AS the country prepares for elections President Robert Mugabe insists should be held in March next year after a constitutional referendum, Zimbabwe Independent chief reporter Owen Gagare (OG) spoke to MDC president Welshman Ncube (WN) on the next make-or-break polls, possible alliances, his relationship with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe, among other issues.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
OG: Are you standing in the presidential elections?
WN: I’m going to stand as a candidate in the presidential election whenever that election is held.
OG: Your critics claim you are using a tribal card, even in your campaigns.
WN: At no time have we ever carried a tribal card, in our campaigns, in our words, in our actions or in anything we have done.
OG: Where do you think these allegations come from?
WN: It is those who have tribal blinkers who see a tribal card the moment they see a person like me who comes from the southern region involved in politics. Our agenda remains a Zimbabwean national agenda.
OG: Are you looking for alliances? Some are concerned the two MDCs will split the vote to the benefit of Zanu PF.
WN: What we should be concerned with is what the political parties are offering to Zimbabweans in terms of their programmes for rebuilding the country. For me it’s about having a new generational politics which will ensure we can once again bring prosperity to our country.
OG: Does this mean an alliance with MDC-T is totally out?
WN: We are working on marketing ourselves and asking the people to vote for us. In 2008 we spent a lot of time hunting for alliances to defeat Mugabe but we were abandoned at the church door. We won’t make that mistake again.
OG: You mean talks with MDC-T again?
WN: Yes. We had an agreement which we adopted but they then rejected us. We were even left without a candidate of our own because we had endorsed Tsvangirai which is why we ended up literally clinging to someone like Simba Makoni as a candidate.
OG: There is belief that you are calculating to getting a certain number of seats to be kingmaker given the strong possibility of another hung parliament.
WN: We have seen the disasters of a hung parliament. Trust me we have no appetite for it by design.
OG: How far are we from elections given the processes we still have to go through? Is March 2012 feasible?
WN: Mugabe has been saying there will be elections every year for the last two years. This is simply to say if I’m having elections around the corner, there is no issue about who is the Zanu PF candidate. It also means you are basically sending a message to investors to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. This is a cruel strategy to make sure the economy does not recover, so you can go into elections and say all these others have also been in government with me but they also failed.
OG: So when can elections be realistically held?
WN: We know that realistically the processes that have to be undertaken to have elections will take longer than March.
OG: Have the principals hijacked the constitution-making process?
WN: There appears to be an agreement between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and (Deputy Prime Minister Arthur) Mutambara that after the stakeholders’ conference government must take over the process to expedite it. We know they put this proposal to the Minister of Constitutional Affairs (Eric Matinenga): he has confirmed it publicly and rejected the move, saying it is a violation of Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
OG: How do you relate to Tsvangirai?
WN: We worked together in the National Constitutional Assembly. In the united MDC post congress he was the president, I was the secretary-general. So I can say historically we worked together closely and well. In the government we have worked together closely and well. But we lead different political parties and therefore we believe in different things ideologically, policy-wise.
OG: Has your relationship been strained by allegations Tsvangirai has allegedly sided with Mugabe on the issue of Mutambara’s principal status
WN: Well, that was not unexpected.
OG: Why was it not unexpected?
WN: Because I know Mugabe would always oppose me and my party. In fact he will seek to destabilise and destroy the party and I know Tsvangirai would support Mugabe’s agenda. If they really didn’t want to interfere in the internal affairs of the MDC they would have accepted our communication to say the MDC had its congress and it elected so and so as its president.
OG: Given the divergent views between Zanu PF and MDC-T, one would think you would relate better to Tsvangirai. What makes you a common enemy?
WN: Is it Winston Churchill who coined the expression ‘there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics but permanent interests’.
OG: Is the PM really siding with Mugabe on Mutambara?
WN: Yes he is and his refrain is exactly what Mugabe has been telling us for one-and-a-half years. Oh there is a legal case, oh this matter is pending in the court; yes Mutambara is a principal, he signed the agreement. What nonsense!
OG: How do you relate to Mugabe?
WN: We have been able to find the comfort zones to be able to work together. We are however in complete disagreement and have had numerous conversations and I have said to him you are wrong you are abusing the law.
OG: Who is benefiting here? Is it Mugabe or Tsvangirai or both and what are the benefits?
WN: I cannot see any benefits for Tsvangirai or the MDC-T. The only person who benefits from this and a dysfunctional inclusive government is Mugabe.