A LOT of questions are being asked about why MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai selected a candidate from a rival formation for a cabinet post, and why he later changed his mind.
Zimbabwe Independent bureau chief, Loughty Dube (LD) this week interviewed the candidate, Nkayi West Member of Parliament Abednico Bhebhe (AB) of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara. Excerpts below.
LD: Honourable Bhebhe, how do you feel after being dropped from the MDC-T ministerial list at the last minute?Â Â
AB: I feel vindicated because there are Zimbabweans who have been saying they don’t trust the Mutambara faction arguing that it is not working for democracy.
This decision shows that the Mutambara leadership is not democratic, it is a leadership that lost elections and came back through the back door on the strength of the 16 MPs who won elections on March 29 2008. I feel great that they have been exposed for what they are through this incident.
LD: Was the MDC leadership consulted before your name was put up for nomination as cabinet minister by the MDC-T faction?
AB: The party’s leader was consulted on the matter.
Firstly Morgan Tsvangirai contacted me with the information and I immediately called Mutambara who thanked me and said there was no problem.
He indicated that he would talk to Tsvangirai about the matter and he (Mutambara) later told me that he had spoken to Tsvangirai.
LD: So in your own words there were consultations between the two MDC leaders?Â Â Â
AB: Absolutely and actually Mutambara came back to me and indicated that they had agreed on a strategy they formulated with Tsvangirai where they would send all the names of their cabinet choices to President Mugabe.
LD: Why was that supposed to be so?Â Â
AB: Mutambara said this was done so that if the party’s management committee raised the issue of my appointment it would be explained to them that the decision was endorsed by all three principals.
LD: Why then do you think Mutambara changed his mind and accused Tsvangirai of working against the spirit of the Global Political Agreement when he nominated you for a cabinet post after he had initially agreed?
AB: After the announcement of the cabinet list by MDC-T, Mutambara told me he was under pressure from three colleagues who wanted me dropped from the list and he named the three as Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Welshman Ncube and Fletcher Dulini Ncube.
Mutambara even expressed shock that some of the people complaining had not spoken to him in the last seven months.
Mutambara said to me he was angry that Tsvangirai had breached their agreement to let President Mugabe announce the combined cabinet list by announcing his own cabinet list.
LD: When was this discussed and what was the outcome of the discussion?
AB: It was discussed on Wednesday afternoon and Mutambara later said he would discuss my issue further with the three principals during their meeting later in the day. However, on Thursday Tsvangirai called and informed me that the appointment had been cancelled as Mutambara, with the support of President Mugabe, said it was not proper for Tsvangirai to appoint me.
I then called Mutambara on his mobile phone in the presence of Tsvangirai to discuss the developments and he cut the phone on me.
I then drove to his house but he refused to open the door for me and we spoke through a burglar bar door.
However, as I was trying to reason with him he ordered two uniformed policemen who were guarding the house to throw me out and that was the greatest insult for me.
If it was not for me and my 15 colleagues who won the 15 seats in Matabeleland, Mutambara would not be (deputy) Prime Minister lest he forgets that.
The same applies to those that assisted to have me dropped; they would not be ministers today.
LD: Your party says it was against the spirit of the GPA for Tsvangirai to nominate you into his cabinet?Â Â
AB: That is totally untrue and a fallacy believed by those that have a hidden agenda.
The GPA is a document built on the principles of an all-inclusive government.
This is not a one party government; it is an all-inclusive government.
So anyone, including people not belonging to any of the three political parties, can be appointed into the government.
The GPA says there shall be 31 ministers with 15 nominated by Zanu PF, 13 nominated by MDC-T and three nominated by MDC.
It says nothing about those ministers coming from any party.
It says nominated by and not from.
So there is no spirit against the GPA to talk of. Â
LD: Were you prepared to accept the cabinet post as Minister of Water Resources and Development if your party had approved your nomination?
AB: Definitely, I was prepared to accept the post because I was listening to calls by people on the ground.
They are saying if it was not for the divisions we could have won the elections as an opposition in March and that is the reason I gladly accepted the offer.
LD: Your party had threatened to dismiss you if you accepted the appointment by Tsvangirai.What are your comments?
AB: If you talk of MDC as a party, it has structures and a constitution.
Firstly before anyone fires me from the party they have to convince my district, citing constitutional provisions which I breached and the process has to be taken to the provincial level before it comes to the parliamentary caucus.
After that happens the national council has to assess the recommendations from all these structures before a person can be fired from the party.
For anyone to dream from his office that he can fire me is void unless the party is a private company where a chief executive officer can fire people just like that.
After all why am I being threatened with being fired by people who did not get a mandate from people to represent them?
LD: What will happen to you if your party goes ahead and expels you? Are you going to be an independent or you will join the MDC-T faction?
AB: The decision to expel me or not does not lie with individuals but is an issue involving structures and it’s bigger than individual talk.
Besides there is no reason I can be fired for joining an all-inclusive government.
It would mean that all those that joined the all-inclusive government should step down.
It is not the first time that they have threatened to fire me from the party.
They have tried twice and twice they have failed.
LD: People are saying your nomination by Tsvangirai was to reward you for backing MDC-T candidate Lovemore Moyo for the speakership against Paul Themba Nyathi from your party. Any comment on that issue? Â
AB: People are allowed to dream.
First, as an individual I would not have made Lovemore Moyo to win.
I only cast one vote and those that suggest that I rallied other MPs to vote for Lovemore Moyo are actually defaming the characters of the other MPs and suggesting that they do not think for themselves.
Besides the allegations are just conspiracy theories as the vote in parliament was through a secret ballot.
LD: Personally why do you think Tsvangirai nominated you into his cabinet? Â
AB: There are two reasons I think Tsvangirai nominated me.
First, it is because of my consistency since the MDC was formed in fighting for the democratisation of Zimbabwe.
I have always challenged undemocratic tendencies from whoever, which is the reason MDC leaders want me fired because I will not accept anything undemocratic.
Second, I think he looked at the experience I have acquired in parliament and in Zimbabwe at large on the governance issues.
I also feel Tsvangirai in appointing me was extending a hand of reconciliation which we have been trying to bring to the feuding factions. He was simply upholding the principle of the all-inclusive government.
He was demonstrating that as opposition we have an advantage if we work together.
When a runoff was announced our party made a decision that we would support the candidature of Tsvangirai and that decision has not been rescinded and Tsvangirai in appointing me was reciprocating the kind gesture from our party.Â Â
LD: You have been on a collision course with your party leadership for a long time?
AB: Thank you for asking that question.
It all started in 2006 at congress when names of management committee members were forwarded to provinces so that they would be endorsed at congress.
I was one of the people who led the disapprovals since the practice was undemocratic.
At the same congress my colleagues had forwarded my name to contest the position of treasurer-general.
However, I was persuaded by Vice-President Gibson Sibanda, whom I respect very much, to withdraw. I therefore humbly withdrew.
The names that were forwarded to the provinces were endorsed without a vote at the congress and that process was undemocratic and I voiced my discontent.
I have always been threatened because I am vocal at National Council meetings and twice there have been attempts to fire me. Â
LD: (Edwin) Mushoriwa (MDC spokesperson) on Monday this week claimed you lied that Mutambara gave you the go-ahead to accept the MDC-T cabinet nomination.
What is your comment on that?Â Â Â Â Â
AB: Mushoriwa is just a mouthpiece of those that blocked me from participating in a democratic all-inclusive government.
So he is bound to play the master’s pipe. After all he is part of a group rejected by the people on March 29 2008.
LD: So you spoke to Mutambara on the matter?
AB: Yes, I spoke to him and it would be unfortunate if he tries to deny that.
LD: Finally, are you bitter at being denied a chance to take part in the all-inclusive government?
AB: I am not bitter at all for the following reasons: first, whoever thinks he is trying to fix me should forget it because this is an encouraging development in my political life which gives me the zeal to work harder to defeat the enemies of democracy.
Democracy is measured by winning elections and not being involved in government through the backdoor.
I am also happy that the decision by Mutambara has made Zimbabweans see what kind of leaders we have.
They are so blind with vindictiveness.
This is a party that won all its representation in parliament from Matabeleland but has the audacity to block one of the Ndebele leaders to be involved in the all-inclusive government.