Lovemore Mataire Senior Reporter
zanu-pf successfully completed its 6th National People’s Congress that saw a number of top officials, including Vice President Joice Mujuru being shown the exit door both in the party and Government. A new leadership is in place that will lead the party for the next five years. Our Senior Reporter Lovemore Ranga Mataire caught up with the newly appointed Secretary for Transport and Social Welfare in the Politburo Cde Oppah Muchinguri on the recent developments in the party and other issues.
LRM: You have been in the thick of things with the First Lady since the whole process of self cleaning in Zanu-PF started. Are you happy with developments that have taken place so far in the party?
OM: I can safely say we are happy that things have moved on smoothly. We had a very successful congress contrary to some people’s expectations who had wished that there were going to be some skirmishes and that people were going to fight but I am sure you saw the peaceful environment that existed during our central committee meeting and the subsequent appointment of Politburo members.
LRM: Do you think the issues that you raised during the First Lady’s Meet the People Tour in the run up to the Congress have been addressed? I am referring to issues of corruption and the infringement of the women’s rights that you felt needed to be addressed.
OM: I think you need to understand that as the Women’s League we had done so well in promoting Mai Mujuru to the position of Vice President but what we didn’t delegate her was to get rid of the President. So she erred on that aspect because we fought hard for her to be in that postion. Surprisingly, after assuming the Vice Presidency Mai Mujuru completely abandoned us and followed a selfish agenda which had no respect for the leadership.
She was no longer representing the interests of women and the people of Zimbabwe but was instead promoting men. You could see from the composition of Cabinet alone that there were only four female cabinet ministers. She wanted to be alone as if she was the only woman in Zimbabwe. So we have now sent a clear message to all women that when you get a top position you must always carry other women along with you. But Mai Mujuru abused the trust we had in her. It is the same situation in the last Politburo when she was the only one up there.
I was only number 10. So what type of leadership is that? For the past 10 years she never did anything for women and all she was doing was fighting me in the ministry that I headed then.
LRM: Can you explain how Mai Mujuru fought or interfered with your work as Minister?
OM: She had her own people which she planted in the ministry. Each time I used to push an agenda, I faced a lot of resistance. She had planted her own people in my ministry. So she fought me wherever I was because she felt we were in competition.
LRM: You say Dr Mujuru did things that you did not expect her to do as a woman. Are you happy now that we have two male Vice Presidents?
OM: Precisely, you are right to point out that but you have to understand that we now have a new leadership. I think it is really premature for us to start judging. People wanted us to fight amongst ourselves as Zanu-PF but we have had similar situations which I witnessed when I served the High Command. I was there when Rugare Gumbo rebelled against President Mugabe but they did not succeed.
LRM: Can you comment on the view that allegations of corruption against Mai Mujuru are nothing but just politicking?
OM: I think it is important to give the President an opportunity to put in place the machinery to investigate all the issues. However, I would want to highlight one issue concerning the former Deputy Minister of Energy Munacho Mutezo. Would you say that the allegations against him are without basis?
Who do you think recommended him to that post? I don’t want to say much but I am just giving you one example. There are many examples. Look at the salaries that were earned by some CEOs, which Mai Mujuru tried to defend? How can someone defend such kind of corruption where one individual earns $600 000 per month?
LRM: Do you think this self-cleansing exercise has strengthened or weakened the party?
OM: It has strengthened the party. I have said Zanu-PF has a history. We have gone through this process several times but those that are counter-revolutionary always fall by the wayside.
LRM: What can you say were your major achievements as the Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development?
OM: We succeeded in putting in place a Women’s Bank and also the Gender Commission. We have financed almost 600 projects worth over $1.5m. All this was done in just under a year.
LRM: President Mugabe recently said the recent Politburo was more of a ‘mouths-on’ than ‘hands-on’. Do you envisage any changes given the fact that the Politburo is now leaner?
OM: I compare what you are saying with Chinese Communist Party. It only has 19 Politburo members with a population of 1,3 billion people.
So the President was right that the Politburo was top-heavy in that we are a small country with just 14 million people but had 60 Politburo members.
You can imagine the leakages of information from our meetings. You could see that some of them were not mature, had no slightest idea of our ideology as Zanu-PF. So it was causing problems.
There weren’t many departments that were really functional except for just a few. Resources permitting, we hope most of the secretaries will be able to take their responsibilities seriously.
LRM: You were appointed secretary for Transport and Social Welfare in the Politburo but a lot of people expected you to be appointed to a more influential position. Are you happy with your portfolio and what are your immediate concerns?
OM: I am sure you appreciate that being responsible for transport and social welfare one would need to look at the welfare of the war veterans, welfare of orphans, the disabled, and every citizen.
So this is a new dispensation and I will be dealing with an area that was neglected in the past by the other secretaries. This is an agenda that I really want to drive in the party.
LRM: What is your take on the current plans by the opposition to challenge the appointment of the Vice Presidents as unconstitutional?
OM: Unconstitutional from which basis? A Vice President was not a running mate for the President.
This was purely a party affair. If there are disagreements, it is within our rights to bring in new persons all together. I think it is in the best interest of this country and not only Zanu-PF but even the opposition to have people who can work together and move the country forward.
LRM: What can you say about some of your cadres who were caught in the web of factionalism and those who were on the side of Mai Mujuru who may want to come back but feel not wanted?
OM: The President is on record trying to reconcile people. If he could forgive Smith, how about a black person?
Some people were hoodwinked but have since realised that what they were doing was wrong. Some have apologised, which Mai Mujuru could not do. I am sure with the understanding that the President has if she had apologised I think the situation could have been much different from what it is now.
LRM: Lastly, how are you going to deal with perennial challenges in your new Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development? Issues that include student grants, accommodation and the remuneration of staff.
OM: True, the problems are there but you also need to appreciate that when the population grows there is bound to be problems.
We were four million in 1980 and now we are 14 million. So as the population grows, challenges also grow. I want to compare our situation with that of the United States. In the USA once a child attains 18 years, one has to pay for his or her school fees.
I am aware of the challenges of employment that even when you have a PhD you can’t get employment.
We have more political scientists than people who can add value to the beneficiation as we are now pursuing the ZimAsset. Our educational system was excellent but we need to inculcate a business culture in our society.
We were being trained as professionals, as nurses, lawyers and doctors but we need to change that. Our educational system must now focus towards ourselves towards ZimAsset.