Zanu PF president Robert Mugabe gave rare praise to his arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai for leading peace calls during campaigns for what promises to be a defining election on July 31.
Speaking in Chitungwiza on Tuesday, Mugabe surprised his hangers on when he heaped praises on Tsvangirai for preaching peace. This was a poignant statement, coming from the heart of Mugabe, who obviously recalls how much he and his entourage have persecuted the MDC-T leader on false violence charges for decades.
This honest praise by Mugabe for a rival over whom he has told so many lies evidently did not go down well with his propaganda team, who cut the comment into one line buried deep inside a hailstorm of insults against Tsvangirai. Thankfully, the speech was broadcast live, and many people heard it from the horse’s mouth.
But, typical of the ageing despot, the same sentence conveying gratitude was also a pointed accusation.
Mugabe claimed that while Tsvangirai himself was peaceful, his supporters were not. The claim was taken by the state media to refer to recent statements attributed to MDC-T youth president Solomon Madzore who allegedly said the youth were prepared to shed blood to defend their vote from Mugabe’s rigging. The youth assembly has since retracted the remarks and said they will use only peaceful and constitutional methods of protest in the event that Zanu PF rigged the election and won.
Tsvangirai himself said on Sunday that violence had no place in the MDC-T and has demanded public affirmations from the youth wing endorsing that position.
The importance of Mugabe admitting publicly that Tsvangirai is a peaceful man, after all, is that in the twilight of his uninhibited 33-year reign of terror, the dictator remembers that he persecuted and smeared the wrong man.
Mugabe has previously accused Tsvangirai of plotting a violent coup, but the charges were later dropped after it was discovered the so-called evidence video had been manufactured by disgraced former Israeli intelligence agency Mossad operative Ari Ben Menashe. Mugabe also claimed Tsvangirai was training an army in Botswana to topple him, but never produced any evidence, so the case fizzled out.
Many other claims that the MDC-T was involved in violence have proved to be senseless propaganda from Zanu PF, which is anxious to disguise its own record of political murders, rape and torture.
Tsvangirai, a Harvard-trained politician and favourite to win the election on July 31, has been recognised globally for his non-violent efforts to remove Mugabe, a brutal tyrant named by forbes.com as the world’s worst dictator.
A South Korean university awarded Tsvangirai a doctorate in administration and the French government gave him a prestigious award in recognition of his decade-long campaign for non-violent change.
As the election campaigns draw to a discordant end amid sporadic reports of violence and threats from Zanu PF militants, it is Tsvangirai’s aggressive calls for peace that are keeping the restive population under control amid provocation from Mugabe’s party.
Mugabe, who, according to Foreign Policy magazine was surpassed in terror only by his North Korean associate Kim Jong Il until he died recently, has proved to have “degrees in violence” as he once claimed. Unfazed by the prospect of an indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he ordered the brutal killing of 50 000 innocent civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands under Gukurahundi, Mugabe ordered the murder of 2500 opponents in 2008. The Zanu PF violence continues, despite Mugabe’s regular hollow promises of peace.