Following last Saturday’s violence at the MDC-T headquarters at Harvest House in which the party’s deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma was assaulted in the presence of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, our political reporter Elias Mambo (Independent Reporter (IR)) interviewed him to find out what really went wrong and whether the violence is a prelude to another acrimonious split of the party. Find below the excerpts:
IR: The violence you experienced was a result of the letter you wrote to party leader Morgan Tsvangirai urging him to step down in the interests of leadership renewal. What led you to write that letter?
EM: When we were in (the unity) government, there were a lot of things happening. Some were reported while others were not. So, when I looked at the future of the party, I asked myself whether we are going to achieve our objectives and values; whether we would be able to be transparent, accountable and bring democracy to this country and ensure every person feels they are part of the organisation. I discovered that we are far away from those goals.
I also took stock of who was and who was not behaving according to those values. During the build-up to the crucial general elections (last year) and even way before that everyone saw how we were giving in on a lot of issues. We gave up on our call for the removal of (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) governor Gideon Gono, the issue of (the then Attorney-General Johannes) Tomana, Roy Bennett and a lot more.
We had the Global Political Agreement (precursor to the unity goverment) which we all expected to be implemented in full but we failed again. These are the issues that pushed me to write a letter so that we can refocus and get back to our initial mission, that of bringing democracy to this country.
My letter was to acknowledge that president Tsvangirai had achieved a lot in fighting for democracy and it was important for that legacy to be protected. At times we do not know when we start eating into our own legacies. You see even football players retire when they are at the top of their game in order to protect their legacies.
IR: But how did you deliver the letter because critics in the party claim the approach was wrong?
EM: I gave him the letter myself. We were sitting side by side when I gave him the letter on a Thursday morning and I signed it to say these are my views.
IR: How did Tsvangirai react when you gave him the letter?
EM: Tsvangirai was very calm and the following day in the meeting he was calm.
IR: What was the response from members of the standing committee when they were given copies of the letter in a meeting the following day?
EM: I think the feelings were mixed. Others thought it was wrong to write that letter while others thought the issues I raised were pertinent and needed to be addressed.
IR: So what went wrong?
EM: The problem is that I voiced my concerns at last week’s meeting (on Saturday) that it was a wrong meeting and its timing was wrong because tempers were still high over the letter. Besides, issues that were discussed in that meeting were supposed to be dealt with by senior members of the party instead of juniors (district chairpersons).
IR: What really happened that Saturday leading to your assault?
EM: We left the meeting room to go up to the president’s office on the 5th floor. Party youths, outside were making noise and it was felt the chairman (Lovemore Moyo) should go and disperse them. He failed and we asked the president to go and do the same. He went and addressed them, but we were shocked that they did not disperse. So you should ask yourself how a leader fails to rein in his followers.
As we were going outside, he was in front of me and then he stopped and I proceeded. I made one or two steps and the attacks started. I was bleeding and security officers shielded me from the attacks and whisked me away to Tsvangirai’s vehicle. We drove a few metres away and I got into another vehicle.
IR: Did Tsvangirai say anything while you were being attacked?
EM: I don’t want to say he said anything or not because I did not hear anything.
IR: So what is the state of internal democracy in the party when senior members like you who speak out are harassed or beaten up?
EM: Those are the issues I raised in my letter. Democracy is no longer there and we need to refocus ourselves. We need to go back to the drawing board and try to bring back those crucial values so that they cascade down to the people. This party was formed to bring about democracy in the country and we cannot deliver until we start practising it ourselves. I stated that in my letter. The MDC is a democratic party and we are drifting away from those principles.
IR: Who do you think is behind the violence in the party?
EM: Attacks in the party are sanctioned by some people from fairly high levels because I am told there were very senior members giving those thugs beer and food.
IR: What is the leadership’s stance on intra-party violence?
EM: There are two things that you look at in people: what they say and what they do. I am keen on what they do. We should not be seen preaching non-violence only, but we should also practise it.
IR: Given these violent events, can the MDC carry Zimbabwe forward? Can it bring democracy and can it win the 2018 elections?
EM: I did put that in my letter. For us to carry this nation forward, we need renewal in the party. Without it then we will remain a perpetual opposition party that has no solution to the Zimbabwean crisis. My whole paper is on the party’s preparedness for the next election. Let’s have new leadership with enough time to prepare. That can be done through an early congress.
IR: Does this mean the party is divided into factions and are we likely to see another split of the MDC?
EM: I do not regard the party as being factional and I do not agree that there are factions in the MDC. I also want to make it clear the party is not going to split. It is the MDC philosophy that we bring ideas on the table and discuss. The MDC has allowed debate over the issue of leadership renewal and the majority view is the one that will ultimately carry the day.
IR: Will you continue to call for leadership renewal after the violence on you?
EM: I did put my views in writing and signed and told the president that I mean it. I will stand by my position. I believe in that and others can add or subtract but those are my views.
IR: So, who should take over from Tsvangirai in your view?
EM: It is up to the people to decide. We are a democratic party and people can offer themselves for the leadership posts, those that are selected can then represent the party.
IR: Will that be possible because in Tsvangirai the MDC created a brand?
EM: A brand exists up to a certain period. We can always create another brand the same way we did. In America, (US President) Barack Obama is a brand but it is known the brand will live up to a certain time and another one will be created. The MDC is a people’s project not individuals.
IR: As the deputy treasurer of the party, will you continue to fundraise after this violence?
EM: I have a constitutional duty to perform and this harassment cannot stop me from doing that. We are in a struggle.
IR: What is your response to allegations that you failed to disburse funds to Tsvangirai soon after elections?
EM: I don’t know who is making those allegations. The president knows the situation in the party and if it is him then he can be answerable. I presented the financial statement to the standing committee and everyone is aware of our financial position. We disbursed funds every time it was necessary subject to availability.