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Friday, 28 April, 2000, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Quiz Zimbabwe's opposition leader

Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has gone on the offensive, warning that his followers will look for ways of defending themselves against attacks from supporters of the governing ZANU-PF party.

His comments come amid increasing numbers of attacks on opposition supporters by armed gangs loyal to President Mugabe. Mr Tsvangirai has gone as far as accusing some members of the government of orchestrating the violence.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, answered your questions on the increasingly uncertain political situation in Zimbabwe.

Zach, South Africa: Do you think that the elections will happen? If they do, do you think they could ever be "free and fair"?

Morgan Tsvangirai: I think that elections will be held, but they will be held under circumstances of high levels of intolerance, high levels of violence and intimidation, and lack of access by the opposition to the state media. I think that the question of "free and fair" - the conditions are not there for it.

Sindiso Ndiweni, USA: What do you intend to do about the land issue should you come to power. Don't you think that Mugabe does have a point though when it comes to land?

Morgan Tsvangirai: No one has disputed the fact that there is the need for land reform in Zimbabwe. In Fact, there is a national convention on the need for land reform. But we are all agreed that Mugabe has had 20 years to implement fundamental land reform and he has failed to do so.

How can we entrust the land reform to people who have acquired the land, which was intended for the landless, to themselves? We are proposing that land will be number two in terms of our priorities. Which means that we recognise the need for sound land reform with three objectives.

One is equity, two is empowerment and three is the continued economic viability of Zimbabwe. We are going to set up a land commission with defined terms of reference that are going to look where the land is going to come from, who is going to be settled, what infrastructure is necessary, and where the necessary resources are going to come from.

So we actually have viable land reform ourselves. We are also going to fundamentally say that we should move away from communal land ownership in Zimbabwe.

Prince, Denmark: Do you think that the British government should be held responsible for the current land imbalance in Zimbabwe, and that it is their responsibility to provide enough funds for land redistribution?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Britain has no legal obligation to Zimbabwe over land reform. However it is the moral obligation in terms of the 1979 agreement in which the Americans and British committed themselves to support the land reform programme.

They had to stop the land reform programme because of the abuse of their system. The people who needed land were not benefiting, and that's why they stopped it. But give them the moral obligation, and they can still fund the land reform in Zimbabwe.

Simon Wills, Botswana: Do you now think it is time for some international action to be taken against Zimbabwe to try to halt the political violence - such as the freezing of Mugabe's personal overseas assets?

Morgan Tsvangirai: I think it is premature. I think at this stage we are talking about engaging Mugabe in ensuring that he does not reduce himself to a martyr, somebody who is being sacrificed.

What we need to do at this stage is to tread very carefully and say that we will only be in a position of supporting the land reform programme provided there is the restoration of the rule of law, provided that they stop the violence, provided there are free and fair elections. I think those conditions he can still commit himself to.

Bendict Mlambo, Germany: Some MDC members, were calling for the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe. What is the official position of MDC as regards the imposition of economic sanctions on Zimbabwe by the international community?

Morgan Tsvangirai: That state of possibility will be reached if Mugabe continues on his current path and reaches the stage where he declares a state of emergency. It will be at that stage then where sanctions will be the last resort.

Mufaro, Germany: What do you hope to achieve by "taking the violence to their doorsteps"? Enough damage has been done already. You cannot fight fire with fire.

Morgan Tsvangirai: Well I think that we all realise that there has been a serious misinterpretation of that statement. I did say "to the doorstep". By "the doorstep" I am only saying that the responsibility and accountability of violence should go to those people who are initiating it. I didn't say that we were responding to violence with violence.

In fact today I had to issue a very clear position to say that we are committed to non-violent resolution of the political discourse in the country and that we are all moving toward elections as a way of giving the people of Zimbabwe the option to choose. So we are not advocating retaliation we are only advocating self-defence.

Antoinette, Zimbabwe: Now that the police are preventing political gatherings how are you going to campaign?

Morgan Tsvangirai: There's going to be a serious setback in organising people, because if the organisation in the campaign is going to rely on the president of the party, we cannot cover the whole country. I think it needs a lot of structure to continue to organise themselves without interference from the police.

We are challenging, we are examining the possibility of taking this issue to the Supreme Court, and challenging the constitutionality of that decision by the police.

Charles, USA: A whole generation of skilled Zimbabweans, of all skin colours, live scattered in exile around the globe due to the policies of the Mugabe dictatorship. What message will your future government bring to those who were born in Zimbabwe and wish to return and contribute towards the reconstruction of Zimbabwe under your leadership?

Morgan Tsvangirai: I am already on record as advocating for the fact that race, ethnicity and language are the reality of our society. That we should move to a stage where there is national integration, where all Zimbabweans can feel welcome to participate in the political process and the social process of the country.

Rahel Alemayehu, Zimbabwe: I heard that your party, like others in Zimbabwe, is paying money or buying beer for its supporters in order to gain popularity. Is this true?

Morgan Tsvangirai: No that's not true. In fact we are the first party to tell people that we will not buy beer or any other food to get their support.

Samanyika, Zimbabwean in US: Are you aware that Zimbabweans abroad are concerned about your seemingly too pro-British /pro-white Rhodesian stance?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Well, I am being pro-Zimbabwe. I think that to continue to refer to Britain is just a scapegoat with no basis at all. I have the full concern of Zimbabwean welfare at heart.

There would be no need to institute a political alternative if Mugabe's policies were in the interest of Zimbabwe. This is nothing to do with Britain, it is nothing to do with any foreigners, it has to do with the reality on the ground, that we Zimbabweans have the right of self-determination.

Herb, United States of America: What in your opinion is the motivation behind the involvement of Zimbabwe in the Congo

Morgan Tsvangirai: Everyone is equally concerned about the motivation of our intervention in the Congo. There is no reason why we should be in the Congo and I think the whole war situation is totally unpopular with the people.

Nigel Garner, South Africa:If you come to power, is it your intention to investigate the Mugabe regime with regard to reports of corruption and misappropriation of funds, and if necessary bring charges against those responsible?

Morgan Tsvangirai: We have said that we are committed to deal with issues of corruption and the issue of past crimes committed but it will have to be organised in such a way that we don't provide a basis for instability in the future. We have a big job to do which is how to deal with the mess that has been created.

Peter, Canada:If the MDC is successful in these elections, what impact would that have, since presidential elections will not be held for the next two years?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Well I think that constitutional crisis will still prevail. I think this is why we are saying that if we have the substantial majority to cause constitutional change, we can change the constitution so that we bring forward the presidential elections and amend the constitution to remove the right of an individual to appoint 30 members of parliament.

Michael Beattie, UK: I would like to know how Mr Tsvangirai proposes to tackle the issue of the armed forces and police (and potentially CIO) if and when MDC comes to power, given that these powerful factions still seem happy to support Mugabe and the Zanu PF.

Morgan Tsvangirai: I think this is a justifiable fear. It is a national institution that transcends any political device. They are there to serve the country, the people, and that stays in the mentality of the Zimbabwean people.

The army has already made its position very clear and I think that it is a very respectable position. If they follow through with that then there's no reason why people should be scared or even have fears. I think this is why Mugabe is resorting to criminals.

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