Source: The fight is against a brutal system: MDC – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 28, 2019
The MDC, two weeks ago, postponed its 20th anniversary celebrations following the death of former President Robert Mugabe, a man the party supporters would love to hate even in death.
NewsDay (ND) senior reporter, Blessed Mhlanga caught up with the party’s secretary-general Chalton Hwende to discuss Mugabe, MDC and the future of opposition politics in Zimbabwe.
ND: You had so many differences with the late former President Robert Mugabe, how do you reconcile those differences and the praise that you are giving him right now?
CH: I think now that Mugabe has departed, we have chosen as a party to concentrate on those areas in which he made a positive contribution to the society. He is no longer here to defend himself. We had a lot of documented differences with Mugabe, but at this juncture we need to focus on the positive contributions he made for the country, that’s why we are here to celebrate him as the great son of the soil.
ND: There are people who say their relatives were beaten and killed under Mugabe and they feel betrayed by this gesture, what would you say to those people?
CH: Well, we understand their pain. We are with them and Zimbabwe as a country finds a place to give justice to those people. There are many people in the MDC, over a thousand of people, that were killed during the Mugabe regime, but we understand that he was part of a system that was inherited from the colonial system. It’s the system that we are still fighting today, so we don’t want to miss the bigger picture. It’s not a person, it’s a system.
ND: There has been speculation that you got funding from the Mugabe family going into last year’s election and probably this is why you joined in mourning him…
CH: We fund our political activities based on the contributions that we receive from our members and I don’t know of anybody that allegedly received money from Mr Mugabe. The reason why we joined the Mugabe family in mourning is we all know that on the eve of the last election Mugabe came out and mobilised his supporters to vote for president Nelson Chamisa and this is part of the reason, apart from the contribution that he made to society, and that he was believing in our agenda for social change. He voted for us and we see it fit to come and honour him, not that we have received any money from him.
ND: There are some who have also spoken about the opulence that has been shown by the State in terms of burying Mugabe. Do you think he deserves burial in a special place prepared using taxpayers’ money?
CH: Judging by his contribution to this country, I think he deserves the honour that has been given to him by the people of this country and the State in honour of his contribution in liberating us, because if it was not for Mugabe and a group of African leaders like the Kenneth Kaundas of this world, the Sam Nujomas of this world, we would not be enjoying the freedom that we are enjoying.
ND: You had to postpone your 20th anniversary celebrations, so can you give us insight, what motivated that?
CH: In our African culture, if there is an event, a funeral of this nature, we all stop whatever we are doing and pay tribute and mourn the departed, so this is the reason why we saw it fit to postpone our anniversary, and our anniversary will now be held on September 28 after we have finished with the burial ceremony of the late former President of this country.
ND: What are you looking at really as a political party as you go into these celebrations?
CH: I think the most important thing is after 20 years of struggle, it’s time for us to celebrate the resilience of our people and the achievements that we have made. So we want to celebrate the courage that our people have shown against the mighty of this State, the dictatorship that we are fighting, so it’s 20 years and we think it’s worth to be celebrated. So we have brought the celebrations to Rufaro Stadium where it all started. This is where our party was launched. So we are to celebrate and honour those that have departed, it’s the first anniversary without the late president (Morgan Tsvangirai) and we are holding this in memory of him.
ND: In terms of the recent clampdown on protests, what new strategies are you hoping to adopt at your 20th anniversary celebrations?
CH: In light of the violations that happened and the cancellation of our protest notifications, the celebrations are part of that process of mobilising our people so that they can fight for the issue of legitimacy that has not been resolved. You can see the economic collapse, prices of goods are rising daily, basic salaries have been eroded by inflation, so those are the issues we will be mobilising around. So immediately after our anniversary we are back on the streets. It’s our democratic right in terms of section 59 of the Constitution and we are mobilising people and we will be back on the streets to demonstrate until all our grievances are addressed.
ND: So, you are telling the nation that demonstrations are not over?
CH: Obviously they are aware. We have sent leaders to go and explain to people what happened with the cancellations and they are busy mobilising and re-strategising and as soon as our anniversary is finished, we are going back on the streets. We have also taken note that the United Nations is sending a delegation here to enquire into the circumstances that surrounded the cancellation and the prohibitions made by the police on citizens who wanted to exercise their constitutional rights. So we are aware that the international community is also focused on this matter and as a party we are busy preparing, oiling our structures so that when we call for action, we are then able to mobilise them to respond in the numbers we would want, the numbers that will force this government to come to the negotiating table with the MDC so that we can chart a new course for Zimbabwe.
ND: Let’s look at the by-elections that have been happening around the country. You have been losing to Zanu PF . . . You lost in Masvingo and you had a very narrow win in Glen View South. Is the party losing its support base?
CH: Not really, but we have always talked about the need for electoral reforms to level the playing field and also you know what happened in Lupane. In Lupane, State machinery was involved in bribing the voters. We all know the famous letter that was written by the Zanu PF commissariat to the Ministry of Health. The good thing is I have been summoned by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and on Monday I’m going to Zacc because we made an official complaint because Zanu PF is not supposed to abuse State resources to pursue political party agendas. So Zacc has listened to our complaint and we are going with lawyers from MDC to ensure that all these issues are addressed. The playing field is not even, we do not want contested elections, so that’s why we are saying all Zimbabweans must sit done and agree on constitutional reforms that ensure that when we go for election, the outcome is not contested.