We are fed up with the GNU — Gumbo

THE government of national unity (GNU) turns two today with President Mugabe having recently said its life cannot be extended by more than six months. The Zimbabwe Independent Political Editor Faith Zaba (FZ) spoke to Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo (RG) at the party’s headquarters in Harare yesterday on the challenges of the GNU. Below are the excerpts.

FZ: President Mugabe has said the GNU expires this month and I also believe that is Zanu PF’s position. Where is the party getting that from considering that there is no timeframe stipulated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA)?

RG: When the GPA was signed on September 15 2008, we as a party welcomed the decision simply because the election was inconclusive. We felt it was necessary to have the GPA and government of national unity to work on various projects that had been agreed upon. It was on that basis we supported the constitution-making process, which was one of the clauses in the GPA. But some of our colleagues in the opposition decided to violate the agreement that they would campaign for the removal of sanctions against our country.
Instead of working resolutely with us, they publicly said that they wanted sanctions removed, but privately they wanted them to remain in force. There was a lot of bickering between the parties and the president said he was very uncomfortable with the GNU and that obviously we cannot allow the agreement to be extended more than it is welcomed.
But the president did not state categorically that it will end in February. The position of the party is that we are fed up with the GNU. We will not make a definite position with respect to that — we wait for the principals to decide.

FZ: You spoke about MDC not meeting their end of the bargain, but there are also issues that Zanu PF did not fulfill.  There have been accusations that there was no political will in implementing them, especially the agreed issues such as security reforms, media reforms, etc.

RG: Let us be clear that there are issues that are embraced in the GPA and there are others that came in the form of understanding and not incorporated in the GPA. The major part of our bargain was to appoint the prime minister, the deputy prime ministers and was also to appoint ministers and to set up cabinet and the president has done that. I don’t know what else they would have wanted him to do. They talk about the question of governors, but it was never included there (GPA) — they talk about reassignment of ambassadors, but it was never there. It was sort of an understanding that these things will be done. People talk of a meeting in January 2009 in South Africa, it was just an understanding, and a communiqué is different from an agreement. The president appointed ambassadors to Australia, Senegal… You talk about reforms; it is the responsibility of parliament. If the reforms are not passed in parliament what do you expect the president to do?

FZ: On security reforms, Zanu PF is said to be resisting and is opposed to security reforms?

RG: What does the GPA say about security reforms?

FZ: But it is on the list of issues agreed and it is also in the report forwarded to the principals by the negotiators and also in the principals’ report to the facilitator (South African President Jacob Zuma)?

RG:  It is not in the GPA, but those are understandings that came out after negotiations. But they say we are violating the GPA, they should instead say maybe they are violating an understanding.

FZ: But the GPA clearly states that the president should consult the prime minister when making key appointments. The unilateral appointments of governors and ambassadors, that is where the violations come — that the president is violating the GPA?

RG:  No, No, the governors were not in the GPA.

FZ:  But there was an agreed formula of 5-4-1?

RG: On governors, the president recognised that time was up and there was no consensus and he could not allow a situation to continue with empty vacancies — that was the beginning of the problems, which had started a long time ago.

FZ:  What do you mean there was no consensus; I thought there was an agreed formula for the appointment of governors?

RG: You are talking about what you guys have been writing in the newspapers. Wherein black and white was that formula written?

FZ: In the negotiators report to the principals?

RG: Was it approved? Did the principals approve? There was no agreement from what I got. It was just a suggestion from the negotiators but was never agreed on by the principals in black and white. I remember the president saying to us, where is this formula coming from, where is this thing coming from — which meant that as principals they had not agreed on it. It might have been presented to them but they did not agree. Journalists you must try and find out these things first.

FZ:  But seriously, total blame for lack of implementation cannot be put squarely on MDC when you guys said you will not make any concessions until sanctions are removed?

RG: It might be seen that way. But the reality of the matter was that you cannot move further until the issue of economic sanctions is dealt with and that’s when you saw Tsvangirai saying sanctions must go in public and privately they told them to continue with the sanctions.

FZ: But you get the EU and the United States saying they will not remove them until there is full implementation of the GPA and Zanu PF on the other hand insisting that they will not move until sanctions are removed?

RG: Let me be frank with you. The EU is hypocritical about the sanctions issue, they talk of good governance, human rights, free and fair elections and yet they recognise some of the worst elections on earth.  So the EU is not being honest. On the issue of land, they are getting a lot of pressure from commercial farmers who say maintain the sanctions. It is the land issue which is key to the whole issue of sanctions, not good governance.

FZ: The term of the GNU ends tomorrow?

RG:  We wait for the principals to guide us.

FZ: I am sure there is a party position on how long the GNU should be extended?

RG:  Our timeframe is the conclusion of the constitution-making process and electoral reforms. If it is done in two months well and good or six months — but we don’t want to extend this thing beyond six months.

FZ:  But that’s the president’s position. What is everyone else saying in Zanu PF about the matter? Or is it a question of whatever the president says goes?

RG:  Generally that is what the president said and is what we know in the politburo, that’s why we talk of having a referendum by June/July

FZ:  Then, are elections in August or September?

RG: We don’t know because these processes may be cut short. If the constitution-making process is speeded up, the referendum might be called earlier.

FZ:  But there is no money?

RG: We have to find the money. If we can’t find the money then the constitution-making is inconclusive and then we revert to the Lancaster House constitution — minus Constitutional Amendment No 19.  For the purposes of the elections it can be removed.  We need elections and if they (MDC-T) don’t want elections … we will go ahead and have elections. Whatever happens with the constitution – whether we go for a referendum or not — elections are on. We may have to go back to the constitution-making process after the elections.

FZ:  But don’t you think we will be rushing into this election and risk going back to the 2008 situation.

RG:  There is not going to be that. The election will ensure that Zanu PF has a majority. We are confident because we are mobilising the people. This is the opinion of the people — people are fed up with the GNU.

FZ:  Aren’t you worried that you might be shooting yourself in the foot by thinking that you have all this support when in fact people are giving this confidence and impression because of alleged intimidation by Zanu PF?

RG: We don’t intimidate people. We are encouraging our people to do their political education in a peaceful manner to ensure that the referendum is done in a free and fair environment and the subsequent elections are conducted in a free and fair manner.

FZ: What were the challenges in the last two years?

RG:  Basically the challenge was the economy. We really want to revive the economy. Inflation has gone down and prices at one stage went down. But more could be done.  For me the biggest challenge is to industrialise the country, we have just have to revive our factories, revive steel companies. All these companies that can bring value to our products.  The question of financing agriculture is very, very important. Two things which are really critical

FZ: What is your take to suggestions – even from officials from the African Union Commission – that the government should prioritise economic development and not elections?

RG:  How do you operate when you have cabinet ministers who campaign for the imposition of sanctions on the country? This is where the difficulty is. How do you work with a finance minister who declines to finance agriculture, the constitution-making process and other development sectors?

FZ:  Is there a possibility of extending the GNU to 2013?

RG: There is no way. 2013 is out of the question. If you are talking of perhaps going for six months, perhaps.

FZ: People are worried about political violence if early elections are held.

RG:  The fear is justified, but do we have an alternative. We can’t talk to puppets of America. These are difficult people to deal with, they are not their own people. It’s all nonsense.

FZ: But is the environment conducive for elections?

RG: There is no time when an environment is conducive for elections. How can the environment be conducive when you have these petrol bombings and damage to property?

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