after his abrupt decision to dump Zanu PF to lead the National Patriotic Front (NPF), a party founded by former president Robert Mugabe’s allies in the aftermath of last year’s coup, former Cabinet minister Ambrose Mutinhiri is fighting for political survival.
By XOLISANI NCUBE
An NPF faction led by the party’s chairperson Eunice Sandi Moyo last Friday announced that it had recalled Mutinhiri from his leadership role, accusing the former senior Zipra commander of failing to rise to the occasion.
However, hours after the announcement, Mutinhiri fired back saying he could not be sacked from the party. He accused Sandi Moyo and NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire of trying to force the party into a coalition with the MDC Alliance without the consent of ordinary members.
Mutinhiri (AM) yesterday spoke to our senior reporter Xolisani Ncube (XN) on the divisions rocking the fledgling opposition party. He insisted that he was the one anointed by Mugabe to lead the NPF and accused Sandi Moyo and Mawarire of being opportunists.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
XN: What are the reasons behind the disintegration of the NPF, which started playing out in public on Friday?
AM: The problem is about the issue of alliance or coalitions that are taking place.
We are not opposed to the idea, but we want a proper and straightforward agreement, which our people agree to.
But we have some of our cadres who have decided to individually and in their personal capacities go to MDC rallies, do the slogans and even declare that they support (Nelson) Chamisa.
We have not yet decided that as a party and yet we have some of our people claiming to be representing our party doing that.
Our disagreements are on the way we approach these issues. These are things that we have not discussed and agreed upon, but you hear people acting as if it is a resolution of the party.
It is a matter of concern to followers of NPF because we are yet to discuss it, I mean the issue of alliance.
XN: Do you think Mugabe could have played a role in your ouster since he is said to be the one behind the party?
AM: Which ouster? I am the president of NPF. The people who allege that they are founders of NPF who are anyone else other than me are pretenders.
Where were they when I founded the project? I went to meet Cde Mugabe, a man I have high respect for and will always do so, so that I could brief him on my thinking and desire.
Ask those who are claiming to be founders of NPF where were they when I resigned and started this journey?
They founded the project and left? Something is not adding up in their story.
On my relationship with Cde Mugabe, our relationship is very warm. This party is going to stand for the legacy of Cde Mugabe and that of Cde Joshua Nkomo.
So I don’t want to believe that he could be behind the alleged move to remove me or disintegration, as you allege.
XN: How about allegations that Grace Mugabe pushed you out because she wants to be the NPF leader before joining the MDC Alliance?
AM: I don’t wish to be talking of the wife when I have said I have high respect for the husband, I respect them as a family.
XN: What is Mugabe’s position regarding the NPF split?
AM: I have not yet met Cde Mugabe and the disturbances are just starting to happen, so I will go and meet with him, and discuss these challenges for advice [from him]as an elder whom I respect.
But the final say lies with the people outside there, the women who support this party.
XN: Will the NPF take part in the forthcoming elections?
AM: Indeed, we are going to stand as a party and we are hopeful of correcting the illegality of November 2017.
We are here to represent the ideas and ethos of Cde Mugabe, preserve his legacy.
XN: Are you not running out of time to conclude negotiations for an alliance, considering that the nomination court will sit on Thursday?
AM: We are a party with supporters and it is the supporters who determine the direction to take.
It would be improper for me to impose on them the idea of an alliance.
They have to decide and if they don’t want it, we shall go to the polls as NPF.
The timeframe to us is not important as long as we agree on what we are doing. We are a people’s party, nothing less, nothing more.
XN: Are you opposed to an alliance?
AM: It’s not for me to determine the path the party takes, but the masses you are hearing singing outside there.
This matter will be decided by the people, I founded this party for the people. It’s not a personal project, but the people’s movement.
XN: You are accused of failing to provide leadership since you were announced as the NPF leader. What is your comment on that?
AM: I have been a leader for years, a trained cadre for that matter.
I have never failed to provide leadership at all. I don’t know what those who are saying so mean by leadership.
I don’t think they understand and appreciate what they are saying. I have been a leader for a long time.
I was chief of staff of Zipra, second in command, that is a very senior leadership post.
I was the director of training of Zipa, a joint army force of Zipra and Zanla , again a senior post.
A brigadier-general is a very senior post in the army. I have been an ambassador for years, which is a leadership post.
I have been a minister for years. I don’t know what these people are saying. I have been providing leadership at all these levels.
I formed NPF and knew what I had to do for the party to grow and win elections.
To me, a good leader should provide direction and ensure the people determine where they want to go.
You don’t impose your ideas on them, but listen to what they want to achieve.
The reason I left Zanu PF is because of imposition of an idea on the people.
I resisted that and will continue to resist it because it is not what our people want. That is what leadership means to me.
The idea of NPF is mine. I went to consult former president Cde Robert Mugabe, who then gave me his blessings.
It is my idea and I know where I must take it to. I did not start this project to fail, I want it to win and we shall achieve that, only with dedicated cadres who are not power-hungry.
XN: What is your reaction to allegations that you abused money you got from Mugabe to bankroll the party?
AM: This party is very broke. We don’t have the money. We are funding it from our own pockets and the situation is very tight.
I did not get any car or cars from Cde Mugabe. I don’t know of any money from him but I know of his advice and direction which he gave me.
It is an imagination of those misguided people who are busy peddling lies about the party.
I am a straight forward character. I don’t steal or could be corrupted, never. No one can corrupt me.
Let us assume what you are saying is true, I founded NPF, I am the person who knows the agenda and how can I steal or abuse funds for my project?
It is those who don’t know the thrust of this party who can steal.
XN: What is your reaction to reports that you are working with the military to scuttle NPF progress?
AM: I founded NPF with a sole mandate and desire to correct an anomaly that had been created by a coup of November 2017 and this coup was done by the military, how can I work with them when I actually left them?
I was never fired from Zanu PF but I resigned to challenge an illegality.
It is sad that people are not seeing the true story here.
XN: Others accuse you of sabotaging the NPF together with Saviour Kasukuwere who recently returned home.
AM: Never, not at all. I am not working with Kasukuwere on anything.
You are a journalist. Is Kasukuwere a military guy to work with the military people? He is not.
In any case, he is very clear that he is not interested in politics for now.
I don’t know in the future. For your own information, I have not met Kasukuwere since he returned from exile, so how can I work with him?
XN: Are you afraid of people who want your post. Is there anyone who is fighting for your post to be the president of NPF?
AM: Not that anyone has mentioned it to me but I can tell from their actions.
I am talking about my chairperson, Cde Eunice Sandi-Moyo, a person who has never won anything in her life.
Today she wants to be the president of NPF. But anywhere time will tell.
She has ambitions, ambitions which are very wrong. She has never won a single election since independence.
I have won all the elections in my constituency for the last 18 years and I resigned on my own.