Minister was forced to abandone his speech and the pulpit due to jeering and booing from the crowd. The shock treatment of he received was triggered by his bold declaration that the unity government had brought “peace and stability” to Zimbabwe in the last four months. He went on to say, “let me state it here boldly that Zimbabweans must come home!”

His call on Zimbabwean exiles to come home was greeted by an uproar and spontaneous chants of “Mugabe Must Go!” To his credit, the Prime Minister attempted some damage control and said, “I did not say pack your bags and come home tomorrow, but I said you must begin to think about coming home.” But the damage had already been done. He further tried to portray the unity government as a success stating matter-of-factly that schools are open, hospitals have re-opened and, again, my favourite, inflation has come down from 500 billion percent to just 3 percent. In the brief question and answer session that, was also aborted, one woman asked the Prime Minister where ordinary people are getting the foreign currency to buy goods that are supposedly now in abundance in Zimbabwe. If the meeting had not degenerated into utter chaos forcing the PM and his team to leave prematurely, I would have wanted to pose this question to the PM: ” What is happening to MDC Director-General Toendepi Shonhe – who is languishing in remand prison?”

After the shock events, together with fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora we immediately subjected the meeting to a post mortem to try and establish why events at Southwark cathedral had been so unfortunate. A colleague blamed the PM Tsvangirai’s advisors and speech writers – ” Morgan was not properly briefed,” he reasoned.” “His team should have warned him that people are unhappy with the unity government and they do not believe that MDC is an equal partner.” Another friend ventured, “Well, what do you expect for refugees, asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers who do not wish to return to Zimbabwe? They do not want to hear anyone telling them to go home.”

For me, a more compelling explanation is one that points to a disconnect between messages by the MDC leadership and reality on the ground. It would appear to me that, if the message delivered by the PM in London is taken to reflect the thinking of the MDC leadership, then they are at serious risk of being completely out of touch with general membership and ordinary people. Perhaps to perfectly illustrate my point that the PM’s message is at odds with ordinary members in the party and views of the general public, the MDC has just published resolutions of an extra-ordinary national executive meeting of 23 June where they recommend that “the continued arrests, detentions and human rights violations be referred to the guarantors (SADC and AU)”.

It may well be true that a power-sharing government is the only game in town which should be supported. However, it does no-one any good to sweep critical issues under the carpet just to present a glossy and bright image of an otherwise white-washed tomb. The MDC may be exactly where ZANU-PF want them, doing public relations for ZANU-PF and in the process alienating traditional allies in civil society and slowly but surely chipping away at their membership base. Meanwhile, dubious convictions of MDC MPs are on the rise and the media remains muzzled.

If MDC dismisses the significance of events at Southwark cathedral believing that, after all, these people do not vote, and that the real masses are back home, then may recall the perfect shed well after the storm. There is no need to embellish and paint a rosy picture of a new Zimbabwe evidence is there for all to see that ZANU-PF is still up to its shenanigans.

4 comments to “PM Tsvangirai’ Shock Reception at London’s Southwark Cathedral”

  1. Comment by mai tindo:

    iwe ndiwe urikutaura kwazvo. The problem with zims is they dont want people who say the truth may be its because of our back ground taingoti zvese zvataurwa nyangwe nachinotimba ndizvo. may be we are desparate for change and tsvangirai knows that so he thinks he can play around with people. DONT SWEEP DIRT UNDER THE CARPET zvinonhuwira iwe.

  2. Comment by Sally D:

    Sorry for Morgan’s disappointment at Southwark, I agree he was badly briefed but why should he need briefing?

    My concern as a South African is that if Morgan and his “team” go around the world giving a false picture of life in Zimbabwe, that will give leverage to people e.g. in our Home Affairs department to chase Zimbabweans away and harass them as before.

    Meanwhile the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe has changed very little for those without access to USD and we all know it. Later in the year when the cholera comes back, as expected, and the hungry months come, as expected, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, and more floods of refugees.

    I’m also deeply concerned by what I see as a failure of the MDC to get to grip with what the ruination of Zimbabwean commercial agriculture really means. I’m out of touch these days but thinking back to my growing up years during the Bush War, it seemed that just about every company except for the mining companies and the parastatals, was linked in some way to the agricultural industry which at the time was prodigious despite being much less heavily subsidised than the South African equivalent and indeed subject to REAL sanctions (trade sanctions).

    Zim was all about food: mielies, wheat, canning, bottling, sugar, meat factories. So where is this great growth going to come from, with nothing but weeds to harvest, limited farming skills, animals long turned to dust and transport infrastructure falling apart?

    I’m so afraid that Zimbabweans will end up back at Square One, but if the only people expressing views are sitting in London, that’s not going to make much of an impact is it.

  3. Comment by Supernov:

    Sorry for Morgan’s disappointment at Southwark, I agree he was badly briefed but why should he need briefing?

    WELL PUT SALLY— U STOLE THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH. SURELY AS THE MOST PROLIFIC ZIMBABWEAN “ACTIVIST” (i use the term…very loosely), it is Tsvangirai’s business to know and understand the heart of his party and those he is willing to “die for”. Considering many are still sceptical about the events surrounding his wife’s death, i would have assumed Mr T would be a little bit more alert to the covert operation of our rulling party. The incident left me questioning not only his motives but his intellectual aptitude and ability to bring about “democray”. Time for a completely new direction???- perhaps

  4. Comment by Sithandekile:

    Its a pity I suppose po;iticians never learn Morgan Tswabngirai should ba aware that the people know more because its their everyday experience why are there so many arrests of the MPs on trumped up charges All he is doing is dicrediting himself and the party he stands for and am not sure I heard the news correctly when they said he is asking for people to stop pushing Mugabe out? Is he in touch with the people By the end of the GPA term MDc might have done more harm than good to itself as a people’sarty They should come back to the people it should not sacrifice the people’s will for the GPA which is not working