FORMER Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was last week in London to address a conference at Oxford University on the extractive industries and democracy in Africa. He also found time to discuss where his party is with regard to putting together evidence proving the July 31 elections were fraudulent, whether or not the MDC-T would contest future elections and his own position as party leader. The MDC-T leader spoke to NewZimbabwe.com’s Gilbert Nyambabvu.
Gilbert Nyambabvu (GN): It’s now nearly three months since the July 31 elections. Your party said it was putting together proof of the fraud it alleges was carried out, how far have you gone with that?
Morgan Tsvangirai (MT): We are putting the evidence together but you must understand that it’s like asking the thief to give us evidence of his guilt and this particular thief is no fool. We must realise that was not an election because votes did not have a choice. Although the process was peaceful the outcome was predetermined long before the supposed vote itself. We are asking ZEC to provide us with the information, to explain and show us the process by which they came up with this outcome but they will not. We are asking them what happened with the two million extra ballot papers but no one will say. All the voting material has been moved to the KGVI, and it’s inaccessible.
GN: You publicly backed the appointment of Justice Rita Makarau as ZEC chairperson – in fact we understand she was put forward by the MDC-T. After what you say happened on July 31, do you regret the choice and should she continue in the role?
MT: Well, Justice Makarau was not in charge of the whole thing – we actually pity her. The fact of the matter is you could have put God there and even HE would have been defied – that is how determined these people were about retaining power. ZEC had no role at all – it was the secretariat which is headed by an ex-CIO operative, controlled by the military. Whether or not Justice Makarau should continue in that role is a matter for her to decide but she must accept that she was not in charge. Even the civilian Zanu PF party was not in charge – the whole thing was controlled and directed by the military, by the CIO. That is why we still have Zanu PF candidates who tell us, today, that they have no idea how they won. Notice how none of those who claim to have won can even celebrate –they know they did not, actually, win. The economy itself has not experienced any post-election bounce from this supposed landslide; if anything we’re going back to 2008.Advertisement
GN: You have demanded a re-run of the elections – is there any chance of that happening?
MT: Well, I would not put my bet on it but also I think that, for the sake of the country, a return to legitimacy is paramount and that legitimacy can only come through a free and fair election.
GN: In other words Mugabe is getting away with the fraud you say he carried out on July 31?
MT: Definitely, he is getting away with the subversion of the people’s will and of course he has used his threat to pull out of SADC. He told SADC that if they do not back him he would pull Zimbabwe out of the group and of course the regional leaders were intimidated as they need to protect the unity of SADC. Consequently, its Mugabe who won on that particular confrontation. Because if you look at the Maputo resolutions, they were very clear; we needed to implement the necessary reforms so that the elections outcome would not be contested.
GN: The coalition government is credited with helping stabilise the economy and putting it on the path to recovery – is that recovery under threat from this dispute over July 31?
MT: Actually the elections have put the recovery in danger; they have undermined confidence in the country and the policies going forward. If Zanu PF had not changed drastically in terms of their policy thrust, perhaps people would have given them the benefit of the doubt; but they are pursuing the same nationalist and racist positions and that does not inspire confidence. The economy is in a free fall; obviously there is a liquidity crunch, there is no new money coming into the country. There is no confidence in business; 700 companies have just closed so things are not looking good. Instead of making progress we are now in a big reversal of the gains that were established over the last four years. The biggest disappointment is that the young people who had hoped that there would be a new momentum, a new direction – their hopes have been dashed.
GN: Are you prepared to work with Mugabe and Zanu PF to stop the country going back to 2008. I suppose an economic crisis of the sort we had in 2008 would work to your advantage?
MT: We have made sacrifices (in 2009) that’s sufficient; not anymore. Zanu PF has promised people the moon, they should deliver!
GN: Regarding reforms, you were not able to force their implementation while in government. Now you are out of government with even reduced numbers in Parliament. Looking at 2018, is there any chance that that particular election can be credible.
MT: There is no way you can have elections without reforms. ZEC has to be reformed; the military has to be reformed. The media have to be reformed if any election which is going to be held in the country is to be credible. Now, without those reforms it’s not going to be possible. When we were in government we were pushing this but Mugabe and his people knew that if we were going to have these reforms then, necessarily, their objective would be defeated.
GN: Seeing as there is little chance of these reforms being implemented (and you seem to admit this) are you going to participate in future elections?
MT: Let me put it this way … if the system does not change, then forget about elections. If Zanu PF’s grip on the institutions of elections does not change I think it will be advisable for the people of Zimbabwe to just say, tough luck, there is not going to be any elections in the country. Because the purpose of elections is to give you the right to vote and to choose and also to expect that when the incumbent loses there will be transfer of power. Now Zanu PF does not want to transfer power; it happened in 2008 – we beat them; did they accept to transfer power? No. Now this time they didn’t do it in so brazen a way. The pretended to be running an election but they had controlled everything – the outcome of which they themselves determined. What does it mean? It means they don’t want to give up power. Why? Because they say they have liberated the country and therefore will not give it up.
GN: Are you saying there is no prospect of delivering the change you have promised your supporters?
MT: No, there will be change in our life-time; circumstances determine behaviour I want to tell you. Is there any chance for democratic change in our life time? Of course there is going to be democratic change in our lifetime. Circumstances are changing, generations will change. As I said this is not just a political transition; this is also a generational transition and for the sake of our country, for the sake of prosperity and dignity of Zimbabweans, democracy is unavoidable.
GN: Some of your supporters say we have tried for 13 years to bring change through the electoral route and it’s not working – why should they continue to be engaged? They also wonder whether it’s not time to change strategy and tactics. Are you prepared to lead them in demonstrations and mass protests?
MT: But how long did it take Zanu PF, with guns, to dislodge Ian Smith? We have never considered this to be an event – tactics and strategies will be developed along the way. The new constitution allows protests but they must be peaceful, rational and not emotional and I’m prepared to provide leadership, wise leadership. What we do not want is for people to give up because when you give up you throw away all the sacrifices you have made over the last 13 years.
GN: During one of your trips abroad as Prime Minister you were reported as saying Mugabe had given you to believe that he would do right by the country (by which you meant ensuring credible elections) – where you naïve to believe that?
MT: I was mistaken, I definitely have to accept that I misjudged the commitment to doing the right thing because we had worked together to bring our country from the brink and I thought with his legacy of liberating the country he would not degenerate to the level of subverting the will of the people.
GN: Did you get the sense, in your interaction with Mugabe, that the problem was with him or is he – as you have claimed – being held prisoner by the selfish intentions of more powerful forces those around him?
MT: Power is institutional; it’s not just the individual and I believe that it’s the institutions of power – the pillars of power around Mugabe that are determining the future, that are determining what should take place – it’s a collective effort.
GN: We are in serious trouble then?
MT: Oh yes we are (laughs) and the sooner we come round to accepting that the better.
GN: There has been a lot of discussion within and outside the MDC-T regarding your own position and you said that as long as you have the support of members, you will continue to lead the struggle. It’s the sort of thing we often hear from Mugabe, are you not increasingly sounding like him?
MT: I’m not sounding like Mugabe. One of the things you have to understand is that I was given the mandate to be the leader of this party until 2016. But I have encouraged debate, after the July 31 elections, through our party organs to debate organisational and leadership renewal. What does this mean – it means that I’m open to that criticism. But the unfortunate thing is that this is a narrative which is being driven by Zanu PF. Why? Well because as long as Tsvangirai is there we are not secure; so get rid of him so we can have a free ride. So it’s not a debate that originates from within the MDC.
Of course there are individuals with their own opinions about the post-election position of the leadership, but if we all accept that this election, overwhelmingly, was rigged; I have been out in the districts and everyone says this is not how we voted. If we accept that the election was rigged why then do we say the leadership is culpable because, then, you are blaming yourselves for the outcome and saying we contributed to the loss. So for me, I will not stay any longer than people want but we have got platforms, internal platforms to debate the leadership, to have an opportunity to elect new leaders or retain those who are there. I think that I’m still motivated to bring change, to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. To say that let us change the leadership in the middle of a struggle is, I think, suicidal.
GN: But are there any people around you that you think can do this job as well as you have or better, maybe?
MT: Well the MDC-T has groomed people, the MDC has potential leaders. But you know this debate is targeted at MDC instead of targeting it at Zanu PF where succession should take place (laughs) – that is where leadership renewal is desperately needed.
GN: There have been suggestions that Mugabe should anoint a successor and that his failure to do so is at the root of Zanu PF’s factional problems. Would you consider anointing a successor in the MDC?
MT: It’s not democratic to anoint a successor or to appoint one, even. Let those interested put themselves forward, let there be debate. In any case, the people know who, among their leaders, is going to be next?
GN: Regarding the MDC’s Diaspora structures – there is discontent over the decision to reduce them from provinces. Activists wonder if this means the party hierarchy does not value their contributions over the years and in future.
MT: It has been an argument; it’s like the debate over whether we need provincial structures or not – whether they are not actually undermining the unity and grassroots nature of the party. But these are congress decisions. The issue of external branches was decided after a very worrisome situation with people focusing on fighting amongst themselves rather than doing what they are supposed to do which is advocate for change back home, to fundraise for the party and generally to campaign for the party back home. The fact is the struggle cannot only be internal, it can also be external but look at what happened after the results were announced, who in London went on the streets to highlight the fraud?
GN: Perhaps they were waiting for direction from the leadership?
MT: No-o, you don’t wait for the leadership; action is by the people – you see the gap? So I’ saying (to the external structure) look, you let us down. It may not be possible to do it (protest) in Zimbabwe but outside the country the Zimbabwe must remain part of the international psyche; if they do not raise it who is going to?
GN: During one of your visits to the UK as Prime Minister you said you felt that the time was right for those who wanted, to return home and contribute to the development of Zimbabwe from within the country. You still prepared to ask Zimbabweans to return?
MT: Well, that was then … I still believe that Zimbabweans cannot run away from their own country. But development will determine whether or not people can return – so development becomes a priority.
GN: The public calls by senior officials for your ouster and the defiance of the party whip by councillors have raised questions about internal cohesion in the MDC. Is the party united?
MT: The party is very united. We went through some very open discussions in the national executive, in the national council and we are now at the point of going out to the districts where we allow people to speak, to tell us what happened (on July 31), what is the way forward. People are debating and speaking freely without any restrictions whatsoever. Of course we have got our own internal things to sort out but generally everyone accepts that this was the greatest subversion of the people’s will.