THIS week our business editor Shakeman Mugari interviewed independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni on his Mavambo project and prospects in the election tomorrow.
Mugari: Zimbabwe goes to the elections tomorrow, and one of the issues that people have raised is that you came on the scene late and therefore you are playing catch-up. Whatâ€™s your response to that?
Makoni: It is quite clear that we started late because I only announced my candidature on the 5th of February. Mugabe announced (his candidacy) in March 2007. Morgan (Tsvangirai) confirmed by about September. But we donâ€™t see it as a major disadvantage because we have been received very well. You should have seen the enthusiasm of the people as we went round. So yes, I came late but it was forced by other conditions. I however feel we have had enough time. People now know Mavambo.
Mugari: What were the conditions that made you come late?
Makoni: When I was in Zanu PF, we were working with others over a long period of time, I could say it goes back to even 1997 or 1999 but more specifically in the 2000 elections as we were facing the election. I was one of the people who were pushing for leadership renewal in the country and the party.
This picked up momentum at congress. We had expectations that we would go to congress to elect new leaders but that was not possible for reasons that everyone is aware of now. It wasnâ€™t until after the failure at the extraordinary congress in December that we started extensive and intensive consultations both within the party and outside that led me to announce my candidature.
Mugari: Independent opinion polls have been showing that Tsvangirai will come first followed by Mugabe and you will be a distant third. How do you respond to that?
Makoni: Wait for March 30 when the results are out.
Mugari:Â I want to know what you think will be the scenario on March 30 after the election.
Makoni: I can tell you that we are romping home to victory. There are no two ways about it.
Mugari: Do you mean you will win so convincingly that there wonâ€™t be a run-off?
Makoni: There will be no re-run. Tsvangirai will be a distant second and Mugabe will be a further distant third.
Mugari: But the numbers at your rallies donâ€™t indicate as much. Where are you getting the confidence to make such bold predictions?
Makoni: From the engagement that I have had with the people of Zimbabwe. We have been meeting people from across the country. The Herald conceded in the second week of my campaign that Makoniâ€™s meet-the-people strategy is working. Zanu PF and MDC are worried.
Mugari: What makes you think that you can win this election without a political party? Other parties have clear structures that you lack.
Makoni: Because the people of Zimbabwe are not looking for a political party. They are looking for a leader; a leader who unifies and connects with them. They want a leader who is honest, does not steal, cheat and lie; a leader who is not corrupt. That leader is me.
Mugari: You only have a few candidates contesting in the parliamentary elections. What makes you think that Zanu PF supporters will vote for their senator, MP and councillors but cast their vote for you as president?
Makoni: Absolutely. Donâ€™t underestimate the people of Zimbabwe. There are Zanu PF and MDC candidates who are campaigning for themselves in their respective constituencies but they are telling the people that when it comes to the presidency, vote for Simba Makoni.Â
Mugari: When you announced your candidature, you said there were many people in the Zanu PF leadership behind you. Later, you said there were no heavyweights behind you. Just recently you changed again and said you had many supporters in the central committee and politburo of Zanu PF. Is there no contradiction here?
Makoni: Let me make it clear and I hope you are going to write this. This notion of heavyweights is a creation of you guys in the media. I never talked about heavyweights. Every single voter in this country is a heavyweight to me.
Mugari: Some observers say that you are a Zanu PF project. The allegation is that you have been created to solve the Zanu PF succession problem. Some say yours is a plan to rescue Zanu PF from Mugabe.
Makoni: As I have gone round in Maphisa, Checheche and Nyamapanda no one has confronted me with this question of the bigwigs or Zanu PF succession issue. So which people are these that you are talking about?
Mugari: What questions are you confronted with?
Makoni: The common thread is excitement and enthusiasm about the project. I havenâ€™t met people who doubt me or question my sincerity. What I know is that some mischief-makers like President Mugabe and Vice-President Msika are coming out saying who is Simba Makoni when in fact they very well know that I was the chief representative of Zanu in Europe. I was raising support for the liberation struggle.
Mugari: Linked to that, Mugabe has been attacking you in a very crude way. Why do you not respond to the attacks?Â
Makoni: Because I donâ€™t operate at that level. I deal with issues. I am not silly and trivial. But it all goes to show the bankruptcy of President Mugabe. How can a person who purports to be a leader of a country in such a crisis sink to those levels of profanity? That is language not befitting any mature person let alone a head of state. I wonâ€™t sink to that level.
Mugari: Do you think that the elections will be rigged? Ibbo Mandaza, one of your key strategists, said as much in an article that appeared in the Independent last week.
Makoni: Yes, this matter has been widely publicised. In fact the MDC has taken a related matter to the courts. They have said that the integrity of the process and the designation of the uniformed forces to assist people in the polling stations are questionable. The process of counting the votes and the integrity of the votersâ€™ roll are also questionable.
The national law says that the votersâ€™ roll should have been made public by now but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is not committing to when the roll will be published. The roll that we have accessed is as of December 2007 and we all know that from February 6 to the 15 when I announced my candidature there was a deluge of people who went to register.
Mugari: So you are convinced that the election will be rigged?
Makoni: They are so scared. Some of these measures are aimed at stealing the election.
Mugari: Do you have a Plan B if the election is stolen?
Makoni: We have one but we will not discuss it in public.Â
Mugari: But the people want to know what they will do if the election is stolen. Surely you are one of the people in a position to give that plan now.
Makoni: We have planned to ensure that the peopleâ€™s will is not negated.
Mugari: As a politician you must keep your options open. Assuming that you fail to get the numbers and there is a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai who will you back?
Makoni: There will be no run-off and Simba Makoni will win kaOne.
Mugari: Why are you closing those options? Why are you not alive to the fact that you might lose these elections?
Makoni: Yes it is a possibility indeed but it is an unlikelihood. I wonâ€™t waste my time and intellect thinking about what is not likely to happen.
Mugari: The constitution says a president forms a government but you are saying you will form a national authority.
Makoni: Itâ€™s a matter of words. The constitution provides for an executive. That is constituted by elected representatives. We will proceed to do that on March 30. We are a unifier. We will form a government from the representatives who are not thieves or crooks.
Mugari: What if the other parties refuse to come into the alliance?
Makoni: We will still find elected Zimbabweans of integrity to form a government.
Mugari: What is you response to Mugabeâ€™s statement that the opposition will never rule this country?
Makoni: This is not his country. Mugabe does not own this country. It is not his real estate; he has no title deeds to this country. The country belongs to the people who will cast Mugabe into history on March 29. He should prepare for that.
Mugari: What will you tell Mugabe if you meet him?
Makoni: That he must respect the people of Zimbabwe and not insult them.
Mugari: The commanders of the uniformed forces are already saying that they will not accept anyone except Mugabe.
Makoni: I donâ€™t know if the words of one person reflect the views of the whole army.
Mugari: But they are the commanders.
Makoni: They are just individuals. They are just citizens like you and me.
Mugari: Some people say you are Solomon Mujuruâ€™s person. They say Mujuru is part and parcel of your initiative. How do you respond to that?
Makoni: Why should he be involved? There are many Zimbabweans who are involved in this project. This search for big names is for you guys in the media. Enjoy it!
Mugari: Do you think Mugabe still has key people around him?
Makoni: Didnâ€™t you hear Mugabe in Mutawatawa asking school children whether they are still with him? Mugabe is not with anyone. He is alone.Â I donâ€™t think he has more than a handful of people in his cabinet who support him.Â
Mugari: A lot of people have attributed the multiple exchange rates to the actions of the central bank. What will you do with the central bank if you come into power?
Makoni: I have talked about the irregularities of the workings of our national leadership and institutions. The Reserve Bank is not excluded. The Reserve Bank has the only factory in this country that does not stop operating because there is no power. That machine is the money printer.
All other factories are closed for hours with no power and raw materials but the factory of the central bank works 24 hours printing bearersâ€™ cheques. A sound economy should not run like that. The Reserve Bank should not be buying votes for Zanu PF with mini-buses distributed two weeks before an election. People have seen the truck-loads of scotch carts, hoes, ploughs and grinding mills. That is not the function of the central bank.
Mugari: You are on record as saying that if Tsvangirai thinks that the economy will turnaround in 100 days then he is dreaming.
Makoni: No, what I have said is that I believe Tsvangirai is promising to solve our problems in 100 days and I have asked for the method he will use. What I have seen is that he is promising US$10 billion but I can assure you that the amount is not enough to solve the problems that we have.Â
Mugari: How much time do you need to turnaround the economy? Dr Gideon Gono is promising that there will be a new policy after the election to drive the economy until 2010.
Makoni: That is very interesting coming from Gono because remember according to him this year is the mother of all agricultural seasons. Why is he talking about 2010? What has gone wrong with this season? I am not in a position to give a time table for the turnaround. Without a deep analysis of how this economy has been eroded and how much damage has been caused by the quasi-fiscal buying of votes, it will be difficult to have a timetable. A timetable is not possible without looking at how much the lying and looting of the national assets has been done.
lOur efforts to interview MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed this week after his spokesperson George Sibotshiwe postponed appointments.