'I would never want to see Mugabe behind bars'

HARARE - MDC youth leader Solomon Madzore spent 405 days at Chikurubi Maximum Prison as he was jointly charged with 28 others for allegedly murdering a policeman.

Recently, he was charged for insulting or undermining the president after prosecutors said he called President Robert Mugabe a “limping old donkey” at a party rally in Mushumbi Pools, Mbire.

As Zimbabwe prepares to hold crunch elections whose dates are expected to be announced very soon following a Constitutional Court ruling ordering Mugabe to proclaim dates and hold the plebiscite before July 31, Madzore told the Daily News he has no hard feelings about his torment.

Instead, the lanky MDC youth leader says Zimbabwe needs healing for it to move forward.

“I would never want to see Mugabe behind bars. I think there has to be time for healing and there has to be time for progress. There has to be time for development. I think we have to agree on that,” Madzore said.

“It’s non-negotiable. For me forgiveness is all we need in this country. I know they (Mugabe and his allies) have done very heinous things against our people. But I believe strongly that where forgiveness is found, progress is also attendant to that.”

Madzore was arrested in May 2011 with 28 others for allegedly murdering Inspector Petros Mutedza at Glen View 3 Shopping Centre according to the State.

He spent close to one-and-a-half years in remand prison in one of the high profile cases to be brought before the courts during the life of the inclusive government.

Rights groups claimed the arrests and the current trial are an assault on the pro-democracy movements.
However, the State maintains emotions must be separated from the trial as it has a strong case against the suspects.

But Madzore does not see the reason to hold grudges, whether justified or not — choosing to take the root of peace and forgiveness.

“In fact, I think I have already forgiven those guys who imprisoned me for close to one-and-a-half years. And I meet them, and we laugh, we talk. Who am I not to forgive?

“I think forgiveness is Godly. And we would all want to go back to our likeness. I am a Christian. I believe in what the Bible says. God created us in His own image,” said Madzore.

“I think it’s about love. It’s about forgiveness. Zimbabwe needs love. This is the missing link in this country. The more we pray; the more we believe in forgiveness and the more we can move forward. I am not bitter at all. I have gone past that.”

Madzore believes the MDC’s quest to bring change has been hazardous but remains alive amongst the party’s supporters and the general populace.

“I have travelled this journey and it has been a very arduous trip towards what we believe to be the real transformation for this country. What drives me is the quest to see a better Zimbabwe where each and everyone of us as Zimbabweans, is able to exercise their rights.

“I have been in touch with so many people across many provinces around the country. People are not able to exercise their right to free speech.”

The aspiring MP for Dzivaresekwa said the current environment makes it difficult to promote and recognise people’s rights, such as freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Zimbabwe has some of the harshest laws in the world that are synonymous with dictatorship.

Among them are the nefarious Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), Public Order Security Act (Posa) and the overly used Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

These directly and indirectly curtail free press, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Critics say these have been used to silence the media and opposition political parties to the benefit of Zanu PF.

But cases of harassment against the media and opposition parties receded with the consummation of the inclusive government.

Madzore, however, expressed disappointment with the way the inclusive government has handled its business.

“It was our strong belief that through the GPA (Global Political Agreement) executive authority was going to be shared equally between the winner of March 29, 2008 elections, Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe. That’s what we believed,” Madzore told the Daily News.

“But I want to say looking back now I think we were very wrong. I am really very disappointed in how the GPA was implemented. There are so many things that were left hanging. There was an issue of rotating ministries that was never done.

“And you have got Mugabe leading his team in Zanu PF behaving like big brother in the inclusive government. For us this has been a very tiring journey. I don’t think I would want to see it going beyond its envisaged lifespan.

“I am one of those people who think the inclusive government did what it could, it stabilised the economy, violence has been going on but we are very disappointed in the behaviour of the president of this country. He treats the prime minister as if he is a political novice, as if he did not win the election yet he (Mugabe) is the beneficiary of the GPA.”

Madzore, while lauding the positives in the new Constitution, remains sceptical of Mugabe protecting the citizens’ rights, at least between now and the elections.

He believes the MDC will form the next government.

“Sometimes I used to think that if you take the American Constitution and bring it to Zimbabwe; the million dollar question that you would ask Mugabe would be, will he implement it in the same manner the Americans do?

“I think the answer will be very simple. The answer will be no. We need a new political culture to be inculcated into the minds of the people. I think you are talking of a system that has overstayed in power. For me, Mugabe has been institutionalised.

You are looking at a situation where people have not been able to provide an alternative.

“While I have hope that something positive is in the making, and you would also want to recognise that there are so many reforms  that have been brought forward by the new charter, but I want to be sceptical about Mugabe and Zanu PF officials being able to safeguard people’s rights.

“The past speaks of itself; they have failed dismally. I would want to believe this is the very same reason why we must ensure that the forthcoming elections are going to be free, fair peaceful and its outcome must not be contested by all the political parties contesting for power,” said Madzore.

He said the MDC was ready for the elections and its structures have been activated to mobilise the youths to register to vote.

“We are going to ensure that people get registered as voters. We have a very clear position as the youth assembly that there shall be no election without voter registration because that is a total disregard of the people’s rights.

“As much as we want to respect as a party the decision that was given out by the Supreme Court (Constitutional Court) that elections should be held by the July 31st; we don’t have a problem with that. But we have problems with a scenario where such a pronouncement is not met with reforms that we have been clamouring for.”

Madzore said their youth policy was clear on what needs to be done for young Zimbabweans, both in the political movements, church and civic groups.

“The party’s youth policy is very clear; it begins and ends with the people. We are coming from a backdrop where the MDC  youth assembly is not necessarily an autonomous body in the party.

“We are part of the bigger picture, which is the party. We have a clear vision where young people are actually part of the main structure of the economy. Our policy has various functions. We are proponents of free education for young people during their primary education. We believe that it is the State’s role to ensure that youngsters go to school for free.

“There has been a lot of burden on the shoulders of parents. You hear of issues of incentives in schools and that is very burdensome. So we are saying free education as far as primary education is concerned. We would want to see grants coming back and we would want to see students getting what they deserve,” said Madzore.

The party has an upliftment plan which takes a broader approach to include all classes in generating jobs and wealth for the people.

It also seeks to provide optimal health for the nation and remove the commercialisation of health services which he says currently dominate the health services sector.

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