HARARE - Amid claims by some that main opposition (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai is now a spent force, the Daily News’ reporters Fungi Kwaramba and Tendai Kamhungira (DN) took time to speak to Tsvangirai (MT), in a wide-ranging interview that touches on the party’s succession plan, opposition party coalitions and his stance on electoral reforms.
DN: You recently went around the country what was your mission?
MT: Yes, the mission out there was to assess the state of the party and also to assess the state of the drought and its implications on the population. I think from the party’s point of view, we are satisfied that the party is solid, the party structures are intact and that those who are committed to change have not lost hope, they are still as enthusiastic as ever.
As for the state of hunger, it’s now common cause that we face a very dim future with regards to the food situation in the country and apparently people still hope that the government will be in a position to respond, but so far I don’t think the government has adequate resources or adequate means to respond to the level of hunger.
DN: It seems as though those in power do not go to the people in times of disaster, but you have in the past tried to visit villagers after the Tokwe-Mukorsi flood disaster?
MT: They (some leaders) depend on the bureaucratic inputs I suppose, the district administrators or traditional leaders, Zanu PF structures to some extent. These are partisan political structures that either try to hide the situation or in a way want to exploit it for political purposes or partisan purposes. We all know that the level of drought is even worse than that of 1992.
At least the response of 1992 was very effective in terms of transportation of food to various parts of the country but this time you don’t see activity, you don’t see the urgency, you don’t even see the coordination, nationally and internationally.
DN: There is this question that is asked by many, who claim mdhara apera (you are no longer popular)?
MT: (Laughed) Hanzi ndapera, ndapera chii (in what sense do they say that)? I told you I went around the country and if (Morgan) Tsvangirai is of no use why would real supporters of the MDC believe that he is the solution? Why would people still believe in a 92-year-old (President Robert Mugabe)? If ndikapera inini (I am no longer appealing) at the age of 60 ko ane 90 anoitasei, (what would a 90-year-old do)? The comparison is unbelievable. I am at my prime, politically I have endured 16 years of political development and for anyone to talk of munhu apera (waning popularity) what is the yardstick?
We still have not achieved the change we have been fighting for. There has been a lot of experience over the last 16 years.
We believe in serious paradigm in terms of thinking, in terms of approach, the only obstacle has been an entrenched dictatorship and sometimes I wonder why people blame the opposition for the mistakes and omissions of the dictatorship.
DN: You spoke about entrenched nationalism, spending much time on credentials, what do you think must be done on this issue?
MT: Well, I think fundamentally what is needed is to redefine the nationalist agenda. The elements of nationalism for instance it’s not just a question of change of personalities, it is a question of transforming the governance culture. We have for the past 35 years been at the mercy of Zanu PF governance culture, one man rule, no democratic deepening, no economic upliftment of the people, corruption , patronage and of late even redefining who is entitled to lead the country or not. Now that is a culture that must be transformed and it is abuse of State institutions to sustain power rather than to allow the State institutions to service the people and that is a fundamental mistake.
DN: Do you think you can still win elections against Zanu PF?
MT: What is the means of power in this country? We, from the beginning have never believed in unconstitutional means to remove Zanu PF. We have always stuck to the democratic process, because we believe in democratic change of government unfortunately in trying to push for that agenda, we have had to meet so many obstacles the violence, the rigging of elections, the denigration of the leadership of the opposition, the redefining of what sovereignty is all about, so we have had to contend with that. These are the obstacles, nowhere in the world have you ever seen a democratic movement taking on a dictatorship using democratic means.
And that’s what defines us differently from others. If you look at what we have achieved, we have achieved to redefine the State by a new Constitution, we have achieved to say Zanu PF has no hegemony, has no monopoly in the governance of this country and hence there are two political movements in the country, Zanu PF and MDC totally different, with a totally different vision for the country. It gives the people an opportunity to choose.
DN: Doesn’t the issue of electoral reforms come into play in ensuring that you win a free and fair election?
MT: We have been fighting this government for reforms, the Constitution has provided so much wide-ranging reforms but it’s not being implemented…and in 2008, we won an election, Mugabe has confirmed it but was there a transfer of power, if there was a transfer of power in terms of the dictates of the mandate of the people, then the MDC would have already taken over power.
But people want to say the MDC has failed even if those in authority have refused to transfer power, the blame has to be on MDC, so I say so without even any apology, the MDC has provided a new vision and a new vehicle for the change of governance in this country and to say that we have failed just because Mugabe is still there, has no merit, because if Mugabe has got an entrenched system that refuses to give up power even when people have voted against it, why should you blame the opposition?
DN: In light of this, what are MDC’s chances in 2018?
MT: Well, the chances are there, that is why we have put forward the question of reforms as a pre-condition for possibility of an electoral playing field which is free and fair.
DN: But Zanu PF has been backtracking on implementing electoral reforms to an extent of participating in by-elections, which you boycotted. Do you think Zanu PF will implement the reforms?
MT: We have not participated, that was a strategy for us to expose Zanu PF and in fact we achieved that. Have we not been vindicated? The implosion that you see is as a result of infighting in Zanu PF, because we have not participated. They find enemies within themselves and I think we have achieved that.
DN: Former Vice President Joice Mujuru has launched her new political party the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF). What do you think of this new “kid” on the block?
MT: There has always been a new kid on the block, there was Simba Makoni and his Mavambo/ Khusile, so there will always be.
For me, they are not the enemy, they appeal to a certain constituency, I don’t know which one, but they are part of the opposition. To me that’s fundamental, they are not the problem, the problem has always been Zanu PF, so in terms of accepting their role and space, fundamentally I see nothing wrong with that.
DN: Is it true that you share a lot in common with Mujuru including your stance on electoral reforms?
MT: To be truthful, these are the things we have articulated over and over again. The problem has always been the transfer of power in this country and there are institutions that are being abused to stop respecting the people’s will …whether it’s (Morgan) Tsvangirai, whether it is Amai Mujuru, whether it is anybody, the question is that this is the time where we have to force conditions, conditions that will allow for the mandate of the people to be observed, unfortunately, Mugabe has always sustained his power through military means, military pillars.
We have never said that the military is an enemy of the people, we have always said people must be professional, they must respect the Constitution. If that were to be observed in the letter and spirit, I can tell you Zanu PF will not see the light of day. If we have beaten them in 2008, in 2018 they will be chicken feed.
DN: What is your take on the issue of forming a grand coalition with other opposition political parties?
MT: People have to be careful on coalitions, we have always believed that coalitions are not a pact of the elites. It’s about the people and when we talk about the people how do you qualify an elite pact which is not based on any quantifiable ways? It means that only a few leaders have come together and agreed but what about the people on the ground, what are they saying? So perhaps we believe that coalitions are good for partnerships.
They are an instrument of partnerships, strategic partnerships to achieve a certain objective, because you believe in those values but they are not just an opportunistic method ye (for) a few people sitting around saying yah saka imi muri kubva kupi saka (where are you coming from) let’s talk …that is position oriented, it’s not value oriented so for strategic reasons, people have to be very cautious.
DN: Do you think a grand coalition can work in Zimbabwean politics?
MT: You will have to make a very serious analysis at that stage, yekuti (that) as we go towards an election…you must understand what are we fighting for? We are fighting for legitimacy, we are fighting for a democratic process, we are fighting to ensure that the people’s mandate is respected. If those conditions are there then the opportunity for partnerships as players is there.
There is an opportunity for various players to coalesce around the main objective but people must be clear, it’s not about positions because the obsession sometimes is who is going to lead and people miss the point, it becomes now a fight for positions, you are fighting to the bottom instead of fighting to ensure that the objective is to dislodge the system and once you are fighting to dislodge the system, it’s about value, it’s about a new government culture…
DN: Currently Zanu PF is facing serious problems due to Mugabe’s failure to name a successor, as the MDC, do you have a succession plan?
MT: Any organisation must have a succession plan that is why in business, there are succession plans, in political parties there should be succession plans.
It’s what is called the queen syndrome. When you are in an organisation, you must know that there are potential successors, and at some stage you pave the way for others. You cannot just go on and on and on, you have to create conditions for the sustenance of that organisation, it means that there has to be constant development of leaders at the bottom and so that provides for sustenance for the future.