Zimbabwe Independent political reporter Elias Mambo (EM), caught up with former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairman and Hurungwe West legislator Temba Mliswa (TM) to discuss various issues ranging from factionalism in the ruling party and his relations with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Below are excerpts of the interview.
EM: What are your links with former vice-president Joice Mujuru and her People First project?
TM: I have always and still do have the utmost respect for Mujuru. I was not happy about the way she was treated as the vice-president of the country and that First the Lady (Grace Mugabe) was allowed to humiliate her in the manner she did. That was not supposed to happen both morally and constitutionally.
EM: What do you think about the People First movement?
TM: As long as the members of People First do not come out in the open, it will be difficult for people to join such a movement. Its members should not remain under the cloak of obscurity or wait for the president to go to state their intentions. Their work must be ongoing and they should have fully-fledged structures. Electoral reforms are key to their success and they should be found to be actively advocating the alignment of electoral reforms to the constitution.
People misunderstand that while Mujuru was the second most senior person in Zanu PF, she did not have the powers without the provincial chairpersons who were elected into office and, therefore, wielded the power through their offices. This power, if harnessed, could have made People First a party to reckon with.
EM: Are you therefore suggesting Mujuru is a weak leader?
TM: No, I am not suggesting that Mujuru is a weak leader. However, I am saying that the balance of power whilst she was second-in-command did not lie squarely on her shoulders, but was concentrated more in the provincial chairpersons. I say this because chairpersons wield a great deal of power by the very fact that the positions are of an elective standing and therefore have the backing of the people. Subsequently, had People First comprised of the nine chairpersons that had been suspended/expelled then it would be a force to reckon with as a result.
Furthermore as the second-in-command, it was incumbent upon Mujuru as a leader to stand up and defend not only the party and herself, but the country too. When people began to be labelled as “Gamatox”, she had to defend the allegations openly as her silence had the wrong perception that the claims were true.
EM: And how is your relationship with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Are you related to him and are you working for him as alleged by some people?
TM: It is common knowledge that Mnangagwa is my cousin from the paternal side of my family and that our relationship was strengthened during the period that both my parents and himself were in Zambia. I greatly respect him and the esteemed office he holds, but I am mature enough to be able to separate politics from personal aspects.
This was evidenced during the time I was expelled from Zanu PF where I could have easily approached him and requested clemency from him when he presided over the disciplinary committee that had me unfairly expelled.
I am a person who respects offices over the individual as I equally displayed with my uncle, Didymus Mutasa. It therefore surprises me when people refer to me as Mnangagwa’s person and yet I was allegedly removed for being in the so-called Mujuru camp.
EM: What have you realised about Zanu PF, in the time you have been out of the party?
TM: Zanu PF is a violent party by its very nature; violence of which I came face-to-face with during the Hurungwe West by-election of June 2015 and that was subsequently reported as factual by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
Zanu PF is an institution that does not respect the will of the people and I do not want to be part of it. You cannot have a situation where there is bloodshed every time there is an election or when people deem it fit to exercise their democratic right.
EM: What are your views on succession issues?
TM: The issue of (President Robert Mugabe’s) succession should be dealt with swiftly as everyone is focussing on it at the expense of the economy. It is important that the President, as the centre of power, makes this decision as he has the power to appoint and not elect a successor.
Because of a lack of a succession plan, Zanu PF imposed provincial chairpersons on the people against the mandate of the Zanu PF constitution. While Mujuru was in office, there was a natural succession plan which would see her assuming the leadership in the unfortunate event that anything befalls the President.
Now the focus of all Zanu PF cadres is to fight amongst each other at the expense of the economy; to see who will succeed Mugabe as there is no succession plan in place.
EM: Where do you think Zanu PF is heading to given the divisions in the party?
TM: At the rate they are going, Zanu PF is heading down the slippery slope of self-destruction. When the ruling party indiscriminately chooses to violate its own constitution and instead be at the whim of the First Lady, it becomes dangerous for its longevity.
There is nothing wrong with Mugabe’s age so long as he is capable. However, when that capability is questioned or compromised and it becomes more and more apparent that decisions are being made from another quarter and that nobody is calling the First Lady to order, then things are likely to fall apart. This is because whether we like it or not, the First Lady is not a politician and to all intents and purposes, should not have been allowed to have the power to expel Zanu PF members en masse or to insult and harass people as was witnessed (in 2014). Moreover, the First Lady is generally not liked as a politician by the majority of women who are the backbone of Zanu PF.
Come 2018, I do not see any of Zanu PF’s candidates, including Mugabe, winning or even leading in the first round.