Southern African leaders have vowed not be involved in the dispute in which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been denied a passport by Robert Mugabe regime.
Tsvangirai has accused the government of denying him a passport in a bid to arm twist him to agree to Mugabe’s terms to a new power-sharing government.
This resulted in Tsvangirai to boycott a SADC troika summit on October 20 in protest over government’s continued refusal to issue him with a new passport.
Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede, a loyal Mugabe ally, has issued Tsvangirai with an emergency travel document (ETD) which limits his travels to a few countries within the region.
Monday’s meeting – called to resolve the dispute over cabinet posts – had also been expected to settle the passport row, which many say, though, is a mere administrative issue for the government to settle.
In light of the government’s reluctance to resolve the matter, the troika had also been expected to impress upon the Zimbabwean authorities the importance of issuing Tsvangirai – as Prime Minister-designate – with a passport.
But SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao told a press briefing that the role of SADC was not to negotiate travel documents for Zimbabwean politicians.
“The troika summit did not meet to deal with the issues related with how you deal with travel documents to the principals,” said Salomao, “I think that it’s not the role of the troika to deal with that.”
He said the troika would be exceeding its bounds if it were to start negotiating for a passport on behalf of Tsvangirai.
“If we ask the troika to do that, then something is wrong,” he said. “So my advice to the troika is – ‘No, that item is not your item. We have the right place to deal with the technical problem that we faced last week and I believe that the relevant authorities are taking care of that.”
The MDC has accused government of negotiating in bad faith by refusing to issue its leader with a passport.
Despite churning out thousands of passports to individuals each week, the government maintains it is short of the special paper to process Tsvangirai’s passport.
But George Charamba, President Mugabe’s spokesperson put it bluntly in his weekly column, Nathaniel Manheru. “A passport is not a right, which is why all passports the whole world over belong to Governments of given States,” he wrote in The Herald last Saturday.
“There is a backlog at the passport office, which is growing by the day. It stands at upward of 130 000, with many eager applicants having been on the waiting list for periods longer than the gallivanting Tsvangirai. The needs of these applicants are even more basic: travelling to neighbouring countries to buy necessaries.
“Contrast that with Tsvangirai whose passport fills up on sanctions-buying trips.
“And anyway, why should he jump the queue? Why should he escape the shortages arising from the very sanctions he so loves? Is it very bad to pay the guy with his own coin?”
MDC says their leader would not travel to attend the extra ordinary SADC meeting to the yet to be named country using a ETD.