It was a privilege to meet with Morgan Tsvangirai this week, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change and Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
Both David Shearer and I were impressed by him. His commitment to and courage in promoting change in Zimbabwe to restore human rights, democracy and social and economic progress is remarkable. He has been arrested, tortured and severely beaten and survived assassination attempts.
Like Nelson Mandela, however, he is driven by a desire for reconciliation with, rather than retribution towards his oppressors.
In his Prime Ministership, notwithstanding the difficulties in his relationship and differences with President Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party, he has led Zimbabwe on a path to economic recovery and restoration of basic public services. He is currently negotiating the creation of a new and more democratic constitution, which will go to a referendum later this year.
Thereafter there will be elections which the international community, including New Zealand, must support and do what we can to ensure that unlike previous elections they are kept free of violence, intimidation and rigging.
Mr Tsvangirai faces huge challenges. While he would clearly win a fair election, those who currently hold power will be reluctant to pass it over. The current elite enjoy the support of the military, the police and the Zanu-PF controlled media. That is why the strong support of the South African Development Community and the international community through the UN is vital to allow a proper democratic process that is accepted by those who stand to lose their privileged position.
We wish success to Morgan Tsvangirai in his drive to set Zimbabwe on the path to a democratic and successful Zimbabwe, that can put the past behind it, and will support international efforts to ensure a free and fair election.