When Tendai Biti led several legislators and ordinary supporters in dumping MDC-T soon after the party’s dismal showing in the 2013 elections, he made bold promises to transform Zimbabwe’s opposition politics.
the big interview BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
His outfit, then known as MDC-Renewal rebranded into the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as it pushed to establish itself in the crowded opposition politics space.
At one time, Biti and his party appeared close to sealing a coalition deal with former vice-president Joice Mujuru to fight President Robert Mugabe in the 2018 elections.
From the outside, PDP looked to be in the ascendancy but recent events have indicated that Biti’s party could crumble before even contesting its first elections.
The party has been rocked by defections and an acrimonious public fight with Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF).
Our reporter Paidamoyo Muzulu (PM) spoke to PDP secretary-general Gorden Moyo (GM) about the problems rocking the party, including last week’s high profile defection of its vice-president Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo to ZimPF. Below are excerpts of the interview:
PM: This must have been a busy week in PDP following the defection of Sipepa-Nkomo and others to ZimPF amid allegations that you are also on the verge of jumping ship. What is happening in PDP?
GM: It can’t happen to me. A secretary-general (SG) cannot defect. If you are a dissatisfied SG you form your own party rather than defect. That source of yours is dreaming. I am the SG of PDP and I represent the party and there is no such thing as Gorden making a personal decision. The PDP is full of structures.
PM: So what happens when your top leadership is defecting; where does this leave your party?
GM: As I said, PDP has full structures and we are negotiating with other parties in good faith to form coalitions to defeat Zanu PF in the next elections. There is nothing like PDP dissolving or disappearing from the scene. We had a public rally on September 11 that was attended by thousands of people.
PM: How do you feel after Sipepa-Nkomo’s defection and where does this leave the coalition talks with ZimPF?
GM: We are obviously disappointed but I am not at liberty to reveal ongoing discussions.
Coalitions are a process that are incubated and cannot be discussed in public.
We are engaged with a number of critical political players, we are not only talking to ZimPF, to forge a strong oppositional society ahead of 2018 and to work towards a National Transitional Authority (NTA) for free, fair and credible elections.
PM: What are the issues that are essential to PDP in the coalition talks that in your view can make or break the talks?
GM: The NTA to us is the way forward and that should be based on values and principles.
PM: Can you break down that code “values and principles”?
GM: We believe Zanu PF is not going to reform. We need an opposition that is united in ensuring an NTA is established.
Let’s establish a body that will create an environment for credible voting and that the parties should believe in democracy.
PM: So has the PDP executive met to review your position in the face of the defections and its impact on the coalition talks with ZimPF?
GM: We held a meeting [national management committee] on Thursday and discussed the issue but I can’t release to you details of an internal meeting.
Today [yesterday] we are holding a provincial executive meeting in Bulawayo which will also discuss this matter and the launch of our NTA campaign.
We are also consulting the structures on filling the gaps created by those who left. The meeting will also look at our shadow councillors and MPs and see how strong we are as we prepare for the next elections.
PM: When will the national executive or national council meet?
GM: We actually finalised preparations for the holding of a national policy conference in Harare on November 23. The policy conference will review our policy documents Arrest, Hope and NTA. We have to update them as we get closer to 2018 so that our members understand the issues.
PM: There have been a lot of things said after you split from MDC-T. Is PDP ready to work with Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T?
GM: Our position is that we would want to work with all political actors in the opposition. Obviously MDC-T is a major player in Zimbabwe politics. We will engage them.
PM: Do you think among the current crop of opposition leaders, there is anyone with the capacity to transform Zimbabwe in the event that President Robert Mugabe is dislodged?
GM: I can tell you I have my president [Tendai Biti] and I believe in him. There are also many other Zimbabweans capable of leading the country.
After Mugabe’s exit from the stage it’s no longer about individuals but structures and constitutionalism. As long as we have an NTA, it’s not about Mugabe.
We need an NTA to clear the odour of Zanu PF before a new Zimbabwe can truly be established.