US envoy urges Tsvangirai to 'show he cares'
United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee, speaking in South Africa, said he understood Tsvangirai's concerns over fears he could be assassinated.
But he said Zimbabweans who have been attacked for supporting Tsvangirai need him in the country to lead them.
"There are a lot of people in Zimbabwe who have paid the ultimate price by voting for Morgan Tsvangirai," McGee said. "We believe that as a strong leader, he should be back showing his people that he cares every bit as much for them as they do for him."
McGee is the latest in a long-line of pro-opposition commentators who have been urging Tsvangirai to return and lead his party's campaign ahead of a planned presidential runoff on June 27.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the impression Tsvangirai was creating was that he is "special". Madhuku added: "His only role is to be the leader – that is his role – and leadership is not being protected. Leadership is to really take the risks that go with leadership."
Professor Jonathan Moyo, an independent MP and political commentator said: "All national leaders are under daily security threat but they don't allow those threats to shape their agenda. You can't wish to be president of Zimbabwe by remote control."
And John Makumbe, a political analyst with close ties to the MDC warned Tsvangirai would be seen as "less of a leader" than President Robert Mugabe if he delayed his return.
"If he doesn't come back he will be demonstrating that he is fearful of Mugabe, therefore, he is less of a leader than Mugabe and that will have very serious implications on his qualities as a leader," the University of Zimbabwe lecturer said.
Tsvangirai has been out of Zimbabwe since shortly after the March 29 first round of presidential voting. He plans to return to Zimbabwe to campaign for the runoff election once security measures are in place, his aides have said.
On Tuesday, Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said MDC claims that Tsvangirai was being targeted for assassination by elements within the military was a "fantasy".
The assassination allegation has "no foundation whatsoever except in his own dreams," Shamuyarira said.
He added: "Tsvangirai is dreaming things that are not existent in Zimbabwe. No one in Zanu PF or government has any intention of killing him."
Tsvangirai says he won the March 29 first round outright. But official results and those compiled by independent monitors indicate he did not win the 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff.
The violence poses serious questions about whether the runoff can be free and fair.
"There's no political space in Zimbabwe for a free, fair runoff," McGee said, calling on Zimbabwe's neighbors and other African countries to send 1,000-1,500 observers to Zimbabwe now to help ensure security during the campaign, voting and vote-counting.
McGee also said Zimbabwe's neighbours need to take a tougher line with longtime ruler Mugabe.
"We tried quiet diplomacy and quiet diplomacy does not seem to be working," McGee said. "You still have a regime that is out to do one thing and that is to remain in power."
McGee said Mugabe's neighbours need to make clear that "if you steal an election, there's a price to pay. You're going to be isolated by your neighbors, you're going to be isolated by the international community."
South African President Thabo Mbeki is leading regional efforts to mediate between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. He has advocated a quiet approach, saying confronting Mugabe could backfire.
Nelson Chamisa, chief spokesperson for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, tried to gloss over his prolonged absence, saying questions should be asked of Mugabe and his regime rather than the opposition.
"The issue is about violence and the killing of people and the pressure should be put on the Zanu-PF regime to end the violence. The regime is on the rampage," said Chamisa.
The MDC says 43 of its supporters have been killed in an upsurge of violence since the original polling day and 5,000 families have been displaced from their homes.
understands Tsvangirai wants to time his return to coincide with the
deployment of SADC election observers -- expected to begin by the weekend.
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