ZIMBABWE’S former opposition prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has returned to the country following the house arrest of Robert Mugabe.
The leader of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was once Prime Minister of Zimbabwe alongside Robert Mugabe, having agreed to form a coalition government with his opposition.
But he was ousted in 2013 after Mugabe, in a bid for further power, abolished the role of prime minister in the country.
Now, Mr Tsvangirai has returned to his home country – and could enter into negotiations to help form a new government.
Speaking at a press conference from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare today, he insisted the president should resign in the interest of the country after the military seized power.
Reading from a statement, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change said: “In the interest of the people, Mr Robert Mugabe must resign and step down immediately.”
One source, a senior member of Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party, said an arrangement with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was “a done deal”, but there was no indication on Thursday that Mugabe plans to go quietly.
And former finance minister Tendai Biti revealed today he would be happy to cooperate with any government that emerges from this week’s military takeover, but only if opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was also on board.
“If Morgan says he’s in, I’m in,” Mr Biti told Reuters. “The country needs a solid pair of hands so one might not have a choice.”
A report on Thursday said that “a deal has been proposed that former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa should lead a transitional government that will be constituted of stakeholders from other political parties” in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe’s Financial Gazette reported Robert Mugabe is expected to hand power to his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa imminently
Senior sources said Mnangagwa, who is also known as ‘The Crocodile, is expected to form a transitional government that would rule for five years.
Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa last week in favour of his wife Grace – a decision that may have triggered Wednesday’s coup.
According to SABC, President Robert Mugabe had been given an opportunity to negotiate an exit that included state protection together with his family.
“One of the priorities of the transitional government will be to restore the economy that has experienced decline in recent times,”
Morgan Tsvangirai was a key figure in the opposition of Robert Mugabe but was arrested and beaten regularly for speaking out against his regime.
He was arrested in 2000 and charged with treason, and was acquitted of the charge and an alleged plot to assassinate Robert Mugabe in the run up to the 2002 presidential elections, after being defending by the same human rights lawyer who represented Nelson Mandela.
He was arrested in 2003 for making a statement holding Mugabe to account, which the ruling government said “incited violence”.
He was allegedly tortured in 2007 when he was arrested again on his way to a prayer rally. He was one of a number of opposition politicians and activists kidnapped and beaten by government-sanctioned gangs in 2007, which saw Mugabe attract worldwide condemnation.
The former prime minister contested the first round of the 2008 presidential election as the opposition candidate, taking 47.8 per cent of the vote according to official results.
The result placed him ahead of Mugabe, who received 43.2 per cent but he then withdrew and did not compete in the second round of voting claiming the election would not be free or fair.
He was PM of the country from 2009 to 2013 after agreeing to form a coalition government with Mugabe – a move advised by fellow African nations.
Tsvangirai and war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa have now flown in from South Africa on Wednesday.
The pair are reportedly “ready to enter negotiations to form a transitional government with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa”.
He was not the only one returning as the plane was also carrying two other government ministers, who were returning to their country from Russia.
He had already been outspoken in recent days, commenting on the removal of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa – thought to be behind the coup – last week.
He said: “This is a dramatic experience for the country.
“It’s one thing to dismiss the vice president but it’s another when it affects the stability of the country. This is a security risk. …Robert Mugabe is determined to keep power by whatever means.”
The president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said he was concerned that First Lady Grace Mugabe was positioning herself to take control of the country.
Mr Tsvangirai said: “This is a dynasty arrangement. Mugabe has walked roughshod over everyone…If the nation has to take the route for an unconstitutional change, we may as well kiss the democratic project goodbye.
“I hope those who want unconstitutional change will be dissuaded from that.”
Former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the favourite to take control, according to the ruling ZANU PF Party.
But Robert Mugabe is insisting he remains Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler, an intelligence source told Reuters today (November 16).
Catholic priest Fidelis Mukonori is mediating talks between Mugabe and military officials, as the army seeks a “bloodless transition” to a new government.
Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years and is still seen by many Africans as a liberation hero.
The party has denied staging a military coup, instead choosing to call the takeover a “bloodless transaction”.
Gunshots and explosions were heard near Mugabe’s house in Harare as the military claimed it was not a coup branding it a “bloodless transition”.
Mr Mnangagwa, 75, was sacked from his post as vice-president of Zimbabwe for what the government called “traits of disloyalty” paving the way for Mugabe’s wife Grace to take power.
The Army claimed that they took power to remove corrupt individuals who surrounded Mugabe – with the following key players being targeted by the Zimbabwe military:
GRACE MUGABE – Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife rose from political obscurity to the top ranks of the ruling ZANU-PF party and, after the purge a week ago of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, became the front-runner to succeed her husband.
JONATHAN MOYO – A slick propagandist and former information minister, Moyo was G40’s brains and mouthpiece who never shied away from an acerbic comment or Tweet about his rivals. His Twitter feed has been uncharacteristically silent since the coup.
SAVIOR KASUKUWERE – A bruising former ZANU-PF Youth minister nicknamed “Tyson”, Kasukuwere ran Mugabe’s attempts to “indigenise” the economy, essentially forcing foreign investors to surrender large stakes in their businesses to locals.
IGNATIUS CHOMBO – A former university lecturer and Mugabe’s homeboy, Chombo was promoted in an October cabinet reshuffle from the interior ministry to the finance portfolio, just as a severe domestic currency shortage tipped over into full-blown financial collapse.
AUGUSTINE CHIHURI – As Commissioner General of the police, Chihuri was accused by rights groups of presiding over vicious crackdowns on dissent and popular protest in the last 18 months.
KUDZAI CHIPANGA – The 35-year-old youth leader ingratiated himself to Mugabe and Grace and organised nationwide youth rallies that Grace Mugabe used to attack Mnangagwa and his allies
The military took control of the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in the early hours and promised that Mugabe and his family were “safe”.
Major General Moyo addressed the country on state television.
He said: “To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government.
“As soon as we accomplish our mission we expect (the) situation to return to normalcy.”
Earlier, African Union leader Alpha Conde, said: “The African Union expresses its serious concern regarding the situation unfolding in Zimbabwe.
“The constitutional order can be restored immediately and all stakeholders should show responsibility and restraint.”
Boris Johnson waded into the dispute by accusing Robert Mugabe of allowing a corrupt elite to “pillage” the country’s natural resources leaving its residents poorer.
The Foreign Secretary said: “There is an educated population, plentiful wildlife and what were some of the best roads and railways in Africa. Throw all this together and you get a nation that is almost over endowed for success.
“Today, in one of Africa’s most fertile countries, many are close to starvation.”
Zimbabwe’s woes came to global prominence following a campaign of controversial land seizures which saw the country’s profitable farms divided up in 2000.
Commercial agriculture had been a major part of the nation’s economy driving exports.
Mugabe’s reforms were followed by the massive levels of unemployment and uncontrollable inflation.