FORMER cabinet minister Cephas Msipa says Zimbabweans are living in fear to an extent that they cannot freely express themselves, especially on political issues.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Msipa said this in an exclusive interview with The Standard on Thursday on the sidelines of the launch of his book — In Pursuit of Freedom and Justice — which was graced by political luminaries, socialites, academia and media personalities.
Zanu PF officials were conspicuous by their absence at the launch that was attended by former ruling party stalwarts and People First officials, among them Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo.
Msipa said the governance system should not recreate another tyranny as experienced during the colonial period where freedom for the majority was stifled.
“I hope the message in my book gets to the people because that is what is important. People died for freedom and we should promote it even more. People want to be free, but there are times when you think that people are not free,” he said.
“Free to think, free to act, free to express themselves. There is a lot of fear in Zimbabwe and I don’t know why.
“Our system is such that people cannot express themselves freely, particularly on political matters.”
Msipa added: “I am encouraging people to be free. I want people to know that we fought for the freedom and that was the driving force, so we must continue to feel free and to show that we are free.”
Msipa, who has been critical of recent purges in Zanu PF that targeted perceived loyalists of former vice-president Joice Mujuru, said some people now feared associating with him.
“People could be freer than they are now, that is my worry. People are not that free,” he said.
“They fear to associate with me sometimes and that should not be the case.”
He said failure by Zanu PF officials to attend his book launch could be a sign of fear.
Msipa said he was friends with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as well as President Robert Mugabe. He said a culture of political tolerance must be encouraged in Zimbabwe.
“Tsvangirai has always been friendly to me despite our political differences.
“I have never looked down upon him as an enemy, no; I don’t believe that if you belong to a different party, therefore you are an enemy. I am a democrat and I believe in democracy,” he said.
“It is very important to show political tolerance. I think that is why when I was making my speech, I said we were deprived of freedom ourselves by the white regime and we fought so now we should be promoting, not depriving our people freedom, otherwise we are repeating what we fought against.”
In his book, Msipa bemoans the involvement of the military in elections where soldiers threaten villagers so that they vote for Zanu PF.
He said such a thing must not be encouraged in a democracy, something which opposition parties have always complained about in Zimbabwe.
Msipa also chronicles his upbringing, political life and participation in government, as well as the atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands — commonly known as the Gukurahundi — that claimed almost 20 000 lives, among others.
In the book, he reveals that he once had sharp differences with Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere when he was still based in Mutare after he tried to push for an agenda to grab companies.
By then, Kasukuwere was not a Cabinet minister.
“We differed sharply with Kasukuwere because he wanted to grab companies in Mutare,” he said, adding that he flatly refused before Kasukuwere called for his resignation.
Before his appointment to the Local Government ministry, Kasukuwere was an Indigenisation minister who was pushing for radical measures.
In his book, Msipa also expresses disgust at the infamous Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 that displaced thousands of people in towns and cities, leaving them homeless. He says he confronted Mugabe over the issue.
In an interview at the event, Mutasa said he was very impressed with the title of the book, In Pursuit of Freedom and Justice.
“Thirty five years after the independence of Zimbabwe, we are still seeking freedom and justice. It has been delayed and all of us today in this country are still in pursuit of freedom and justice,” Mutasa said.
Gumbo said respect for human rights was the only way to go for Zimbabwe to develop.