Sunday, August 12, 2007
IT’S official, the MDC has split again, after a cosmetic unity endeavour ahead of March 11. Accusations and counter-accusations, are again the order of the day, and have left people wondering why the two factions, or is it formations, thought they could work together when they have such low regard for each other. The Herald caught up with the spokesman of the Mutambara faction of the MDC, MR GABRIEL CHAIBVA, to get the story behind the story.
QUESTION: Mr Chaibva, your re-unification bid with the Tsvangirai camp has collapsed, can you briefly tell our readers what led to the collapse?
ANSWER: I think we need to appreciate that after the split of October 12 2005, the starting point was to seek reconciliation. Immediately after the split, there were attempts to do that, a committee of prominent citizens was established, it was headed by Brian Raftopolous and it tried to reconcile the top-six of the party, Mr Tsvangirai spurned that.
He refused to recognise that committee, and we moved on. Later on there were attempts again by very prominent citizens of this country, political scientists of repute. Not only did we have some people within the Sadc region, including heads of state, saying you need to strengthen the opposition, get together. Several meetings were held in South Africa, and Mr Tsvangirai refused to attend, so we moved forward.
We then started to work around the Christian Alliance formation, and the thinking again among church leaders, political scientists and citizens of Zimbabwe, prominent ones who wanted to see the party re-united, culminating in the launch of the Christian Alliance on July 29 2006 where we believed that we could create a platform of working together and in the process build a culture of tolerance and celebration of diversity. Again that did not work, but the Church leaders, prominent citizens did not stop there, they went further and said since there was acrimony amongst us, we tended to be attacking one another, criticising one another. They said no, we need to establish a code of conduct where we then set the rules as part of the confidence building mechanisms between the two formations of the MDC, and that culminated in the code of conduct which was then signed by the secretaries general of the two MDC formations, and was supposed to be signed as well by the respective presidents of the two formations, president Arthur Mutambara and president Tsvangirai.
Again it is important for me to put it on record that having agreed on a code of conduct, after no less than six meetings Mr Tsvangirai refused to sign that agreement, and you have heard us say he experienced some pressure from certain quarters. Yes, he was pressured into signing that document, after it had gone through his national executive, his national council, unilaterally he refused to sign it.
Then we said fine; no problem let’s go ahead. Eventually, we were now tossing the idea of a united front, again, it was not an initiative by us, and it was prominent citizens, church leaders, lawyers who were pushing for a united front to confront Zanu-PF on the basis of a one-candidate philosophy and principle. Let us have one presidential candidate, one parliamentary candidate, one councillor, and one mayor in all our elections next year since they were going to be harmonised.
There were several meetings starting more than 10 months ago, several meetings which exceeded, if my count is not wrong, 10 of them. We came up with the first draft, second draft, final draft with the two secretaries general reporting back to their national councils, and national executives, we all agreed, and the final document was then ready for signing, the coalition agreement.
And at the last minute, at the eleventh hour, Mr Tsvangirai said no we cannot go into a pact with elitists, essentially he does not believe in a united front, that’s what he was saying. So we ended up with a scenario where his public statements and public utterances were diametrically opposed to what he was doing internally. So we went on to establish the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, again as a platform of working together, and in the process we believed that we would build confidence among ourselves as a starting point which will lead to ultimate re-unification, or formulation of a united front. That collapsed and Mr Tsvangirai, at the last minute, refused to sign and adopt the coalition agreement, so that is how it failed.
Q: Among the reasons cited for the collapse is the fact that the initial causes of the split were not addressed, which brings in the question of your eagerness to unite with Tsvangirai whom you described as a violent dictator, a weak and indecisive leader, among other things. Why were you so eager to overlook all these faults?
A: Don’t forget it was going to be a united front of all democratic forces, we had said let’s bring in Ndonga, let’s bring in (Paul) Siwela, let’s bring in Daniel Shumba and his UPP. We had even said let’s bring in the independent Jonathan Moyo into a united front; it was not unity per se.
The issue of the differences that arose out of October 12, it was not us again it was the church leaders and prominent citizens who said look, the people of Zimbabwe have suffered, the people of Zimbabwe are angry and furious, they want every vote to count against Zanu-PF.
Let there be an opportunity for the people of Zimbabwe, in an election, to vent their anger, when we adopt a one-candidate principle and philosophy, so it was pressure coming from the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.
Q: Who stood to benefit from a united MDC, your camp or Tsvangirai’s faction?
A: The people of Zimbabwe would have benefited because every single vote would have counted against Zanu-PF so we wanted to give the people an opportunity to vent their anger, the people of Zimbabwe were going to be the ultimate beneficiaries.
Q: There is a view that the Tsvangirai camp feels uniting with you will be a waste of time as you are a weaker faction that will not bring value, your comments on that?
A: Anyone can say anything, some have described us as the smaller faction, the weaker faction, but what do they mean by weak, what do they mean by smaller? We have 27 legislators (20 MPs and 7 Senators) who are behind us, and the institution of Parliament represents the people of Zimbabwe assembled, and the Tsvangirai group has 21, including defectors. So who is weak, who is small? We have got an election coming up next year and that will come out clearly.
Q: What does the collapse of the unity project mean for the MDC in the countdown to Election 2008, don’t you think by going in as a fragmented entity you hand the initiative to Zanu-PF?
A: The truth of the matter is that certainly, we will be relatively weaker but look here we are not worried about that; we are worried about defending the founding principles and values of the party. What did we say in 1999 when we formed the MDC? What did we say about violence? What did we say about democratic leadership? What did we say about transparency, integrity and accountability? What did we say when we formed the MDC? That is what is fundamentally important, the people of Zimbabwe, the way I have known them is that they will listen to the argument we are putting on, they are listening when we say there has been a deviation from the principles and founding values of the party.
So when we go to the elections next year, the truth of the matter is that as a united MDC, with the weak and indecisive leadership we had, we could not dislodge Zanu-PF. And it takes a fool to say you do not want the 504 votes from Budiriro, if you remove a dollar from $1 000, surely it will not be $1 000.
Q: Tied up to the question of next year’s elections is the issue of your name, symbols are you going to enter as the MDC Tsvangirai against the MDC Mutambara?
A: I have answered that question before. Look at it this way. It’s a two-pronged question. The first one is political and the next one is legal. But however, the summary of it is that we will go as the MDC. We believe we are the party that constitutionally and legally has defended, upheld the founding values and principles of the MDC.
The other one, in our view, is actually the faction, the breakaway faction, I will call them the breakaway faction. Look at it this way. Let me bring you to the picture of 2005, October 12. The National Council of the MDC is the supreme policy making body of the party in between congress.
Mr Tsvangirai violated by denigrating and showing contempt to the institution that is the supreme policy making body of the party. He is the one who walked away from the National Council and contrary to the propaganda I tend to hear, 60 percent of the members of the National Council there continue to be with us. So we believe we are the constitutional and legal MDC. But however, we take note of the concerns of others that they also want to call themselves the MDC, so we will go to the elections. We will not contest their claim to be MDC as well. We will go to the elections like that and the people of Zimbabwe will know who has the strategic vision, which has got technocratic solutions for this country, who has got proposals for greater political democracy.
It is ironical that the people of Zimbabwe would expect a leader who has no respect of his own party, who has got no respect of people like, for example, Gibson Sibanda who is the founding president of the MDC.
Don’t hear nonsense from anybody else, to expect him to be democratic if he gets state apparatus, the CIO, the army, the police at his disposal then you can become democratic. Zimbabweans are not like that. They see through the underhand dealings of Mr Tsvangirai and his colleagues.
Q: What can you say have been your achievements since October 12 2005 and how do you view chances in next year’s elections?
A: Since October 12, we have got back to the drawing board, we have gone back to the founding values of the MDC, we have re-branded the MDC, we are a Pan Africanist political organisation which embraces the liberation struggle legacy, and we cherish the efforts of young men and women who sacrificed their lives to achieve independence.
This is what we said, ironically, way back in 1999 so we are now articulating it more viciously, more vigorously so that the people of Zimbabwe will know that our roots are embedded in the belief that we are an African people.
Our achievements, contrary to what might appear to be the so-called public perception, the truth of the matter is people are joining us in their droves. They now see that we are a party for the future, today, tomorrow and the future and they are coming in their droves to join us. They do it quietly and we don’t make Press statements about that.
Our chances next year? The people of Zimbabwe have no choice. We have got President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF. Their record, I don’t need to repeat it. We just experienced a train crash on Thursday, lives have been lost, and many others, the economic record, I will not repeat it.
And then we are faced with Mr Tsvangirai who is also an aspiring candidate for the presidency. His record is there for everyone to see. We believe that we must provide decisive, we must provide leadership to the people of Zimbabwe and to take them to the Promised Land.
Q: How did you receive the ongoing price freeze ordered by the Government?
A: Let me make this very clear. The first question to ask is how did these prices get out of reach? Where were you as the party and Government, where were you President Mugabe and your Zanu-PF as the party in Government, when things were going that out of hand? Inflation today is 4 500 percent officially. Nowhere in Africa have we experienced such high phenomenal growth in the inflation rate.
Where were you? Now, what is happening are not price freezes but its coercion of price freezing. There is force that you are using and there is nothing economic about that. The truth of the matter is you need to address the supply side of the demand equation. Simple basic economics.
And how do you do that? Increase productivity in your factories; increase productivity in your agricultural sector. Everywhere else increase productivity. Flood the market with the goods and subsequently economics’ supply and demand equation will tell you the prices will go down.
It is a temporary measure, which has got catastrophic consequences that we are currently experiencing. A total emptying of all the shelves. No one will want to produce because you can’t sell profitably. The farmers themselves, our indigenous farmers are complaining bitterly about that.
Q: You asked where was the Government when prices were going up, isn’t it ironic given that your party called for sanctions?
A: Let’s go back to 1998, the MDC was not there, what did we have in Mabvuku, in the various cities? Food riots. Let’s go back to 1990, to Edgar Tekere’s ZUM election manifesto, what did he say? ‘‘Zimbabwe’s economy is near total collapse, and our mothers and sisters are flocking to Botswana and South Africa looking for food.’’ It started a long way back, 10 years before the MDC was formed.
Q: Observers say President Mugabe and Zanu-PF have become de facto leaders of the opposition by moving in to protect workers while you, a presumed labour-based party, sups with employers. How do you respond?
A: It did not start with these price freezes. Go back to Murambatsvina. This is where we come in now as a political party under the leadership of Professor Arthur Mutambara. You need a strategic vision. You need to understand that the struggle is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It is a 100 000-kilometre marathon and the question to be asking yourself is will you be there at the 25 000km peg, will you be there when we go to the 40 000km peg? Don’t see victory in the horizon. It is again the lack of a vision and the lack of a strategy.
We went through Murambatsvina. The opposition said absolutely nothing and don’t forget, we were under the leadership of Mr Tsvangirai. So are we wrong when we describe him and say he is weak and indecisive and has no vision and no strategy and no tactics at all? We are now mapping a strategy for the future and those kind of things if they are gonna happen again in the future. You will see it when we galvanise the people in support and we will not allow that kind of thing to happen again. So in a way you are correct because we have had indecisive, weak leadership lacking in vision and strategy in the previous opposition leaders.
Q: Some sections of the opposition have criticised your party for embracing the agricultural mechanisation programme, they feel you let your colleagues down by accepting the tractors, combine harvesters, fertilizer spreaders and planters, among other things. Your comments on that?
A: Let me put this on record. I did not receive a tractor myself and I have gone to (RBZ Governor Gideon) Gono’s office and I have said if you don’t give me a tractor, kumusha usauye. That’s what I have said.
Now, let us not confuse the land reform programme embarked upon by Zanu-PF and agricultural mechanisation. Let’s not confuse the two things. Look here. Incidentally, vanambuya nanasekuru kumusha uko had asked me to provide them with magejo, the ox-drawn ploughs. And I bought them at a cost of $ 38,8 million, to do what? To do farming. Now, after I had delivered those magejos, they came back to me and said can we have the oxen or donkeys because we don’t have the draught power and then you have got a facility which, by some good luck, you can access.
And by the way it’s not gratis, it’s not for free. You pay. And you refuse. Don’t you eat sadza in your home? Don’t you eat matemba in your home? Don’t you eat vegetables in your home? Are those things not coming from the land? You see? And those who criticise, I think, are confusing the agricultural mechanisation programme and the chaotic land reform programme embarked upon by Zanu-PF, which we disagree with, the manner in which it was done.
We don’t in any case as a party believe in the chaotic land reform programme that Mugabe and Zanu-PF, I know you want the word President Mugabe, President Mugabe and Zanu-PF have embarked upon. We believe in agricultural revolution, security of tenure, productivity of agriculture and so forth. That’s what we believe in.
Q: Questions were also raised over apparent contradictions within your party where your president blasted the programme while some top-officials, among them your secretary general accepted and hailed it. Is everything well in the top hierarchy?
A: Let me correct that. The president of the party Professor Arthur Mutambara did not denounce the mechanisation programme. What he denounced was the allegation that he received a farm and he was farming in Chimanimani, which is false and untrue. And in any case he read it, the allocation of tractors; he read it in the newspapers of which he had not received anything. He was simply categorical in denouncing the fact that there were allegations that he was given a farm and he was farming in Chimanimani, which is not true. So there is no dispute in our party. We believe in productivity and we believe in accepting state implements for agriculture. In any case, I am not a farmer myself at the moment, a commercial farmer. They have denied me land, since 2000 I have been applying for land and they have been denying me land. I will put that on record.
Q: The last session of the current Parliament has just opened, and one of its tasks is the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.18) Bill. What is your position on that Bill?
A: We love a situation where we would have had a whole-scale constitutional reform not these piece-meal constitutional changes that are taking place. We don’t believe in that. We would have wanted a people-driven constitutional reform programme not these piece-meal amendments to the Constitution. I think it is an opportunity for Zimbabweans, especially as we are being assisted by our friends in the Sadc region, to embrace that notion that we need a people-driven national constitutional process as opposed to the Constitution Amendment (No.18). This is why we believe that the Sadc initiative on the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis can and will emerge with substantial progress with regards to Constitutional Amendment (No.18). But however, we will debate Amendment (No.18) and we will put on the table our proposals for Amendment (No. 18) and we will viciously defend our position and try to make our colleagues in the ruling party understand the need for a people-driven constitution. It’s an opportunity to make a start for Zimbabwe.
Q: Your colleagues have also dubbed you spoilsports, claiming you are favoured by The Herald or the State, your response?
A: We give interviews to anybody, on earth or in hell. My responsibility for that matter is to disseminate information. I have given interviews to the Financial Gazette, I have given interviews to the Independent, I have given interviews to the Standard. I have spoken on Studio 7, on SW Radio, on any platform that carries our message. It’s a pity that they don’t realise, those who are critical of that, they don’t realise that we are making demands for the public media, the publicly owned media to cover the activities of us in the opposition.
And often, they tend to be doing that, but the truth of the matter is our other colleagues in the opposition parties they shy away from these public platforms, they shy away for fear exposing their shortcomings, they shy away from communicating with the people of Zimbabwe.
caesar.zvayi AT zimpapers.co.zw