THE country’s main opposition party, the MDC, recently held a chaotic extraordinary congress that elected Douglas Mwonzora as the new president.
Mwonzora has pledged to work with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his rivals, among them Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance.
Below are excerpts of the interview with the Daily News’ Senior Staff Writer, Blessings Mashaya
Q: You have been accused of hiring thugs to beat up people at the extraordinary congress and also you are being accused of rigging the election, what’s your response?
A: I couldn’t cause havoc when I was winning like that. It is people who are losing who benefit from violence.
As you saw, I never went anywhere near the ballot boxes myself.
What happened was that I think when Khupe went into the auditorium for the second time trying to stop the election, from the videos because I wasn’t there, it appears to have been an altercation with a few people.
And then as she was going out when she was in the corridor, according to video evidence, somebody slapped her and we are trying to identify who that person was.
We have instructed security, the chairman’s office, as well as the youth to work with the HICC security to get a better view or better footage of that incident.
I have been told that that person could have been identified, and we are going to take action against that person, we will expel that person if we establish that he or she is the one because there is a dispute on what gender that person was and so on.
However, as far as we are concerned that case is a criminal offence and has to be dealt with.
To those people whom we can identify who are uttering hate language, sexist language towards her, we want them dealt with because we cannot condone sexism in this day and age.
So I am happy that the standing committee agrees that we should take action against this person.
Q: You have now succeeded the late Morgan Tsvangirai. What do you promise to do which is going to benefit Zimbabweans?
A: Our promise to Zimbabwe is that we will be a foccused, responsible and patriotic opposition.
We will work for the best interest of the Zimbabwean people. That means that what Zanu PF has done correctly, we will acknowledge that and even encourage it or even complement if we can, but what they are doing badly we will expose because that is our duty as the opposition.
Our duty is to keep the ruling party in check. It is to hold them to account and remind them of their electoral promises and that they should work in the best interest of Zimbabweans.
But in order for us to be an effective opposition, we do not have to resort to hate language.
We do not have to insult anyone.
We do not have to denigrate anyone; we do not have to hate the common interests of the Zimbabwean people.
So we will be very effective by the look of things.
The most effective opposition is going to be us but it is going to be responsible and patriotic.
Q: Now as the new opposition leader are you ready to engage Zanu PF or work with the ruling party?
A: Of course, of course it is the only sensible thing to do (working with Zanu PF). We are already working with Zanu PF anyway. We are working with Zanu PF in Parliament.
We are working with Zanu as we oversee its ministries. Hopefully in January I will be appointing a shadow Cabinet.
This is a team of men and women who will be mirroring various ministers within the Zanu PF government and they cannot be effective without interacting with Zanu PF.
Working with Zanu PF is different from working for Zanu PF. We want to establish a relationship that is respectful and businesslike . . . professional, and that benefits Zimbabwean people, Zimbabwean people don’t benefit from dysfunctional fights . . . but we will take our responsibilities as the opposition and that is what we are going to do.
Q: Some Zimbabweans say a Government of National Unity (GNU) is the only way to go. Do you agree with this and if yes when are you going to start the process?
A: For us to get to . . . GNU (new government of national unity) somebody must initiate it and usually that is the party that is ruling because the argument is that they are enjoying the mandate of the people . . . and the second thing will be the terms of the GNU arrangement.
To what extent it benefited the ordinary men and women because some arrangements are simple window dressing, we are not interested in window dressing arrangements but having said that, Zimbabweans did benefit tangibly from the GNU of 2009 to 2013.
So if that choice ever comes our way, we will weigh whether it is in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people to do that.
That would entail us going around the country hearing the views of the people, listening to the organs of our party . . .
Zimbabweans have always benefited from dialogue.
In 1979, we ended the liberation war with dialogue at Lancaster House, which brought independence . . . civil war, the genocide in Matabeleland ended with a unity accord that was dialogue.
The 2008 and 2009 violence ended again with a discussion.
So there is ample historic evidence that dialogue does work. We want to pursue dialogue. What it will culminate in is another story.
Sometimes it culminates in a GNU. Sometimes it culminates in an arrangement different from a GNU. But as long as that GNU is in the best interest of Zimbabweans, it is welcome to us.
Q: Are you ready to work with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa?
A: Yes . . . I am ready to work with Chamisa. I am ready to talk to Chamisa. I am way ready to work with him. I am ready to work with anyone. But there is one fundamental issue… that our relationship must be predicated upon certain values.
Constitutionalism, rule of law, mutual respect, non-violence and so on. But there is a complicating factor, and that is the G40.
The G40 must just get out of the politics of the MDC. I saw as we were going towards our congress, Jonathan Moyo was busy telling the MDC people not to vote for me and he is trying to influence the decision making within the MDC Alliance.
For example there is a lady in Bulawayo. . . she was named in some abduction. It was Moyo who said she should be suspended and she. . . was found not guilty by the internal tribunal. Jonathan insisted that she should be expelled and she was expelled. So we don’t want an opposition that is a puppet of a group of people like G40.
So in my discussions with Chamisa, if we get to discuss it at all, it will be an important matter to discuss.
But I am prepared to talk to any member of the opposition.
I don’t know whether they are prepared. I have respect for them, I doubt whether they have respect for me so that will complicate things.
Q: Are you going to start the process of engaging Chamisa?
A: Well, I think there is no formula to engagement.
I know for certain that there are members from the Chamisa party who have approached us wanting to rejoin the party, we have said they are free to rejoin the party. Chamisa is free to rejoin the party.
So when it comes to the issue of coming back to the party, the door is wide open, and no questions are going to be asked.
But when it comes to MDC Alliance as a unit and MDC-T as a unit, the discussion between those two units, it remains to be seen whether they are prepared for that.
But we are saying we are now the legitimate party confirmed by the Supreme Court whose leadership came out of a congress ordered by the courts.
And we are the legitimate legal entity. Our colleagues are free to come back to the party and we will ask no questions at all. Okay.
Q: Some critics say the opposition will not win the 2023 election if there is no unity, do you agree with this?
A: We want to unite everyone, starting with our own party.
I am happy within a space of two days, we have been able to reunite our group. It is a record time by all standards and I’m very, very excited about that.
A few days ago, Khupe and another set of leaders were saying things that I did not agree with, and maybe vice versa.
Now, we are speaking the same language within a space of two days.
That means we have the capacity to unite people and what these two days have taught us is that if you want to achieve unity, you must have political will and you saw the appointments that we announced, everybody was there; these leaders were not thrown out.
We will be discussing with our brothers and sisters in the other opposition parties, not for them to dissolve their parties but for us to start working together.
We do that by making sure we forge a respectful relationship with them.
Yes, we are a bigger party, I think we are the biggest measured by the number of MPs that we have.
We have some parties who are numerically smaller than us, those parties are also important because the wishes of the minority must also be considered in a democracy.
So we will want to unite the opposition and we will play our role to make sure that it is united.
But as a matter of fact, it is not a correct proposition that a party always wins if it is united. Zapu split into Zapu and Zanu and that splinter group went on to form a government.
In 2005 Ncube split from the mainstream MDC and three years later Tsvangirai got the biggest win of his career.
We defeated Mugabe, we won the parliamentary majority and local government.
It is what the main party does, that will determine. I think that it is too early to write the obituary of the opposition.
We are capable of winning 2023.
Q: Are you going to denounce sanctions?
A: As a matter of fact, it is not true that the sanctions were invited by the opposition.
The sanctions were a reaction to the human rights violations that were taking place in the late 1990s, to the early 2000s, and so on, but the MDC has a position, which is as old as 2012, when Morgan Tsvangirai led a group of his leaders to a place called Magaliesburg, 100 km from Johannesburg.
I happen to have been part of the leadership that went there, we made our position that the MDC did not support sanctions and would work towards the international re-engagement of Zimbabwe. After that president Tsvangirai went on to address a group of business people, as well as government officials in Australia where he made that position clear.
In May 2014, we had a congress of the MDC and where we made a resolution regarding sanctions and this resolution says that the MDC will work towards Zimbabwe’s international re-engagement.
It also went on to say any positive move on the part of the international community must be made by an equally positive move on the part of Zimbabwe in instituting key social, political and economic reforms.
So the MDC made its position on sanctions clear, as far back as 2012. And we stand by that position, that we do not support sanctions.
At any rate, the European Union removed its sanctions. And I think, if my memory serves me right, only two people were left on that sanctions list and that is Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe.
The generals (vice president Constantino) Chiwenga, (the late) Perrance Shiri and company were put on the suspended list so they are not under sanctions.
Only one Zimbabwean company is under European Union sanctions, that is the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, if I’m not mistaken, so Zimbabweans are not under sanctions from the European Union, as far as we know.
Of course, we do have the United States sanctions. I think this is what the government must work towards.
We are prepared to play our part towards the removal of the sanctions.
But what the international community asks this government to do, it must do and I think that is dealing with the issues of human rights.
I also see that there are issues of corruption and so on, that have to be dealt with.
But our stated position was reiterated even at Chamisa’s congress as well, it was reiterated that we support the re-engagement of Zimbabwe with the international community.
Q: Your assessment of Mnangagwa’s rule?
A: My honest opinion is that they have not done enough. They have not done enough for this country. I think they could have done better. I think they have not dealt well with corruption.
They have not dealt well with legal reforms. They have not done well in aligning the laws to the Constitution.
They are trying to amend the Constitution and that for me it should be a no-go area, really.
But they have also done fairly well, in areas of infrastructural development. I think that their efforts in trying to fix the road network are tangible.
I also think that the level of violence is different compared to the level of violence under the Mugabe regime.
I think we are seeing less, much less of that violence. However, they have a long way to go.
Politicisation of food aid is still a problem, poverty is still a problem, hate language is still a problem, monopolising of the State media is still a problem and those things have to be dealt with.
Q: What is the solution to all these problems you mentioned?
A: First of all, I think that Zimbabwe must come to peace with itself and that we must have a shared national vision and shared national goals; we must end the international isolation.
Zimbabwe must not only look east or west, Zimbabwe must look everywhere.
So the first issue is to deal with the issues of dialogue and inclusivity.
Everybody plays a role in end.