- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

JOHANNESBURG Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), wants President Bush to send a special envoy to Zimbabwe.
"I would say to President Bush that he has done good work in sending special envoys to trouble spots around the world," Mr. Tsvangirai said in an interview with The Washington Times.
"It is now time to send a special envoy to Zimbabwe."
Mr. Tsvangirai said that he would be happy to discuss his country's political crisis with a representative of the U.S. president, and that such an initiative could advance efforts to restore democracy.
In the past three years, a coercive land-reform program has seen all but 600 of Zimbabwe's 5,000 white commercial farmers forced off their land contributing to a famine that the United Nations says has left 7 million people in need of food aid this year.
Another 2 million black Zimbabweans have fled to neighboring South Africa as human rights groups accuse Zimbabwe's police, army and intelligence service of widespread torture and extrajudicial killings.
On the economic front, the local currency trades on the street at 1,800 to the dollar, though the government refuses to devalue from the official rate of 55.
President Robert Mugabe, 78, won another seven years in office last year in elections tainted by widespread reports of intimidation and political violence by Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party. The United States and some other Western governments refused to recognize the result.
Mr. Tsvangirai said in the interview that he would be willing to discuss the idea of an exit plan for Mr. Mugabe and the setting up of an interim government whose sole task would be to restore law and order and arrange fresh elections.
"I think that such a solution would be a matter of convenience to all parties," he said. "The only way forward is to have a real, free election in Zimbabwe.
"But I would want the election to be supervised internationally. We have never had a free and fair election in this country."
In December, a retired officer from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Col. Lionel Dyck, held talks with Mr. Tsvangirai, reportedly at the request of armed forces chief Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe and parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mr. Tsvangirai revealed details of the discussion this month, saying he had been asked whether he would join a coalition government after which Mr. Mugabe would retire and possibly go into exile.
Gen. Zvinavashe and Mr. Mnangagwa subsequently denied any knowledge of Col. Dyck's initiative, but Mr. Tsvangirai said he was convinced that they knew about the talks.
"I am quite certain that no one could have made up this story in his imagination and then approached me," he said. "At the very least, Mnangagwa and Zvinavashe were consulted before anyone spoke to me. …
"There have been no further approaches since I went public with the story, and I doubt that there will be," he added. "I think those gates are closed."
Mr. Mnangagwa is widely seen as Mr. Mugabe's chosen successor as leader of ZANU-PF, which has governed Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
In recent weeks, Mr. Tsvangirai has made several speeches indicating his willingness to work with the ZNA and the rest of the country's armed forces even though the MDC has accused the police and army of torturing and killing its members.
But a source inside ZANU-PF said the reported initiative by Mr. Mnangagwa and Gen. Zvinavashe had opened up "a war of succession around Mugabe."
He said the contenders included Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, former Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa, who lost his seat in the 2000 general election, and a retired general, Solomon Mujuru.
"All of them are at odds with Mugabe over the direction in which he is taking the country, and they don't see Mnangagwa as the best man to take over the job," the source said. "And they feel that Zvinavashe would probably have to retire. Given the role the military has played keeping Mugabe in power, it's possible the donor community would not be keen to see him running the army."
Meanwhile, the government is pushing ahead with a treason trial in which Mr. Tsvangirai is accused of plotting to kill the president. The case opens at the High Court in Harare next month.
The charge arose from a videotape first aired on Australian television early last year purportedly showing the opposition leader discussing an assassination plot with a Canadian public-relations company which, it transpired, was working for ZANU-PF.
The MDC leader says he is confident that the court will clear him of all charges.
"My information is that the government is not all that confident about the case any more. They have used the issue to confiscate my passport and so prevent me from traveling outside Zimbabwe. But I think that all this has done is to show the world what kind of government we are dealing with here."
His lawyer said last week that the tapes were "inaudible."

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