HARARE – With the MDC being consumed by succession wars that have been triggered by Morgan Tsvangirai’s ill health, our chief writer Fungi Kwaramba sat down with the opposition party’s spokesperson Obert Gutu to get his views on issues affecting the party, below are excerpts from the interview.
Q: How is the MDC faring in light of the absence of Morgan Tsvangirai?
A: Morgan Tsvangirai is a global icon. He is a massively popular politician; he is, in fact, a visionary. It’s very true that very few politicians can match Morgan’s popular appeal and political magnetism. However, the party is united and in his absence, Acting president Elias Mudzuri is holding fort. So far, he is doing a fantastic job.
Q: Is Tsvangirai the candidate of the opposition in the forthcoming elections?
A: Definitely yes! Tsvangirai is our candidate for the 2018 Presidential elections.
Q: Sceptics say he should retire and pass on the baton, something he also alluded to, does the MDC have a succession plan?
A: The world has never been run by sceptics. You should remember that sceptics are always full of worry and negative energy.
In life, you have got to possess a positive attitude and look at the brighter side of things. If you focus on negativity, you are doomed and you won’t succeed in whatever you set yourself to do.
Doctors treat patients and it is God who heals. We are very confident that our president will fully recover and resume his normal duties soon. We cannot start talking about succession now. Why should we? The next congress of the MDC is only due in 2019.
Q: Some are alleging that Tsvangirai has been captured by his wife and certain politicians favouring Nelson Chamisa to succeed him, can he, Tsvangirai anoint a successor?
A: Whoever is saying that Tsvangirai has been captured is insulting our leader.
Morgan is a very intelligent man who has managed to build one of the largest political parties Zimbabwe has never seen.
Q: Since pictures of Tsvangirai emerged, there is tension within the MDC and some are saying the MDC is on the verge of splitting again, how are you addressing internal contradictions?
A: There are no internal contradictions in the MDC. We are a very big political party and of course, just as is the case in any large family, now and again you might have differences among members but that doesn’t mean that the family is breaking apart. No. Not at all. We are busy preparing for elections and as long as the elections are free and fair, we are romping to a massive victory.
Q: With the elections set to be held in July, is there enough time to have a congress and come up with a successor who will challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa?
A: Why are you even asking me about a successor when Morgan is still around and he is still our leader. There is no vacancy in the office of the MDC president, Finish and klaar!
Q: What does the MDC constitution say on succession?
A: All genuine MDC cadres are aware that we are a party of rules and regulations. We have got a Constitution. Clause 9.21 of our party Constitution clearly and unequivocally sets out the procedure on succession.
Q: You have always said you are a true democrat, what are your views on the MDC Alliance and why are you opposed to it?
A: I am a democrat to my bare bones. I am not ashamed to say that I have always stated my views without fear or favour. Some people might actually accuse me of being too blunt and direct, but then, that’s who I am. I am not fake.
What you see is what you get. I have never been opposed to the MDC Alliance.
Q: But you are already campaigning in Harare East yet that is a reserved seat in the MDC Alliance, isn’t that against the spirit of the Alliance?
A: I have stayed in Ballantyne Park, which is in Harare East constituency, for more than 17 years. I have always worked with the party structures in my neighbourhood simply because I am a committed and true democrat. I practise law for a living and without sounding boastful; I don’t think I have performed badly as a lawyer. Politics is my vocation and definitely not my profession. I will stand guided by the party leadership on where, exactly, they would want to deploy me.
Q: Do you think the opposition, disorganised as it is now and failing to unite can challenge Zanu PF and win elections?
A: We are uniting as the opposition. Make no mistake about that. Misunderstandings here and there does not mean that we are disorganised. We are finding each other. We are getting there.
Q: Is Chamisa the chosen successor of Tsvangirai, he has said he is ready for the job?
A: Morgan is a true democrat. I know him. He calls me ‘Chaurura’ and I like that! He will never impose anyone on the party as a leader.
Q: Who do you think should be the natural successor to Tsvangirai?
A: I think your question is very mischievous! The MDC is a democratic political party. It is the party members who decide who should be their leader when the time comes. Who am I to dictate who should be leader of the MDC?
Q: Your power struggles mirror those in Zanu PF why are you following the Zanu PF way and not openly debating the succession issue?
A: I think it’s very unfair for you to equalise us with Zanu PF. Factionalism is deeply embedded in Zanu PF politics but in the MDC, we don’t have factions. We may have different views on certain issues here and there but that, certainly, cannot be defined as factionalism.
Q: You said you are close to Tsvangirai, when did you last speak to him and how is he now?
A: I last spoke to Tsvangirai during the festive season when I was wishing him a Merry Christmas and a orosperous New Year. I enjoy talking to him because he always calls me Chaurura….
Q: And what is your relationship with the director of information Luke Tamborinyoka, there seems to be a lot of acrimony between you two?
A: I have an excellent working relationship with Luke. He speaks on behalf of the president and I speak for and on behalf of the party. I call him Mhofu and he calls me Chitova. Both of us enjoy our work.
Q: And given the ructions in the MDC, do you have time for party programmes like campaigning, seeing that elections are around the corner?
A: The MDC is actually on a roll. Party programmes are going on all over the country as we speak. Rallies and other meetings have been planned countrywide We are the government-in-waiting.