‘Opposition should rally behind Tsvangirai’

Source: ‘Opposition should rally behind Tsvangirai’ | The Financial Gazette May 4, 2017

MAVERICK Norton Member of Parliament, Temba Mliswa (TM), seems to have an affinity for controversy, creating more enemies than friends at every turn. Six months into office as MP, he is already busy rubble rousing in his own backyard. He speaks to the Financial Gazette’s Correspondent, Lawrence Paganga (LP), on his first six months in office, including the 2018 general elections and other issues.

LP: It is six months since you were voted as the Member of Parliament for Norton. What are your reflections, achievements and regrets?

TM: I can never deal with Norton’s problems single-handedly. There are various other stakeholders (involved). I have a mandate as a legislator, which confines me to the constituency. When I became MP, I found that everybody was asleep, but I am a different MP, and I am pushing for efficiency. There is nothing that I do without first consulting the people. I am committed to the cause that I stand for. I also expect the leadership in the MDC-T and ZANU-PF to assist me in dealing with their corrupt and incompetent councillors. The councillors belong to their parties and as long as they do not do anything about their wrongs and their ills, they are certainly doing a disservice to their parties and come 2018, they will pay dearly (for it). At the ward level, that is where people should choose councillors who are competent; people who are able to comprehend issues. The councillors preside over matters in which they deal with management, which is, in most cases, more qualified than them and understand issues better than them.

When it comes to the issue of corruption in council or government, I am not going to budge. Corruption certainly hurts the electorate and, ultimately, it hurts their party. Already the (Zimbabwe) Anti-Corruption (Commission) has moved in and a lot will be unearthed. Lifestyle audits of all public officials and leaders are important at this point in time. Time after time you need to check on their lifestyles. What did they have when they came in and what do they have now?

LP: Your differences with MDC-T officials, including Norton councillors, who supported and endorsed you in your campaign to land the Norton seat seem to be widening. What is the reason behind the fallout?

TM: First of all, I don’t have differences with the MDC-T president (Morgan) Tsvangirai and his (three) vice presidents. If anything, I have a lot of respect for them. So this whole thing that I am against the MDC-T or there is a fight between us is a lie. We might just be differing on the approach to issues. The only problem I have with the councillors is on service delivery. It is not in dispute that they lead the council in Norton. At the moment, the MDC-T has nine councillors, while ZANU-PF has four, but it is very clear that there is a serious lack of leadership in the Norton council. For example, there is a vice chairperson who is from ZANU-PF and a chairperson from the MDC-T. How can you call for elections to elect a vice chairperson from ZANU-PF when you are clearly in the majority? There must have been some kind of connivance (between the MDC-T and ZANU-PF) and you can see the results of that connivance, which has gone as far as service delivery being compromised and, as a result, corruption is also rife. The councillors are also being manipulated by management, which is a lot cleverer than them. So as a party, this is why the MDC-T will always be seen wanting by the people. The MDC-T should be able to take over where their representatives have failed to work and deliver on their policies. So there is absolutely no war between me and the MDC-T. It is also equally important to note that I was never endorsed by the MDC-T. I challenge anybody to show me any statement from the MDC-T that says they endorsed me as an independent candidate. The MDC-T was not for elections (at the time I stood in the Norton by-election). It is important for political parties to understand that they do not control the people. People have their own mindsets, especially when political parties are failing them. The people are looking for leaders not rulers and unfortunately our political parties are dominated by rulers.

LP: You have in the past exchanged unpleasant words with the Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere. Do you think he will be forthcoming in assisting you in resolving challenges that have been raised by Norton residents in their recent petition to council?

TM: We must be mature enough to separate personal politics from party politics and national politics and the role of government in terms of their mandate in representing the people. I respect Honourable Kasukuwere in his position as the Minister of Local Government. If I require service delivery, I consult his office. There is no other executive office that supersedes Local Government other than him as the Minister. So unless you know of somebody else who has executive powers given by the President and the Constitution to look into local affairs, then I will go to them. There is no parallel government, this is one government, which is in the hands of ZANU-PF, whether you like it or not. So when I go to the Local Government Ministry, I will be representing ZANU-PF people, MDC-T people, People’s Democratic Party, ZAPU, Mavambo and all the other political parties; and that is the beauty of being an independent MP. On the petition done by the Norton Residents Trust, Kasukuwere has no choice, but to intervene. That is part of his job and so he cannot run away from it. The residents have also copied the petition to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The power remains with the people. Kasukwere (together) with (ZANU-PF secretary for administration, (Ignatious) Chombo were behind my dismissal in ZANU-PF, but he has a duty to preform as Local Government Minister.

LP: You also seem to have created a new enemy in the form of Killer Zivhu, the founder of the Galloway housing project in Norton. He has since responded to your attacks on him, going as far as threatening to contest against you as MP next year in Norton. Do you feel Zivhu is shortchanging home seekers in Norton?
TM: I don’t think I have created new enemies. In terms of my mandate, I will confront other people whom I feel are imposters. Residents in Galloway have approached me complaining that they are being sold residential stands that have no title deeds and it is my duty to look into that to protect them. In terms of Killer Zivhu, he is a novice. I have been a provincial chairman and Central Committee member as well as MP for Hurungwe West and that was under his party, ZANU-PF and he has never been any of that. So I will not discuss politics with Killer Zivhu. His principals know me better. He was there last year, but stopped campaigning for ZANU-PF in the Norton by-election. And as you say, he is only a threat.

LP: You have in the past publicly endorsed Tsvangirai as the coalition presidential candidate for 2018. Do you still maintain that position?

TM: My endorsement of Tsvangirai as a coalition leader is based on empirical evidence from figures. Whether you like it or not, Tsvangirai has good figures as leader of the biggest opposition party. He is the biggest threat to (President) Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF. It is a no brainer that one. But the Norton issue of not coming (to my victory rally) and telling his people not to come certainly did not go down well with me. Yes, I might have used the wrong words (in retaliation), but my point really is that political parties can go to hell because they do not own anybody and they do not own their members. That is what is important.

I have said a lot on politicians even on Mai (Joice) Mujuru and people thought I was mad, but they do not realise that I was closer to her and I was suspended as ZANU-PF provincial chairman and expelled from the party as an MP because of her. As an independent MP, I don’t necessarily have to rally behind them. I don’t have a party. However, I urge all political parties to rally behind Tsvangirai. How he is going to win would be determined absolutely on his strategies and his workforce on the ground and that has nothing to do with me. All I can do is just wish them the best.

LP: In Parliament, do you feel you have made an impact in the past six months, being the only independent legislator?

TM: I have certainly made an impact. You can see that ever since I returned to Parliament, it has been alive. I have to be myself and I don’t have to be whipped into line (like the other MPs who belong to political parties). The good thing about being an independent is that you go with the flow and you support what you think is important. I, however, wish to point out that Parliament is underfunded; our welfare should be better, but the truth of the matter is that people do not know how MPs are suffering as a result of underfunding. Parliament is also bloated. We have got 210 constituencies and 70 proportional representatives from women, which I think is absolute madness. I think out of the 210 constituencies, we can always set aside 70 seats for women and even 70 seats for the youths, but to then add onto an already bloated Parliament is hindering progress. For example, we are supposed to be getting CDF (Constituency Development Funds), but we are not (because we are too many). Proportional representatives don’t account to anyone and in Norton they are not known. No-one cares whether they attend events or not. I also wish to stress that the MDC-T MPs should take part in national events such as the burial of national heroes at the national shrine. The late Joshua Nkomo is there, Herbert Chitepo is there and Josiah Tongogara is also there. What wrong did those heroes do (that warrants an MDC-T boycott)? Yes, we might differ on the criteria (of selecting who is considered a hero), but we simply must respect the place as a national shrine. The MDC-T says they are the government in-waiting, so are they going to destroy all these things when they assume power? This is something that really worries me and it is something that confuses the people.

LP: Early this year you announced the formation of a Third Force. How far have you gone in setting it up ahead of the 2018 elections?

TM: The Third Force is doing very well, obviously assisted by the infighting, especially in ZANU-PF. We benefit from the factions, from disgruntled voters and it is working in our favour. It is stronger than before. We have reached about 180 (Parliamentary) candidates. We are still vetting others and we will soon be announcing all the 210 members including the youths. But the youths are making too much noise on social media and not coming up with candidates for wards or constituencies or the people they are going to support. The Third Force is about good leaders and not rulers and we shall be asking good leaders to step up and unite with the people.

LP: Will you, therefore, contest the next elections as an independent or otherwise; and will you be contesting in Norton or Hurungwe West?

TM: I won an election against ZANU-PF as an independent. So why should I change a winning strategy? With the by-elections that are being held, political parties are being thrashed left, right and centre and that must show people the sort of person that I am.

In Hurungwe West, I have already campaigned and they are pleading with me that I must come back, but I can only serve one constituency at a time and right now it is my turn to do something for Norton. I remain the chairperson of the Hurungwe District Development Association and I am always assisting them. But as we go towards elections, I will be able to make a pronouncement pertaining to that. I am someone who has been able to serve two constituencies in one term, which is unheard of. It is the confidence that I have built in the people and if you want to contest me in the next election and you are not on the ground, you are as good as dead.

LP: Do you harbour presidential ambitions?

TM: Look, everybody wants to succeed the President, but it has to be done in a proper way; God given, God ordained. I am a great believer in God and if that is what God wants me to do and to be, I will never say no. If the people want me to serve, I will step up to the challenge. It is all about serving the people and not serving yourself, but the people and God. It is the people and God who will usher you into that office.
So I am here to serve.