Founding MDC member and Economic Planning former minister Tapiwa Mashakada recently left the MDC-Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa claiming the party had stopped being a workers’ movement and that it had no respect for the rule of law after rejecting to accept a Supreme Court ruling that Thokozani Khupe is interim president after the death of president Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.
The Daily News on Sunday Senior Reporter Blessings Mashaya last week caught up with Mashakada. Below are the excerpts:
Q: You recently announced that you had decided to leave the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa because it had diverted from its founding principles and that it is no longer a workers’ party. Can you tell us the genesis of the problems in the Chamisa party, what led to the challenges and your decision to walk out of the party?
A: Our challenges in the MDC started soon after the demise of our iconic leader Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai when we catapulted Chamisa to the helm of the MDC without following the provisions of the constitution.
What should have happened was that after the national council had decided that Chamisa should step in, we should have held an extraordinary congress to choose Tsvangirai’s successor, but we did not, we simply endorsed Advocate Chamisa as the successor without the proper mandate of the congress and the MDC constitution that’s where things started going wrong.
Secondly, we then held a factional congress in Gweru in May 2019 and Thokozani Khupe also held a factional congress in January 2019, all these congresses were irregular and unconstitutional.
Fast forward, the Supreme Court ruling made it clear that Khupe is the acting president after the demise of Tsvangirai.
The Supreme Court judgment has ordered the MDC to revert to its 2014 structures and hold an extraordinary congress.
Regrettably, the Chamisa faction has refused to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court, which brings a lot of questions regarding the observance of the rule of law and court rulings.
My view is that court rulings must be obeyed and followed even if you don’t agree with the court ruling. Yes, you can criticise it, but it’s one thing to criticise and another not to follow the judgment, that’s where the problem started.
The situation deteriorated and led to my departure and that of my colleagues, but what hastened my departure was my criticism of the call for MPs to disengage from Parliament.
I criticised that decision as un-strategic and not warranted and I with other MPs defied that directive.
The second fallout happened when I advised the MDC-Alliance to follow the Supreme Court judgment and go to the extraordinary congress.
My colleagues could not stomach such criticism and they did not tolerate my independent views on these matters so I decided that due to these fundamental differences, we should part ways.
Q: You are on record saying the MDC has been captured by students, can you explain how this happened and why did you allow it as one of the founding fathers of the party?
A: You may recall that MDC was formed by the ZCTU, that’s why it was formed as a labour backed party in 1999. We formed the MDC from the labour movement and we invited other pro-democratic forces like Zinasu, the Constitutional movement (NCA), rural women organisations, academia, churches, non-formal sectors and many other social groups/non-state actors.
We held the national working people’s convention at the Women’s bureau, Hillside in Harare where it was resolved that a broad-based movement for democratic change should be formed and after that we as the Zctu held our own extraordinary congress at the Zesa Training Centre in 1998 to get the mandate from the general council and the congress for Zctu to facilitate the formation of a political party.
The late Gibson Sibanda, Tsvangirai and all of us were pivotal in the consummation of this labour backed party. That’s how its character and identity emerged as a labour-backed party.
The students were invited through Zinasu activists, students like Chamisa, Job Sikhala, Learnmore Jongwe, Tafadzwa Musekiwa, Alex Musundure and others came to the fold to buttress what Zctu had already started as the godfather of the Movement for Democratic Change party.
Over the years, you have seen that labour union stalwarts have fallen by the wayside, have been marginalised or purged. You talk of people like James Makore and Cephas Makuyana (who was the master of ceremonies at the launch of the party at Rufaro Stadium in 1999.)
Makore was key in the mobilisation of Zctu structures and their morphing into MDC party structures. Side-lining stalwarts like Gift Chimanikire who were founders of the labour movement, Thokazani Khupe, myself, Paurina Mpariwa and many other trade unions veterans who were purged from branch, ward, district, provincial and national structures was a fatal mistake.
Over the years, the participation and representation of labour was watered down in the new-look Zinasu-biased National Executive and National Standing Committee.
Take for instance people like Chalton Hwende, Fadzayi Mahere, Murisi Zwizwai, Obey Sithole, Gladys Hlatywayo and all these people they have no clue about the roots of the MDC. They just joined the bus when it had left the garage or the deport.
That’s where the revolution loses direction when the founders are marginalised by hook or crook through shoddy congresses that are predetermined and are rigged.
The profile and colour of the MDC as it stands today is now dominated by the Zinasu element and all veterans have either left or have been marginalised.
Q: Give us your personal assessment of Chamisa’s leadership. Is he capable of running a party and later on a country?
A: Regarding the leadership of Chamisa, a lot of water is still to flow under the bridge before one can judge his attributes and competence as a leader, but one thing you cannot take away from him is that he has got that student-like charisma and he is a very shrewd fellow.
As a young man, he has not gone through the mill in terms of leading institutions or organisations. He doesn’t have that experience, he is a self-starter, he has got a lot to learn in terms of good cooperate governance, political strategies, leading organisations and leading a mass movement.
In terms of ideology, he still has to be developed in terms of ideological thrust, he also has to be developed in terms of conflict resolution skills and so on. He is an upcoming young man who can do better if he surrounds himself with best brands, mature people, elders who have had a better test of the vagaries of life and experience of politics.
Q: What do you say to assertions that you ditched Chamisa because you became a bitter man after you lost the post of treasurer-general to David Coltart?
A: If anybody contests in a free and fair congress process and loses you call that democracy, but if someone loses in an opaque congress which was held nocturnally as happened at the Gweru congress, a congress where vote buying was the order of the day, a congress where there was no proper electoral college, you cannot accept that the results are legitimate, therefore, I don’t believe that I lost genuinely to David Coltart.
The congress was marred by a lot of irregularities and I have always said if you want to remove Zanu PF you have to first remove the log in your eye before you can see the speck in the eyes of Zec or Zanu PF.
MDC Alliance has got a lot to do in terms of organising, conducting of free and fair elections at congresses. Imagine at the Gweru congress in the midst of voting somebody just switched off the lights and proceedings went on and on in the dark and who knows what happened in the dark.
Q: In your view, don’t you think the best way forward is for Chamisa and Thokazani Khupe to talk, iron out their differences and have a united strong MDC? Can that proposition work?
A: There is nothing that can replace dialogue or negotiations in any political conflict, this is the reason why I have always called for Khupe, Chamisa, Douglas Mwonzora and other leaders to sit down and build one united MDC family.
The extraordinary congress is that opportunity that has been presented for the MDC family to be united as before to carry forward the legacy of Tsvangirai.
Q: Who is the best candidate to lead MDC?
A: Your question is neither here nor there because leaders are chosen by the people. That’s why we go to congresses to give the people the opportunity to elect their leaders. My simple answer is that a leader who is elected or chosen by the people in a free, fair and transparent manner is the legitimate leader who will become a legitimate leader of MDC.
Q: We have heard and read allegations that you are or connected to the Central Intelligence Organisation and that you were in the MDC-Alliance to spy on it. What is your comment?
A: The issue of calling someone CIO operative is cheap propaganda, we used to call it a label and condemn strategy. If you don’t agree with your opponent and you want to finish him, just call him or her Zanu PF or CIO you have done an easy job, but people are not gullible, people will question why suddenly Mashakada is now being called a CIO.
Lies have short legs, this accusation will never stick because it is not based on any evidence. It is based on a calculated smear campaign.
For the record, I am not a CIO operative in any case a good CIO will never be exposed not in any manner. It’s all student politics that is panning out.
As I wrote in some of my articles, this was a strategy used at UZ during SRC elections to soil the image of students who were contesting each other.
You would just wake up and find your name on the notice board being addressed on a letter head from CIO and that will finish you. Those are dirty student tactics that will not work on me. I have never been Zanu PF, have never worked for CIO.
Q: Chamisa and his camp claim they have the critical mass hence don’t give a hoot to you, Khupe and other members of the MDC-T. Your take?
A: Well, Chamisa claims he doesn’t care because he has got the so-called critical mass. That point is neither here nor there. You don’t need to be popular as an opposition leader, the ultimate goal is to have critical mass that will help you to convert you popularity into power, the end game is to take State power.
We don’t want leaders who behave like footballers who attract a lot of cheers from followers because they can dribble, but they do badly when it comes to scoring the goal.
People are tired of voting the opposition which is getting rigged and failing to protect their vote. This tendency of trying to own people and taking people for granted and put them in one’s pocket is not good for the country.
You cannot take voters as a constant factor, these are people who have judgements. That’s why elections are held after every five years to put ourselves to test.
So, having a critical mass is only determined through election. It cannot be an automatic or permanent feature for political leaders, that is fiction.
Q: You were minister of Economic Development in the inclusive government. Given the tanking of the country’s economy, what do you think is the solution to the current economic crisis?
A: It is clear that the economy has been on a free fall for a prolonged period of time and we have seen dislocations that have been caused in the economy, both of a macroeconomic nature as well as structural nature.
The most devastating thing that has happened in the country is the question of successive budget deficits where government has been living beyond its means. That has to be fixed, that has to be sorted out. The government must start to live within its means and linked to that, the government must start leveraging domestic resource mobilisation to strengthen the budget.
The first thing I would do if I was going to be given the chance to be the Finance minister, I would make sure that the budget is strengthened and leveraged on the basis of mobilisation of domestic resources and allied to this is the creation of conducive conditions to attract FDI and to stimulate domestic investment.
The other issue which is very critical in the turnaround of the economy is that there has to be a complementarity between fiscal and monetary policy.
In my view, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has to be transformed in a manner which makes it an independent institution which can set its monetary policy targets without interference from the central government.
They should be in charge of setting targeted inflation rate and controlling money supply and regulating the financial sector in a professional manner. As it appears there are many unprofessional fingers meddling in the affairs of the Reserve Bank.
The most important thing is that the RBZ must stop quasi fiscal operations that create unnecessary subsidies that have to be funded by the central government from time to time.
The other important thing is to make sure that the enablers of growth are created and promoted or funded. The enablers of growth being infrastructure such as roads, fuel supply energy, housing and so on.
These are critical enablers of growth and over the years we have disinvested in our infrastructure, we need to ratchet up the rolling out of our infrastructure to promote growth, inclusive growth for that matter and that is key.
The other issue is to address the question of currency, the currency has to be a store of value and a medium of exchange. In Zimbabwe, we have not had a stable currency for a long period of time, it is important to come up with currency that brings confidence in the economy.
In my view, we need to go back to the US dollar in order to stabilise the economy and deal with inflation.
The Zimbabwean dollar has been prematurely introduced as a mono-currency. It’s not backed by any macroeconomic fundamentals and that is why it is losing value day in day out because currency is a derivative asset which must derive its value from production and the Zimdollar is not deriving its value from production. I would immediately introduce the US dollar.
The other issue to sort out is the exchange rate. Once the US dollar is introduced, the exchange rate is suspended because there is no equivalent mono-currency to peg the US dollar against.
It will be a multi-currency basket that will have the Rand, US dollar and other currencies of our trading partners and that is like what we had during the inclusive government and it was a very healthy situation.
The other thing I would work on is corruption whcih has done more harm than sanctions. Lots of resources have been lost to corruption. It would be very key to fight corruption and root it out because it is a cancer in the society.
The other important thing is to make sure that all productive sectors are resuscitated and the first order of business is agriculture, manufacturing and mining and if these sectors can be resuscitated, it can lead to quick economic turnaround.
The parastatals have been a drain to the fiscus. Some have to be privatised and commercialised. It would be a case by case approach.
One of the biggest challenges with our parastatals is the issue of management most of the boards are appointed by ministers and are incompetent they are appointed on political lines. That has to be changed to make sure that boards are professionally appointed and are competent.
Finally, the restoration of normal relations with the international community will be very key, the issue of debt relief, payment of arrears that we owe to multilateral institutions, bilateral bodies and our international creditors we have to negotiate debt relief, repudiating the debt and falling into permanent arrears is not an option.
We just have to engage and become an open economy that can attract more capital and tape into the diaspora resources and make sure that the diasporans play a key and pivotal role in the development of the country, putting necessary structures that will ensure the participation of diasporans in the Zimbabwean economy.
Q: Is another government of national unity a solution to the country’s problems?
A: To resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, we must advocate for national convergence based on a clear roadmap and an inclusive roadmap to resolve the political and economic quagmire.
We want leaders who can score the goal and the goal is leading the electorate and that critical mass to a victory and take the reins of power and statecraft. For me that is when the critical mass issue can only become relevant. Critical mass is a means to an end, not an end itself.
We must have issues of national interest that are agreed upon by all stakeholders, not political parties alone, labour civil society and churches.
We need everybody to agree on a common national agenda that will result in free and fair elections after credible reforms are instituted.
You cannot just talk of a government of national unity without a context, it must be the result of negotiated settlement based on values, principles driven by the inclusive process with underlying reforms.
The reforms that should be instituted are political, legal, constitutional, electoral, institutional, security sector, human rights, economic and other reforms. These are the things that national convergence should look at.
The question of unity government or inclusive government is not the issue.
The issue is a transitional mechanism which is born out of a negotiated settlement.
The GNU cannot be an end thing, it can only be a transitional mechanism.
The principle of good governance is that the authority and legitimacy of the government must be derived from the people.
The transitional government or GNU is to make sure that reforms would lead to a free and fair elections that will produce a credible leader with legitimacy, whose
legitimacy would not be questioned.