I'm relevant in Zim politics — Makoni

HARARE - Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) leader and 2008 presidential candidate Dr Simba Makoni, who is in the UK this week to meet representatives of business, government and members of the Zimbabwean community, says he’s on a mission to promote a culture of consensual politics and a commitment to service and integrity in public life.

In this exclusive interview with New Zimbabwe.com, Makoni (SM) sat down with journalist Chofamba Sithole (CS) to discuss a wide range of topics, from the current constitutional reform impasse to his views on the diaspora’s role in national life.

CS: Dr Makoni, you are not in government, you are not in Parliament and you are not a party to the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

People will ask, are you a relevant actor in the current political process?

SM: Yes I am relevant as a citizen, and so are millions of other citizens who are not in government or in Parliament. Parliament and government are only a small component of any country and it does not mean that the large majority who are not in those structures are not relevant to national affairs.

CS: We have heard concerns about the current coalition government arrangement as being very elitist when, as you have intimated, everyone should be relevant actors in national affairs. What mechanisms and opportunities are there for those such as yourself who are outside the GPA and its attendant regional diplomacy to engage with the on-going political process?

SM: There are various platforms that one utilises to make a contribution, and I want to underline making a contribution. Contributions to national affairs, to national development are not limited to particular, defined political processes such as the GPA. We are building a political party and national development is about ideas — we are putting ideas into the national debate.

Those ideas are advanced through the fora of our political party, through civil society, business organisations or even through localised institutions.

So I think it is very important to make people understand that there should not be just one channel of participation and contribution to national development.

CS: As somebody who belongs to a party that is engaged in the Zimbabwean debate alongside others, who also find themselves outside the GPA structures, are you happy with the nature and quality of this debate? Do you see it as critical in influencing what happens in Zimbabwe, and do those with whom you debate listen to you?

SM: Some listen; most, I would say, listen. The few who do not listen are the parties to the GPA.

CS: But one would expect those to be the ones who hold sway and therefore having a conversation with them is critical?

SM: No, I think we want to interrogate this. They are important because they are in the institutions of state. But if we were operating normally, they would be less important than the voices of the people.

This is one issue that I would like us to engage in terms of redirecting the content of our national engagement. The voices of the people must be more important than the voices of office bearers.

And this is part of the agenda that I as a person, my party as an organisation and those that I interlocute with in public affairs are trying to drive very hard.

CS: I’m not sceptical about that, but it just struck me that is not that the challenge across all of Africa, and perhaps beyond?

SM: Indeed, it is. That it is a challenge across all of Africa makes it even more important. A lot of the things that are happening in Zimbabwe and the way they are happening are the same across our continent.

But I wanted to come back to this question of the voices of the people and voices of the office bearers, because going back to the struggle for liberation, the definition of the purpose of struggle was not just to put black people in the offices occupied by white people.

But the misfortune is, when we got independent, different faces and different complexions of skin moved into the offices and perpetuated the systems and the institutions.

CS: So the structures and institutions remained unreformed?

SM: Absolutely. You may know that we were under the Law and Order Maintenance Act (Loma) that Ian Smith promulgated in 1965 until 2002 when Posa (Public Order and Security Act) replaced it.

But if you look at the content of Loma and that of Posa you won’t find a lot of difference there.

So the essence of the point I’m making is that whether it is in Zimbabwe today or in South Africa, toyi-toying about service delivery, or Egyptians in Tahrir Square, the key question confronting Africans and Africa is: what is the content of our liberation?

Not what is the form, what is the appearance, what is the face of our liberation, but what is the content of it?

This is an issue that’s not in our discussion at home. Right now our discussion is dominated by: what do we do to remove Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF from office and probably put Morgan Tsvangirai in his place or probably put Simba Makoni in his place.

CS: So the discussion hinges on personalities?

SM: Exactly. So we need to deepen the content of our engagement and this is what is lacking even in the debate at home which is fairly circumscribed and fairly limited in scope because the avenues and platforms for engaging that debate are very limited, not just in terms of the public media outreach but even when you go to the University of Zimbabwe and ask the professors of political science, of the social sciences, what issues they are debating about the content of our being.

Let me give you a very provocative illustration, In Zimbabwe, 32 years after independence, under the leadership of one of the most radical nationalist anti-imperialist leaders of Africa, Robert Mugabe, Shona and Ndebele are taught in Zimbabwean schools as second languages.

Can you imagine that? And that is not in the debate! It’s not in the discussion; it has not been for 32 years.

And so, when you ask about relevance and participation and involvement, I would say part of the effort is to try and redefine the content of our national politics and policies in terms of who we are and who we want to be.

CS: Is it the case, therefore, that all this is because the nationalist movement after independence focused on power and its reproduction rather than engage in broad-based nation-building where such issues as national identity and culture could have found expression?

SM: Our whole post-independence experience has been about power and control on the one hand and self-enrichment on the other.

It hasn’t been about the greater good, the wider community. It has not been about us as a people, it has been about a few individuals and their welfare, as if to say the welfare of the president equals the welfare of the population.

CS: You’ve noted how this debate is missing in the current constitutional reform process.

What’s your view on the content and relevance of the current constitutional reform process and secondly, how do you see this process as a mechanism for unlocking the political crisis?

SM First let me say that it is very important and very good for a modern state to have a good constitution that governs and guides its conduct both within itself and between itself and the other entities.

But in the current situation of Zimbabwe going back ten, nearly 20 years, a good constitution by itself is not the solution to our problems.

Our crisis today is not a constitutional crisis.

It’s a crisis of human failure, particularly a crisis of a failure of leadership. When the Supreme Court made its first ruling on the so-called land invasions and the response of President Mugabe was that this was a political issue and not a matter for the law, that’s when he rendered our constitution irrelevant.

The constitution could have been very good, the law could have been very good, and even the administrators of the law, in this case the courts, but when a citizen decides to disregard the constitution, and no less than the head of state and government, then your constitution is not the order that it is normally given in law abiding communities.

So, that is my first take. It is good for us to have a good constitution, but a good constitution is not going to solve our crisis of the illegitimacy of Robert Mugabe, the insensitivity of the inclusive government to the plight of the people where Parirenyatwa Hospital goes for two weeks without running water and lives are not being saved, but you have money to buy new vehicles for top people in the government and in the security agency.

CS: The GPA prioritises constitutional reform as the way forward to facilitate the country’s political transition. How do you see that, and do you have an alternative view on how the country could proceed from the current political arrangement?

SM: Yes, I have maintained throughout this GPA process that making a new constitution is important for Zimbabwe but it’s not the most urgent priority. What I consider as most urgent now is to create conditions for a free and fair election. Secondly, under that new law, what institutions do you mandate to conduct that election, and subsequently what capacity and resourcing do you give those institutions?

What do I mean? If you take our current electoral law, even the electoral law under which the 2008 elections were conducted, it is a viable, feasible, effective legal and operational context for holding free and fair elections.

The rigging of elections, whether of 2002, of 2005, or of 2008 was not because our electoral law was defective, although of course you can always improve it.

It was because, again as I discussed earlier on about the president saying I will not obey the law and the constitution on this, it was certain people deciding not to obey the law and to conduct themselves according to the law.

So it will all in our situation boil down to the conduct of individuals: Is Robert Mugabe willing and ready to give Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission), which is already mandated by the law, the leeway and the capacity to conduct free and fair elections in Zimbabwe?

We’ve been on a wild goose chase over the last three years with people lining up their pockets through the Copac process.

(We need to] ring-fence — and I suggested this a long time ago — the key issues, which are around the question of whether we can have a free and fair election that can allow the people of Zimbabwe to elect a leadership of their choice.

That leadership will now have the mandate to deal with the constitution, the economy, with peace, violence and intimidation.

But we’ve been in a power game — and if you read the GPA, it’s about power-sharing between Zanu PF and the MDCs.

And this is why the constitution-making process right now has become bogged down by the power-sharing where one party says there is not enough power in this document for me and I want the document to give enough power to me, and the other one says no, there is more power in this document for me than the last one and so I would like it.

So, we have been stuck in a power game which has been given different names like constitution making, national healing and reconciliation [and so on] but all these names are facades for the power contest between Zanu PF and the MDCs, and the people are being short-changed in all this process up to this stage.

CS: Do you see a referendum actually being held at all?

SM: Yes, a referendum will be held.

CS: With the Zanu PF draft and the Copac draft?

Makoni: There will be a draft constitution which will be put to the people.

At worst, there will be two drafts – this is the direction I’m sensing the facilitator (Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma) taking, that if we can’t reconcile the two, then let’s put them both to the people.

What some of us are trying to work to is to create the conditions that support free and fair elections.

Let the remainder of work that needs to be done be taken over by those who will be mandated by the people in a free and fair election to work for them.

CS: The year is almost out; is there scope to hold an election before then, as Zanu PF has pushed for, should the constitutional issue be resolved successfully?

SM: I was never convinced in 2010 or even in 2011 that Zanu PF wanted an election. Zanu PF is scared of an election because they know that they don’t have support among the people. But Zanu PF plays a very high stakes game, a game of bluff where they do what you don’t expect them to do in the hope that they will intimidate and frighten rivals.

Unfortunately, some of our compatriots, particularly in politics, are falling into the Zanu PF plot.

Do I see an election in this time left? There is enough time to organise a credible free and fair election, again if we accept that we ring-fence the issues that bear on the conduct of free and fair elections and we resource the institutions that are mandated to conduct (the elections).

CS: Sadc looms large in our current politics, having played midwife to the coalition government.

There is the view that Sadc is able to rein in and will not tolerate any waywardness from any of the political actors in Zimbabwe. For instance, it is said that the kind of violence that we witnessed around the 2008 elections will not be tolerated this time round.

How much power does Sadc wield over our political process and does it hold the trump card?

SM: Yes and no. Sadc is a strong influence on Zimbabwe; I can tell you that neither Mugabe nor (MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai wanted the (GPA) nor to be in the inclusive government together.

They each wanted their own thing by themselves, and it was the influence of Sadc that brought them together. It has the influence, but I think we would also be incorrect if we folded our hands and just waited for Sadc to solve our problems.

Sadc is an important facilitator (and) encourager of our national processes.

And to that extent there is justification for a view which says if we wanted to be wayward and we still accepted that Sadc was the guarantor of this process since 2007, then certainly Sadc will not allow us to be that wayward.

And Sadc has shown itself to be quite firm from Livingstone to Sandton, to Luanda 1, to Luanda 2, to Maputo, we have seen a different Sadc in the context of Zimbabwe from the Sadcbefore the Livingstone troika summit.

CS: We had President Thabo Mbeki and his brand of quiet diplomacy before his successor President Zuma came on board. Do you put it down to the change of leadership in South Africa — is it President Zuma’s personal diplomatic style, or is it really the circumstances existing now that have informed Sadc’s firmer and stronger stance on Zimbabwe?

SM: I think the latter. Quite frankly, our regional neighbours and the rest of the world are fed up of us.

Our leaders were told in these many words in Sandton (Johannesburg, South Africa) in June of 2011 that we’re fed up of Zimbabwe and every time we meet our whole discussion is dominated by Zimbabwe.

We have our own problems, we have problems of other countries and Zimbabwe either has to shape up or ship out.

*To be continued.

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