MDC leader Welshman Ncube has dismissed claims he is a tribalist and denies as “blatant, deliberate, malicious lies” claims by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that he played a key role in the split of the MDC in 2005. Ncube, currently industry and commerce minister in the coalition government spoke to The Sunday Mail about these and various other issues including Gukurahundi, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, sanctions and his prospects at the next elections. Following are excerpts of the interview …
I think the Minister of Finance (has not has done enough to support the revival of industry, and he) knows it. He might have his explanations of why not. Clearly, not enough has been done. Let me just illustrate with two examples. There is Zetref (Zimbabwe Economic Trade Revival Facility), which was supposed to have a US$70 million facility almost from the beginning of the inclusive Government. Two years down the line, only US$20 million of the US$70 million had been disbursed and the remainder is still sitting in the bank.
That is because it is the Minister of Finance who is responsible for establishing relationships with those banks. It is the Minister of Finance who is responsible for the methodology; the mechanisms that will allow that money to move quickly from the banks . . .
Then two, let me give the example of Dimaf (Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund). The decisions on Dimaf, we decided as Cabinet that as of end of last year, there should have been a minimum of US$20 million put by the Government into Dimaf for Bulawayo and then the other US$20 million was supposed to come from Old Mutual as of last year, and that was for last year. We did not put even a cent, as Government, into that fund. Up until 17 April this year, we put US$10 million into that fund. We decided in January this year, that in addition to that original US$20 million we would take from the SDR (Special Drawing Rights) Fund another US$30 million to be put into the Dimaf Fund. The US$10 million will be added to the existing US$40 million to make it US$50 million for Bulawayo.
The US$30 million would then go to outside Bulawayo. Up to today, not even US$30 million is there. Indeed, as I have said, only US$20 million of the original US$30 million is there. Why this is the case, is, of course, for the Minister of Finance to explain. But clearly, if we have not implemented the decisions we have made ourselves, clearly we have not done enough. I am not sure whether the money is there or not. All I know is that he himself made the proposal that we are going to get the money out of the SDR. He was going to recall the SDR money. It was supposed to be US$120 million; US$30 million of it would go to Dimaf this year. It has not gone to Dimaf.
Whether he has recalled the money from the IMF, I do not know. All we keep doing at Cabinet and outside Cabinet is: Please can we have this money and he keeps saying, “Look, someone increased the salaries of civil servants, now we cannot meet the budget every month. We are living from hand to mouth. The money we could have put there, we have now had to cover the shortfall on salaries.”
It was a few days before the sitting of the nomination court, just maybe seven or so days. We then decided we were going to have our president nominated as our candidate. While we were busy working, the president (Prof Mutambara) calls me and says, “No! I have just had a meeting with Simba Makoni. I am not running if Simba Makoni is running.”
He said reconvene the national council to decide. So, we reconvened the national council. This was now three or so days before the nomination court. We presented his case. (When we asked why) he said: “If Simba is running, I will not, we must support him.”
So, that was the scenario, three days before the nomination court . . . When we did the post-mortem of the election, everywhere we went our members were very angry about that decision. Even today, if you go to any meeting where our supporters are, one of the things they still question is: “Why on earth did you do that.”
Gibson (Sibanda) would have probably been a more obvious choice (as leader of the party). Remember, at the time of the split . . . The public discourse became: These people are Zanu-PF and are on a Zanu-PF agenda. If you were in Mashonaland you would say, mandeere apanduka! (The Ndebeles have rebelled!).
You, therefore, had a situation where the split of the party was being cast as having been engineered by Zanu-PF, which had basically co-opted the so-called Ndebeles in the party.
The general feeling among the leaders of the party under the pressure of the moment was if we supported any leader from Matabeleland at that time, it would put us in the stereotype of how our opponents had described us.
It became important, therefore, to negate that stereotype. So, the question then arose: Who do we find, who is not Gibson Sibanda, who is not me, who is not Paul Themba Nyathi? It was then that Arthur’s name was brought up and specifically on the day suggested by Job Sikhala, (Gabriel) Chaibva and Priscilla (Misihairabwi Mushonga). They are the ones who proposed that name.
The overwhelming judgment of our members is that we should never have done that. We have not stopped paying the price, even today. If you go to any community, people who were members of the party at that time say: “How could you have done that to us? We were not able to explain to anyone else how we could do that. What sort of party has leaders who run away from battle at a time they should be in battle?”
All I can say is that it was felt that as a person from Mashonaland, as a young person who was untainted by acrimonious split, he might just provide that extra edge, which the rest of us who were being accused and counter-accused would not provide. That was the feeling at that time. But history has passed and we all know the outcome.
Like many other lies which have been told, one of the lies, for instance, is that I drafted one of this puppet democracy Bill or Act in America. If you look at that Act, just as an example, it is badly written, the grammar, everything can never be drafted by anyone who studied in our legal system.
It is not possible, never did it, never participated in it, but the more generous aspect of your question, did we call for sanctions? In the united MDC, we did support, and it’s on record, targeted sanctions, that is to say travel bans, account freeze for individuals whom we deemed were responsible for perpetrating violence.
That history will record we did support that. We never at any time supported economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. We never supported the placing of business entities such as banks, Zisco and so forth on sanctions list, we never did that.
We still don’t support it and we have never supported it. You then ask, do we ever regret supporting the imposition of targeted sanctions? No. we don’t regret saying that those people who were responsible for violence should be banned from travelling freely. That we don’t regret, yes we regret that those who imposed sanctions then went on and imposed sanctions which went beyond those things that we thought were necessary.
Causing MDC split
Let me, in fact, make a broader comment. It’s unfortunate that so much ink was committed to paper in respect of that book, which is just lies and more damned lies. It’s not just that. Just about everything written in that book about me is a lie. Brazen, blatant, deliberate, malicious lies. The authors of those lies know that they are lies.
There is a litany of them including from the time of the congress - the first congress of the MDC - Morgan lies that there was a draw in the vote between me and Gift Chimanikire and that Gift was then persuaded to withdraw, which is a lie.
I had more provinces voting for me than Gift. Gift had the second highest number of votes. Tsvangirai now wanted to change the rules and say whoever got the highest must first get a majority of the provinces voting, and congress refused to accede to his request, and stuck with the rules that whoever got the highest votes is the winner.
You come to the Mbeki thing which again is lies, lies, lies, lies. Mbeki never interfered in any way in the affairs of the MDC. The incident he describes in his book, for instance, where we went to see President Mbeki, myself, Gibson and Gift and he lies that Paul Themba Nyathi and Dulini went to that meeting, they didn’t. Those who went were myself, Gibson and Chimanikire, the three of us.
We went again at the behest of the same people I told you about earlier on and the neutrals who said “talk and try to be an electoral pact”. Those same people, around the time of the split, in October, they said “look, you guys, this thing is going to get worse, you need someone to facilitate, we believe that President Mbeki, because he has been facilitating the dialogue between you and Zanu-PF, he can facilitate the dialogue among yourself. Please go and ask him to intervene. If he doesn’t intervene, you will split.”
We then said if that is your advice, we will go. So we went to see President Mbeki and Gibson narrated what had happened. President Mbeki said, “If you guys are telling me the truth, that this is what happened at the meeting, I do not think your case is redeemable. But because you have come all the way and you have asked me, I will do it.”
So he picks up his phone and puts a call to Morgan, he says, “I have your people here and I think you are headed for a split and they think that they need a facilitator and they have asked me to facilitate a dialogue between you and them in the interest of your party, and I agree with them that going by what has happened, you guys need to sit down and talk.” Morgan says, “Mr President, you are not the president of the MDC. I am. We have no problem tell them to come back. I will not come to you, I will not ask you to facilitate.”
Devolution and tribalism
One of the deliberate misconceptions to say a call for devolution is a call by tribalists. Devolution, as we understand it, is a system of government where central Government devolves power to communities and to regions to manage their own affairs, and we believe that even if you go back to the Bible, you will recall, I cant remember the characters, the fellow who was doing everything in the Bible and his father-in-law came and said, look, you are in meetings sunrise up to midnight. You have no time because everyone is coming to you for decisions, the state is not functioning. Why don’t you appoint your people there and let them do these things for you and you then deal with the important and big cases? It’s written in the Bible to that effect. And that is all we are saying about devolution. Devolve power to entities at the local level so that people can manage their own affairs.
Why do we have to say, for instance, a person who wants a liquor licence in Chiredzi must have the liquor licence processed in Harare by the national liquor board? Who is best placed to determine whether the place they want to open a bottle store is a hazard to children, someone sitting in Harare or the local people there at council or whatever level it is?
The institutions which we are saying should devolve to already exist. You have governors, you have provincial governors you are appointing them centrally and imposing them on the people. We are saying allow those people to elect their governors to say in this area we want so and so to be our governor and lead us. Why does that divide anybody?
We are saying in a particular province, devolve power to the province and say, “Ok, the issues of tourism in this province, let’s manage them, let’s look at the road infrastructure, let’s decide the priorities. Which road should take precedence over that road.
We have not (presented devolution as a Matabeleland thing) … Neither have the people, it’s the opponents of devolution and our opponents. You see Professor Ncube you see Matabeleland; you see Makoni you see Zimbabwe. It is not my mind-set which is the problem, it is the mindset of those who perceive that once Professor Ncube is leading a party the first thing you see is Matabeleland. When Job Sikhala leads a party, you don’t see Mashonaland; when Makoni leads a party you don’t see Mashonaland …
The minimum that should be done is a basic minimum, otherwise it will not go away. We must admit frankly and openly that Gukurahundi happened in the manner in which it happened. That there were people who were killed, people who were maimed; people who lost their homes, people were driven into exile.
There are people today who can’t still get documents arising out of Gukurahundi: there is no father, there is no mother, there is just a child who can’t get a birth certificate. So let’s start by at least acknowledging and saying, “We as Zimbabweans went through this unfortunate phase of our history. It was wrong, it should have not happened.” Just as a national … to say that everybody accepts that everybody accepts that it should have not happened.
It’s not enough, to just stand up one day and say this was a simple moment of madness and then thereafter say everyone who mentions that is either a tribalist or divisionist. You can’t do that. There must be an unconditional acceptance. Unlawful, wrong killings, maiming, burnings of homes were done. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is that those who suffered in one form or another and those who are still suffering, you must at least have what we might call restorative compensation. To say let’s look at all the children who are affected, let’s make an exceptional law that says that anyone who comes forward as a child and says, “I lost my parents” you give them a birth certificate. You give them an ID.
Let us first stop behaving as if Gukurahundi did not happen. Let’s accept it happened and let’s say come forward, for instance, the Organ on National Healing. When we proposed it during the negotiation, we thought that it would do some of these things without going back to open old wounds. “You did this to me, you did that to me” because we couldn’t agree on that.
But at least we were able to say let us correct the persisting injustices. So the Government, all it needs to do is say, “Register-General, go to the affected areas, call on anyone who lost a document which can’t be replaced because of our rigid rules, make sure they get their documents.” It’s just as simple as that. So the rest giving money to people, trying people, we are saying forget about it now let just deal with the continuing injustices for now as a basic minimum.
Yes, I think we have (an acceptable constitution) from what the negotiators tell me. I was told in a meeting this morning that the drafters are not ready with the final draft they are supposed to prepare. They have proofread the document and they asked for certain amendments to be made and we are waiting to see the draft.
So I am thinking maybe next week or the week after we will have a final version. It is a version which will not make everyone happy. If you are a purist, you will not be happy - either you say what the people said there was not followed or this is not good enough - but we are in a polarised Zimbabwe.
The constitution is a political document ultimately and our political contestations are reflected in our positions on the constitution … which means, eventually, the constitution that we will have has to be a compromise and, if the constitution is a compromise, it will not have all the things I want.
It’s a very difficult question, but working within Cabinet unless and when you are debating contentious political issues around, for instance, election road map, security sector reform, I think Cabinet has operated generally as a cohesive institution made up of Zimbabweans. I think if you were to be a fly and sit in Cabinet, you will not often be able to tell, if you did not know in advance, that this is a Zanu PF minister and this is an MDC minister.
Because the debates are objective and rational and people get persuaded by the logic of the argument … Some of the things might even surprise you, because Cabinet discussions are confidential, I can at least tell you this that positions which some people think are Zanu PF positions, as we understand outside Cabinet, you will find them enthusiastically and sometimes shockingly being propagated by an MDC-T minister.
I think I said earlier on that I think we have been the fastest growing party in the last one and half years. We have been the party which has remained rooted and grounded in the communities. Every week we have an outreach programme. Every day our lower structures have an outreach programme.
I believe that we have done very good work. I believe that a lot of the people have begun to understand the things we stand for, a lot of people have begun to understand the principled positions we take on issues and for that reason I believe that we have rebranded our party, we have rebuilt our party into a party which is capable of winning the next elections. I believe most sincerely we are going to win the next election. Not just potentially; I believe we are going to win the next election.
It is all fiction, absolute brazen lies. We hardly ever talk about the facilitation process except through the normal channels. More importantly, understand that the facilitator is not a judge.The facilitator never makes a determination. He literally facilitates. He sits parties down. The facilitator will never determine what should happen. President Mbeki never did it. President Zuma has not done it and, I believe, will never do it.
All this insinuation is based on a misunderstanding of what the role of the facilitator is. So, you cannot influence the facilitator to do anything because he is not required to make a decision. He is only required to facilitate.