10 Questions for Morgan Tsvangirai

  • David Johnson for TIME

    A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable suggests President Robert Mugabe — once your adversary and now your partner in government — has cancer. Is this true?

    There's no acknowledgement of bad health. All we know is that he has been attended in Malaysia and recently Singapore. He has been going for medical checks. The state of his health, whether he is ailing, one cannot tell.

    What happens if he dies in office?

    In the case of the President, it would be one of his advisers for the next 90 days, constitutionally, to take over and run it until the election is conducted.

    But does his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front, really exist beyond Mugabe?

    They have a problem. You see, it's a party that has earned its legacy from the liberation. But Mugabe's hanging on without a definitive successor. If he should collapse dead today, it becomes a national concern.

    What, then, are you achieving in coalition with this regime?

    We're creating a transition. You can remove Mugabe as an individual, but his party has been so entrenched for the last 30 years that what you need is actually serious transformation of the institutions.

    How can you trust Mugabe when his backers still threaten you with violence?

    What is trust? We've had a working relationship. But obviously, with elections coming soon, one begins to see the elements undermining this working relationship.

    There was a time when Mugabe wanted you dead.

    We're always conscious that the fact that what they've done to us and the opposition is unacceptable. [But] if the nation is to move forward, then one cannot always go back to that, because it will only mean that you'll have to engage in retribution. We are very conscious of the acts against myself as an individual and all our supporters who died during this struggle. But the question is, then, How do you balance between the cries of the victims and the fears of the perpetrators? There is a price to pay for stability and peace.

    What legacy have people like Muammar Gaddafi and his friend Mugabe left Africa?

    It is a phase that Africa should accept — mistaken policies, mistaken positions — but it's a phase all the same. What these nationalists and liberators created was one-man rule, family dynasties. We can't have that in Africa if it's going to be accepted as part of the democratic and prosperous future.

    Is China the new imperial power in Africa?

    No, I don't think so. But they are not missionaries, all the same. They're after business interests. China knows that there is going to be a scramble for resources.

    What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

    It is a story of the democratic struggle and the various trials and tribulations we face in the struggle for that objective. How do you fight a dictatorship using democratic means — without necessarily resorting to violence, without necessarily resorting to unorthodox means? It's largely a message of transition and a struggle which I think is unique and a lesson to others.

    You've been through harassment, violence. Has it been worth it?

    I'd do it again, given the state of people's desperation. I'd do it again. The people of Zimbabwe have lost loved ones. They have been brutalized. They've faced all sorts of trauma. So it is very important to always look back and say, These people have not struggled in vain. You need to create hope.