LAST week, two senior MDC officials, former Midlands senator Lillian Timveous and former Kwekwe Central MP Blessing Chebundo, jumped ship and joined President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party.
The development was met with fierce criticism from opposition supporters amid allegations of the two being sell-outs.
The Daily News on Sunday Chief Writer Mugove Tafirenyika spoke to Chebundo on Friday on the development and other issues. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: As a founding member of MDC, why did you leave the party led by Chamisa to join Mwonzora in the first place?
A: Indeed I am a founding member of MDC then in its original form in 1999, as led by the late Gibson Sibanda, with the late Morgan Richard Tsvangirai as secretary-general.
At the inaugural congress in February 2000, Tsvangirai became president and Sibanda vice president after a negotiated settlement for these positions, and I was part of those consulted and supported this arrangement.
Following the death of Tsvangirai, MDC split into two factions led by Hon Thokozani Khupe and Advocate Nelson Chamisa. The MDC Alliance; with seven political outfits, claimed to follow the path initiated by the late Tsvangirai. The Khupe group also claimed to follow the path as led by the late Tsvangirai. As an individual, I aligned with the former outfit.
Then came the Supreme Court Judgment of March 30 2020. The two sides reacted differently as institutions, and individuals also reacted differently, and at different times.
But the stuck reality was that the position of the law had been spelt out – the MDC-T was the party, and MDC Alliance was an election pact. With that reality of the legal position, I chose to follow the law campus, albeit a bit later in December 2020. So, I moved from the election pact Alliance to the legal outfit MDC-T in compliance with the legally interpreted position. I did not join Mwonzora. Even then, Advocate Mwonzora was not its leader.
Q: You are now with Zanu-PF. Why did you leave the MDC led by Mwonzora?
A: I did not leave Advocate Mwonzora, I left the MDC-T party, and I wish the party well.
I respect the current leadership of MDC-T for their efforts approaching national issues of concern in a non-confrontational manner, but offer and argue constructively for better alternatives, and work in a collaborative manner. That is being responsible.
However, there is still a very long way to go for the party to recover the ‘political formula and matrix of Tsvangirai’s leadership’. The power dynamics; the intra, and inter factional denigrations, blame games, etc, is, but just not healthy for the party.
The pioneering planning meetings leading to the formation of MDC were held in my office, at Saint Andrews House, Leopold Takawira, Zimbabwe Chemical Plastics and Allied Workers Union, where I was the political head for Administration and Finance, and with Remus Makuwaza as secretary-general. I always get disturbed to see the leadership of current MDC groupings leading at different tangents to the ideas of the 12-member pioneer group as led by Sibanda and Tsvangirai.
I always got angry, and frustrated. Hence I began to monologue on how best to contribute, even in a small way, towards the emancipation of the country and its citizens.
Look, I have been in politics for around 40 years, both trade union and party politics counting. We all have our differently acquired experiences. And having gone past 60, I realised that, I need to use the experiences to directly contribute towards national development. Then the big question to me was, from which angle or platform given the obtaining political environment of polarisation in the country, especially in the opposition. Bitter or sweet, I realised that I can only do that as a member of the party driving the developmental agenda of the country.
Indeed it was a difficult decision, given my political background and experiences, but sometimes difficult decisions ought to be made, and made by people in positions if good things for the country are to be realised. Hence I moved.
Q: Are you implying that the opposition is as good as dead in the country?
A: My honest assessment is that the opposition’s power graph has been sliding downwards significantly since the death of Tsvangirai and worsened post 2018 elections due mainly to ‘poor decision matrix by leadership, especially post congress 2019 of the MDC Alliance faction. The Supreme Court judgment also fuelled the situation, though the graph is slightly promising to pick on the MDC-T side.
By the way when we talk about serious opposition in Zimbabwe we are mainly referring to the MDC. So, it’s all about effects of decision making. Zvinhu zvacho hazvidi ‘ndini chete chete ndinoziva’. Dzimwe nhambo nyaudzo singwi haasi maresults (Dictatorship has no room in politics and does not produce results). As they say, a roaring lion kills no one. You cannot achieve anything by just talking proverbs. So, opposition is not dead, but needs serious internal overhaul otherwise it will die.
Q: As a democrat, do you subscribe to the idea of a one-party State?
A: There are more disadvantages than advantages to a one-party state. In fact, ideas of one-party state system have expired over a period of time. There is a need for continuous checks and balances in governance, and this can only be done in a multi-party system. What is needed is to have all existing parties to be responsible political parties.
Q: What do you think has gone wrong in the MDC?
A: It’s all about leadership failure; poor strategies, factionalism and the I-know-it-all attitude of the leadership.
Q: What are your ambitions in Zanu-PF?
A: My interests are to see Zimbabwe prospering. Zanu-PF is the governing party, and its policies drive the government’s developmental programmes. We are in the second republic since independence.
And within the ruling party one is able to input into the policies directly and in programmes using one’s expertise and experiences. Currently they have a programme for 2021 – 2025, as well as the vision 2030. If given sufficient chance, I believe I will make meaningful contributions, especially as someone who has been looking at these issues through the lens of the opposition.
Q: Given a chance, would you like to become an MP again or you now have higher ambitions?
A: My moves are informed by the need to contribute to the development of the country. Development comes in different opportunities. It is situational.
Q: What do you think is the solution to the country’s political and economic challenges? Would dialogue and a national unity government be an option?
A: Wherever and whenever there are differences in any given situation, dialogue is the key. However, Dialogue does not entail production of a government of national unity in all circumstances.
Q: During your campaign for Kwekwe Central, you pointed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s alleged incompetence, but now you want to work with him as your president? What has changed if you didn’t trust him as an MP?
A: Zimbabwe’s challenges had risen to greater proportions by the end of the first republic. To expect them to be addressed overnight was to expect miracles. Now there are gradual significant improvements much to the credit of the leadership of the second republic.
Issues of currency stability: consistent availability of goods, etc, is testimony. Of course there is still much more that ought to be done, but where good is done, let’s compliment.
Q: When you were in the opposition, you were subjected to violence at Zanu-PF’s hands. How have you suddenly become comfortable working with your former tormentors?
A: As a Christian, I am comforted by the Bible teachings, especially the experiences of Joseph, Daniel, David, etc, where people lived together in harmony in spite of past differences and skirmishes. In these experiences, there was lots of harmony and prosperity that were achieved collectively.
Q: There is a feeling that you had always been a Zanu-PF mole in the opposition. How do you plead?
A: Those are laughable mind-sets. With all the living examples/testimonies of what transpired to me. How could I be part of the founding pioneers of a party to then be a mole in it? It shows how desperate and injured some people are by my personal decision to move on.
Q: Some MDC youths accuse you of betrayal by joining Zanu-PF after they were allegedly brutalised while protecting you during your campaigns, amid claims some died. Do you sympathise with them?
A: Those are misleading fabrications. No youths ever died while giving me protection, not at all! All acts of violence, including deaths, were recorded by the party.
In fact this morning I was alerted about a message by someone claiming that he was a youth guarding my house in 2003 when it went down in smoke. He is betrayed by his lies because, even his name is alien to the then MDC youths, and besides, the incident was in 2000, and not 2003. I was not staying in Kwekwe from 2000 to 2005.