Violet: Opposition leader and presidential candidate Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is the guest on the programme Hot Seat today. Thank you for joining us Mr Tsvangirai.
Thank you Violet.
Violet: Now let’s start with getting your take on the state of elections in the country.
Tsvangirai: Well as you know Violet the conditions for elections are uneven. In fact they are contestable before we even begin. The level playing field is not there. We are going to run these elections on Zanu PF rules and you can imagine when there is a referee who throws the whistle away and joins the other team, the outcome is just predetermined.
Violet: Now I would like to probe you on a number of issues to do with policy and these are the same sort of questions that we would put to the other presidential candidate Dr Simba Makoni, and of course Mr Robert Mugabe if he ever agrees to talk to us. Now a considerable amount of population require food aid, there is 80% unemployment and inflation is over 100 000%. What is your economic recovery plan?
Tsvangirai: Violet, we have to start from the basis that the economy is really on its knees and that there would be need for short-term intervention even to give people things like food, drugs, schools and transport. So as far as we are concerned we have a short-term intervention around those areas. We will have to provide food to people and to us that is basic. We of course have a recovery plan that is based on our policy framework which is called Restart. We do recognise that there are fundamental tenets to any economic recovery plan. One – based on a strict fiscal and monetary policy in order to address the inflationary conditions that we face, secondly – to ensure that we have a participatory people-centred economic development thrust, and three – to ensure that we can recover this economy by stopping the bleeding that has been taking place through patronage and corruption.
In the medium to long-term, we of course in that medium term need a short-term injection of foreign currency from those willing to assist us but also from our own savings in the country – which is quite a huge amount of money. But in the medium to long term, we need to create conditions that will allow for the economy to start re-investing itself addressing the medium to long-term needs of infrastructure and institutional support that has already been affected by Zanu PF’s misrule. So, we are very conscious of the thrust of economic recovery and this is what we have promised the people of Zimbabwe that if you give us the mandate, we can assure you that we will address the economic needs of a country as a key priority of our policy.
Violet: So are there any governments that have offered to help in a new Zimbabwe. Who will you look to for help?
Tsvangirai: We look to both East and West – those governments that will be able to assist us. I cannot at this stage mention any particular governments but I am very confident that once the political conflict or the political stalemate has been resolved, there will be people who will be ready to assist the new Zimbabwe to begin again to bring it back on its feet. This country has got a lot of potential, both in terms of partnerships, business opportunities and of course bringing back the multitudes of skilled human-resource-base that Zimbabwe has got in the Diaspora, to come and build the country and I am sure that a combination of both will actually see this country pull out of this current trough.
Violet: On the issue of the educational and the health sector, what is your position on privatisation of such basic services?
Tsvangirai: I don’t believe in the privatisation of public institutions like hospitals. We are a social democratic party, we believe that the state must provide the basics to the majority of the people and one of those basic services that the majority must access is health care and education. I believe also that the government would be able to deal with these issues much more effectively than private hospitals because the majority cannot afford it especially in the rural areas and the urban poor. We will still have to provide government services to our health and education because the majority; 80-85% of people have to depend on state support. I believe that will still remain our very fundamental policy.
Violet: Will you give subsidies and if so where will the money come from?
Tsvangirai: No one is talking about subsidies here. The policy of subsidising actually benefits those who can afford. You need government intervention in areas where the poor can benefit. You cannot have a blanket subsidy so that even those who can afford also benefit from that subsidy. I think it will be very dangerous to subsidise people who can afford – you subsidise education, you subsidise health for those who can afford. We are talking about subsidising at the point of service for those that cannot afford.
Violet: Let’s move on to other policy issues. The issue of Matabeleland has been a sore issue for a long time, is there any programme in your government plans to address the grievances around the Gukurahundi genocide?
Tsvangirai: When I stated at our Mutare launch that whilst we are not going to bring back the lives of those who have died there is something that you can do. For instance, you can start looking at those communities and have measures that can raise the lives of those people in those communities in Matabeleland. Roads, schools, clinics and all that and above all allow for Matabeleland to be a special economic zone with special tax so that those who want to invest can invest. But overall I think the policy of devolution that we have enunciated is actually a very important policy because it allows for self-determination and I am very committed to that policy. The other thing that we can also talk about is the issue of truth and justice – not necessarily as an instrument of retribution but as an instrument of national healing. That way we can begin to atone ourselves for the past misdeeds.
Violet: But still Mr Tsvangirai will your government try to do something to investigate these allegations of corruption I am saying this because (interrupted).
Tsvangirai: Absolutely, absolutely you need to investigate because you need to satisfy yourselves to ensure that the country has not been compromised to an extent that through corrupt practices, the previous government has compromised elections to that extent. So you need to establish that. But I am saying that experiences elsewhere have shown that it’s very difficult to establish the level of compromise the country has suffered as a result of past government misdeed but certainly we need to investigate and satisfy ourselves but as I said the underlying thing is that you need to focus on rebuilding the country as a priority.
Violet: What is your policy on the land reform programme?
Tsvangirai: The land reform programme is very, very clear. I enunciated it when I was in Mutare. It is basically a three pronged strategy. First, you need to establish through a land audit who owns what, then secondly, through an independent land commission reporting to parliament with special terms of reference to rectify, find an equitable system of rationalising the land ownership and land use in the country and thirdly to ensure that you actually make agricultural land reform a focus of your economic recovery. In other words how do you increase agricultural productivity so that the country does not go hungry again. The other thing that would be fundamental is that we need to establish farm sizes of various regions and entitle people to land so that they can look after the land. It is not just an emotional issue it is also an economic asset for the country, so one needs to look at the method used in the land resettlement programme or the land reformed programme as undertaken by ZANU PF if we are going to make use of that land.
Violet: So will this include removing the people who invaded the farms illegally and people with multiple farms?
Tsvangirai: Those people are Zimbabweans. All that we are saying is that we need an equitable all inclusive participatory process so that Zimbabweans can be properly resettled and that they can make use of the land without discrimination. What ZANU PF has been doing is to discriminate against political opponents – none of these people who are there can belong to MDC without being victimised. So we are saying land reform is for all Zimbabweans we have to start from the basis that land is a national asset for everybody – ZANU PF, MDC, Ndonga and whatever political affiliation . (interrupted)
Violet: Mr Tsvangirai you are not answering my question. I asked specifically about the people with multiple farms, what are you going to do specifically with those people who invaded farms illegally and some have multiple farms, even though . (interrupted)
Tsvangirai: No I have answered. I have answered that by saying that they are Zimbabweans and they will be part of an overall land re-settlement programs if they need to be resettled, if they need to be re-adjusted that’s the nationalisation policy that will come out of the land commission. I cannot determine specifically how they will be handled but I can say safely that they are Zimbabweans who are entitled to land and that there will be an all inclusive policy without discrimination of political affiliations.
Violet : Now according to the Herald the Commissioner of Prisons retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi said recently that if either you or Dr Makoni won you’d give back land to former colonial masters and he warned this would provoke war. He allegedly said land reform would never be reversed and he would do everything to safeguard it. What is your reaction to this ?
Tsvangirai : First of all I think that the election is that the people of Zimbabwe are going too chose a government of their choice. That’s what the purpose of the election is. You cannot determine or you cannot even define how the people of Zimbabwe should vote or should choose their leadership. Once that leadership has been given the mandate, it has been given the mandate to implicate the policy according to the people’s mandate. It is very unfortunate when an individual in the armed forces takes it upon himself to enunciate and actually undermine the people’s will. I hope that is not shared by everyone, I hope it’s an individual opinion. But even if it’s an individual opinion, it would appear as it is an attempt to subvert the people’s will and I think that the people will take great exception to those kind of comments. It is very unfortunate, the MDC believe that the army and all these uniformed institutions are national institutions and that they are professional institutions and that like everywhere in the world these are institutions that defend the people and not undermine the will of the people.
Violet: Going back to the issue of the land, women are 52% of the population but only 15% actually benefited in the last reform program, will your government look at that particular pattern of re- distribution?
Tsvangirai: Well, in our policy we don’t discriminate against women, I mean look it is also a cultural issue that sometimes we get these imbalances. But certainly I don’t think that the policy that will give to the land commission will necessarily insist in discriminating women. We believe that it will be an equitable all inclusive process without discrimination of gender sex or whatever. I believe that it’s time we sorted out this land reform program once and for all for the good of the country and the discrimination of the women certainly should not be entertained and I hope that the land commission will approach it from that perspective.
Violet: How are you going to re-introduce this viable commercial farming, will it also include inviting back commercial farmers who have been displaced?
Tsvangirai: Commercial farming is commercial farming it is not a colour issue. It is about the productive nature and skills that are required on those farms. In other words it is the ability of the individuals that will be farming to produce. I don’t look at it as bringing back the former commercial farmers. In fact in our policy we have said we are not going back to the pre 2000 situation neither should we condone what ZANU PF has done because of the method the haphazard method. So whilst we are saying we are not going to recover, we also appreciate the fact that there are so many people that has to acquire the necessary abilities to use those farms in a commercial way. I am sure that there is already sufficient manpower to do so. All they need is support and all they need is training and once that support and training is there they will start producing to the levels that any commercial farmer should produce.
Violet : I know that the opposition has been pushing for a new constitution for a long time – but in your new government will you change the present constitution and if so what are the sort of things that you would change?
Tsvangirai : Well, in our launch we have said that if we are given the mandate by the people of Zimbabwe , within two years we should get these people driven constitution out of the way and we are committed to that. There are various areas that people are disgruntled with; It is the balance of power; It is the centralization of power that has called for all these cries for a new constitution; It is the abuse of a state by sitting government, by a sitting president that has caused people to say we need checks and balances; It is the role of parliament; It is the rights of people – definitive rights of people enshrined in the constitution; It is also the question of how the government is accountable to the people and not the people accountable to the government. Those are the fundamental issues and also the fact that we will be able to establish various commissions to oversee, to act as oversight on government excesses. I think what people are looking for is a democratic people centred government that is able to serve the people and not to act as its master. And those are the fundamental issues from the very beginning when we started agitating for a new constitution and I am sure that the civic society is very happy with the position that we have taken.
Violet: What about plans of forming a coalition with such formations? What are your views on that?
Tsvangirai: Well I have heard people saying that there should be coalitions. I am the first one who tried to have a coalition or a unity agreement with our erstwhile colleagues in the Mutambara formation. Unfortunately it didn’t succeed. But I am the first one to call for a united front against Robert Mugabe. And I said in Mutare this election is a referendum on Robert Mugabe. It is not a referendum on any other leader other than Robert Mugabe’s misrule. Therefore the question of a united front is not only a burden of responsibility on the part of Morgan Tsvangirai. It is the responsibility of everyone who wants to connect and to form that coalition.
Violet: So would you form a united front with Simba Makoni?
Tsvangirai: That is specific. Simba Makoni is one of the leaders. There is Arthur Mutambara, there is ZANU NDOGA, there are all these other formations and I am saying I am open to discussion for something that is going to lead to the outcome that can relieve the people of Zimbabwe and solve their problems. So it’s not specific to Dr Simba Makoni. Dr Simba Makoni has not approached me and I hope that there will come a time when we will discuss that. But at the moment there is no discussion with regards to that particular agenda.
Violet: And on the issue of the unity talks between the two MDCs that you mentioned just now- the Mutambara MDC actually blames you for the break up of the talks and I spoke with the Deputy Secretary General Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga last week and she said you were the one who stumbled after a senior official in your party, who was under the influence of the CIO, approached you to scuttle the talks. What can you say about that?
Tsvangirai: Well you know Violet even if Morgan Tsvangirai was as they allege – what part did they play in the collapse of those unity talks? It takes two to tango isn’t it? And I think I have heard this for a very long time. That the split was caused by Morgan Tsvangirai, the collapse of the unity talks was caused by Morgan Tsvangirai. When are these people ever going to own up to their responsibilities and be truthful for a while? If the truth be revealed the split was not caused by Morgan Tsvangirai and the unity talks did not collapse because of Morgan Tsvangirai. But of course anyone can go on top of the mountain and claim this platform. All I can tell you is that I was committed to the reunification agenda and they should actually make an assessment that if they wanted everything in order for the unity talks to collapse – of course they collapsed because they wanted everything! And I cannot be seen to be rewarding a rebellion.
Violet: By everything you mean the parliamentary seats in Bulawayo and some of the seat they had asked for in Harare ?
Tsvangirai: No I am not going to go into the specifics. Ask them what was the cause of the collapse?
Violet: But Mr Tsvangirai that is what I have told you that I have interviewed the Mutambara MDC and this is what Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga alleges. That is why I am asking you why the talks failed.
Tsvangirai: Well if you want to believe Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga ask them – if according to them Morgan Tsvangirai was the cause I am not a member of parliament, I have never been a member of parliament. In fact if selfish aims were to be the motivation I was more interested in the unification agenda than any of these parliamentarians. So you cannot blame me as a presidential candidate – whom both factions had endorsed – to say then that my motivation was to collapse the talks because I wanted to have certain seats here and there. So the seats are not the issue.
Violet: So, on that issue of creating a party that is national in character analysts say that Zimbabwe is deeply divided and that a leader is needed to bring about healing and national consensus. Now will your government reach out to everyone if you win the elections? Not just people in the MDC but people in ZANU PF?
Tsvangirai: Yes I am committed to the national healing process, to reach out to everyone. That is why we reached out to Ndonga, we reached out to the Siwelas, and we reached out to the faction, the formation that broke away from us. And we still think that any government that emerges out of this election would still be a transitional government that has to incorporate all facets of life across the political and economic divide because what we need is a government that heals the nation and moves forward the nation.
Violet: And finally Mr Tsvangirai you said earlier that elections are going to be run on ZANU PF rules, now this is your second attempt to get to State House. What are your chances of winning this time especially as you say things are worse than ever?
Tsvangirai: Violet there is a difference between winning an election and winning power. I am not here to win power I am here – of course if the power is won that is fine, that is the ultimate objective – but I know I have the full support like in 2002 and in 2005 we won the support of the people. And once more we are going to emphasise that we will win these elections. What Mugabe does with it is another matter. But the people of Zimbabwe will demonstrate to him once more that they are behind the MDC and that they are going to vote for the MDC overwhelmingly.
Violet: And what will you do if he rigs the elections?
Tsvangirai: Well don’t speculate about what happens. We will cross that bridge when we get there. But I am telling you that the people of Zimbabwe are going to vote and they are going to vote for the government of their choice. If Mugabe decides to steal that is his prerogative. I told you earlier that let him de-legitimise himself even in the eyes of SADC and the African leadership.
Violet Gonda: And a final word Mr Tsvangirai. Is there anything you would like to tell the people of Zimbabwe ?
Morgan Tsvangirai: My message to the people of Zimbabwe is very, very simple. We have come a long way in this democratic struggle. We have another fighting opportunity against this dictatorship for food and jobs – give it a try. If Mugabe steals it the people of Zimbabwe will know that their vote has been stolen and that he would be ruling by decree. But this is a referendum on Robert Mugabe’s misrule over the last 10years. I don’t think that any sane Zimbabwean will cast a vote in favour of ZANU PF or in favour of Mugabe.
Violet: Thank you very much Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai: You are welcome. Thank you.