Africa's Worst Job

By Johnson, Scott | Newsweek International, October 5, 2009 | Go to article overview

Africa's Worst Job

Johnson, Scott, Newsweek International

Byline: Scott Johnson

High on the sixth floor of a drab building in downtown Harare sits Morgan Tsvangirai. Dim and barren, his office is a far cry from the digs most prime ministers enjoy. But Tsvangirai is far from most prime ministers. If he needs any reminder of this, there, on his otherwise bare office wall, hangs an elegantly framed portrait of Robert Mugabe: the dictator Tsvangirai has tried to overthrow for more than a decade and with whom he now shares power. Tsvangirai isn't intimidated by the gaze of his nemesis, the last of Africa's Big Men. "He's not the only one who can watch," Tsvangirai says. "I'm looking right back. I'm watching him too."

The collaboration between these two men is as unlikely as it is uncomfortable. The result of a deal struck in February under international pressure after elections that most think Tsvangirai won but Mugabe tried to steal, it is an almost unprecedented arrangement: an emblematic dictator ceding partial power to a hated insurgent in a last-ditch bid to shape his legacy. Neither man trusts the other and neither has taken to their forced cohabitation easily. "Can you imagine [working with] someone who has threatened your very existence?" asks Tsvangirai, whose face bears the emotional and physical wounds of their combat. "Sitting down in the same room? It's unimaginable," he says. Yet that's precisely what they're doing.

As prime minister, Tsvangirai has finally gone from being Zimbabwe's public enemy No. 1 to an officeholder with real executive muscle. Yet his challenge is enormous: reforming the economy with limited power, convincing skeptics that Zimbabwe is a good investment, and trying to ease out Mugabe without destabilizing the regime. And for every gain there have been terrible losses. A week after the election, Susan Tsvangirai--his wife of 31 years and his most trusted adviser--was killed in a car crash many think Mugabe engineered. Tsvangirai has met with Barack Obama in the White House, but he struggles to enact the simplest laws at home. Mugabe loyalists still control the attorney general's office, all the major security portfolios, and the state-run media. Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has fragmented, and its members continue to be threatened and jailed.

So far, the prime minister has focused primarily on stabilizing the economy, to some success. Within weeks of taking power, he replaced the Zimbabwean dollar with the U.S. one, ending years of fiscal chaos and an inflation rate in the millions. The results were immediate: industrial production shot up, and after years of decline, the economy has grown by 3.7 percent this year, according to the World Bank. Zimbabwe is now a changed place in many ways. Under the power--sharing deal, MDC officials took over key posts such as the ministries of finance and planning. The sense of economic panic that once prevailed, when the price of bread could double in a few hours, is gone. Ordinary people seem to enjoy a newfound sense of routine. Journalists (including this one) can work fairly freely, and while the intimidation of MDC supporters continues in some areas, it's a far cry from the mayhem that prevailed last year.

Tsvangirai has even managed to craft a working relationship with the president. "Mugabe's work over the last few years is indefensible, but we've agreed to work together," says Tsvangirai. "The wheel is turning slowly." The two men now meet every Monday morning in Mugabe's office, where they confer in a mixture of English and Shona. They ask about each other's families. Little by little, Tsvangirai has begun to raise the most delicate issues, including Mugabe's record corruption and abuse. "He doesn't want to own up to that," Tsvangirai says, "but I confront him, I do. He denies it. I try to bring the evidence, but he denies those things."

Indeed, in many ways the battle to control Zimbabwe remains as fierce as ever. The MDC controls Parliament, but just barely. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Africa's Worst Job


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.