via Interview: Mangoma on Biti, adultery – NewZimbabwe 06/06/2015 by Nkosana Dlamini
FORMER Energy minister and now leader of the newly formed Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe Elton Mangoma (EM) has recently been in the news accused of violence, wife snatching, insubordination and opportunism by his erstwhile MDC Renewal comrades.
NewZimbabwe.com chief reporter Nkosana Dlamini (ND) tracked down the controversial politician to hear his thoughts on his recent fall-out with his comrade Tendai Biti and a host of other issues.
Below are excerpts of the conversation…
ND: You ditched Morgan Tsvangirai last year and have just done the same with Biti, what have you learnt about politics in general?
EM: I think what I have learnt is that when people tell you something and you agree on something, it is slightly different from business or in the village. When you have agreed on something that you can really say we are now walking on this thing together, there are people who want to, along the way, take opportunities that further themselves as opposed to the bigger cause. So I find that agreeing on the cause initially is not the major problem but it’s walking in that line that becomes the problem.
ND: Would you want to explain what you mean when you suggest your comrades are in the habit of deviating from what you have agreed?
EM: My points of departure with Tsvangirai were clear and documented. So nothing has changed because they are in black and white; they can be revisited. I did have a one-on-one discussion with him. So he knew where I was and I knew where he was. So there is nothing more to add to that one. So with my colleague (Biti) as it turned out, it was that we had agreed that we should be able to create that new narrative and we had the basics of that new narrative and, as now vindicated, that new narrative was looking more like the old narrative.
When you look at Zanu PF; big man politics. And when you look at Tsvangirai; big man politics. One person wants everyone else to do what they think without debate, without consultation with the people and clearly self serving. Whereas the new narrative is let’s be a team, let’s not have big man politics, lets discuss issues, let’s have no violence, let’s make sure that the Zimbabwean people know where they are going and that they participate in the decisions of where they should go and that becomes important. So you are not imposing yourself on the people. You are leading the people and you are one with the people.
ND: You were so ardent in expressing Tsvangirai’s leadership flaws but seem to be restraining yourself a bit when it comes to Biti, what is the secret?
EM: No I am not restraining myself. At least with Morgan Tsvangirai I had a one-on-one with him. So he cannot turn around and say Mangoma is not saying what I didn’t say in his face. Unfortunately with Tendai, I did not get the opportunity to sit one-on-one so that he would be able to express it so that when I repeat it, it would be exactly the same. He just would not want to have a one-on-one. He would not want! I tried to have a one-on-one and we failed.
ND: You fell out with Tsvangirai because he resisted your demands for an early congress; you have done the same with Biti. What is it with Elton Mangoma and congresses?
EM: First, I don’t want to say that I fell out with him (Biti); he might have fallen out with me. We parade ourselves as democrats and one of the things about democrats is that we must allow the people to choose their leaders. This has been the major issue with Zanu PF; they perpetuate themselves. So when we begin to mimic the oppressor there must be someone who says guys I think we have lost the way. So going to congress means that people are being given the opportunity to choose their leaders. If you are still wanted, you will be chosen. There would be no problems. But at least you will be able to say I have given the electorate the chance to choose their leaders and primarily to be able to say there are some people who don’t agree with me but they are part of this team. How do we make this team move together?
ND: How soon can we then start hearing of a congress within your newly formed Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe?
EM: We have said that within 150 days we should be able to have one and we have started working towards it because it is important to have the endorsement of the people that this is the direction that we are moving and they agree with it. Fortunately, we had sufficient representation from the provinces to be able to take the kind of decisions that will make us move forward.
ND: We all thought the formation of RDZ was a reaction to recent events but you sound like you planned this a long time ago.
EM: No. You will actually be interested to know that that name was suggested from the floor and agreed by the majority of the people without any reservation. If I had planned it way before, I would have left way before. And also, to a lot of people, it’s because of leadership but actually in December I actually said Tendai you can become President of the party. He only turned it down. I didn’t see why but I had actually said if you think that trying to build the party is because I want leadership; no very far from it!
ND: You are said to have refused to submit yourself to the authority of a disciplinary hearing constituted against you. You did the same when you were still in MDC-T, are you a hothead?
EM: I am a principled person. Firstly, it’s actually not true that I refused to attend. Let me tell you exactly what happened. On the second, which was a Tuesday, at 12.25pm, I have got the Whatsapp message here. At that time I didn’t look at it, which was asking me attend a hearing on the third of June, which was Wednesday. And before the third had even arrived, they had produced a report. So it tells you that you are dealing with people who are not bona fide. I have been told through rumours that there was this but no one had dared ask me except a day I was supposed to be heard and the day they produced the report.
ND: Why would your colleagues be so determined to get rid of you?
EM: Because some of them would not want to face the people. Let’s not forget that the people who had come from congress who were in that management is three of us and the majority had not been and therefore when you talk of going to congress it means some would come back and some would not. So because I was insisting that we go to congress, some thought that I wanted them removed.
ND: A statement accompanying your suspension from the Renewal Team said you are over ambitious and would want to die having been president of something, how ambitious are you, if you are?
EM: It tells you those are people who have written that did it without having due process being done. You tell me what charge it is that says this one is ambitious; this one is not ambitious so that I begin to address a charge that is there. When I say let’s go to the people, I don’t know what that means. If you go and you challenge (President Robert) Mugabe to say you are not ruling well and he says you are overambitious. Is it a criticism that one must have?
ND: You were treasurer with the Renewal Team and your departure was too quick to allow a proper hand over of accounting books, are Renewal finances intact?
EM: As far as I am concerned, their books are kept by staff so I never kept the books.
ND: So you never eloped with a dime belonging to MDC Renewal?
EM: Zero! If there is anything that I might have forgotten that I have if someone reminds me I will quickly return it. We left them with everything. I went with nothing except the commitment to see a new Zimbabwe and a new narrative.
ND: One of the reasons why you ditched Tsvangirai was what you claimed was the damage he was causing to the MDC-T brand through his love for many women; nearly 15 months after, do you stick by that averment?
EM: I still stick by that averment because I have indicated this is not right and it can’t be right and we want to be able to have a leadership that practises what they say.
ND: You were recently accused of adultery with Believe Tevera’s wife, how different are you with Tsvangirai?
EM: Look, people have been trying to smear me. It’s a smear campaign. That’s all I can say.
ND: Do you see the allegations having the same negative effects on your own emerging brand?
EM: No, because it will be proven that that was not correct as you saw that my colleagues were so desperate to get rid of me. They would do anything including publishing a report the day before the hearing.
ND: Many small political parties have failed to break the current Zanu PF, MDC-T stranglehold on local politics, how will you be different as RDZ?
EM: One, we need the new narrative so that people can understand that this is the direction that we are going. It’s not a matter of simply replacing Zanu PF so that you take their place on the feeding trough. It’s really how do you work this country to make sure that everybody benefits. Let’s remove the oppressive system that is there, let’s remove these people who know nothing about what’s happening in the economy, let’s bring in a new narrative of leaders who will make sure that this country becomes prosperous once more. I think that to me is what is going to be different and a rallying call.
ND: Your breakaway from MDC Renewal to form RDZ would be viewed as yet another MDC faction mushrooming, are you not feeding into that negative perception?
EM: People will always find negatives. And if we actually dwell on the negatives we will not be able to move. There are enough negatives in this country. What we want is to be able to say surely there must be a different narrative. So the way I want is to be able to put people and say what is it that they stand for, what are they saying they stand for and what are they practising so that it goes beyond just words? For some of us, I was once a minister and I did things differently. So it’s there in the past, we claim it can be there in the future.
ND: You have lamented being the target of violence in both MDC-T and MDC Renewal…
EM: And Zanu PF; don’t forget.
ND: Why do you think you being targeted?
EM: Because I do not follow political expedience. I speak my mind and sometimes speaking your mind is not good. People don’t like that. They want to be allowed to do the things that they want to do and I am not in politics for lining my pockets I am there for the principles that I believe in that’s why we have stated that. We are modern nationalists. We believe in the principles of nationalism but we must be able to tally them with the new narrative that the world has come together. But it becomes important that we are in there for a different commitment rather than political expediency; that I must get a ministerial post and live at large.
ND: You also seem to be the most arrested from the group of former cabinet ministers from the opposition, why has it always been you?
EM: It is the same thing. They know what I stand for. I stand for the principles and for the rights of the people. You will find that I was the one who was very vocal about the people in Chiadzwa and how the people were being treated. I was the one who was very vocal about Chisumbanje and how those people were treated. I stood and made sure that ZESA would not cut electricity from domestic users and that we have a prepaid meter that would take into account their debt. So it’s all these things where I have stood with the people and therefore Zanu does not want that. They want someone who can easily be bought and do as they please. Unfortunately I am not that person. I stand for what is right and that’s what I am prepared to be persecuted for.