MDC-T chairperson Abednico Bhebhe says the country’s political crisis can permanently be resolved by Zimbabweans.
In a wide ranging interview with the Daily News on Sunday Staff Writer Jeffrey Muvundusi, Bhebhe also tackled the fight for control of the MDC between Thokozani Khupe and Nelson Chamisa. Below are the excerpts.
Q: Last week, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa dispatched envoys to Harare to find ways of assisting Zimbabwe amid allegations of increasing human rights violations. What’s your take on the envoys’ visit, will their intervention save the situation in Zimbabwe?
A: It would be unfair to burden the South African envoys with solving the Zimbabwean situation that is perhaps four decades old if not beyond, and which straddles economic, political and constitutional challenges.
Of course, the immediate trigger was human rights violations and suppression of legitimate expressions of views by citizens.
The very idea of intervention by South Africa, even if it could just be cursory assessment of our crisis, should be very much appreciated.
We do not expect external players to do more than what interstate relations and protocols permit. To me it is a good thing which we must embrace and do more ourselves than wait and see South Africa or Sadc or African Union solving our problems. It just does not work that way.
Q: There are allegations of abductions of opposition parties’ members and activists. Why do you think this is happening and who is doing it?
A: (The late former President Robert) Mugabe taught Zanu PF leadership and supporters alike that what he said or did must be right, and it continues that way under President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa.
This prompts one to conclude that a State-sanctioned crackdown against human rights defenders, activists, civil society leaders and the opposition, including abductions, could be done with the knowledge and complicity of the State and possibly it’s direct involvement.
The abductions are straightforward and real, and from the look of things, elements within the State security may be involved because all those abducted and tortured have been known government critics, activists and opposition members challenging Zanu PF for bad governance, corruption, abuse of power and policy inconsistencies.
Those carrying out the abductions are sometimes alleged to have been armed with AK-47 rifles and accusing them of threatening national security and there has not been a single arrest…
Therefore, it clearly suggests that the motive of abductions and torture is to strike fear in the hearts of everyone who challenges and criticise the government and to prevent any possibility of organised protests against the Zanu PF government.
Q: What’s your take on President Mnangagwa’s leadership as compared to that of Mugabe then?
A: I personally would characterise the rise or replacement of Mugabe by Mnangagwa as putting lipstick on a pig.
In other words, Mnangagwa is paying lip service to reforms in the hope of securing regional and international support, but staunchly refusing to implement any measures that might harm his and his backers’ political and economic interests, typical Mugabe’s style during his 37 years of misrule.
Like Mugabe’s administration, Mnangagwa’s government continues to prevent and violently suppress political protests and the State media remains heavily biased in favour of the ruling party, as do other systems.
Some people are even saying that Mnangagwa is in many ways governing in a more sophisticated repressive and cruel manner than his predecessor.
Within his two years in power, armed forces have cracked down on several occasions with several people killed and thousands arrested.
Political manipulation and distortion of the economy continue unabated. It is my firm belief that Zimbabweans are still like passengers on board the same bus, but what changed were the drivers.
The country is likely to continue down a path of political polarisation, protests, political violence at the hands of the State and further economic deterioration worse than before. In short, Mnangagwa and Mugabe are just two sides of the same coin.
Q: Is there any hope for Zimbabwe in light of the economic crisis we are facing and where do you think Zanu PF got it wrong?
A: I could not be far away from the truth to say that there appears to be very few ideas left or absolutely nothing to talk about in terms of economic recovery under the Zanu PF government.
Mnangagwa’s administration seems intent, instead, to crush any dissent from Zimbabweans who want to know when he is going to deal with unbridled corruption and deliver on his promises.
The Zanu PF government got it all wrong with policy inconsistency, State corruption and general misrule as the major plausible cause of economic regression.
The policy of unplanned land seizures and the chaotic distribution of farms scared away most, if not all foreign investors and chased most of the talented and experienced workforce out of the country.
It can hardly be a coincidence that the economy began its precipitous fall just after Zanu PF unleashed a wave of politically- motivated violence and repression directed against anyone opposed to its misrule.
Unfortunately, the management and economic downturn continues to date and the lunacy will continue to cost Zimbabwe until Zanu PF is removed from power.
Q: In light of all the economic challenges, where do you see Zimbabwe by the time Mnangagwa’s term ends?
A: Zimbabwe’s economy is in a tailspin for almost four decades and has world records of the 21st century’s highest inflation that turned into hyperinflation and deepest contraction in aggregate output experienced in a peaceful and independent nation.
This puts Zimbabwe as the fastest shrinking economy in the world with an estimated average contraction of real GDP of about 7-10 percent annually.
Because the nature of crisis is clearly of humanitarian nurture, poor governance, abuse of office and that it is still unfolding, surely it should be crystal clear to everyone that Zimbabwe will be a complete collapse by the time Mnangagwa’s term ends.
Q: With the opposition seemingly at its weakest, do you see any possibilities of Zanu PF being removed from power anytime soon?
A: It is in the people’s interest to elect a responsible government. But in our case it is not just the state of opposition, but our defective electoral system that has kept Zanu PF in power.
However, l want to reiterate what l have said many times, that a united opposition will romp to victory in 2023.
Q: Let’s talk of corruption. Already we have two ministers who have been fired on accusations of corruption, do you see the bug of graft under Mnangagwa coming to an end?
A: It is foolish to think that the bug of corruption will end with the mock expulsion of two ministers and equally naive to differentiate between Mugabe and Mnangagwa rule.
We all know that Zanu PF is the author of corruption and there’s nothing that can change with the firing of those two ministers and there is nothing that anyone in Zanu PF can change.
Those who believe Mnangagwa could be any better need to have their brains checked.
Q: Let’s turn to, the MDC Lately, we have witnessed brawling between Thokozani Khupe and Nelson Chamisa factions over the control of the party, your take on this fight?
A: My position has not changed and it is publicly known. l stand opposed to the fights amongst the opposition leaders for whatever reason.
It is unfortunate if what you are saying is the case. l believe that different views should not be interpreted as fights, especially considering the developments that took place in 2018 and 2019 respectively and the recent Supreme Court judgment pronouncements.
I believe dialogue and engagement can permanently solve the divergent political views within the opposition movement and bring political glory to the economically ravaged nation.
Q: Are you one of those who believe that there is a clear Zanu PF hand in the MDC fights?
A: As a political leader, it would be grossly irresponsible for me to accuse external factors to what started as an internal matter, particularly to do with internal processes.
However, it would be equally naive to think that Zanu PF is a disinterested party in the affairs of any opposition to its 40 years rule.
Surely, the ruling party would not let this opposition squabbling continue if it suits its ends.
Indeed a divided opposition is good for the ruling party. I am sure the opposition will feel and possibly do the same if they were the ones in the driving seat.
Q: Lately we also hear of internal fights between Douglas Mwonzora and Khupe over the control of the party, what does this mean and what does it say about characters in the opposition politics?
A: It will be unfortunate if what you are asking is associated with the truth.
However, as the party is preparing for the extraordinary congress as ordered by the Supreme Court, it is obvious that where there is a contest, supporters of each contestant express their political views in support of their choice of candidate.
I can only assume that what you see as a fight between the two is an expression of preference of who is a better and suitable candidate to take over the position created by the death of the founder and iconic MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.
Nevertheless, we urge the supporters of every candidate to observe and protect the fundamental rights of each and every member, particularly the freedom of choice, opinion and democratic expression as well as the right to associate with one’s preferred candidate.
Q: In all these fights that are happening in the opposition parties, what’s your position as a seasoned politician, who is really to blame who stands to benefit in this whole fight?
A: We should differentiate between fights and disagreements.
The latter is healthy in a democracy and in a democratic organisation. Difference of opinion should not necessarily lead to fights.
But where fights do occur, there must be mutually acceptable ways of resolving conflicts.
Political parties like all interest groups are voluntary organisations based on consensus and guided by their constitution and agreed ethics and practices by its organs.
But political parties have an agenda which definitely is not infighting.
Fighting detracts opposition from their core business of being an alternative government, hence citizens suffer and freedom of choice is undermined. . . . we need to internally resolve our problems