Former deputy prime minister Thokozani Khupe believes she has a chance to win the July 30 presidential elections despite a low-key campaign where she did not address any major rallies.
WITH OBEY MANAYITI
Khupe, who insists that she is MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai’s legitimate successor, is the MDC-T candidate in the presidential election and will face her bitter rival Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance in the polls.
She is among 22 candidates seeking to beat President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the first post-Robert Mugabe polls.
Khupe (TK) spoke to our senior reporter Obey Manyati (OM) in an exclusive interview where she dared Chamisa to come clean over his alleged links with Mugabe. Below are excerpts from the interview.
OM: Zimbabwe is heading to a crucial election in a few days, the first after the fall of Robert Mugabe in November last year. Are you ready for the polls?
TK: Yes, we are ready. However, like with every election, one always feels that you still needed to have met more people and engaged more intimately with them.
OM: What do you consider to be your key campaign message and does it resonate with the electorate?
TK: Our message is, “Equal Opportunities for All”. Lack of jobs and the inequalities in people’s lives are largely as a result of a society that does not treat people equally.
Those that are rich are extremely rich and those that are poor are extremely poor.
Some can afford the best medical services while others are reduced to seeking services at shells of hospitals.
Some children attend schools with laptops when in the same country other children learn sitting under a tree. This is what we seek to address.
OM: As you traversed Zimbabwe clamouring for votes, what lessons did you draw and do you think this election will be different compared to previous polls?
TK: The major lesson is the fact that generally people have lost faith in politics.
Many times politicians come and promise things when they want a vote. They disappear for five years and only appear at election time. People, though, are more emboldened and do know that it is possible to change leadership.
Many have said to me that they are going to vote for a person they know and not the one who has been imposed upon them.
Watching a dictator like (former president Robert) Mugabe go has given people the confidence that leaders do come and go.
The saddest lesson for me is watching young people get wasted on alcohol and drugs. Some of these youths are university graduates who have not been able to get a job.
OM: How do you rate your chances in this election given that you are up against 22 opponents?
TK: My chances should not be judged by the number of candidates I am up against. My chances are good because I believe I possess the best leadership qualities that Zimbabwe, at this juncture, needs.
OM: We have not seen or heard about you holding rallies. What campaign strategies are you using? How do you gauge the support you have from the electorate?
TK: Unfortunately the media is selective about whose rallies they cover. Yes, we have held rallies.
But we have preferred a more interactive way of engaging the electorate.
Our main strategy has been door-to-door campaigns and focus group discussions with people in their communities.
It is these two ways that have convinced me that people feel respected and valued when you hold conversations other than preaching to them, which is what politicians do at rallies.
OM: Some argue that the high number of presidential candidates will favour the incumbent rather than the opposition because of the spectre of a split vote. What is your comment on that?
TK: We have to change the narratives that treat all parties outside government as only existing to oppose the ruling party.
Parties need to stand for something and should be voted for only for what they stand for and not only for standing in opposition to a ruling party.
OM: There were expectations that the opposition would coalesce around one presidential candidate with a realistic chance of upstaging President Emmerson Mnangagwa. What went wrong?
TK: In the negotiations preceding the elections, it became clear that any discussion on one presidential candidate for some of our colleagues was not one that could be done in a framework where the best candidate is chosen by the people would emerge.
The negotiations can be best described as a boardroom conversation dominated by males with inflated egos and that nowhere in that conversation did one find space for the people’s voice at the table.
For example, if a meeting was not seen to have a predetermined outcome, the organisers would be vilified, with lies being peddled.
The Cape Town meeting organised by genuine Zimbabweans who wanted to see real debate and lessons learnt on coalition building was put out as a G40 reincarnation meeting.
Ironically, what has since emerged is that those who falsely accused us of attending a G40 meeting are in alliance with the same G40.
OM: Who do you see as your biggest challenger in the presidential race?
TK: There are 22 presidential candidates I am up against. I do not underestimate any of them since I do not know how the electorate judges them.
My focus is only on what my party is offering. My motto is to stick to my lane.
OM: What is your assessment of the Mnangagwa presidency? Do you feel he has kept his promises to open Zimbabwe for democracy?
TK: If I felt Mnangagwa had kept his promises on democracy, my party would not be contesting these elections! We believe we offer the best solution to moving this country forward.
OM: What are your campaign promises that you believe will win you the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans?
TK: Equal opportunities for all.
OM: In the event of you winning the elections, what sort of government are you going to set up?
TK: Our party’s government will be gender-sensitive. It will reflect a 50:50 representation.
It will be lean and effective. It will demonstrate, inclusivity of ethnic groups — people living with disabilities and young people.
OM: Among the parties that are contesting the elections, who are you prepared to work with in the event that a coalition government becomes necessary?
TK: Any coalition, if needed, will only be based on shared values and a shared vision.
OM: Is your participation in the presidential election not driven by a desire to exact revenge against MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa and those who pushed you out of MDC-T?
TK: On a point of correction, I was not pushed out of the MDC-T. It is former members of the MDC-T who decided to leave the party and form another party.
I remain in the MDC “T” and that is the party that elected me at congress to represent them as the presidential candidate in 2018. That is what you will find on the ballot of July 30 2018.
OM: What is your reaction to allegations that you were paid by Zanu PF to split the vote?
TK: I have not had any relationship with Zanu PF led by Robert Mugabe or the one led by Emmerson Mnangagwa.
I am not the one who is in alliance with former Zanu PF members. My party does not have Zanu PF or former Zanu PF members as candidates.
Ironically, despite the legal position that states that the party should have access to the political finance money as defined in the Political Finances Act is the MDC “T”, the current government for reasons best known to them, even after I had written to them to await resolution of the contestation of leadership, decided to allocate that money to a group that now call themselves by another name.
Secondly, another organ of the state led by Zanu PF, which is Parliament, against legal advice from my lawyer and me, took an unprecedented decision to accept a letter of recall purportedly written by people with no locus standi.
They proceeded even after the first High Court ruling by Justice Francis Bere to appoint an illegitimate person as leader of the opposition.
Therefore, if there is anyone who has been favoured by the current government, it is not me.
The only difference is that some of us do not believe in casting aspersions on others.
The direct beneficiaries of the past and present system are known by all.
For the avoidance of doubt, Thokozani Khupe even in her private dealings has not had business deals with both the past and present regime.
I am happy to declare publicly my business deals which are limited to a small plot in Bubi, which is my family home.
Perhaps it is time all the 23 candidates were asked to declare their assets and business deals so we can tell who indeed has worked both privately and publicly with the past and present regime.