GOVERNMENT ministers from Zanu PF last Sunday walked out of a post 100-Day Plan cabinet retreat in Nyanga after Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara described last year’s harmonised and presidential run-off elections as “fraudulent, a farce and a nullity”.
Mutambara has since been a subject of attack in the state-controlled media and accused of endangering the life of the inclusive government. Our news editor Constantine Chimakure on Tuesday caught up with the deputy premier at his Munhumutapa offices in the capital to hear his side of the story. Below are the excerpts.
Chimakure: What transpired in Nyanga that led ministers from Zanu PF to walk out of the meeting?
Mutambara: We had a very good and productive two-day cabinet retreat in Nyanga.Â I made two separate presentations. On the first day, Saturday, my topic was: “The Case for Monitoring and Evaluation: The Case for Embracing Global Best Practice.” This was executed without any hitches. On the second day, I presented:Â “A Review of the Previous Day and an Update of the Rebranding and Shared Vision Efforts.” Â
It was during this discussion that there was an unfortunate misunderstanding over one matter. Let me state clearly and up-front that it was never my intention to insult or to offend my colleagues in the inclusive government. I was giving a review of what had been discussed the day before in what is called the “Rights and Interests Cluster of Ministries”. This is the group of ministries responsible for the tasks of supervising the crafting of a new people-driven constitution, national healing, and media and political reforms. One of the challenges that the participants in this cluster identified as impeding progress was the lack of political will within the inclusive government.
In reviewing this matter I sought to emphasise the importance of the work and targets of the ministries in question, and dramatise the categorical imperativeness of their success.
In particular I was emphasising the importance of political reforms, media reforms, a new constitution and national healing. I indicated that the core outcome of this government is the creation of conditions for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. This is critical so that the outcome of our next polls is not in dispute. We must build integrity and legitimacy of our electoral processes so that the losers congratulate the winners and the winners form a legitimate elected government. To buttress my argument I emphasised that it is essential for members of the government and the generality of the people of Zimbabwe to understand the history, background, and hence the mandate of this inclusive government. Vana veZimbabwe hatifaniri kukanganwa chezuro ngehope (Zimbabweans, we should not fail to address the challenges and conditions of our immediate past because of a temporary reprieve in our circumstances).
This inclusive government came into being because our elections in March and June of last year were inconclusive and problematic. This is common cause and is the reason why we went into negotiations from June 27 2008 to February 11 this year. There was no government in Zimbabwe from June 27 2008 to February 11 2009. This is because all the elections of 2008 did not produce a government. It means in Zimbabwe we have an electoral disease to cure. This was the context of the discussion in Nyanga.
Where the discomfort arose was when I used the phrase “The election on March 29 2008 was fraudulent and that on June 27 2008 was a farce and a nullity.”
Well, every Zimbabwean knows that this is a true statement. There is agreement that this is the scientific description of those polls. The observers, Sadc and the African Union came to the same conclusions. With hindsight one could say maybe I could have looked for more polite language to express this agreed fact.
It (government) was only created after protracted Sadc-facilitated dialogue. This means everyone in this government owes their position and role to the global political agreement (GPA). There is no leader in this government who was elected to their position. We are all products of negotiations.
It is important that I say we must endeavour to accommodate each other and use measured, inclusive and tolerant language. I will try my best to do that. However, there is no space for what I call inappropriate politeness.
Chimakure: Your comment on the walk-out by the ministers and their accusation that you seize any opportunity granted to attack the party, especially President Robert Mugabe.
Mutambara: The walk-out was a complete over-reaction. It was unfortunate that they chose to express themselves that way.Â However, as I have already conceded, we should all try to use measured language. We must all create an environment where the three political parties work together smoothly and effectively. As Deputy Prime Minister, I will try my best to do my part. However, in the course of deliberations if there is a position stated or an issue invoked which colleagues find objectionable, the process should be to raise a point of order. The speaker can then be asked to explain or retract. We must not intimidate each other by walkouts and boycotts. What we want in the country is what we call rational disputation, democratic discourse.
Chimakure: What’s your comment on seizing every opportunity granted to you to attack Mugabe?
Mutambara: This is news to me.Â I wonder if this is what I did when I introduced President Mugabe at the launch of Sterp, or when I defended and fought for Zanu PF ministers to get visas to attend the re-engagement dialogue in Europe.Â When I berated President Obama for discriminating against a Zanu PF minister, or took public positions against targeted sanctions imposed on Zanu PF ministers; has this evidence been considered as well?Â I rest my case.
I am not a member of Zanu PF, neither am I member of MDC-T. I am the president of a separate political party. I am not beholden to either of these major parties.Â I reserve the right to take positions based on principles and values of my party, and damn the consequences.
As a national leader, principal and deputy prime minister in the inclusive government, I have a duty and obligation to ensure the full and complete consummation of the GPA.Â I have to make sure the agenda and mandate of the government are successfully executed.
In the process I will make mistakes. I will learn lessons. However, I will try my best to be a unifier not a divider. We should all be driven by the national interest. We must subjugate partisan interest to the national interest.
Chimakure: Is it correct that your outspokenness against Zanu PF and Mugabe is meant to win support from the electorate given concerns that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been less critical of the president and his party of late? Are you targeting future elections?
Mutambara: I am targeting the task at hand. My job is to make sure that the government delivers on the promise of the GPA. As one of the three principals I must make sure that all the outstanding GPA issues are speedily and amicably resolved.
The GPA and the Sadc CommuniquÃ© of January 27 2009 must be fully and completely consummated without equivocation or variation. The three political parties through their three leaders signed a GPA out of their own volition. This GPA was crafted with the assistance and involvement of Sadc and the AU. It is an excellent example of African solutions to African problems. It is a solution by Zimbabwean citizens to their national challenge. Â
Let me dramatise to you the meaning of our failure to fully implement the GPA. How credible am I as the deputy prime minister of Zimbabwe when I say to an investor, “Come and invest your money in Zimbabwe, I am going to respect my agreement with you,” when I cannot keep my own agreement with myself?Â Who can have confidence in a government that does not respect its own laws and agreements? Where will credibility of such a regime come from? Furthermore, what does failure to implement the GPA mean to the legitimacy and efficacy of the doctrine of African solutions to African problems? What are the implications to the credibility of Sadc and the AU? So when I speak out on the outstanding GPA issues, the problems on our farms, shenanigans in our courts, violation of human rights, and the slow pace of media and political reforms; I am only doing my job.
I am not driven by partisan or personal interest, but rather by the collective agenda of serving Zimbabwe. This is the urgency of now. The future will take care of itself. Â
Chimakure: President Zuma’s visit, are we going to see the resolution of the outstanding issues?
Mutambara: The primary drivers of change in our nation should be the Zimbabweans themselves. Foreigners can only help us help ourselves. We must all gather the political will and determination to resolve the outstanding issues. President Zuma and Sadc’s role is ostensibly a facilitative one. This is why some of us have been outspoken on the need for convergence on these matters that are separating us. It is actually embarrassing and demeaning that we should be waiting for Zuma or Sadc to encourage us to implement things that we agreed to do six months ago.
Having said that, it is my hope that the presence of President Zuma will spur our sense of patriotism and self-respect so that we can do what is right for our country and in the national interest of our people.