FORMER ruling party Zanu PF will hold its annual conference in Mutare between December 15 and 18 amid President Robert Mugabe’s pronouncement that the country will go to the polls mid-next year. The Zimbabwe Independent Political Editor Faith Zaba (FZ) spoke to Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo (SKM) at the party’s headquarters in Harare last week on Mugabe’s succession saga, militarisation of the party, elections, intimidation and violence. Below are the excerpts.
FZ: What is on the cards at the conference?
SKM: The theme of the conference is “Total control of our resources through indigenisation and empowerment”. The land reform programme, as you are aware, was concluded and irreversible.
We are focusing more on the question of indigenising the economy and also empowering our people in terms of the wealth of this country. We believe that having got our political freedom and sovereignty, it is not enough to go on and on merely with having the flag and national anthem.
FZ: What is your response to concerns around the indigenisation policy, especially that it will benefit the same elite?
SKM: This is the reason why we have conferences of this nature for us to discuss these matters; we don’t want to stifle any discussion. If there are such cases we must certainly have them corrected. But they can only come out of discussions and not by rumour or by gossip. So let people discuss what they know is true at the conference and we shall come out with appropriate solutions as a conference over such matters.
FZ: President Mugabe has of late been talking about elections next year. Has the party endorsed this position and how was it done?
SKM: Provinces have been endorsing that (position). A number of provinces, if not all expect three, have endorsed that position in terms of their resolutions as provinces and it is actually expected that the conference itself will endorse what the provinces want.
The logic of it all is that we are in an inclusive government, which is a result of the GPA which has a limited span of time — actually of two years — and within these two years it was anticipated that a new constitution would have been in place followed by elections. This is part of the GPA and we, therefore, cannot violate it.
FZ: Some MPs and even politburo members are opposed to the elections. Has this view been expressed?
SKM: Well you never have people thinking the same way in any part of the world, but we are following what the provisions of the Global Political Agreement which we all signed and it provides for that unless you want to violate it or renege on it. That is what is expected from us as parties.
FZ: But have these sentiments been relayed to you?
SKM: Not formally, certainly nobody has ever said this formally at any meeting, but naturally people might be having their own inner feelings. I cannot read those ones, but certainly we have never had formal pronouncements by anybody over this matter.
FZ: Could this be because in Zanu PF when the president speaks a lot of people find it very difficult to oppose or go against him?
SKM: If the president speaks sense, which he does all the time, surely I don’t know why one should go against sense and logic. So if that is what people say, so be it. Because I know very well that at all our meetings — politburo, central committee — people are free to express themselves and they have been expressing themselves very eloquently on a number of matters, including the one we are referring to now.
There is so much excitement, people are saying we want elections yesterday, because to them the inclusive government is spending more time on quarrels than in shaping up the future of this country. You have seen in today’s paper (last Thursday) the prime minister is taking the president to court.
FZ: Is it not that Zanu PF is causing some of these quarrels by violating the GPA?
SKM: It doesn’t matter, quarrels are there. Every family has quarrels. Sit down and discuss them, but don’t run to Europe or other countries and say in my home or in my house there is a problem. That is not the way to do or handle things. Let us sit as a family. Close the doors and talk. But if we are going to be running all over Europe or the US, they also get fatigued, they also have problems by the way. But they sort them out amicably by closing doors and talking as a family, so that’s how things should be done.
FZ: Sitting MPs have also raised some concerns — they are saying since their terms are being cut by two years they want a guarantee that there will not be subjected to primary elections. Is the party willing to make that commitment?
SKM: They have not brought that to us.
FZ: They have mentioned it to the Finance minister and it has been reported on.
SKM: The party constitution provides that there must be primary elections for everybody.
FZ: Would you say the environment is conducive for elections?
SKM: I don’t know when the environment can be judged to be conducive or not. I think it is up to the people of this country to act responsibly and really treat each other as a family and do that which the law provides and let us therefore meet our obligations and respect the people in terms of their expectations without violence.
There must be no violence. We must do our things in an orderly fashion, in a dignified manner and belonging to different parties does not mean we are enemies. We are not. You find that in a house one belongs to another party, it doesn’t mean that we are no longer relatives or no more brothers and sisters.
FZ: But there are already reports that there is violence by some war veterans — Jabulani Sibanda has been mentioned by name — and also intimidation of villagers by the military?
SKM: The point is that this country has law enforcement agents and they must apply it (the law). It is provided for in the constitution. They have got a duty to protect citizens, so if there is anybody who is involved in violence (by the way, it is not one sided we heard it from all parties) this must be stopped. We must not allow it to happen.
We just can’t allow people to be muzzled by whoever and I have been reading a number of articles also of culprits from all parties doing things which are unheard of and I am sure the parties themselves must face it and teach these people to stop such kind of conduct.
FZ: But the impression being created is that all this – the violence and intimidation — is probably being sanctioned by the party? What is Jabulani Sibanda doing in the rural areas?
SKM: I don’t think it would be fair to be talking about Jabulani
FZ: Why not?
SKM: Because there are others who are not being mentioned deliberately.
FZ: So what are you going to do about Jabulani?
SKM: What has he done, we don’t know. We only hear of it from the private press. We don’t know what he has done and he has denied everything that is being said. What do you do with someone when we don’t have a specific case to talk about?
FZ: Have you spoken to him?
SKM: What I am saying is that we have not heard of any specific case he has done to warrant action against him. I have not heard of it. But the media, particularly the private media, I don’t know why it’s one sided. I thought journalism was really a very noble profession. You must report things fairly. It appears it is Jabulani, Jabulani Jabulani, the whole country is Jabulani. What is going on? He must be a very powerful man. I don’t think God has such powers like Jabulani.
FZ: Is it fact that soldiers have been deployed countrywide to campaign for Zanu PF?
SKM: I don’t know anything about that and personally I don’t see the reason for it. But the only thing I want to say is that we are 30 years independent and you have to remember that a lot of people from the struggle joined the army and some have since retired. Those that retired are not barred from belonging to any political party. I don’t see why they should be singled out as having being deployed if they are in any party structure. Are they not supposed to participate in politics when they have retired?
FZ: Have you heard about operation code-named “boys on leave”?
SKM: I saw it in the private paper but I have never heard of it before. I don’t know what that is
FZ: What about militarisation of party structures?
SKM: We are all war veterans. We are all military people some of us. I don’t think it will be fair to say I must never be national chairman of Zanu PF because my background is military. Would that be correct? I was part of those who liberated this country as a military person now I must not participate in the running of the country —why and for the sake of whom?
FZ: They say the timing is interesting when we look at air vice marshal (Henry) Muchena joining the department of commissariat to rebuild the party structures, just as we are talking about elections.
SKM: I don’t know about that. That can be answered by the department of commissariat.
FZ: What about the issue we are reading that your structures are in disarray or shambolic?
SKM: Well of course in politics you will never say to your opponents your structures are wonderful. To start with I think it is really just statements. I have been going around the country and structures are very solid. People are gearing up for the conference. I see very solid structures wherever I go.
FZ: Why is it that there is no talk of leadership renewal in Zanu PF and that of succession?
SKM: On the succession issue, the party has structures, it has conferences and surely that should be done through those structures. We cannot impose anybody on the people. Let people choose who they want to lead them.
FZ: But if you look at other countries like South Africa you can tell who the next president in the ANC is, but not in Zanu PF?
SKM: That is in South Africa. They have two five-year term limits in office. We are using the Lancaster House constitution given by the British. It has no presidential terms like in South Africa. We tried to change that in 2000, but some people in this country rejected that. What should we do?
FZ: But President Mugabe is not so young — people would expect that at least by now there would be some debate on his successor.
SKM: Discussing with who?
FZ: Even at politburo level.
SKM: No, what for? The president can make his own announcement anytime he feels like he wants that he is almost there.
FZ: Is it because people are afraid to raise the issue because of what happened to people like (Dzikamai) Mavhaire who tried to start that debate some years ago?
SK Moyo: He is the president of the country and he is the president of the party, you, Faith, you are also free to discuss the issue with him. This is the end of our interview.