via Tsvangirai: A people’s darling, says Gutu – DailyNews Live 20 December 2015
HARARE – The MDC remains the country’s biggest opposition political party.
In light of this, the Daily News on Sunday reporters Tendai Kamhungira and Blessings Mashaya (DNS) took time to speak to the party’s spokesperson Obert Gutu (OB), in a wide-ranging interview that touches on the party’s stance on electoral reforms among other issues.
DNS: As MDC what are your plans for the 2018 general elections?
OG: Our plans for 2018 are very clear, we came up with our document, without reforms, no elections. We have now been joined by several other opposition political parties. A few weeks ago, president Morgan Tsvangirai and other 12 opposition political parties in Zimbabwe signed the National Electoral Reforms Agenda (Nera) document.
What is happening is that we are pleased to note that other opposition political parties have associated themselves with our complaint as MDC, to say elections in Zimbabwe have always been rigged.
We always say look, for as long as we have elections which do not pass the test of legitimacy, the political problems in this country will not be solved because the underlining cause of the problems— be it political, economic, everything you might think of, the root cause is lack of political legitimacy.
So when a government gets into power through rigging elections, automatically it means they are illegitimate because we expect to have a government of our choice, which comes through the right channels. We don’t want to have a government which comes through fraudulent means.
DNS: What will you do if Zanu PF remain adamant, like it has stated before that it will not budge into your electoral reform demands?
OG: Look, I can assure you that by the time we are going to have the next elections (reforms would have been made), which might actually happen earlier than 2018, as you all realise how Zanu PF is collapsing like a deck of cards.
We are confident with the pressure we are giving, political pressure and diplomatic pressure on Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec). Although Zanu PF might come out in the open saying that you can’t push us, we are not going to give in.
We know that inside they (Zanu PF) are cracking… already Zec has invited all the opposition political parties in Zimbabwe to a series of workshops which never happened before.
Only two weeks ago, we had a strategic planning workshop to which we were invited together with all opposition political parties, unfortunately Zanu PF didn’t come. There were about 23 political parties which came and participated in the Zec process of coming up with its strategic plan of 2016 to 2020.
Already you can see that although they are not admitting that they are giving in to our pressure, two, three years ago Zec could not have invited opposition political parties especially MDC, and say let’s sit down and discuss about the strategic plan, the electoral commission could have simply done it quietly.
But the mere fact that they are coming on board, makes us happy and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) technical advisor was represented at the highest level, the country director and his team were also there. The moment you see them doing this, you realise that the pressure we are putting is actually bearing fruits.
DNS: You have in the past accused Zanu PF of using unorthodox means to win elections, especially in rural areas, how do you substantiate this claim?
OG: In the rural areas, Zanu PF has always been abusing traditional leaders. Traditional leaders were forced to support Zanu PF, and were used as a mobilisation tool, with specific orders that when it is election time, you must make sure that your subjects must vote for Zanu PF.
Zanu PF did not have majority vote but they will force people to vote for them, so we actually feel sorry for traditional leaders, even though some people think that MDC is against traditional leaders.
Traditional leaders are some of the people that we respect as MDC, we actually sympathise with them. Traditional leaders are forced to support Zanu PF through the use of Central Intelligence Officers, army like what happened in 2008 when they used the security forces to commandeer the traditional leaders particularly in the rural areas. In previous elections, Zanu PF deployed security forces, so that they will make sure that the area will be a no-go area for opposition parties.
The other unfortunate thing is hunger. You know when you are hungry, you are vulnerable to manipulation. Reports show that those who support MDC are denied food stuffs. They will tell the village headman that you must not give food to MDC supporters. They only say we are giving food to Zanu PF supporters, those who belong to MDC they are going to get food from Tsvangirai.
DNS: Some people are claiming that the MDC’s popularity is fading, compared to the party’s vibrancy at its inception, do you think you are doing enough to reach out to your supporters?
OG: Yes, we are doing enough. Most people have a mistake of thinking that politics is not dynamic. The politics of 2000 is different from the politics of 2015.
During the year 2000, the economy was not as informal as it is now. If you go back you find that the economy was not as bad as it is now back then, maybe 70 or 75 percent of the people were still in the formal sector. Fifteen years down the line the game has changed, the economy is now informalised that almost everyone is now in the informal sector. You also have to check the number of people who have gone outside the country since 2000.
We have 3 to 4 million people who left the country looking for greener pastures, the majority of whom are now economic and political refugees. If you are targeted by Zanu PF for persecution both in the rural or urban area, you have to run away with your dear life.
A number of people are in South Africa or other countries running away from death threats from Zanu PF. If you go to every country in this world whether Europe, Asia or any other country you can find a Zimbabwean.
DNS: Do you think your leader Morgan Tsvangirai is still appealing to the electorate?
OG: Look, hate him or love him, Morgan Tsvangirai is still a darling of the masses. I had very senior government officials, senior Zanu PF officials who phone me telling that they are only waiting for Tsvangirai to rescue us. This is a fact, very senior Zanu PF politicians who sit in cabinet and politburo are supporting us, because most of them are in trouble as you know they run some business.
Some of them are losing their houses, they are not happy with the current economic situation. They can say in public that they want Mugabe to lead but they want economic change which comes through a political change.
DNS: In 2009 you went into a political pact with Zanu PF, which many people believe helped in prolonging Mugabe’s rule. As MDC, do you regret entering into the inclusive government?
OG: We are not regretting. Unlike Zanu PF, which is driven by power, and is concerned by anything, they can walk on our dead bodies as long as they are in power, but as MDC we are more concerned by the lives of people. Look, they are running the country with a $4 billion budget but some countries like Angola have more than $40 billion budget.
So we don’t regret joining the Government of National Unity (GNU) unlike Zanu PF we went to save the life of many Zimbabweans. The only infrastructure built by Zanu PF after independence is the National Sports Stadium and Rainbow Towers, isn’t that shocking?
DNS: You have been claiming that you can change the country’s economy to an extent of creating shadow ministers. How are you going to assist in the transformation of the economy?
OG: As MDC, we have already planned what we are going to do when we get into power. Zanu PF lied to people in 2013 elections, saying that they are going to create two million jobs but they did nothing.
We are facing an electricity crisis but Zanu PF is clueless they do not even know how to solve the current economic crisis. Look at the Harare International Airport Road, that road was supposed to completed in six months but it took 15 years to complete a 40km road,
That road was also supposed to be completed with $6 million but (Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa said in his budget that they used $63 million.
DNS: They are reported squabbles in MDC allegedly pitting you and Nelson Chamisa, can you clarify on this issue?
OG: That is the imagination of Zanu PF who is using the CIO. Nelson Chamisa is one of us. He is my young brother as both of us come from Gutu. He has been to my house and the notion that people in MDC want Chamisa out is rubbish.
They want to equalise, as you know that Zanu PF is currently fighting. They also want to claim that there are fights in the MDC. This is all Zanu PF propaganda, we are united.
Let me also tell you one thing as we are preparing to govern this nation we are not looking down upon other political parties we respect all political parties, Tsvangirai is a humble man. Look at how he signed the Nera document seating with unknown political parties, can Mugabe do that?
DNS: So are you serious with this issue of working together with other opposition political parties?
OG: We are more than serious. We have exciting news for Zimbabweans if people think that we are not ready to work with other political parties they are in for a surprise.
We are more than keen, our president has gone out of his way talking to various political parties. Whether it is Mangoma, Biti, we are ready to work with any other progressive parties. MDC does not want to rule Zimbabwe but to lead Zimbabwe.