- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2009

HARARE, Zimbabwe | Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Saturday that his efforts to restore democratic freedoms and the rule of law to Zimbabwe have so far failed.

The former opposition leader took his Movement for Democratic Change into a coalition government with longtime autocratic President Robert Mugabe in February to end the country’s political deadlock and economic collapse.

But Mr. Tsvangirai gave his party’s annual convention a bleak assessment of Zimbabwe’s situation and said that hard-liners backing Mr. Mugabe were frustrating progress.

“We have not yet succeeded in restoring the rule of law … our people do not live free from fear, hunger and poverty,” he said.

The official state media remains biased, and there is only limited freedom of movement and expression, he said.

“Our members continue to be the victims of political persecution,” Mr. Tsvangirai said. “That society for which we are striving bears little resemblance to the reality in which all of us live today.”

His comments reflected the tensions racking the so-called unity government. But despite the unhappiness, Mr. Tsvangirai has so far shown no sign that he will pull his party out of the coalition in protest. Mr. Tsvangirai had been frozen out of office, despite election victories, until Zimbabwe’s neighbors forced Mr. Mugabe to enter the unity government in February.

Mr. Tsvangirai and more than 1,000 delegates to the two-day convention wore red T-shirts emblazoned with a new party slogan: “Together to the end. Marching to a New Zimbabwe.”

Despite agreeing to the coalition government, Mr. Mugabe, 85, still seems reluctant to cede real power to Mr. Tsvangirai, his former foe.

Last week, for example, Mr. Tsvangirai announced an end to restrictions on foreign journalists entering Zimbabwe and to tough licensing rules for local media. Mr. Mugabe’s spokesman this week said the restrictions would remain.

The two men are also locked in dispute over the key appointments of central bank Gov. Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

Mr. Mugabe reappointed Mr. Gono to a second five-year term as governor of the Reserve Bank in November and also unilaterally chose Mr. Tomana. Mr. Tsvangirai says the appointments violate the power-sharing deal, and he wants regional mediators to intervene.

Mr. Gono is blamed for printing Zimbabwean dollars until they were worthless and accused of taking hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign currency accounts belonging to aid groups and private businesses. Mr. Tomana also is accused of being behind detentions of pro-democracy activists.

Tendai Biti, Mr. Tsvangirai’s finance minister, has appealed for $8 billion to rebuild the shattered economy, but most donors and investors have insisted more reforms and the rule of law be in place before they commit funds.

Mr. Tsvangirai told his party loyalists Saturday the adoption of hard currency as the country’s legal tender halted world-record inflation of 500 billion percent in the now abandoned local currency.

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