He has been accused of standing aloof when his colleagues from the MDC and civil society were either kidnapped or arrested and prosecuted. Our reporter Wongai Zhangazha hooked up with the minister last week in the capital and asked him about the allegations and his role in the ministry, among other issues. Below are the excerpts.
Zhangazha: How has your tenure in office been so far?
Mutsekwa: Challenging but at the same time exciting in that I know precisely why my party deployed me to co-minister this ministry. I have come to discover that it is one thing to have a minister as the political figure and another to have staff at all levels committed to change. I think I have fairly depoliticised the ministry.
Zhangazha: Are you implying that you spent 2009 just depoliticising the ministry?
Mutsekwa: No, but there is now cooperation (across the rank and file) and this has helped me to move to gear number two, to effect changes or reforms as expected by my party.
Zhangazha: Then what are your challenges, strengths and weakness in executing your duties?
Mutsekwa: Changing the mindset of my staff has been the major obstacle and then lack of resources.
I come from a military background so I have always had an insight of problems or challenges expected.To me (whatever) those were, I would rather leave weaknesses to observers.
Zhangazha: What is the nature of your relationship with co-minister Kembo Mohadi?
Mutsekwa: The first few months of my assumption of duty were not rosy. There was suspicion from both sides. As trained military personnel, we appreciate one thing, that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers and we have tried as much as we can to put the people of Zimbabwe first despite our vast ideological differences.
It doesn’t matter what our parties advise us to do, we meet and agree on how to run the ministry.
Zhangazha: What is your response to assertions from sections in your party and the general populace that you are weak, you are overshadowed by Mohadi?
Mutsekwa: You know what, even my colleague Mohadi each time we meet on Monday says he faces the same criticism from his party that he is overshadowed by Mutsekwa. That is expected in a ministry that is co-ministered. I am not overshadowed by anybody.
Zhangazha: Why are perpetrators of political violence in the countdown to the June 27 2008 presidential election run-off yet to be arrested? Why are you failing to stop fresh farm invasions and general lawlessness on the farms? Are you powerless?
Mutsekwa: Perpetrators of political violence are going to be brought to book. It’s a process. We are going through the records and I am pleased to say we have all the cooperation from the police. The unfortunate thing is that the majority of these cases were not properly documented.
As for the farm invasions, I want people to understand that according to the law, if a person has been given an offer letter, legally that person b comes the new owner. The problem we have been facing is the authenticity of these offer letters that are flying around the country. I have had meetings with Minister of Lands (Herbert) Murerwa and agreed that we need to devise a clear method on the letters. The method we agreed upon and endorsed by cabinet is that new owners are to be accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Lands and that there should be a proper handover-takeover with the former owners.
Zhangazha: We have received reports from the Commercial Farmers Union that the police are failing to protect some of the white farmers on land?
Mutsekwa: I agree with you on that situation. It used to happen involving senior members of the army using soldiers and youths to go and occupy a farm. Most of the police officers in our stations are juniors and at times they hesitate to challenge these senior soldiers.
This has been a challenge and we feared a serious confrontation between police and army would take place. But anybody who is going to be tempted to violently occupy a piece of land without following due process will be dealt with severely by the police.
Zhangazha: Why is Joseph Mwale still a free man when the High Court some few years ago ordered his arrest for the alleged murder of MDC activists?
Mutsekwa: He is still a free man not because I want him to be a free man. I know the kind of atrocities that Mwale committed — we lost cadres in Buhera who were going about their campaign. I am one person keenly following the Mwale incident. The bureaucracy in the system has delayed his arrest.
There could be red tape today but there won’t be red tape tomorrow. With vigour, we are coming for Mwale.
Zhangazha: One of your colleagues in the MDC, Gandhi Mudzingwa, last year accused you of not protecting party officials who were and are being persecuted by Zanu PF. What do you say to that?
Mutsekwa: I sympathised with Mudzingwa. The man was in jail during that time. However, Mudzingwa subsequently communicated and he unreservedly apologised for having made that false accusation.
I am doing a lot to protect party officials. I have also managed to have cars belonging to MDC impounded by the police released.
Zanu PF also accuses me of failing to protect their people against MDC supporters. We will continue to have isolated incidents and the police are supposed to handle them.
At times I would not be able to know everything that happens out there. People should report to the police.
As a minister, I am in charge of policy and policy directives. The day-to-day operations of the police are constitutionally under the Commissioner-General of the police, Augustine Chihuri. Constitutionally he can take directives from the head of state and the Attorney-General.
Zhangazha: So Chihuri is not your subordinate?
Mutsekwa: No, I also give him directives but what I am saying is that he also gets directives from the Attorney-General and the head of state. It is constitutionally correct that they give him directives.
In the end we tend to clash on certain decisions but if that happens, constitutionally the head of state will give the overrule directives. I can only hope that this will be amended in the new constitution so that the law does not have conflicting issues.
Zhangazha: What is your comment on police torture of accused persons?
Mutsekwa: It is not always the police who apprehend people. In most cases it is the CIO or the army and only after they have dealt with them that they deposit them in police cells for them to be taken to court. The torture happens when the accused would be in custody of the CIO or the army. The police will be only called in to do paperwork, but already the damage would have been done. All these human torture and detentions are not being done by the police and most of these cases don’t stick in the courts of law.
Zhangazha: This is certainly against the law! What are you doing about it?
Mutsekwa: Indeed they are violating the law. I am having meetings with my counterparts in the security ministries to solve this issue. I aim to ensure that our people will never be subjected to inhuman treatment like this again.
Zhangazha: Any police reforms?
Mutsekwa: A lot is being done but I am not at liberty to disclose this issue at the moment. It is an issue that was extensively discussed recently at the last National Security Council meeting.