Tsvangirai is a weak political operator: Bennett and Biti
HARARE — Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is a weak political operator who “does what the last person tells him to do,” and lacks strategic direction for MDC-T, his party’s senior officials; treasurer-general Roy Bennett and Secretary-general Tendai Biti have said.
Bennett said Mr Tsvangirai remembers the advice of the last person he would have spoken to while Biti, who blasted his boss for ‘‘for lacking a strategic plan for the MDC in Government” in a cable dated June 30 2009, attributed Mr Tsvangirai’s rare moments of lucidity to prior preparation by party officials, him included.
The MDC-T leader well known for taking advice from informal advisers, usually foreign, while ignoring the counsel of elected MDC-T officials, the party’s organizing secretary Nelson Chamisa added.This appraisal of Mr Tsvangirai is revealed in United States embassy diplomatic cables leaked by whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks, last Friday.
The revelations come on the heels of a similar unflattering character assessment of the MDC-T leader by his party’s Harare provincial spokesperson who is also deputy Justice minister in the inclusive Government Obert Gutu who questioned Mr Tsvangirai’s leadership credentials during a meeting he held with US ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Charles Ray in January last year.
The cables suggest Bennett expressed frustration with Tsvangirai’s leadership during meetings with a political officer at the US embassy on May 19, 2008.In particular, Bennett was said to have been “visibly upset” by the MDC-T leader’s refusal to return home in the aftermath of the 2008 harmonized elections when he holed himself up in Botswana, only to return home upon being summoned by the then US ambassador James McGee.
The MDC-T treasurer dismissed as “nonsense” the security concerns cited by Tsvangirai as reason for his reluctance to return home.
“Bennett also emphasized that Tsvangirai has a solid security team in Harare and that Tsvangirai could be assassinated in South Africa or elsewhere on the continent if the Mugabe regime really wanted him dead,” reads a US embassy cable detailing the meeting.
Bennett also bemoaned the influence of South Africa-based telecoms magnate and Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa on Tsvangirai and the party.
“He (Bennett) complained that MDC advisor Strive Masiyiwa is taking over the party, even though he is not an elected official and has no constituents to which to answer,” the cable added.“Masiyiwa, (Bennett) said, is now controlling access to Tsvangirai ‘for his own purposes’ and calling all the shots, including whether or not Tsvangirai returns. In fact, Bennett said that every time Tsvangirai packs his bags and is ready to return to Harare, Masiyiwa tells him not to go.
“As a counter measure, Bennett said he is trying to get Tsvangirai and Biti to maintain an office and conduct meetings at MDC Headquarters in Johannesburg, rather than having Masiwiya ‘hold court’ at his house.”Bennett suggested the MDC-T leader was not his own man, noting, “Tsvangirai does what the last person tells him to do.”
Chamisa also backed the view in another meeting with embassy officials in December where he complained that Tsvangirai’s reliance on American adviser Melinda Farris had created a “big problem” for MDC-T.Chamisa said to have been very critical of Tsvangirai’s self-imposed exile and over-reliance on Farris.
US embassy officials wrote, “After the meeting, Chamisa told (the US embassy political and economics) chief that MDC adviser Melinda Farris was a “big problem”.“He thought Tsvangirai had been listening to her to the exclusion of many in the MDC leadership, including himself and Tendai Biti, with whom Farris had a strained relationship.
“Chamisa believed Farris had encouraged Tsvangirai to remain outside of Zimbabwe.”
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