Zimind reporter Herbert Moyo (HM) also spoke to Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, chairman of MDC-T Renewal Team, about the party’s infighting. Find excerpts below:
HM: Can you unpack for us the problems currently besetting the MDC-T. What exactly is going on?
SN: In my humble opinion what I see as the problems include the loss of the 2013 general elections and our pretence that rigging was the main problem. We have failed to admit that we did not live up to expectations. For me, I would say that rigging would only be 10% of the problem, and 90% was our fault.
HM: Can you explain?
SN: We failed to secure critical reforms before participating in the elections. The whole world advised us not to get into the elections without reforms, and so in everything that we have been saying we have failed to acknowledge that we also made a mistake.
HM: The whole world? Who actually advised you against the elections?
SN: It is common knowledge that Lindiwe Zulu (President Jacob Zuma’s international relations adviser) advised us. Zuma also advised us and even the Sadc Heads of State meeting in Maputo (Mozambique) also advised not to participate in the elections without electoral, media and security sector reforms, among others.
HM: How would you describe your preparations for the elections?
SN: We were ill-prepared. Zanu PF gave its parliamentary candidates as much as US$15 000 each, a car, tee-shirts and campaign posters. But we gave our own parliamentary candidates only US$700 each, the councillors US$100 — all of which simply demonstrated a lack of seriousness. We were also misled by the numbers that came to our rallies particularly in Bulawayo, and the cross-over rally in Harare where people were told that (party leader Morgan) Tsvangirai would be crossing over into State House.
HM: Whose fault was it, given that Elton Mangoma, the deputy treasurer, is in your camp?
SN: If some of those people that advise you not to participate in elections are the same people who assist you, help you financially and then you ignore their advice, then they will simply refuse to assist you again.
HM: What happened after the elections?
SN: We failed to sit down and acknowledge our shortcomings and plot the way forward accordingly. We should have sat down. That is what (President Robert) Mugabe and Zanu PF did after they lost in 2008. But instead, we began violating our own constitution, violence reigned and our leadership simply looked aside and smiled while violence was taking place.
HM: This issue of violence also came up in 2011 during your party congress but nothing ever happened. Why was this so?
SN: I was there at the 2011 congress and apart from the violence; money was used to buy votes. Yes, an investigation was carried out and because there were some big, big people implicated, it was never made public or acted upon. I also went to the UK heading a delegation to investigate misappropriation of funds by party officials and produced a report which I handed to Tsvangirai, but there were big people involved. So nothing was ever done about it.
HM: Some would say you are blaming everything on Tsvangirai yet you were all part of the team which should be shouldering some of the responsibility and blame?
SN: If you are the CEO the buck always stops with you. We produced so many reports and gave advice which Tsvangirai never acted upon. Even during the GNU (Government of National Unity) he often responded to advice by saying that the principals would deal with raised issues and by that he meant (deputy prime minister Arthur) Mutambara, Mugabe and himself. All I am saying is that you can only advise but the CEO, in this case Tsvangirai, has the final say.
HM: But why not wait for the party’s congress instead of plotting what has been described as an “attempted coup”?
SN: (Elton) Mangoma’s letter did not violate any constitution because he simply asked him (Tsvangirai) to consider the possibility of stepping aside for the sake of the party. And Mangoma was not the only one because even (national executive member Elias) Mudzuri, (treasurer-general Roy) Bennett and many others asked him to consider stepping down.
But because the man loves power more than anything else, he organised people to react violently. Tsvangirai has led the party for 15 years and lost elections. Everybody has to pass on the baton at some point — even Moses was told by God to hand over power to Joshua as the Israelites were Canaan-bound from Egypt.
HM: And so where to from now since Tsvangirai has said he is the legitimate MDC leader despite his “suspension” by your faction; who has control of the the party?
SN: Clearly there are two MDC-Ts under one roof. Even though we did not go to (party headquarters) Harvest House we believe we had the proper national council on Saturday April 26, 2014.
We have written to the Speaker of Parliament and Tsvangirai said he would do the same. So what happens now will be interesting. The matter will ultimately be decided in the courts and then we will know who gets what in the end.
HM: Tsvangirai has announced plans for a congress in October; will you be attending?
SN: That is a panic congress with a pre-determined outcome and we will have our own.
HM: Is yours the one we have heard you are planning for Gweru which will bring together various so-called progressive forces including Dumiso Dabengwa, Simba Makoni, Welshman Ncube, Lovemore Madhuku and others?
SN: That is in fact a convention which is being organised by church leaders and one which will also invite labour and civil society. The intention is to have a broader examination of the Zimbabwean situation and ask: ‘where to now’?
HM: Are you talking to other opposition parties?
SN: We have never stopped talking to all of them and exchanging notes but all of us are now waiting for this church-organised event. We will see Tsvangirai if he does attend.
HM: Many say the constant fragmentation of the opposition plays right into the hands of Zanu PF. What do you say?
SN: It is sad because for a long time we tried to make sure things do not turn out this way but I believe God will intervene in a special way after all the progressive forces come together at the convention.
HM: Your erstwhile MDC-T colleagues have suggesting that you are working with Zanu PF and even getting funding from them. How true is this?
SN: It reminds me of my time during the liberation struggle when (Rhodesian prime minister) Ian Smith would attribute everything we did as nationalists to communists. It is foolish to make such outrageous claims without any proof. We are funding ourselves — after all, most of us are gainfully employed to look after ourselves.