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ACTING MDC-T president, engineer Elias Mudzuri (EM) says reports that there is serious power struggle between him and his two fellow deputies in the party, Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe, are a figment of people’s imagination.
By Obey Manayiti

Mudzuri said party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai was a fighter and would beat the cancer affliction which was bogging him down and which has seen him in and out of hospital in South Africa for the past few months.

He speaks to our reporter, Obey Manayiti (OM) about Tsvangirai’s health, internal power struggles and other issues. Below are excerpts from the interview.

OM: First of all, why do you think you have been appointed acting president this time around? Why Elias Mudzuri and who is he?

EM: Firstly, there is no set criteria or a duty roaster which dictates that so and so should be acting at a particular time. No, it is really the prerogative of the president to assign as he deems fit. I know for a fact that it’s a tough balancing act given the enormous responsibilities each one of us, his vice-presidents have, especially this busy election season. We carry each other’s burden and we have done so harmoniously to date.

The second part, who is Elias Mudzuri? I am your humble servant!

OM: Why hasn’t the MDC-T allowed Morgan Tsvangirai to rest and who is likely to be his successor and why?

EM: That is absolutely his call because the people freely gave him that mandate, democratic as our party is. Tsvangirai remains our leader. Let’s get that clearly. This is a man who has fought a good fight to this very day. His has been a life of great sacrifice. We are not going to pretend that there are criminals around the president to justify a nefarious agenda. I’m sure should he feel that he needs some rest at some point, he will come back to the people to freely announce his decisions. We continue to pray fervently that nothing catastrophic happens to him as he steadfastly continues to battle the disease. It has not been easy. We wish him a speedy recovery. 

OM: Are you confident that Tsvangirai will fully recover and come back to lead the party?

EM: First part of your question pertains to the wellbeing of our president. It’s on record that he has overcome so many adversities. To mention just a few: untold multiple torture incidents under the hands of Zanu PF since the formation of the party in 1999; we all saw some of the graphic images of his brutalisation. And of course the bizarre accident which unfortunately claimed the life of his wife; he survived that too. So I’m hopeful that he will overcome this health scare as well. And the part that pertains to leadership: we all have certificates, diplomas and some innumerable degrees, but President Tsvangirai has graduated so many of us to be effective leaders in probably the most important aspect of our lives — the fight for our inalienable right to freedom. That’s one of the most critical leadership credential determinate to our sustained progress as a society.

OM: There seems to be serious internal power struggles to succeed Tsvangirai, most notably among you, the three vice-presidents and Mwonzora to a certain extent; but more pronounced, between you and Nelson Chamisa. Can you speak about that? 

EM: To say there’s a power struggle is outright exaggeration. Social media tends to hype everything, especially considering that now everyone is a publisher and a journalist. The captivating subject of perceived succession is always a lightning rod in any organisation. MDC-T is not exempt. Regardless, succession debate is not taboo in our party, as was the case in Zanu PF for 37 years. It’s a political contest that is encouraged so that the best man or woman gets to lead the party. What we have in the MDC-T are healthy spirited debates. Now, contrast that with the dog-eat-dog and winner-take-all world of Zanu PF.

We are able to embrace our differences and accommodate each other. The struggle needs all of us. The last time I checked, Chamisa and I had such a harmonious and supportive working relationship, the same with Doug and Ms Khupe. We are united and we shall remain thus.

OM: Given that perceived confusion, what are your chances of defeating a seemingly rejuvenated Zanu PF?

EM: You are exactly right, I underscore the word perceived. With the help of the military, Zanu PF has only reinforced its hierarchy. That’s what rejuvenation means for Zanu PF. There is nothing in it for the common man and woman of Zimbabwe. If by rejuvenation you mean an upswing in such critical barometers like better service delivery and improved economy, then definitely that would be remarkable. Also, don’t forget, Zanu PF is ruptured right through the middle. You know G40 is irate. They are fighting wars over privileges and not for the betterment of the general populace.  So we have to capitalise. They are free to join us. All those that have been disillusioned by Zanu PF  know that we are a safer bet than the Lacoste camp because of our principles as a party.

OM: Judging from the past, it is highly unlikely to see Zanu PF create conditions for free and fair elections. What’s next then? Will you still participate or call for a boycott? 

EM: President Mnangagwa has publicly made a pledge, ensuring free and fair elections. We have heard that many times before during past election cycles. Every country concerned with the wellbeing of Zimbabwe has underscored the need for free and fair elections monitored by credible international organisations, as a prerequisite necessary to jolt the economy back into life. Our past elections have dismally failed that litmus “free, fair and credible” test. Instead, they have predictably attracted international condemnation, hence the economic stagnation for decades. Without free and fair elections, the country will always fail to attract that critical mass of international investors who will significantly contribute towards meaningful economic growth and development.

OM: What is your reaction to the likely appointment of Judge Matanda-Moyo, wife to Retired General Sibusiso Moyo, the former spokesperson of the military during the dethronement of Mugabe, to replace Makarau? 

EM: The question speaks to the need for an independent electoral commission. It will be such a regrettable development which must be challenged. It’s an extension of the militarisation that began during Mugabe’s tenure when George Chiweshe  (retired army general) was appointed  chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in 2005. Essentially, you can’t draw the line between Zanu PF operatives and the military personnel (active or otherwise), a very disturbing trend which violates our sacred Constitution.

OM: And does it bother you that Tobaiwa Mudede is still the registrar-general against all odds given such a crucial election ahead?

EM: Mudede must go, for so many reasons. For starters, he is above the stipulated age of retirement. Secondly, he reminds us about his role as the enabler and perfect embodiment of the much-loathed Mugabe era, having presided over several of Zimbabwe’s stolen elections inescapably condemned worldwide.

OM: Many people feel that you (the opposition) were used by the military to help them get rid of Mugabe while fighting an internal Zanu PF factional fight which they were losing. So under the guise of removing criminals, their main goal was to entrench themselves as we have seen based on the structure of the present government. What is your response?

EM: First of all, I think there should never be any cognitive dissonance whatsoever over the removal of Mugabe. He was the ultimate albatross around our necks for 37 years. I often hear people say Mugabe had to go by any means necessary. Let me remind you also that his morbid wife was a heartbeat away from taking the reins of the dynasty. It’s the system of dictatorship which he created that eventually punished him. The world over, nearly all dictatorships suffer tragic demises.  So it’s also a stark reminder to Mnangagwa. 

OM: Considering how things currently stack up, how do you intend to wrestle power from Zanu PF?

EM: Our biggest fight which has already started is about ensuring free and fair elections. Unlike Zanu PF, we are a law-abiding party which believes in the power of the ballot and not the gun. Going forward, we are going to revive our strategy of fierce resistance and perspective. As we resist daily attacks on our rights, we will be carefully organising ourselves preparing to be the next government. We can clearly see how this Mnangagwa reign has been devised. It’s being done cunningly, embedding the military in each and every single structure of state apparatuses. In the process, they are systematically withering our democracy, replacing it with a stealthily consolidated semi-authoritarian regime. The irony of this entire story is that there is deep-seated resentment of militarisation across the entire country. That is not the democracy people fought for. In the north and west of Africa, countries (like Sudan, Togo, DRC, etc) that allowed the military to interfere in civilian affairs continue to pay a heavy price.

OM: MDC-T followers seem deeply disenfranchised and divided. What will it take to unite and fire up its base? Do you have enough time to do that before the election?

EM: We actually have the strongest and most fluid structures in the country and soon you shall see a great vibrancy of the MDC family, unlike Zanu PF which desperately needs the army everywhere to achieve its goals. You think the appointment of Army General Engelbert Rugeje (retired) is a joke? We are very concerned and we will be watching them very closely again. Human rights abuses by the military and other security forces must be taken head on. We will hold Mnangagwa accountable against his own promises to Zimbabweans and the world. He pledged peaceful, free and fair elections. The MDC-T manifesto has been carefully done, spelling out realistic and achievable goals. We shall be unveiling that soon. It is no longer business as usual. Yes, Mugabe has gone, but Zanu PF must also go with all that it stands for: which is really nothing but violence, fear-mongering, nepotism, corruption and mismanagement of the economy. New thinking and new strategies are coming. We are completely mindful of the time constraints. We are on course!

OM: If your party were to win, what policies would you immediately implement to improve the country’s fortunes?

EM: Stabilising the economy will be our number one priority. Fortunately, it comes with territory. When the MDC became part of the unity government, the economy immediately roared into life and in a sustainable manner until the upward trajectory was thwarted by yet another stolen election, hence the unenviable position we now find ourselves in. Our party brings in the much-needed confidence to attract foreign investors. No doubt about that. Millions of people have to be extricated out of poverty, particularly those in the rural areas. We need social programmes aimed at improving people’s livelihoods. 

OM: It is obvious the Zimbabwean people are sick and tired of politics as usual. What will you do to help rebuild trust with leadership?

EM: By now the people of Zimbabwe have realised that they have been sold a dummy. The current Zanu PF leadership has nothing to offer hence their preoccupation with manipulating the media and engaging in propaganda. However, as we are all well aware, the inescapable truth is that our country is at the epicentre of a serious crisis which cannot be wished away. The crisis is visibly noticeable everywhere as the economy continues to spiral towards collapse. There is crisis in our hospitals, banks, shops, schools, industry, communities, the job market, and indeed in our homes. Prices are rising in an unprecedented way, reminiscent of the 2008 hyperinflation era. There is also a major crisis of governance in our country, mostly driven by rampant corruption in higher echelons of power. 

OM: And your closing remarks?

EM: Zimbabwe is a special land of fertile agricultural land  and rich mineral resource base, great climate and vast tourist attractions. Infuse all that with a highly educated and hard-working human resource base. The natural question is why then are we even considered one of the poorest countries on the planet? It boils down to poor governance. That must change, 2018 is the year of victory. 

OM: Thanks for your time!