Mashonaland East Province has been considered the hotbed of factionalism, which two years ago saw the ousting of scores of zanu-pf officials for taking part in a scheme to unconstitutionally topple the leadership of President Mugabe. It would appear the “ghost” has not gone away entirely, though, with reports of the incipience of the so-called People First project using the ruling party structures. The party leadership led by chairman Cde Biggie Matiza, however, says they are out to fish out residual elements of the old factionalism and push party programmes ahead in the New Year. On the other hand, Cde Matiza (JM) assured our Political Editor Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) when The Herald toured the province last week that the province is impervious to any new strains of factionalism, which he says are playing out elsewhere and in the media.
TZ: The year 2015 ended on a rather sour note as the axe hung over the heads of some provincial officials with prospects of fresh expulsions from the party. It’s a new year now, how would you describe the state of Zanu-PF in Mashonaland East?
JM: With the newly-elected executive, the party has strengthened itself quite a lot. After replacing the (former chairman Ray) Kaukonde, executive which was largely formed by the so called Gamatox, we have now geared up ourselves to mobilise our people, to unite our people and make sure that the structures are strengthened; and this is exactly what we are doing. Strengthening the structure of the party and bringing more membership to the party.
TZ: And the votes of no confidence that I alluded to and emerging issues whereby it is felt that the party is susceptible to weakening?
JM: The issues are that Mashonaland East is known to have this group of people who sympathised with those who were expelled from the party, the Gamatox people. There is residue that is still there from the grassroots to the highest levels. So we are faced with a situation whereby in the process of bringing the party together we still have some people who continue to do those activities that support those who have been expelled.
That obviously is not acceptable within the party, even within the framework of how we want the party to continue in terms of strengthening it. Otherwise they we will weaken the party. So we were saying that anyone who still has an allegiance to those who have gone out should just join them. We want to have a clean slate in 2016 so that we drive our membership and strengthen the party towards 2018.
So, we did obviously recommend some people to be expelled from the party because we had overwhelming evidence that they are no longer with us. They are just physically with us, but emotionally and otherwise they are with those who have been expelled.
TZ: Does this then lend credence to reports and fears that this so-called People First project is very much alive in Mash East, and existing even in the structures old and new?
JM: You see, it is not as if there is a huge impact on these issues. There are a few individuals who now are continuing to try to recruit people to the party as agents of those who have been expelled and forming their own thing called People First. So these are individuals who are trying to do that but definitely it is a not massive defection or massive disenchantment or members wanting to jump ship as portrayed in the newspapers — it’s nowhere near that. It is individuals who we know and we have sent them off.
Most of them have been people who do not have the grassroots support. Some of them tried for parliamentary seats and failed to get them, some of them even at ward level, and failed to get (support).
The very people who did not vote for them are the people who they want to convince, it won’t work! It’s not working and it’s very difficult for them. So what we are simply saying is that the situation is such that the bad eggs have to go so that we can now focus on other things of the party such as unifying the party, increasing our membership and making sure that our structures are up to standard.
TZ: You mentioned the residual elements of the Kaukonde era and you will also recall that the First Lady when she came to Murehwa she mentioned this Kaukonde factor. So isn’t there enough to see Kaukonde’s hand at work?
JM: You see Kaukonde, comes from Mash East where I am the chairman of the province so I have a pulse on the party. He is of no effect. He is absolutely nowhere near the structures of the party in terms of him holding sway in what happens in the province, either by having himself being a professed person who now has support or by him having a number of people within the party that he can control.
There is absolutely nothing like that. It is an attempt, like I said an attempt to do things. Like the First Lady was saying, they are trying to come up. These are strategies that they are employing, trying to go to the youths and buy them and so on. Which, if you look, those kinds of tactics are not working because the moment they pay anybody, we hear, we are told. And it is not as massive as the media would want to put it. We have a very sound youth wing which is on the ground as we speak and that is unbreakable and geared for the programmes that we have for 2016. The penetration of any opposition is very difficult.
TZ: There has always been this poser, and I want to put it to you, the idea of expelling people, or otherwise subjecting them to these disciplinary processes does it not have the effect of alienating people or of further weakening the party at local level, or you may speak of national level — from a philosophical and organisational viewpoint?
JM: That’s a good question. The issue is simply that as I said we have just a few bad eggs whose presence causes some discomfort. I said we know them, we know what they stand for and what they are doing is simply causing unnecessary confusion within the party.
Let’s say they are in the party but at night they are with these other parties and they meet with their People First people. We have our people within them, we know what they are doing in every meeting. So it is pointless to deal with such people with a soft hand and say let’s try to see how they will be because they have already made up their minds and they now want to jump ship but they would also want to use the party for their benefit.
They could use our structures because as long as they remain with us they belong to the party. So why keep them? It’s as simple as that and at local level we don’t have any time for that. We have other programmes that we are making and we know that we have succeeded in unifying the party after quite a lot of work.
TZ: Somebody I was speaking to during our tour of the province was saying that this discomfort and other issues are really inspired by the chairman’s insecurity, he feels that he does not have enough control over the structures so he wants to purge people. Are you insecure at the helm of Mash East?
JM: No, never! I have been elected and was elected overwhelmingly with over 15 000 votes. Now people are waiting to see how we deliver. When we make these decisions, they are not made unilaterally. These are issues that we deal with within the province and from down structures and districts, district level, from where these people are coming. (There is) disenchantment and proof that these guys are now working with different structures altogether. People raise alarm and they want us to act. We would have acted long before. In Chikomba Central, where I was (last week), we received a petition about four or five months ago of people wanting the MP to be expelled. But four to five months is a long time.
We should have made that decision earlier and sent them out. So it’s not a chairman’s decision; that becomes a dictatorial process which is never there. It all goes through the guidelines and constitution of the party. We are guided by a meticulous constitution that decides on various issues and our structures have got its issues. The province itself has an executive and within its powers can decide and recommend. So we are democratic unlike before ,where it was a one-man show and people still have this idea of thinking that we continue with that trajectory. No.
My tenure will see a democratisation of the structures within the party to make sure that each member and organ are heard
and whatever proposals they make are dealt with to the fullest. And we act upon a collective decision. So it’s not the chairman’s decision. I am quite comfortable now.
Do you remember when there were some motions for some votes of no confidence and it didn’t work and people still supported the chairman 100 percent? I have a full and big support that I enjoy in the province because of our programmes. We work and we are with the people.
TZ: So have you put in place timelines to enable you to move over a particular transitional phase so that you can start working on the substantive political and economic issues?
JM: No, we are not in a transitional phase these are ongoing issues, even in the height of implementing the policies you still have people who are doing things that are contrary to the constitution and to the party and disciplinary hearings are always called, decisions are always made pertaining to certain absurd behaviour. As I said, our thrust is to make sure that Government policy is implemented. We are the party that is in power. That means we are the party that forms the Government. So we pledged certain issues during the electoral campaigns and the manifesto. Now we have Zim-Asset and as a party we need to make sure that is implemented.
Government can do it, but we are the watchdog because when we go to the elections in 2018, they won’t ask what the Government has done, they will ask the party.
So we are dealing with several issues in terms of food security, we work together with the Ministry of State and are making sure that people are fed. Right now we have drought issues. I was in Mudzi last week, we are now sure that the drought effect that was researched is not quite what it is on the ground now. There were estimates like 15 percent would suffer but now as we look at it and it’s almost 60 percent.
So as a party, we cannot say Government is going to be, we have to get into it and allow our Government to come and now deal with the issue. Statistically they might be looking at very wrong data but if we come in time, we save the people. These are issues that take time.
Independently, we must also produce our analysis that comes from the structures as a party.
So it gives us quite a lot of work to do. The schools issues, I mean there are issues that come in from education and from health. As you know our party has portfolios such as the secretary for health, the secretary for education, for lands, for indigenisation. All these things are to key posts that need to tap into the community in each of these and report to the party what is on the ground.
Then we can now advise Government, our ministers. If it is Minister of Health, (we can advise that) there are no drugs for instance, or drugs have not been coming. We can also advise on the need for a clinic in the resettlement area. So these are fundamentals that we are dealing with. On indigenisation, we want to see how the Community Share Ownership Trusts are happening because they affect our members from a party point of view.
They affect our members, they see things happening and they get nothing. So we now advise again on that level because we will give you an in depth analysis as well as the effects of at the lowest level of society.
TZ: We talked about the remnants of the pre-congress factional era, now there is discourse of newer fissures. How have you been affected; I am sure you have been labelled as belonging to one faction or the other — how has that impacted on your work as chairperson of the province?
JM: You see this is the thing, this labelling of factions is always happening all over, but at a provincial level it is not there, it is in the newspapers really. Because as I have just alluded to, we have got a lot of work to do, and the issue that is there that you read which is correct, is that we are weeding out those who want to go to either opposition. The rest is that we are united as a party in the province and that we are building and strengthening. This thing of factionalism has not impacted on us and as chairman I would not want to see these things happen in the province. What we want to see is a projection of a real Zanu-PF in terms of all its policies. We are just coming from the conference and we had resolutions that we agreed upon at the conference and these are the resolutions that we want to implement between now and next December.
We need to report results of those resolutions. So we have a lot of things on our plate to start thinking about who is who and this factionalism. Where is it coming from and what does it want to achieve? We have one centre of power, an elected President who has got his term. The mandate was given by the people resoundingly. So why should we talk about any other issues? All we need to do is work and deliver.
This is a way by certain elements to try and derail our programmes. So our attention is focused on different issues, but we have issues that we have. We are the most revolutionary party in Southern Africa. We have implemented things that other revolutionary parties have failed to such as the land reform programme, which is something I am dealing with in my province. There are issues that deal with the land reform programme that are so acute, such as disputes. In the process of delivering land, we have land disputes which impact on our membership. So if you start thinking about factionalism, it becomes a faraway thing to what you are supposed to be engaged.
Engagement in running a province, if you want to do the work is a big challenge and it needs full attention. If you don’t have that then you won’t deliver what is required. You will start having disenchantment with the organisation and when your people are not working they start to look at other issues. We don’t have time for the factional issues because as chairman I know exactly where we are as a party.
As a party, where we are, the issue of factionalism as pertaining to who is who is a thing better dealt with at the next congress. Now we have time to do our work. So in Mash East, as long as I am the chairman, we don’t even discuss those issues or even put them as a priority. We only hear about it . . .(we want to work for our people). Government has a responsibility but it can’t do everything for you. Especially now we need to be innovative. We don’t have to sleep, why sleep? We need to wake up. So these are issues that as a provincial chairman I am giving you. There is no time for all these other things people are talking about, factionalism, of wanting to take my seat. It’s small mindedness.
At a provincial level, we are dealing with very strong matters that as Mash East we want to contribute to the stability of the party and stability of the nation and the economy, to play our part. 2018, Mash East is going to produce the biggest result for Zanu-PF and these guys who are in the newspapers everyday talking about Mash East will have no seats. That I promise. As long as this executive is there and I am there.