HARARE – Our deputy chief writer Tendai Kamhungira sits down for a chat with former Finance minister and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn leader Simba Makoni. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Q: How do you see the current economic and political situation in the country?
A: The country has been in a crisis for close to 20 years, in fact it’s not one crisis, they are many crises, but what affects the people most is the political crisis. We also have a social crisis, we have an economic crisis. People have not enough food, people live in fear, there are no medicines in hospitals, there are no books and chalk in the classrooms, government can’t pay its workers, companies are closing down, employees have lost jobs, people have become hard-hearted and cruel, uncles rape their nieces, husbands murder their wives. So it’s a country that is in turmoil, it’s a nation that is in pain.
Q: Considering your experience in government, what do you think needs to be done to avert the crises?
A: First, the root cause is the failure of leadership, leadership ultimately in the person of Robert Mugabe as the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe Incorporated, if this was a company, and also the team he has put around him, whether they are ministers, permanent secretaries to serve the people in preference to serving themselves.
So, the first thing that we need to do is to muster courage among the people who say they want to lead this nation, that they lead this nation in the interest of the people rather than in their personal interest.
Q: As a former Finance minister, what do you think is the solution to the country’s cash crisis?
A: The economy has shrunk; it is no longer producing enough to sustain everything that we need. So RBZ governor (John) Mangudya can come up with the proposal to bring bond notes and to stop imports, those are what we call palliatives, they are first aid, you have a cut in your leg, if you put a bandage, you are not treating. So all these other things will not solve the problems until we deal with getting the economy to work again, farmers to produce, miners to mine, for factories to open and manufacture again, whether it’s a pair of overalls or gumboots, suits. When you don’t have a productive economy, and all of you are consuming what you are not producing, you will not solve the cash shortage.
Last week, there was a newspaper headline which said Mugabe has blown $50 million in foreign trips. Now, can you imagine what we can do at Harare Central Hospital with just $2 million?
Q: There have been calls for a coalition of opposition political parties; do you think this idea can actually work in Zimbabwe?
A: A coalition means working together, a coalition means co-operation, a coalition means togetherness among people who have a common purpose. If you have time, go and dig up the statement I made on February 5, 2008 when I announced I was going to stand for presidency. The biggest call I made then was, the biggest problem that Zimbabwe was facing at that time and this is nearly 10 years ago and the problems were not as profound as they are now, will not be solved by one entity, not one political party, not one business organisation but they will be solved by all of us working together and then I called it a broad-based leadership drawn from politics, civil society, from professions, from business and…that was my call nearly 10 years ago. I remain convinced, even more convinced today that, that togetherness is required.
Q: Who do you think is capable of leading the coalition?
A: My view is that at this stage, it’s not really the “who” which matters, it’s the “what” of leadership do we want in the office of the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, in the office of chief executive of Zimbabwe Incorporated, or even in the church in Highfield. We need a leadership that unifies the people, we need a leadership that is honest, a leadership that is not corrupt, a leadership that is not cruel, a leadership that has compassion and feeling for the people not for itself.
We need a leadership that’s knowledgeable. Because a lot of the problems we are confronted with are out of ignorance. Leaders are put in a position that they know zip about. We need leaders that are knowledgeable but not a single leader will know everything, so we need leaders that are team players, leaders who will work with others, who know better in this area than they do. When you find people who fit that description, that’s who must lead us.
Q: There have been claims that you split the 2008 vote, denying MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai outright victory, what is your comment to these allegations?
A: I believe very strongly that the people who voted for me were not going to vote for Mugabe, they were not going to vote for Tsvangirai. So the allegation that I split the vote, I don’t think it’s grounded. When I announced that I was going to run for presidency, there was still 15 days for registration. At the end of that 15 days, justice George Chiweshe — who was chairman of Zec at that time — announced that there has been a surge in voter registration in that last 15 days of 45 percent. This is on record.
Q: Some believe that you were a Zanu PF project?
A: I don’t know what evidence those people are looking for to prove that I was not a creation of Zanu PF. If I was, in 10 years, I would have gone back to my creator, I haven’t. I am still fighting the so-called creator until today. For the sake of the record, I left Zanu PF of my own volition, I wasn’t kicked out, I wasn’t dismissed. I left because I did not believe what Zanu PF was doing at that time was in the best interest of the people.
Q: As we go towards the 2018 elections, another presidential candidate Nkosana Moyo has emerged. What do you think of this political project?
A: On the one hand, Nkosana, you and everybody, have a right to offer themselves to lead the people. So he is exercising his constitutional right. But on the background of the discussion we just had about the need to work together; I hope Nkosana will find it feasible that he can join others who are seeking to make change.
Q: Do you think in the absence of electoral reforms, the opposition can win against Zanu PF?
A: It’s a double-edged sword. Remember that Morgan Tsvangirai won in 2008, there were no electoral reforms then, the environment was as harsh as it is now, it was the same Zec. So on that basis, I think yes, but the country needs an environment of free and fair election so that who wins, wins cleanly, there won’t be any basis for contesting the outcome
Q: Given that Tsvangirai won in 2008, does that mean Zec is capable of holding free and fair elections?
A: No, Zec has not conducted any free and fair elections, so I don’t see how that would change in 2018. That’s why we are calling for those reforms and reforms are at different levels, including in the personalities that are in the offices of Zec, that we have professionals, who are competent, who are non-partisan, who will do their job the way it must be done.
Now, in 2008, they spent six weeks counting just about 2 million votes for president, today Rita Makarau sits on petitions that says can we see the ballot boxes into which the votes which were cast in Mt Pleasant are stored and she says “no I can’t give you the ballot boxes.”
Q: There have been calls for the international community to monitor local elections; do you think this intervention will help bring free and fair elections in Zimbabwe?
A: The law of Zimbabwe provides for international observers, international monitors for our elections, so does the Sadc guidelines, so does the AU guidelines. So it’s not something that is being done specially or specifically for Zimbabwe and it’s not the first time that it would have been done. There were international observers and monitors in 1980, 1985 up to 1990. We started going down the slippery slope from 1990 onwards because at that time, Zanu PF started losing its hold with people. So the answer is yes, it is useful, it is good but international observers, monitors…by themselves in the absence of the other requirements will not guarantee free and fair elections.
Q: Jonathan Moyo once said that it is cold outside Zanu PF, how are you coping since you left the ruling party?
A: It’s not cold for me. It’s very warm; I would have been very cold inside Zanu PF in the last 10 years. It’s a matter of principles, it’s a matter of values, and it’s a matter of conviction. Now I can tell you that by the time I left, I was already very cold, I was already very uncomfortable, I was sitting on thorns inside there because things that were being done cut across my grain of principle and value system. So, maybe Moyo is who he is, he can blow up
$400 000 of Zimdef and not blink. For him it would be cold outside, because he would have no opportunity to do that.
Q: As Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, what are you currently doing in preparation of elections next year?
A: We are continuing to build Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn to be a strong party and we are continuing our efforts to work together with others, so that we can realise this grand coalition for change that the country needs.
Q: How do you view calls by Zanu PF members that Mugabe must be a life president to the extent of some equating him to Jesus?
A: They are sick in the mind. I don’t believe that even those people who are making those calls believe themselves, when they say those things, because when you talk to Zanu PF members, including many at the top, they will acknowledge to you that the country is in trouble, that Zanu PF is the root cause of these problems.