the big interview BY XOLISANI NCUBE
NCA leader Lovemore Madhuku has defended his participation in the dialogue led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, saying he is contributing to nation building and laying the groundwork for credible elections in 2023.
Madhuku (LM), who is one of the losing candidates of the 2018 elections in talks with Mnangagwa, told our senior reporter Xolisani Ncube (XN) in an interview yesterday that the dialogue was already yielding positive results.
He said Zimbabwe must move away from a perpetual election mode and called for Western countries to lift sanctions against the country.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
XN: Many people have questioned the logic of your participation in the national dialogue given the number of votes you got in the July 30, 2018 election. How do you justify your involvement in the talks?
LM: This is not a power-sharing dialogue, we do not seek to share or form a government of national unity, but we are exchanging ideas on national issues.
I see people trying to give a new definition for the word dialogue.
Those are not power-sharing talks, but a platform to share and exchange ideas with government.
As opposition, we are using this to ensure we raise our demands in terms of economic reforms and political reforms in a civilised manner.
So those who are saying we have no numbers are misplaced. It is not a game of numbers, but ideas and nation-building, having a shared vision for a better Zimbabwe.
XN: Some are saying these talks are meant to legitimatise Mnangagwa’s regime and you as opposition parties with very few supporters are being used to do that. How do you respond?
LM: Let me say this in a very clear and simple way: Mnangagwa’s legitimacy is not derived or conferred by an individual, but by law.
The legitimacy of the president or government is not derived from you and me, but from the law.
The day the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson announced that he had won the election and declared him as such, his legitimacy was dealt with.
He is not a legitimate president just because (Nelson) Chamisa or MDC Alliance supporters have said so. He is a legitimate president by operation of the law.
To make matters worse, he was confirmed a legitimate president by the Constitutional Court and Chamisa is the one who took the matter there.
It was going to be a different matter had he not taken the matter to court. But he decided to take the matter there and a decision was made.
We are a constitutional democratic country and therefore we abide by whatever decision the law makes.
You have to understand that at all times people have their preferred leaders and it is normal, but the rule of law is supreme. So we are not there to deal with any legitimacy question.
XN: What is really the agenda of the dialogue if it is not about power since politics is about power?
LM: If you look at the agenda of our meetings, it is all about Zimbabwe and how we could take it forward.
We are dealing with how to grow our economy, share ideas and views.
These ideas are not measured by the number of people who voted for us.
We are all Zimbabweans and we have to share ideas and see if we can make Zimbabwe better.
We are also dealing with political reforms so that we can make the 2023 election better.
We are raising issues we believe can make us a better people come 2023 and have improved elections.
XN: Do you think you are achieving the intended purpose of this dialogue and do you have tangible results so far to show the world that a dialogue is really necessary?
LM: Oh yes, we have done more than what we really think we should have achieved.
We have really made strides in setting the ground for political reform and we are speaking with one voice on issues that we think bring us together.
I can give an example, at our first meeting as opposition parties, we demanded that soldiers who were on the streets should go back to the barracks as we felt it was wrong.
Remember we held this meeting at a time when we had soldiers conducting roadblocks and we said it was not good for Zimbabwe.
Within 48 hours, the military was withdrawn from the streets and we are happy that this was done through engagement, in a respectable manner.
We also agreed and now speak with one voice on the issue of sanctions. This is not a Zanu PF issue.
We have said sanctions are no longer necessary and they have to go.
We have made a resolution to say, we should talk about sanctions as Zimbabweans and we shall speak our minds.
This is not being influenced by Zanu PF, but looking at the reality, sanctions do not work.
The more recent issue is the visit to Chimanimani. You don’t know the significance of the visit we made as a team there and its impact on families.
You should go to Chipinge or Chimanimani and ask how they feel after seeing a collective response from all political leaders on the national tragedy.
People feel comforted. It is unfortunate that some people think they are the ones who must go and mourn with bereaved families, it is sad.
We are Zimbabweans and share a lot together and in this case, we shared the burden as leaders and shared ideas on how to help the victims.
More importantly, we have laid down a framework on how to tackle the issue of political reforms as we prepare for 2023.
XN: Some are saying this dialogue is a process to enrich you through allowances, while Zanu PF is using it to portray itself as a party that is open and democratic. What is your reaction to such accusations?
LM: We are not paid anything to attend those meetings outside assistance to some leaders with transport and accommodation when need be.
We are political leaders and we have our independent parties. Why should we be paid?
In the case of us visiting Chimanimani, there was no way we could have visited the affected areas with our own transport resources given the state of the roads.
The state came in and provided transport to take us to those areas so that we could see and have a better understanding of this national disaster, which demanded a collective response.
By the way, this is not Zanu PF money, but state resources. So those who are saying we are getting paid are wrong.
XN: Some believe that you have a personal vendetta against the MDC given that in 2009 you were against the party joining the inclusive government and the constitution-making process.
LM: I still oppose the idea of a government of national unity and I will never support a constitution made by politicians.
I believe a true constitution should be made by the people, not driven by politicians.
I am in this dialogue to ensure that the question of the constitution is looked into and I can tell you, don’t be surprised to see the constitution being reviewed because we shall raise all these issues in a better and mature manner.
Do you know that in 2008 I was the person tasked to campaign for the MDC in Chipinge and we managed to win four seats out of five in the March 2008 elections?
(Morgan) Tsvangirai never visited this area because he gave me the sole mandate to do so and I brought a convincing result.
After the March elections, it is a well-known fact that my home area was destroyed by Zanu PF and my parents and relatives were subjected to torture by Zanu PF.
I disagreed with the MDC guys in 2009 when they decided to join the inclusive government, more so, the constitution-making process.
I strongly believe that the manner in which the constitution process went through is wrong. The MDC betrayed the struggle.
We can’t talk of the MDC we formed in 1999 anymore. The struggle for the poor is long lost.
XN: How come you are holding talks with Zanu PF, but you were against MDC joining hands with the same party?
LM: This dialogue is about the future of Zimbabwe, not power as I said.
We have to talk about 2023 and demand reforms starting now and the best process that we have is through this.
XN: What is your relationship with Chamisa?
LM: I have a good relationship with him that is in two ways. In 1999 when we started the MDC, I worked with Chamisa as a young brother of mine and I treat him like that. He treats me the same.
I worked with him together with Learnmore Jongwe and that relationship has never suffered until today.
He is my young brother whom I worked with so well.
Secondly, I have this relationship with him as my student at the University of Zimbabwe.
He was my student of law and that relationship also is still intact.
So I really have no animosity towards him. We have these two longstanding relations that cannot be broken down by politics.
XN: Politically, how do you relate?
LM: I relate with him as a person and my differences with the MDC are not with the people or personalities, but ideas.
My differences with them have to do with how they view issues.
The way they like to sympathise with Western countries on the issue of sanctions and this attitude to keep the country in an election mode.
I don’t believe we must continue being in an election mode. We must move forward.
The elections came and we have to move forward.
XN: Do you believe the 2018 elections were free and fair?
LM: The fundamental reason we are in the dialogue is to push that we do better come 2023.
We strongly believe the elections were not free and fair, but we need to move on and strategise for 2023.
We cannot perpetually keep our people in that mood of voting forever.
We need to focus on our economy and work on things we can agree on.
XN: How do you compare the MDC of 1999 and the current party?
LM: The MDC of 1999 is long lost and what we have now is something else, a replica of Zanu PF.
When the MDC was formed in 1999, it was a social democratic party and was the voice of the working people, but now, it is a voice of business.
Look at the structure, it proposes to have three VPs, way beyond what the constitution of the country provides for. How do you justify that?
This MDC of today is driven by individuals and loyalty is measured by being loyal to the leader and not the idea and belief.
This culture is known in Zanu PF. For 38 years we had Gushungo kuphela and now in Zanu PF they have ED Pfee, what is that?
In the MDC they have Chamisa Chete Chete, nothing different from what we opposed when we formed the MDC.
So I believe the MDC is now a different party with a different idea and path different from what we had in 1999.
XN: How do you react to allegations that you are a Zanu PF agent, especially following your participation in the Motlanthe Commission?
LM: To be in the commission of inquiry I was appointed based on my experience as a legal person and it is something good that the president appointed me to that team based on merit, not nepotism.
In the dialogue, I am there because I lead a political party, which is serious about politics and the future of Zimbabwe.
Let me tell you something, the MDC Alliance refuses to be in dialogue yet they participate in parliamentary business. What kind of hypocrisy is that?
Let us be Zimbabweans and work for our country.