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George Charamba Says Mnangagwa's Visit to Ailing Tsvangirai's Home Not Publicity Stunt

FILE: Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa (R) shakes hands with the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the country's main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai (L), who has been battling cancer, during a visit at his home in Harare on January 5, 2018. The visit came as Zimbabwe's political parties prepare to begin campaigning for elections due later this year -- the first since former president stood down following a brief military takeover. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba, says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Highlands home in Harare on Friday was not a publicity stunt.

In an interview with VOA Studio 7, Charamba said the courtesy call was part of Mnangagwa’s responsibility as a national figure to show his capacity to work across the political boundaries.

“Well, I think good politicians know when to wear the national colors and when to wear club colors, if I may use that metaphor. Today’s visit marked the president of Zimbabwe wearing national colors in order to relate to not just another national figure but also a person who is actually not well-disposed. It is an expression of compassion, an expression of responsibility which the president as a father figure of the nation is expected to show … That basically is significant. I know that the reflex of many people is to see to party political terms but I don’t think that’s the impulse that drove the new president to the meeting.

Charamba, who is also the presidential spokesperson, dismissed suggestions by some political analysts that the visit was a publicity stunt, saying there was nothing sinister about the new president’s meeting with the MDC-T leader as Tsvangirai attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration.

“It will be very fair to ask those same analysts why they didn’t level the same criticism to Mr. Tsvangirai when he came to attend the inauguration ceremony of the current president. Was it a publicity stunt? And if it is, well, then it’s a good turn that deserves another.”

Asked whether the two will continue engaging each other in the near future, Charamba said, “… The hallmark of the new era is capacity to build bridges and cross boundaries. If the mindset of the nation is fixated with boundaries which are drawn across political lines then the nation is in for a rude shock. We are likely to see a recognition that we are Zimbabweans first and foremost before we are Zanu PF, MDC or any other party.”

Luke Tamborinyoka, a spokesperson for the opposition MDC-T leader, said, “The importance of this meeting is that for us it was a good African gesture for the president to meet the former prime minister who is not feeling well … President Tsvangirai has taken advantage of that meeting to raise pertinent issues affecting Zimbabwe … issues to do with the cash crisis that has seen even old people sleeping at bank queues, issues to do with free and fair elections and a proper return to legitimacy through free and fair elections.

“President Mnangagwa who was accompanied by vice president Constantino Chiwenga promised to continue doing consultations with the prime minister so that we open up a true and proper consultation between the leader of the opposition and leader of government. We hope that President Mnangagwa was being genuine in that overture and that he will keep his promise they they will continue to meet and discuss pertinent issues affecting Zimbabwe, especially as we are all concerned about free and fair elections.

He agreed with some political analysts’ suggestions that President Mnangagwa’s visit was a political stunt. “It could be, it could be … It could be a publicity stunt. You can’t leave that one out that President Mnangagwa could have taken advantage of that meeting to cut himself as a different political animal from (former) president Mugabe and to brand himself as a benevolent leader different from president (former) Mugabe. He could have taken it as a publicity stunt, which is true, but what is pertinent for some of us is that president Tsvangirai has taken advantage of that meeting to raise pertinent issues affecting the people of Zimbabwe.”

Tsvangirai, who has cancer of the colon, left for South Africa after the meeting for his routine medical check up.

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