SINCE former premier Morgan Tsvangirai (MT)’s crushing yet controversial defeat by President Robert Mugabe, a lot has been said about the MDC-T leader and his party, but not much has been heard from the horse’s mouth.
In his first major interview after the July 31 general elections, Tsvangirai talks to the Zimbabwe Independent (ZI) reporters Brian Chitemba and Elias Mambo on a whole range of issues, including his defeat, allegations of election rigging, MDC-T succession debate, state of the party, exit package, the party’s relationship with Sadc and the African Union (AU) and his marriage to Elizabeth Macheka, among other issues.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
ZI: After the general elections, the MDC-T conducted a post-mortem. What variables did you identify to explain your defeat?
MT: There are two variables in this scenario. Firstly, people realised they were shortchanged because the election was run by the military. In military circles, the MDC is considered a threat and was thus targeted to make sure it does not win. There was also the role of the Chinese who supplied Zanu PF with resources and military expertise on mobilisation.
The second variable is that Zanu PF was pursuing power retention so that President Robert Mugabe could win at all costs. The election was also about intra-party fights as Zanu PF had failed to resolve its succession crisis so Mugabe had to throw in everything and bring all the tools, including Nikuv and the Chinese, over and above manipulation of a shambolic voters’ roll.
ZI: Some people say the MDC-T lost because of lack of an election strategy, organisational weaknesses, imposition of candidates and complacency, among other factors. What do you say?
MT: The MDC ran a brilliant campaign with limited resources compared to Zanu PF. We were better organised than them. In fact, this election was a coup under the cover of the ballot where even Zanu PF MPs actually still do not know how they won.
ZI: MDC-T is also accused of failing to appeal to people through its manifesto whereas Zanu PF’s policies had some popular appeal. What is your comment on this?
MT: Our manifesto was brilliant. It talks about jobs and upliftment. We had a clear strategy on what to do once elected into office. Zanu PF’s chaotic land reform and indigensiation policy could not have helped them win elections in a situation where millions are unemployed.
ZI: MDC-T claims a flawed electoral process, rigging and military presence played a big part in the election outcome, but this happened under your watch and leadership as prime minister. Does this not show the MDC was sleeping on the job while Zanu PF was working?
MT: In theory, we shared power, but Mugabe refused to implement all agreed reforms. I even spoke to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) for an update on all electoral issues, but Zec was under the control of the military. We tried all we could but there was fierce resistance until the time for elections.
ZI: Did you have enough resources for the polls and tied to this, we understand the party is now retrenching workers because of financial problems. What is the situation?
MT: MDC had limited resources, but that alone did not affect our performance in the elections. We managed to run our election directorate and also managed to pay our election agents.
As a party, we rely on state funding through the Political Parties Fund Act and also individual support but the costs of an election are heavy. In terms of retrenchments, we hired a lot of people towards the elections and we cannot continue with them because their job was specifically on polls.
ZI: There are reports that Sadc had advised the MDC formations not to enter the election unless agreed Global Political Agreement (GPA) reforms were implemented. May you clarify this for us?
MT: Sadc never advised us on anything. All they had been saying was go and implement all the reforms. We have minutes of all the meetings and we were never advised not to enter the elections. The problem is Sadc had no leverage to make sure that what they wanted implemented could be done and Mugabe took advantage of that, resulting in his refusal to comply.
ZI: Given that agreed reforms were not fully implemented, do you think you should have participated in the elections?
MT: We did not participate in the elections on the basis that reforms had been implemented or not. We participated because people wanted elections and also because everyone was confident that this time around even if rigging took place, we were going to overturn that by our sheer huge numbers.
ZI: South African President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu suggested the MDCs did not do enough to push for reforms and were therefore partly responsible for their downfall. Can you comment on that?
MT: Evidence is there that we pushed. We have records to show what was transpiring during negotiations. We played our part; what more could we have done? Take up arms? No, we needed to engage in a diplomatic manner. The facilitators played their role too and it is not proper for Zulu to say she did more than us. Their duty as facilitators was to bring warring parties to the negotiating table.
ZI: You have mentioned that you will continue appealing to Sadc and AU over the disputed election results, but how useful is that strategy given that they have already endorsed the outcome?
MT: This is a struggle and we need to continue with diplomatic engagements. Sadc abandoned its guidelines on elections by endorsing this farce and we want to show them the futility of approving stolen elections.
ZI: Some people are saying they don’t sympathise with MDC-T over its loss because you appeared to be getting cosy with Mugabe and did not push for reforms hard enough. They also say you were in charge of the election process and therefore you have no grounds for complaining. What’s your comment?
MT: I approached Mugabe diplomatically while people wanted me to confront him. It was about the people and resolving the crisis facing the country. The inclusive government could not have achieved all these results if we had confronted Mugabe like what some people expected.
ZI: When you withdrew your Constitutional Court application, you complained about a compromised judiciary and partisan judges. Why did you go there in the first place if you believed they are hopelessly biased against you?
MT: We withdrew our case because we saw the unfairness of the whole process. Any petition of an election is a public hearing, but we were asked to proceed through affidavits. It was obvious we were not going to have a fair hearing. We went there because courts are there for people to seek justice which we were denied from the word go. Even after withdrawing our case, the courts refused to accept our decision claiming we could not do that.
ZI: This weekend you revealed you had a detailed dossier outlining how the election was rigged. Why did you withdraw your court application if you had evidence? Would you kindly share with us the information?
MT: The dossier is there. Once it is summarised we will be able to share it with you. Evidence of rigging is there. How can you explain 17 000 people being assisted to vote in one constituency? In (new Justice minister) Emmerson Mnangagwa’s constituency (Zibagwe in Midlands) there are 42 000 people, including children according to the last census, but most of them voted for him. Go and check.
ZI: Many people believe MDC-T managed badly the aftermath of its defeat with political analysts saying the leadership was found wanting. We understand the issue came out during your retreat at Mandel Training Centre and also last week when Professor Brian Raftopoulos gave a report to the standing committee. What has been happening?
MT: Where we have been found wanting we accepted, but we are largely victims of a stolen election. Our shortcomings could not have contributed to such a Zanu PF victory. There was massive rigging. Raftopoulos also came to the conclusion that this is a militarised state and Zanu PF patronage also helped them win the polls.
ZI: Given that you lost to Mugabe in 2002, 2008 and 2013. In other parts of the world after losing elections like this leaders usually voluntarily step down. Do you think you have played your part and you must now allow leadership renewal? Are you going to contest for the MDC leadership at the 2016 congress?
MT: The MDC has a constitutional process of choosing who should lead it. I have been the leader since the party’s inception and as long as the people express their interest in my leadership, I will lead them. I have asked people to engage in the debate of leadership renewal and those willing to take over must come out in the open. It should not be done secretly. I have said this in the (national) council that it is time to talk about leadership renewal.
ZI: The succession issue seems to have gripped MDC-T, and Roy Bennett has suggested it’s time for you to go, while others say your relationship with some senior officials such as your secretary-general (SG) Tendai Biti is fanning divisions. Do you think it’s time for you to go? How do you relate to Biti and others?
MT: Bennett has expressed his personal opinion on the social media, but not to the party. We have proper channels of communicating within the party. As for Biti, he is my SG and we meet daily to discuss the party strategies. We have a good working relationship.
ZI: There are also reports the MDC-T is in disarray after the elections given the turmoil of councillors voting for Zanu PF candidates. What is going on?
MT: The councillors who revolted should be accountable to the people who voted for them. They will have to go back to their constituencies and explain what happened. The party will also hold them accountable and they may be recalled. In Victoria Falls the councillors were bribed by a Zanu PF cabinet minister and a senior party official from Mutare. We have two councillors from Chitungwiza who came forward to say they were given US$500 by Zanu PF.
ZI: After the elections, did Mugabe or Zanu PF approach you and the MDC-T over possible co-option into government?
MT: Mugabe never approached me or anyone in the MDC. We heard of it through the media. But we are ready to engage as long as it is good for the country.
ZI: Since you were prime minister, are you going to be getting any pension?
MT: That subject has not been discussed. I will meet the president now that we have a cabinet and engage him on such issues and others which may help Zimbabwe move forward.
ZI: Some in Zanu PF were pushing for your eviction from your Highlands house. What is the status of the house now? Are you going to purchase it?
MT: It shows vindictiveness of some petty people who are not prepared to accept others with different ideas around them. They hate me because I am a threat to their greed, corruption and ill-gotten wealth. Well, as I have said, I will have to meet Mugabe first and will see whether they will offer me the place and if I can afford it then make arrangements to pay for it. As of now, it is state property.
ZI: The public media has been awash with stories concerning your wife and your private life. Would you like to say something about this?
MT: It was done to humiliate me. It was done to finish me off and to demoralise me after the elections. Marriage is about two people and no one would want someone to interfere in their private lives, but I don’t really want to dwell on my private life.