Last week, the opposition leader stood down as leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, saying his presence in the election would only result in more violence from vigilantes loyal to President Robert Mugabe.
With Mugabe showing no sign of stepping down, the leader for the Movement for Democratic Change told Dateline the election has escalated to a war and his party has chosen to cut all involvement.
“This is not an election – it’s war – and we don’t want to be apart of it”, he told Dateline.
Tsvangirai told George Negus that Mugabe is behind all the bloodshed and violence and is 100% responsible.
“He has always maintained the position that he doesn’t want interference …. but the man is actually liable for the violence that has been unleashed in the people”, Mr Tsvangirai said.
He’s has urged the United Nations to isolate President Mugabe and called for a peacekeeping force in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe supporters have carried out violent attacks on political opponents.
Mr Tsvangirai believes the only way President Mugabe will step down is if he bows to pressure, both from the international community and his generals.
“So if the whole world is now condemned him and other African leaders say ‘see look, this is the end of the game’ I don’t think that he will proceed,” he added.
This week events have moved quickly and dramatically in Zimbabwe. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of this Friday’s run-off election against Robert Mugabe, on the grounds that he wasn’t prepared to risk the lives of his supporters any longer. Yesterday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning the violence in Zimbabwe. And now, even some of Mugabe’s former African allies are turning away from the ageing dictator, including South Africa. However, despite worldwide condemnation, Mugabe is determined to proceed with the presidential poll, unopposed. Meanwhile, Morgan Tsvangirai has raised the issue of peacekeepers. George Negus spoke by phone with the MDC leader a short time ago from the Dutch embassy in Harare where Morgan Tsvangirai is taking refuge.
GEORGE NEGUS: Mr Tsvangirai, could we clear up one thing. When you decided to pull out of the election, why did you also to go to the Dutch embassy for refuge? Did you fear for your own life?
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, ZIMBABWE OPPOSITION LEADER: What informed our decision to pull out is as outlined in our statement, but the circumstances were almost impossible for us to have an election. For example, three-quarters of the country we can’t even deploy our own polling agents – it’s totally inaccessible. The army, the militia, the war veterans, are making it almost inaccessible to go anywhere in the country.
GEORGE NEGUS: So things have deteriorated so much in the last few days that you had to make this decision now and not before?
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: Coming to the embassy was also informed by the possible reaction of the state to that decision and they were going to round up all the leaders, including me. So we had to take extra precaution, temporarily.
GEORGE NEGUS: The cynical reaction from the Mugabe people is to suggest that you’re under no threat, that you’ve done this merely as a theatrical action to attract the attention of the rest of the world – there is not really a problem at all.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI This is no joke. Over the last three or so weeks, I have been arrested, I have been harassed, I have been totally treated like a criminal when I am the leading contender in this election.
GEORGE NEGUS: Certainly in the last 24-48 hours there has been a reaction from the rest of the world, a lot of condemnation of Robert Mugabe and his regime. The UN have come out with a statement. Even the South Africans, who have been reluctant to say much before have come out condemning Mugabe. Is this politically beneficial to you? Will it really lead to any change or, as he is saying, he is going to go ahead on Friday anyway.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: First of all I think we need to applaud the reaction of the world. I think it is commendable that they took that unanimous stand. It really reassures Zimbabweans who had been fighting this repressive regime for all these years. As for his defiance that he will go ahead with an election – what is an election? It is a one-man race – I have pulled out. He can have his parting victory. So what? It is not a solution to the problem our country is facing.
GEORGE NEGUS: I guess as an outsider, we know that scores of your people have been killed. The question has to be asked – how many more of your people have to be killed? 600, 6,000, 60,000, before we hear something other than words from the international community and we actually see some action.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: What the world can do, it has already done. They can only at this point put diplomatic pressure – I don’t think that anything else would be feasible under the circumstances.
GEORGE NEGUS: Were you talking about armed peacekeepers to keep the factions apart? To keep your people and Mugabe’s people apart so that some sort of reconciliation or mediation could take place? You did term them ‘peacekeepers’, even though you say all-out war is not the answer.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: We hope that something will come out that will allow for mediation and negotiations to take place between the parties because an election is not a solution. We hope that only a negotiated position will actually see this country come out of this crisis.
GEORGE NEGUS: Would you consider a government of national unity with Robert Mugabe, or is that totally out of the question?
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: What we have to appreciate is that the challenges that we face are transitional challenges. We have to supplant this crisis and allow for a period of national healing while the country can recover from the economic disaster that we face. Whether Robert Mugabe is there or not – we have offered to enter negotiations, but it has not been put for us. I think one of the fundamental issues is the March election result must be respected.
GEORGE NEGUS: Come the weekend, if Robert Mugabe goes ahead with these elections, as fraudulent as people think they are, and declares himself the President of Zimbabwe all over again, where does that leave you and for that matter of the rest of us?
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: Well, where does that leave the country?
GEORGE NEGUS: Yes.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: At a dead end, let me say that it’s not an election. If he goes into the process of an election, it is not an election. This is not an election – it is war. Robert Mugabe has declared war and we don’t want to be part of it.
GEORGE NEGUS: If the other leaders of Africa, particularly South Africa, were to say to him, “it is time for you to go”, would he go?
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: I don’t know because he has always maintained a position that he doesn’t want interference. The world is now watching him butcher his own people. The man is liable for the violence and if the whole world has condemned him and the other African leaders say, “this is the end of the game”, I don’t think that he will proceed.
GEORGE NEGUS: Mr Tsvangirai, before we leave you, how long do you think you will be at the embassy? When do you plan to leave the embassy and get yourself back onto the streets of Harare and the country again?
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: I am evaluating my circumstances and when it is feasible I will go out.
GEORGE NEGUS: It’s good to talk to you again and it is a silly thing to say, but try to stay safe.
MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: Thank you.
GEORGE NEGUS: Morgan Tsvangirai from inside the Dutch embassy in Harare.