Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe, speaking with reporters on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday defended the troubled unity government in Harare and called for the West to ease travel and financial restrictions targeting President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, saying progress in the country should be “rewarded.”
Mr. Tsvangirai said he expects a referendum on a new constitution in October or thereabouts, setting the stage for new national elections in 2011.
The last elections in 2008 handed his Movement for Democratic Change a majority in Parliament, but the official results of the presidential election were inconclusive and Mr. Mugabe won an uncontested second-round ballot.
The elections were marred by violence in which hundreds died. A post-election stalemate was resolved by talks leading to the signature of a Global Political Agreement for power sharing and the formation of an often-fractious government of national unity in February of last year.
Mr. Tsvangirai said the country's move toward democracy was irreversible. He assured potential foreign investors that the country was not backsliding.
But some analysts were taken aback by his comments in Davos as progress has been limited on the political and human rights front, and intra-governmental talks on various issues troubling power-sharing have stalled.
ZANU-PF Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo and Information Minister Webster Shamu refused to comment on Mr. Tsvangirai’s remarks.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, also in Davos, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that it is time investors got involved in Zimbabwe - though he added that it is important for the country to brush up its branding.
“What we need to do as a government, what we needed to do as a people is to improve the investment climate in our country, we need to make sure we guarantee security of tenure, we guarantee property rights that business investments are protected in our country," Mutambara said.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Mr. Tsvangirai is in a tough spot vis a vis President Mugabe and ZANU-PF, whose politburo linked progress in Harare to lifting of the sanctions, hence his more convincing call for the lifting of Western restrictions despite limited progress in certain areas.
The United States has said it wants to see serious progress on human rights and the rule of law before it will consider lifting sanctions, while linking increased development aid to fulfillment of the terms of the power-sharing pact.