SUSPENDED Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo (RG), who unwaveringly stood behind under-fire Vice-President Joice Mujuru as he demanded Zanu PF must resolve its succession conundrum at congress next week, has opened up on the tumultuous events rocking the faction-riddled party, and how he feels betrayed by party leader President Robert Mugabe.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Zimbabwe Independent political reporter Elias Mambo (EM) this week, Gumbo ominously said all progressive forces being purged ahead of congress will not watch forever as their party is destroyed from within by opportunists and infiltrators.
Below are excerpts:
EM: Where to now after your five-year suspension from the politburo?
RG: I have always been on the battlefront all my adult life and I remain resolute that the struggle has to be fought. I am not out. I will make sure the people of Zimbabwe get their freedom and my views of genuine freedom will never be compromised. I will never deviate from principle.
EM: How are you going to continue the fight since you have been booted out of Zanu PF?
RG: Revolutions are fought from different angles. I will continue fighting on behalf of the people to ensure freedom, economic recovery and development.
EM: Do you regret speaking out? Do you feel you owe the President an apology?
RG: Hahaha! I am not apologetic for whatever I have been saying. That has always been my stance and there is nothing to apologise for. Zimbabweans want real issues to be resolved and not for us to remain prisoners of fear.
The succession issue is wreaking havoc with the turnaround of this economy. It cannot be ignored. So why should I apologise? For what? Focused leadership should be aware that one day leadership will change and this calls for robust discussion and not to whip people into line and suppress debate on such a crucial issue.
EM: Take us through events of that fateful day when you were suspended. Were you aware of your impending fate?
RG: I was shocked. Not only me, but everyone else. I knew there were plans to deal with me maybe after congress but not on that day. I was not given a chance to defend myself on the allegations levelled against me and I was not happy that a very junior person (Edson Chakanyuka, Zanu PF Youth League deputy secretary) who has no clue of how this country came to being was used to move a motion to suspend me.
I am a veteran of the struggle and that is not questionable. Mugabe should have moved in to stop that madness considering my role in the liberation struggle and independent Zimbabwe. He should have considered that instead of allowing a representative of a faction that wants power to push me out. Obviously, it was pre-planned and Mugabe knew about it.
EM: And how did the others react, especially those who subscribe to your views of the need for a robust discussion on the succession taboo?
RG: Everyone was shell-shocked. They were taken by aback and no one thought it would come to this. They were scared and there was no dissenting voice to stop the motion. They all kept quiet. I felt that Mugabe should have engaged me before the politburo and not expose me to open attacks.
I was never elected into this position. He appointed me so he betrayed me in the sense that he used some people to help him boot me out. He appointed me so he was supposed to be the person who should have told me openly that he is dropping me, not some dubious character who is ignorant of the history of the struggle and is being used by those who are power hungry. As they say, the one who appoints can also disappoint.
EM: What was your reaction?
RG: I stood up and told Mugabe that I was leaving since I no longer had any role to play. Why would I have wasted my time when I had been chucked out?
EM: What did he say?
RG: He said he thought I should wait until the politburo was over.
EM: And what about the allegations that you wanted to topple or even assassinate Mugabe and replace him with Mujuru?
RG: Pure lies. Blatant lies being peddled by the faction that wants to take over power. It is not possible after having spent my life serving the party to think of overthrowing a sitting president.
I have done nothing wrong. Supporting Mujuru is not a crime. She is the number two in command and if anything happens to the president she is entitled by the constitution of this country to take over. She should be supported and we should not apologise for that.
The president himself said so in 2004. Are we selling out if we are supporting his deputy? No! She is not an enemy so she needs our support.
EM: Are you saying you support the Mujuru faction?
RG: I do not have a faction. I support Mujuru because naturally she was supposed to take over. Mugabe should also support her because he groomed her and that is not a crime.
EM: Do you think Mujuru will take over given how events are taking place in Zanu PF?
RG: Mujuru is going to survive. She is strong and she has a very strong support base. She is well-groomed and mature. There is nothing to stop her from taking over in future.
EM: But those who are supporting her are being purged just like you. How will she survive at congress?
RG: Those suspensions and removals are illegal. They are unwarranted, they are unfair, uncalled-for and they do not consider the contributions of those people to the struggle and development of this country.
EM: But the removed people will not take part at congress? So what will happen?
RG: If Mugabe is given the power to appoint, then it ceases to be an elective congress. In fact that congress is now a sham because illegal structures will be playing crucial roles. Those acting chairpersons are not elected individuals and the constitution does not allow that.
The whole congress is a non-event because the constitution has been manipulated and violated, so where is democracy. It is not a congress at all. It’s a charade.
EM: But it will go ahead as planned and you and others will be left out. What are you going to do?
RG: It is up to the people to react to that. All those sidelined democratic forces can raise their concerns.
EM: Are you saying those people may form their own party?
RG: I am saying people will not sit and accept injustice forever. They will not accept a leadership that is not focused and which they would not have voted for. It is not a people-chosen leadership.
EM: Lastly, are we seeing the end of Zanu PF?
RG: Zanu PF is above any individual. We will not allow our party to be destroyed from within. Those who have highjacked the party will soon realise that power belongs to the people and not them.