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Tsvangirai Mission Draws to a Close with Mixed Results

The $8 million in food and educational assistance pledged Monday by Britain brings the total raised by Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to about $115 million. It falls far short of the seven-to-eight billion dollar figure Zimbabwe government officials say is needed to rebuild the nation.

Like other countries visited during Mr. Tsvangirai’s three weeks in Europe and North America, Britain told the prime minister it wants Harare to take further steps toward democratization and economic reform, including a new constitution and new elections, before more substantial aid would be forthcoming.

Economics Professor Tony Hawkins of the University of Zimbabwe says that given the realities of his mission, Mr. Tsvangirai probably fared as well as could be expected.

“From a strictly realistic viewpoint, he’s done as well as you might have expected. Expectations here were really quite low as to what he could achieve because of all the problems on the ground,” he noted.

With state-controlled media in Zimbabwe heavily supportive of long-time President Robert Mugabe, Professor Hawkins says the Tsvangirai mission also stirred low expectations in public opinion and drew sparse coverage at home.

“When you see the state media, the media that’s still loyal to Mr. Mugabe, it’s enjoying what it sees as Tsvangirai’s failure, and therefore, one gets the impression that they see the failure of the mission, as they would portray it, as being a setback for Tsvangirai,” he explained.

Mr. Tsvangirai, a champion of electoral reform, received a warm personal welcome in Britain, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the United States. But Hawkins points out that many of those abroad who met with Tsvangirai repeatedly voiced concern that the promise of last year’s Global Political Agreement (GPA) that produced a Zimbabwe unity government was proceeding too slowly.

“I think the meeting that he held in Southwark Cathedral in London over the weekend, at which he took a fair bit of criticism from the audience, who kept shouting, ‘change, change’ at him, this was evidence of how people felt, that the new government hasn’t changed very much, and that there’s disappointment. Therefore, what he did achieve is probably about as much as you could have expected,” he said.

While donor countries visited by Prime Minister Tsvangirai restating their willingness to pledge additional aid if reform efforts intensify, Professor Hawkins says substantial international assistance will be linked to Harare’s conduct in human rights and concerns about press freedom.

“I think it really boils down to progress on the law and order side, human rights, all these issues of people being arrested, particularly human rights, demonstrators and activists, and so on. The other area, of course, is the area of the media, where so much attention is being paid to the clamps on the media that appear to be still in place,” claimed Hawkins.

On the issue of land ownership, the University of Zimbabwe economist says he does not believe that efforts to change the practices of the previous ZANU-PF government will be made in order to attract greater foreign donor aid. “There’s no real momentum for changes in land ownership,” he says. “I don’t think many people tie it to the attainment of implosive aid. I think they’re seen as two very separate issues.”