Lapse in judgement, or plan to oust Mugabe?

By Stephen Gowans

Usually newspaper stories about the upcoming Zimbabwe election quickly pass over the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai once having threatened violence unless the government resigned.

And his being caught discussing the 'elimination' of President Robert Mugabe, often takes back seat to charges that "there's already strong signs the forthcoming presidential election has been rigged," as Canada's The National Post put it in a Feb. 28. 2002 report.

If mentioned at all, these events are offered as an indictment of Mugabe, who had Tsvangirai charged with treason for threatening insurrection, and who, it is suggested, is behind a scheme to frame Tsvangirai on the assassination plot.

But now the Guardian (Feb. 28, 2002) admits that the charges against Tsvangirai, which have been largely ignored or sloughed off in the Western press,  have begun to hurt the MDC leader. Tsvangirai's supporters are questioning their leader's "political judgement," the report says.

This, unfortunately, is as good as it gets in stories about Zimbabwe.

"Mr. Tsvangirai's supporters have been questioning his judgement since the release of a videotape," the Guardian report says, "showing him in Montreal, talking with a man who was discussing the 'elimination' of President Robert Mugabe, never once objecting."

This doesn't look good for Tsvangirai. He admits to being at the meeting, doesn't deny it was him on the tape, and acknowledges that Mugabe's assassination was discussed. But he says he's being set up.

Supporters of Tsvangirai, including Western governments, make much of the fact that the tape is grainy, but it isn't as grainy as the videotape said to show Osama bin Laden implicating himself in the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet Western governments cite the bin Laden tape, notwithstanding its graininess and poor audio quality, as definitive proof of bin Laden's guilt. On the other hand, the graininess of the Tsvangirai tape is said to prove the tape was doctored.

As for the Guardian, it says Tsvangirai's attending a meeting at which Mugabe's elimination was discussed was a lapse of political judgement.

The news service goes on to note that "It is not Mr. Tsvangirai's first lapse of political judgement. He was accused of treason once before, for advocating Mr. Mugabe's violent overthrow unless the President left office peacefully."

A lapse of political judgement?

Imagine the leader of the opposition in a Western country demanding the government step down or be forced out by violence. Imagine the opposition being funded by foreign governments. Imagine the opposition leader begging those governments to impose sanctions on his own country. And imagine him attending a meeting abroad where the elimination of the head of state was discussed.

Wouldn't that reflect a whole lot more than a lapse of political judgement?