Tsvangirai opens up

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has spoken out on an array of critical issues affecting preparations for the next general elections, saying President Robert Mugabe will not be allowed to throw hurdles across the roadmap by unilaterally deciding the outcome of the constitution-making process and dates of the polls.

Report by Faith Zaba/Owen Gagare

In an exclusive interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Tsvangirai — battling to contain Mugabe’s political manoeuvres — said the constitution-making process and poll dates would be decided by consensus.

Tsvangirai said there was no room for impositions, but dialogue and concessions, allaying fears he was now in Mugabe’s pocket as some suggested.

As the country inches towards crucial elections next year, while the constitution-making process edges to finality amid a raft of outstanding political reforms, the premier also tackled the role of the military in politics and polls, security sector reform, political violence, corruption, and other issues, including his relations with MDC leader Welshman Ncube.

Tsvangirai quashed Mugabe’s persistent claims, including during the opening of parliament on Tuesday, that principals had agreed to take over the constitution-making process and would have the final say on the Copac draft. He said parliament — not principals — will have the final say in keeping with the Global Political Agreement (GPA), although government would be involved in logistics.

Asked if principals would form a cabinet committee to take over the constitution-making process, Tsvangirai said, “No!”

He said Copac will first draft the report on last week’s constitutional conference to synthesise what came out of the discussions and it will be analysed by the management committee as directed by the principals.

“Remember, the management committee is the political representative of the principals,” he said. “From then on, it will be up to the executive to prepare a constitutional Bill to be presented to parliament. Parliament will have the final say before a referendum, not principals.”

Tsvangirai said although he might not necessarily like some Copac draft provisions, he was bound by the signed document and MDC-T national executive and council resolutions on it. He said the principals would not rewrite the draft constitution, although there may be a need for negotiations to resolve grey areas.

“It is not going to be a Tsvangirai amendment; neither is it going to be a Mugabe amendment. It is a process that is national and it is collective. I will not be part to a single amendment to any part of the draft constitution unless there is collective assess to it,” he said. “We have endorsed the draft as signed and whatever misgivings there are have got nothing to do with my individual opinion.”

The Prime Minister also dismissed Mugabe’s claims elections would be held in March next year, saying principals are likely to meet around that time to agree on the date of polls. He emphasised Mugabe, in terms of the GPA, has to consult him on election dates.

“We (principals) agreed to postpone the by-elections, by consensus because there were many by-elections that were due. It would have been like holding a mini general election. We then said since we are going to have general elections next year anyway, why not have them all at the same time. We said give us time and by March we should be able to set dates for elections,” he said.

On the military’s involvement in politics and elections, as well as their recent remarks threatening to block him and his party from ascending even if they win elections, Tsvangirai said principals were dealing with the issue.

He also said army commanders must respect the constitution and laws by avoiding political interference.
The premier said the National Security Council, chaired by Mugabe and which includes service chiefs, would soon meet to discuss the issue of the military. The meeting would look at operational issues, not just policy matters as it always do.

While the liberation history made some service chiefs political, Tsvangirai however said the time had come for them to choose whether “you are a professional soldier or politician?”

Asked whether he has raised the issue of generals with Mugabe, Tsvangirai  said: “I raise this from time to time. Let us separate the rhetoric and the real constitutional position. Everyone who is serving in these institutions must uphold the constitution or else the will of the people will be undermined.”

Turning to the controversial issue of amnesty for military commanders accused of human rights violations, he said the issue came up during the GPA negotiations, but was shot down by Mugabe and his diehards who rejected pardon claiming they had nothing to hide.

Tsvangirai, however, said he has not called for amnesty for anyone, but said there must be a balance between “loud and clear” demands for justice by victims and fear of retribution by perpetrators.

“How do you have stability in a situation in which there is a very loud and clear demand by the victims for justice, but there is also, on the other hand, very real fear by the perpetrators that there will be retribution? So, how do you balance that? If you want stability, you have to take those two issues into consideration,” he said.

Tsvangirai also disclosed several MDC-T heavyweights, including Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and State Enterprises and Parastatals minister Gorden Moyo, would be hauled before the national disciplinary committee for their role in the internal political violence which engulfed his party in the run-up to its national congress in Bulawayo last year. He further revealed several party officials, including some members of the standing committee, are also under investigation on corruption allegations.

On devolution, Tsvangirai said his party has always supported the issue and still does. He said 80% of the people supported the idea during the Copac outreach programme.

Tackling his relationship with Ncube, he said he has no vendetta against him and has nothing to do with his fight with deputy premier Arthur Mutambara.