The big interview BY OBEY MANAYITI
Zanu PF’s new commissar Victor Matemadanda has dismissed claims that his recent appointment was meant to address growing concerns about the re-emergence of factionalism in the party.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week appointed Matemadanda as a replacement for former army general Engelbert Rugeje, who was removed from the commissariat after only a year at the helm.
Observers said by removing Rugeje and replacing him with Matemadanda, Mnangagwa was trying to consolidate his power and stop depending on the military which propelled him to power in 2017.
Matemadanda also said those who were saying Zanu PF had failed were apportioning blame on the wrong people as it was former president Robert Mugabe’s administration that ran the affairs of the country.
He said the Zanu PF government would not tolerate protests against Mnangagwa’s administration, saying the anger should be directed at businesses that were raising prices. Matemadanda (VM) spoke to our senior reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) and below is the interview.
OM: What would you consider to be your immediate task following your appointment?
VM: In politics you don’t get into a position as though the party is being formed on that day.
You continue from where others had gone up to, so I am going to embark on all programmes that the party was doing, but maybe the approach might be different.
However, as a party, we have the same guidelines and principles and in the case of this republic, we have one manifesto, which won us elections and it is this manifesto that we would want to push.
You remember that the president said it is not going to be politics and politics, but politics and economics.
The economics approach of Zanu PF comes from its campaign or election manifesto because it is the one that the people voted for and the fulfilment of the manifesto will be achieving the goals that we set for ourselves, which the people voted for.
OM: But do you have specific targets in your new role?
VM: Of course, first Zanu PF is a people’s party and those that were grown up when we got independence will remember that every Zanu PF programme and project was coined as a people’s programme.
Everything that was being done was for the people and that is to say the people, in Karl Marx’s or Lenin’s words, should dictate what the party and government do.
This they called the dictatorship of the proletariat or the dictatorship of the general masses.
So I think the problem that had come into Zanu PF, especially in the last dispensation, was that the leadership took the party from the people and dictated the way forward yet the arrangement should be vice-versa.
It is the people that should dictate where the party must go.
This is why the president when he got into power, emphasised that he was going to introduce servant leadership.
We use a process in politics called democratic centralism, which entails that every strata or level of the party must be involved in every decision-making and resolution of problems.
It is the grassroots that identify a problem. This is why when we got independence, we introduced what were known as village development committees and ward development committees, which were meant to organise people so that together as a community the people would identify a problem and get solutions.
Then you would see Zanu PF people being involved because that is the agenda or manifesto of the party.
It is the politics that defines what structure the party should have, what approach the party and government should have.
This is so because the government is a child of the party. By so doing, people are now belonging to a process of rulership, to a process of development.
Therefore, my other task is to make sure that the party goes straight to the people, it is removed from the hands of the leadership and taken to the people.
This is why we emphasise on the cell structure of the party because everyone belongs to a cell.
It is the cell that is the most important structure, the central committee and politburo do not have many people. Therefore, there is no power there. It is just a place to make decisions from the people.
We are also going to make sure that every department of government understands what is there, understands that they have to provide a service to the electorate.
If they cannot provide that service, then they must justify their existence.
Where do we get this direction? It is from the manifesto that was voted for by the people.
Therefore, the manifesto of the party should be the commander of every operation of the party.
OM: Are you reinforcing the notion that Zanu PF is bigger than the government?
VM: Where you have a party system of governance, it is the party that forms the government, so Zanu PF is the one that gives birth to the government.
Yes, you can have technocrats in government, but people didn’t vote for doctors, professors or engineers. They voted for a manifesto of the party.
All those who are appointed in government or those who are serving in government must obey or comply with the dictates of the manifesto, which is a product of the party.
So yes, Zanu PF is bigger than the government.
OM: You were appointed at a time when there are reports of emerging factionalism in Zanu PF. There are some who say there is another faction in Zanu PF trying to wrestle power from Mnangagwa and your appointment was influenced by those divisions.
VM: I am not going to allow myself to be a factional commissar and I am not going to allow myself to be a commissar who is a victim of speculation, rumour-mongering and unfounded allegations.
I am not going to have time for that because, for example, you say I was appointed because I am an ally of President Mnangagwa, but the same people forget that when General [Engelbert] Rugeje became commissar, he took that position from me, being appointed by the same president.
If I may ask those little minds: Whose ally was I when I was removed from the commissariat and whose ally was General Rugeje when he was appointed into the commissariat?
If they can answer that, then we can start talking.
People talking about factionalism are outsiders because we don’t know about the factions ourselves and we are not going to allow ourselves to fall victim again to people like Jonathan Moyo who coined names of factions like the Lacoste or G40 groups.
A non-existent thing became a reality because somebody had coined it and the party started believing someone’s creation. We are not going to allow that.
OM: Can you please shed some light on the deployments made by the president, which saw you taking over from Rugeje as the commissar?
VM: There are many reasons why some appointments are made. It is not the duty of the appointed person to go and ask why he is being appointed. I haven’t seen that anywhere.
The prerogative to assign and reassign is entirely in the hands of the appointing authority.
I, as an appointed person, cannot ask why I was appointed.
What I know is that at any time in the party, positions must be held by an individual, one person at a time.
I am telling you that when Rugeje was appointed, he took over from me and I never heard people asking questions and saying it was because Rugeje is an ally of President Mnangagwa.
It was not an issue then. Even when Rugeje was appointed, I was working with him and there was no problem.
Even as I become commissar, I won’t work in isolation as I will work with every member of the party, including Rugeje.
OM: How do you respond to critics who say the economic problems in the country are a sign that Zanu PF has failed?
VM: The Zanu PF government has been there and we had the first republic and I cannot answer for that one because, as you know, I was a critic and I was fired from the party. I never had any role.
Therefore, I cannot answer for them, but my understanding or everyone’s understanding is that it was a Zanu PF government and we cannot run away from it as Zanu PF.
However, it was a Zanu PF government under a different administration and if, for example, in my family, someone commits murder, police will not arrest every family member, but the one who committed the crime.
Those who were responsible for the first republic will answer for themselves.
For the second republic, we gave a manifesto and promised a lot of things.
Is there anyone who doesn’t see that there is infrastructure development, roads are being done?
In agriculture, we are doing the same and as far as our manifesto is concerned, we are following it.
The current state of the economy is a result of an information gap or understanding by the people, not enough information is going to the people.
Austerity measures are not an accident, but a thing that was crafted and is now being implemented by government because the government realised that it is the only way it can resuscitate this economy.
By the way, Zimbabwe is not the first country to introduce austerity measures.
Britain had austerity measures, the same with America, Germany, Rwanda and many others, but look at their economies after the austerity measures. They are booming.
The difference that could be there with these countries is that we are having these austerity measures under sanctions and this is why we say sanctions must go so that we implement these austerity measures in a free atmosphere.
We are quite confident that the austerity measures will stabilise our economy.
I know your next question will be, so why are prices rising? This is part of the austerity measures and the measures are not coming by accident.
It was explained well before implementation that the measures would be painful for a period that was defined.
You can hear economists of reason are saying we must begin to see the results of the austerity measures.
OM: What is your reaction to threats of mass protests against the government in response to the rising cost of living?
VM: Tell me, where have you seen a situation whereby if a family goes to bed on an empty stomach, the children start telling their parents to leave the bedroom so they can take over?
Where have you found such a stupid scenario?
If there is somebody who sees that there are things that are not working on well, such people must come up with solutions and not to say we must leave and pave way for them.
Who said we want to go? If it is a matter that people want to force government out, then it is another level of contradiction.
You cannot pretend that a Zanu PF government cannot deal with delinquent behaviour. We don’t want to be applying force on our people.
If there are people who see some things not working out well, even from the opposition, they must proffer their solutions and not to wish they were the ones in power.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, but let them know that you will never ride a wish. We are talking about dialogue.
All the 23 candidates who contested for the president’s position during last year’s elections, they had different plans to take Zimbabwe forward, but we are saying only one person won the elections and let’s come together and share ideas.
We will tolerate that, we want an opposition of reason.
For example, if prices rise our foes in the opposition should team up and capacitate our people to overcome the challenges.
I tell you the prices will fall, but we have an irresponsible opposition, which will protest against government as if the government owns bakeries.
Have you ever seen a bakery called “government of Zimbabwe bakery”?
If the demonstrations are against those hiking prices, we can even join in.
People must not demonstrate against the government because government is not in business.
The government is there to create conditions for business to thrive. Show me one shop that is called a Zanu PF business.
We need entrepreneurial skills among our people to be able to deal with the pressing economic situation.
OM: What is your reaction to reports that Zanu PF is politicising food relief in drought- prone areas and that you have politicised traditional leaders? As the commissar, do you have plans to address these perennial concerns?
VM: You seem informed, but can you bring me one name of anyone who is politicising food aid?
Don’t be a journalist who thrives on speculation. This is what some people are saying, but we want the evidence.
There is a certain way of distributing food that involves many people, but when you claim Zanu PF abuses traditional leaders you are only confirming that Zanu PF dominates politics in this country.
You are saying there are no traditional leaders who support MDC or there are no councillors who support MDC in this country because these people are involved in food distribution.
Why don’t their councillors bring one person as an example?
As government, we don’t condone that and as a party we think every person belongs to Zanu PF and we can only have those people coming back to Zanu PF because at one time everyone was in Zanu PF.
We can have them back by treating them well.
Why would Zanu PF want to be voted for if it discriminates during distribution of food aid? This is just a creation of some people.
OM: There are many documented cases where the politicisation of food aid has happened and in certain cases some individuals were taken to court. There are also cases of tradition leaders being called out for being partisan.
VM: Food aid is distributed to every citizen and the committees that distribute food are properly constituted. When food is distributed, there is no need for party cards.
Some of these issues are just being imagined by people.
If you know of cases like these as the media, please help me with the details, including pictures.
I want to bring politics of reason where we are going to encourage our supporters, our young people and their elders to create an environment where we will disagree with respect.
We want to try as much as possible to do away from politics of insulting one another and during my term I will preach to every party member to foster a culture of respect and tolerance.