The alleged bad blood between MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Thokozani Khupe has cast a shadow over the opposition’s prospects in next year’s elections.
Tsvangirai and Khupe have clashed publicly over the former prime minister’s push to unite opposition parties, with the former Makokoba MP insisting that the MDC-T does not need any alliances in Matabeleland.
The two’s relationship also came under scrutiny last week when the MDC-T leader slapped down the former deputy prime minister after she suspended the party’s Matabeleland South chairperson Salani Moyo.
Tsvangirai reversed the suspension and Khupe is now facing an investigation over her conduct. The former trade unionist has also been accused of fighting fellow deputy party president Nelson Chamisa as they seek to outdo each other in the battle to succeed Tsvangirai.
Khupe (TK), who has in the past refused to talk to the media about her troubled relationship with Tsvangirai, opened up to our senior parliamentary reporter Veneranda Langa (VL) in a rare interview. She dismissed reports of an alleged tiff with both Tsvangirai and Chamisa.
Khupe also spoke about her recent academic achievements where she graduated with a Ph.D from the University of Zimbabwe. Below are excerpts from the interview.
VL: The media has been awash with allegations that you have crossed swords with Tsvangirai, what is your relationship like?
TK: Tsvangirai and I have enjoyed a good working relationship that has spanned three successive congresses in the 11 years that I have been his deputy.
As you will know, this relationship goes beyond MDC-T. when president Tsvangirai was secretary-general of the main body of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), I was the secretary-general of the women’s national advisory council, the women’s wing of ZCTU.
Our relationship has always been a mutually beneficial one for the sake of fulfilling the mandates the people of Zimbabwe have bestowed on us for the past three decades.
The media has a very important developmental and critical role to play in society and how they play their role is absolutely their business.
VL: Is it true or false that you have also crossed swords Chamisa over the Tsvangirai succession issues? How is your relationship with Chamisa?
TK: Honourable Nelson Chamisa and I can never carry any swords against each other because we are enjoined to fulfil the aspirations of millions of Zimbabweans who know that MDC-T is the alternative that can bring them change and give them hope.
I, therefore, enjoy good working relations not only with Chamisa, but with the rest of my colleagues in the MDC-T.
VL: Since Tsvangirai is not well, do you feel that the succession debate should begin within the MDC-T?
TK: Firstly, I come from the old school of thought that never had this new discourse of having succession debates when someone is still in their seat and doing their best in fulfilling their mandate to the satisfaction of the party membership.
And secondly, I have full confidence in the MDC-T membership, including the president, that they know what issues are pertinent at which period of the political life of our party.
Right now, the focus is on voter registration for the 2018 elections as we pick up pace in our campaign.
Congressional topics will only duly arise at our next congress in 2019. At this moment, any other business outside voter registration and winning the 2018 elections is a non-issue as far as I am concerned.
VL: What is your personal view on the MDC Alliance? Do you think you can win elections without an opposition alliance?
TK: My views on the MDC Alliance are a matter of public record, and I have no intention of washing dirty linen in public.
VL: Is the MDC-T well-prepared to contest Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa during the 2018 elections, especially since he seems to be coming up with policies which are very similar to those of the MDC-T?
TK: MDC-T has been contesting Zanu PF and winning elections, which have been rigged because of the superior appeal of our policies to the voting public of Zimbabwe.
The current “old-new” face of Zanu PF has been a senior leader in this party all along, and nothing new should be read from his posturing for the sake of 2018 elections.
Business as usual in Zanu PF means corruption, violation of the rule of law, lack of a business approach in the running of our economy and a government culture that manipulates the poor and the vulnerable for the longevity of their political leadership.
The superiority of MDC-T’s policies is beyond any doubt [and] that is why Zanu PF has only resorted to rigging and using all state machinery in order to snatch successive election victories from us since 2000.
Half a dose of our policies in the inclusive government brought about the only period of peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe since independence.
For this reason, we are doubling our focus on the 2018 elections to see that they are de-militarised and reach an international standard of being deemed as free, fair, and credible.
VL: As a female leader who is also educated — with a Ph.D —do you think there is room in the MDC-T for a female president? Do you have those ambitions?
TK: It is my wish that Zimbabwe will come to a time where its citizens will not be judged according to their gender, race, creed or tribe but according to their capabilities, moral authority and character.
As a female politician, I draw inspiration from such iconic female leaders as former president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom I had the privilege of spending time with during my tenure as deputy prime minister and others like Hillary Clinton. I am also a believer in the breaking of the glass ceiling by the girl child.
VL: You are passionate about cancer issues, how far has the Thokozani Khupe Foundation gone in assisting cancer patients?
TK: My foundation has faced a lot of challenges given the prevailing economic conditions.
It has been difficult to assist individual cancer cases because we are yet to secure funding for such purposes.
VL: Any good stories to tell from the Thokozani Khupe Foundation, or challenges?
TK: The foundation has been able to reach out to the communities on awareness programmes aimed at giving information and tips on how to detect cancer early.
Early detection of cancer plays a very critical role in the survival of cancer patients. My foundation has, therefore, sought to make early awareness and detection of cancer its priority by devoting much of our efforts in that direction.
VL: What must government do to ensure that people with malignant diseases like cancer, and women giving birth enjoy their rights to health?
TK: In the interim, people with mean diseases like cancer, HIV and Aids, diabetes and others must have their medicines and treatment heavily subsidised through a health levy.
These diseases put huge pressure on the families already suffering under the yoke of a failed health sector for decades.
These people must only be weaned off to their means once the economic situation improves and all people are under the cover of health insurance.
As for women giving birth, they must be able to deliver without any user-fee because theirs is a national duty that has to be performed.
During the inclusive government I lobbied for this policy and it bore fruit. User-fees contribute to high maternal and infant mortality.