Tichaona Zindoga THE INTERVIEW
Opposition politician Mr Elton Mangoma, a former Cabinet minister in the Inclusive Government, this week announced the formation of his own party, the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe. This came hours after Mr Mangoma was suspended for disciplinary reasons from MDC Renewal whose formation he spearheaded with Mr Tendai Biti after their group left the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T. The Herald’s Political Editor Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) on Thursday talked to the increasingly controversial politician about his new party and other issues.
TZ: You have just formed your own party, Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, which rather baffled many people since you were a member of the MDC Renewal until a few days ago. May you tell us what that is all about and the circumstances surrounding its formation?
EM: The issue is less baffling than that because the Mandel Training Centre meeting which we held (last year) clearly stipulated what we should be and what we needed to be doing. If we were going to sit critically and look and say “This is what you said on the 26th of April 2014 now you are a year and more down the road what is it you have done?”, you will find that against that scorecard, we have not progressed too well and therefore if you project it, are you going to progress any further or not?
That led to my decision together with others that clearly we were going round and round in circles and we needed to have a clear direction given what we had said we should able to do and move along that path. That is the path that we are now moving on.
So I think that rests the question as to why because we clearly were not making any headway where we were. Number two, the question of the suspension was part of the problem of not wanting to make progress. And you say to yourself why is it that these things are happening? From late February when the people started to say let’s now go to a congress and a resolution was passed, things started going downhill because there are people who didn’t want to have a congress and have the people decide on the leadership, which is contrary to what we had agreed on at Mandel. We should have held our congress in April and it was not held.
Yes, there will be reasons put forward as to why it wasn’t done but it tells you you’re getting further and further from your trajectory. So you basically will be working with colleagues who will not be wanting to move forward.
TZ: So what does this party stand for and what do you seek to achieve in the political field?
EM: First, we are committed to the renewal agenda. Secondly, we are committed to the democratic agenda and, thirdly, we are a Zimbabwean outfit. We have got the philosophies that we expounded in Mandel. But in addition to that, we have put in a philosophy of modern nationalism, where we believe the resources of the country must be exploited for the benefit of the people.
Modern in the sense that we then rely on outsiders and third parties to leverage our resources to get the benefits; purely nationalistic in terms of the resources belonging to us but also knowing that we need outsiders to work and to exploit them and that when they are exploited the benefits accrue to the people of Zimbabwe and not to a few people in Zimbabwe or a few people outside.
We believe in pan-Africanism, we are Zimbabwean first and we are African second. We support the African Union’s Vision 2063. We also are in a global village and we work with the international community. So that’s one of the things that we value.
The second is that Zimbabwe has had a very bitter past where people, rightly or wrongly, have been subjected to all sorts of harassment, death and so on. So we believe to get Zimbabwe going and to build this nation so that everybody feels that they are equal citizens. We also look at the work in the economic field where essentially employment is not there, industry is closing. We now have people having to survive as vendors and we cannot start to condemn people trying to survive.
We actually need to stand with people who are trying to survive and when we have got a situation like this, the disabled, children and women take a heavy knock. So we need to have the solidarity to make sure that they can at least be able to survive until there is prosperity in this country. We believe that we should have freedom and liberty; freedom of association and freedom to have a prosperous life.
There is no reason why people in this country should be poor. I think poverty in this country has been a choice and we need to take that out and be able to say, “Zimbabweans can be the best in Africa”, and it is possible.
TZ: Who constitutes this party?
EM: It is constituted by the majority of the people we had at the launch. We had representatives and delegates from the 12 (political) provinces and together with those people they represent they constitute the party. We have some of the skeletal structures and some people who have been mandated to take some leadership roles but the consultation process still carries on.
The interim leadership structure is still being formed and I can give you the individuals who will be there. There is Fidelis Mugari, Pishayi Muchauraya, Promise Mkwananzi, Trust Chikobora, Jean Jalif and myself. The women yesterday were consulting so that there is someone who will represent them.
TZ: But somebody might say that your forming of a party is a knee-jerk reaction to your suspension from Renewal Team and maybe justifies the perception that you are power hungry and just want to be a president of something?
EM: Obviously that is not correct. People will say what they want so that they portray the image that is not there. If I had simply wanted to be president of something, last year when we got out of MDC-T — you will recall that for a long time last year I was the only one outside. I would have constituted myself and made myself president at that point, but I didn’t. We wanted to work with people who share the same values and ethos. It’s not for me to denigrate others but history will show that I had an opportunity to do that and I didn’t. In fact, over time a lot of people were saying I should become president but I was always committed to going to a congress with my colleagues and have a fair fight there
So it’s not a knee-jerk reaction by any means. We can show how many people came from as far afield as Matabeland North and Matabeleland South. It can’t be a knee-jerk when it is like that. It tells you that there are people who supported that move wholeheartedly.
TZ: Onto your relationship with Mr Biti. Can you just highlight the nature of your relationship with Mr Biti and whether you had fundamental differences apart from the need to have an early congress?
EM: I indicated last time that the relationship was not where I would like it to be. I think there was less communication between him and myself and I always like to discuss issues. I want to be heard and I also want to hear the other people so that no one makes assumptions. And that’s where I think our relationship didn’t work because we were not communicating and therefore we were beginning to make assumptions about each other’s intentions.
Because we were not talking it also meant that the future of the party itself was not very good: Are we building our structures? Or are we jumping from one partner to another? The third factor was on how leadership would be selected and what roles leadership and the people play. Those are some of the issues. So we have had up to now, for instance, failed to agree on even simple issues about having a name.
What is our identity? So those are some differences. They might look small to some, they might look big to others, but clearly when people want to move forward they want a very clear direction. That direction was not there. We were collectively failing to provide that direction.
TZ: This marks another split of the opposition movement in Zimbabwe. Do you think in Zimbabwe we can ever have a united opposition?
EM: It is possible to have a united opposition indeed because I think what we need first is to be able to put up an institution that has clear principles and values so that when you are talking to other people you know exactly where you agree and where you disagree.
When you know where you disagree, it is much easier to actually have a union rather than when you assume that you agree in every respect. So I think that the union that I see coming through is going to be in three parts. The first part is where you have got largely the same principles and values. It can become possible to unite. Then you find that in some cases you probably have a good set of values and principles but you might have some differences on a variety of issues. With those parties it is possible to form a coalition and that coalition would be where each party keeps its own identity but you will be able to say let’s fight this election under one name. You are able because you agreeing on this one thing then your issues would be synchronised to make sure that the candidates are there. You can have that coalition of parties that have practically the same values and so on then you will have other opposition parties whose principles and values are different and on that basis you can do some pre-election pacts so that you are fighting the same person because that’s where your objectives meet. So I think it is possible to be able to fight Zanu-PF and President Mugabe on a joint platform depending on how you structure it. But if you ask people with completely different principles and values to unite, that thing will splinter within days and therefore instead of actually having a strong opposition we have a much weaker opposition. What you are talking about is who becomes the presidential candidate? I think that is something that we are all conscious of, that we all can’t be presidents of the country so being a president of a political party does not necessarily mean you become presidential candidate for some of us. But it becomes important that you have an institution that is clear, that forces other people to be clear as well as you move forward.
TZ: MDC Renewal has been pursuing an alliance with MDC (N). Are you going to pursue an alliance with Prof Welshman Ncube or seek new partners?
EM: Our immediate objective is to build our institution because there is no hurry for some of these things. So for the rest of this year we will be making our own structures so we will concentrate on that and when it comes to next year and so forth, we start to look and say who is there and what sort of alliance we can have with these people.
TZ: If called to what Mr Morgan Tsvangirai would call the Big Tent, do you think you can take up the offer?
EM: My position has always been from the word go that I don’t believe that he is a good and capable leader. I don’t believe that he has the vision to take the country where it should be. But it worked for democracy and we accepted that and the position that I told him myself and I still repeat is that he should be in a place where he can be the grandfather of democracy and sit somewhere in a corner and not become a player. The moment he wants to become a player, that tent you can’t enter it. But MDC-T as an institution without Morgan Tsvangirai, I don’t see why coalitions and discussions that we were talking about cannot be achieved. But I certainly think that you want to be able to move with people who are clear and get to the destination. Not false promise after false promise. So I think we want to separate the person of Morgan Tsvangirai and the institution of MDC-T.
TZ: Speaking of Tsvangirai, we have heard over the last couple of weeks sexual allegations against you. Do you not feel some kind of irony that the same things you were accusing Morgan of are now catching up with you?
EM: Well, when people want to put dirt, they put dirt. It’s whether it will stick or not and therefore these are the accusations I have denied as you know. It is an accusation that has been put. It has not been proven.
TZ: Going forward, 2018, do you think you are going to participate in the 2018 elections and generally what do you think are the prospects of the opposition in the country?
EM: It depends how the playing field will be and how the opposition conducts itself. We all know that you are going into a playing field that is not level and therefore when you are going there it does not necessarily mean if the playing field is not level that you can’t play. I have gone into exams where the pass mark was not 50, but perhaps 60 or even 70 percent and still some people go in and pass. We have also gone into exams where the pass mark was 40 percent and a few others failed to make the pass mark. So I think that there are many things that have to be done to make sure that there are reforms in this country. There are also things that the opposition must do to make sure that they contribute to those reforms as opposed to making them worse.
TZ: June 10 by-elections are coming and going, but I am sure by year-end or in another 10 months there will be another by-elections of sort. Are we likely to see you fielding candidates?
EM: When we have made the structures we can make a decision. I think what we have been talking about is decisions should not necessarily come from leadership. The people must contribute to those decisions. If the people in that province want to go into an election, it will be their right, so we will listen to them.