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Zimbabwean PM Tsvangirai Appeals To West for Reconstruction Funding


Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai issued an appealed to the West Thursday for funding to keep his government running and launch reconstruction, saying the longsuffering Zimbabwean people should not have to wait until stringent Western conditions are met.

The United States, Britain and other countries have said they will not expand their assistance beyond the sphere of humanitarian relief without convincing evidence of reform in Harare on human rights and the rule of law in particular as well as broad economic policy changes.

It is "time for the West to stand by the people of Zimbabwe as they move towards the goal of freedom and prosperity," Tsvangirai said. "Zimbabweans should not have to pay a further price for their determination to stand by their democratic ideals because the new government does not meet or match the 'clean slate' or 'total victory' standards expected by the West."

But Mr. Tsvangirai argued that whatever the shortcomings of his government, an amalgam of his former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, now in majority in parliament, and the long-ruling ZANU-PF of President Robert Mugabe, it has achieved enough since its formation six weeks ago to warrant more substantial Western support.

Tsvangirai maintained in his statement that although imperfect, the new government "does represent all Zimbabweans - it is positive, it is peaceful, it is committed to a new constitution and free and fair elections and, with international support, it will succeed."

Addressing the Group of 20 summit under way in London, Tsvangirai encouraged members of the group of key global economies to "view Zimbabwe and other partners in Africa as investment opportunities with the potential to stimulate their own economic growth."

Above the statement - though not included in the text - was the headline, "Don't make us pay for working with President Mugabe," implying that Western reluctance to directly fund the new government has mainly to do with Mr. Mugabe's continued role as head of state.

A statement issued by countries and institutions which met in Washington March 20 to talk about aid to Zimbabwe commended the efforts of Tsvangirai's "transitional government" and urged it to "take additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to reform" by releasing all political prisoners, ending commercial farm takeovers, halting political violence, establishing a "credible and transparent central bank" and ending repression of the media.

The statement published on the prime minister's Web site acknowledged Western generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to feed millions facing starvation following a series of failed harvests and death from cholera as an epidemic has ravaged the nation.

Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe said he supported the position laid out by Mr. Tsvangirai, noting that power-sharing with Mr. Mugabe was engineered by the Southern African Development Community and was not Mr. Tsvangirai's preference.

Mr. Tsvangirai defeated Mr. Mugabe in the March 2008 first round of presidential balloting as his MDC ended three decades of ZANU-PF parliamentary control. But Zimbabwe's electoral commission said Mr. Tsvangirai had not achieved an outright majority and called a runoff election from which the opposition leader withdrew in protest of widespread violence. Mr. Mugabe claimed victory, but his presidency was widely decried as illegitimate.

For further perspective on the issue of Western funding for the recovery, reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Deputy Chairman George Mkwananzi of the National Constitutional Assembly, a leading Zimbabwean civic group, and political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga of Westminister University in the United Kingdom.

Mhlanga said the West has set the bar too high for Mr. Tsvangirai, considering the country is not yet in a fundamental political transition and desperately needs financial aid.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...
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