A few months after taking over from MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Nelson Chamisa ran an impressive campaign for the presidency where he has given President Emmerson Mnangagwa a good run for his money ahead of tomorrow’s presidential elections.
Yesterday’s rally in Harare, where tens of thousands of people thronged the area known as Freedom Square outside the central business district, was the 82nd and the last before the polls.
After the rally, Chamisa (NC) told our chief reporter Everson Mushava (EM) in an exclusive interview that he was confident of upstaging Mnangagwa in the first post-Robert Mugabe polls. Below are excerpts from the interview.
EM: When former President Robert Mugabe was removed in November last year you were still MDC-T vice-president, did you give yourself a chance in this election? What was going through your mind?
NC: You must understand that the celebrations were for change of personality, the celebration of possibilities of a new chapter and new politics. But unfortunately, the past seven months has proved that it was a ruse. We were sold a dummy because Mr Mnangagwa has shown that nothing has changed.
In fact, Mr Mnangagwa has shown us that he has forgotten nothing and learnt nothing. He has perpetuated what we have been fighting against: media bias in the public media and so on. You must understand that Mr Mnangagwa has worked with former president Robert Mugabe for the past 37 years.
He was personal assistant to Mugabe for the past 56 years. Mr Mnangagwa was 90% of the Mugabe system.
Mr Mnangagwa was the right-hand man of Mugabe. So you can’t run away from your shadow; that is what he is trying to do. He is trying to run a miraculous act of running away from himself, from his past, the 38 years of failure, 38 years of disappointment, 38 years of misgovernance and 38 years of corruption. That is his legacy. But we are saying let us forget the past, Mr Mugabe has gone and Mr Mnangagwa has to go too and let us start anew.
In November, we had these anticipations. The desire for change is no longer in the urban centres, but it is also now more in the rural areas.
EM: Do you think you can defeat Mnangagwa given your assertion that he is perpertuating Mugabe’s excesses, which included manipulating elections? Mugabe denied the late Morgan Tsvangirai victory several times.
NC: The first thing is I am not president Tsvangirai. I am Nelson Chamisa, and the second thing is that our people have learnt a lot. Once bitten, twice shy. We now know all the dark corners and this is why we have gone technical and gone deeper in terms of our rural emphasis and linking the history of the revolution and liberation struggle.
We have gone to the left of Zanu PF in terms of ideologies, because these are people-centred ideologies, around land, pan-Africanism, liberation struggle, making sure that we connect to the legacy of the liberation struggle, so we have occupied some space that we had never occupied.
We can no longer be labelled puppets of the imperialists, if anything, it’s Mnangagwa who has occupied that space.
His “open for business” mantra is actually a liberal agenda that means we are open for anything, even if you want to come and abuse me, we are open, if you want to come and steal, we are open.
We can’t have a country that is open for looting, we must have a judicious and prudent administration of affairs of this country, in resources, governance, and Mnangagwa is throwing caution to the wind and saying, come, I am open, come and loot.
Zimbabwe must be safe for investment, must be safe for business, ease of doing business, property rights, but you can’t just say we are open for business. His open for business is excluding locals.
EM: What was your central message in the 82 rallies that you addressed during the campaign?
NC: My campaign message has been anchored on three pillars: transformation, opportunity and prosperity.
These are the three pillars of reconstruction. We want transformation in the culture of governance, the mindset of those who govern, government infrastructure has to change and we have to be mean and effective. We want to focus on being servants of the people rather than bosses of the people. We must be patriotic once more in doing things for our country.
Transformation of the economy — civil service in terms of moving away from patronage to meritocracy, moving away from a ballooned bureaucracy to a well-oiled professional civil service.
The opportunity, my opportunity, your opportunity, people’s opportunities, in jobs, homes, jobs, business; we need opportunities for everyone.
Then the third one is prosperity, Zimbabwe has to be a prosperous nation so that people can feel proud to be Zimbabweans again.
Happiness is a creature of proper planning, good governance, and that’s why we want to end the Zanu PF way of thinking.
Leadership has been the problem and now, it is leadership stupid, and the leader stupid, a fish rots from the head.
Where we have personalities instead of ideas, where we have a big man instead of a big idea; that is the problem of Zimbabwe.
Zanu PF has failed to address the corruption question, productivity question, the skewed tax question, the justice system, property rights, and many others.
EM: You made promises to modernise Zimbabwe’s infrastructure and have spaghetti roads as well as introduce bullet trains. Zanu PF has crafted a campaign message describing your messages as childish. What is your reaction to that?
NC: There can’t be a childish promise to adults. They are failing to understand the message.
If they are failing to understand the message, that does not make the promise childish.
Spaghetti roads are all over in other countries, how do developments taking place in other countries become childish when they are pronounced in Zimbabwe?
We have the capacity as a people. we have 60 minerals in this country, unexploited, inexhaustible source of revenue, we have to go and exploit these resources, beneficiation.
Once we have good infrastructure, everything else will follow. We need lines of civilisation, transport, water and so forth.
People have embraced the message of development. In 1950, the Rhodesian government had a plan for spaghetti roads, which was not implemented, and now we are in 2018, we have not done anything, even a ring road.
It shows we are not going anywhere with Zanu PF. It is not criminal to be young.
Why do we have to bastardise age? When they started in government, they were also young.
When they are attacking me, they are attacking ideas, they are attacking a generation. You don’t fight a war with ideas and succeed.
EM: You said you have moved to the left, and you are trying to connect with the past. Is that a wise move considering the majority of voters were not part of the liberation struggle?
NC: The struggle is just a phase; the cause goes into various stages of humanity. The cause against poverty is a cause that is fought differently by different generations, so our cause if simply to inherit from the liberation legacy and take over on the transformation process. It’s a continuation, not a contradiction.
EM: You have been involved in an acrimonious dispute with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) over electoral reforms. Are you still confident the elections will be free and fair and credible?
NC: No, certainly not, it is clear; we have said it before, as a party and as a people. It is the people of Zimbabwe against Zec. It’s Zec’s failure to live to the dictates of the constitution, the letter and spirit of the law in terms of the constitution and the Electoral Act.
The deficits are so palpable. They have failed to be transparent, they have failed to be inclusive.
Zec has failed to pass the test of legality, of constitutionality. They have breached the law with reckless abandon in all material respects. We have problems with issues of integrity, the process has been flawed, but we have said, even if the process has been flawed, we will still floor down Zec and Mnangagwa together, in their machinations in the voting process. We don’t know the security features of the ballot papers, how many have been printed and where they have been printed.
EM: So why did you decide to enter an election race stacked against you?
NC: To tell you the truth, I intentionally thought of stopping the election, but the people said there was a fighting chance and we will vote in our large numbers, and I am confident victory is certain.
The people know they will win this election even if their hands are tied at the back. We will be able to fight and fight to win, so victory is certain in the election.
EM: In view of the issues you raise against Zec, are you going to accept the poll outcome?
NC: The people are the authors. If the people are happy with it, it’s fine, but I can tell you there has never been an outcome that can give victory to Mnangagwa, he knows it and the people know it.
You don’t need a rocket scientist to know that Mnangagwa will not win this election. It will be fiction. We will win this election.
It is not about the MDC Alliance, it is about the people, we are going to accept any verdict that reflects the will of the people, but if it undermines the will of the people, it will not be accepted.
— The Standard