ZANU PF has been accused of meddling in the affairs of the main opposition MDC, Party of Excellence.
These accusations intensified following a High Court ruling that appeared to stall the MDC congress preparations and hand the leadership of the party to Thokozani Khupe. After the ruling, Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi immediately called on Nelson Chamisa to step down, raising suspicion that Zanu PF has a dog in the MDC fights. Our senior reporter Blessed Mhlanga (ND) caught up with Mutodi (EM).
Below are the excerpts.
ND: There is a High Court ruling on the MDC, what are the views of government on it?
EM: Chamisa has been ruled illegitimate and we are saying he must step down. What we are saying is, the opposition may be there, but it has to stick to its democratic principles, it has to stick to the expectations of Zimbabweans so that it can contribute meaningfully to the success of Zimbabwe. As it stands, the MDC has actually deviated from its democratic principles and we urge it to actually go back to the principles that were left behind by Morgan Tsvangirai.
ND: Why are you playing that role, in what capacity do you, someone from another party, speak to the other?
EM: As a government, we know the importance of the opposition. The opposition is very important in shaping legislation, in ensuring that the country can be recognised as a democratic State. It actually points to cases that we may have an oversight, issues that we may not be considering as very important, the opposition can talk about those issues and we take them seriously and build our democracy.
ND: The opposition accuses you of trying to weaken it by getting involved in its internal issues.
EM: We are not involved in any opposition politics, we are a ruling party and we are not going to be involved in whatever way. What we are simply saying is that if it is an opposition preaching democracy; that democracy must manifest in its processes. The democracy must be seen in its day to day running. The opposition takes time to criticise the government, to allege that the government is illegitimate, yet they themselves are not practicing democracy.
ND: Are you, as government or party, involved in this recent High Court judgment, because the MDC accuses Zanu PF of capturing the Judiciary.
EM: Government is in three parts, Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary. This is a process of the Judiciary. There was an aggrieved party who went to court and I am sure this person is a bona fide MDC member. He approached the courts, saying the appointment of Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to the deputy presidency of the party was unconstitutional and the court had to take its decision based on the litigation that had been initiated by a bona fide member.
ND: … and the allegations that Zanu PF having manipulated the Judiciary?
EM: Zanu PF does not manipulate the Judiciary. If anything, we want a Judiciary that is corrupt-free, a Judiciary that is well-equipped and that is what we are promoting. So, there is no way we could have interfered with the judgment of Justice Mushore. We are all aware that this judgment has come from the facts of the matter, from the merits of the matter. The issues have been determined in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe and it is a requirement that the courts determine on those issues that a citizen raises, be it on political parties, be it on public law. So these are issues that were determined legitimately by the courts.
ND: Is this not the case of the pot calling a kettle black in the case of Zanu PF? Is this is not the same manner we saw the takeover of your party from former President Robert Mugabe?
EM: This is not a Zanu PF ruling, this is not a government ruling, this is the ruling of the courts, so there is no way Zanu PF is trying to meddle in MDC politics, but once the court has given its judgment, we as Zimbabwean people who are concerned about our country, we are bound to make a commitment, an observation that; look the MDC has been saying President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa was not legitimately elected, he is there by virtue of having been declared by the courts. Now we are seeing that the MDC leader himself is an illegitimate leader because he imposed himself on the people of the MDC, now the courts have ruled. Chamisa, as a democratic person, should comply with the court ruling and ensure that the party is back to the 2014 structures.
ND: You have not answered the question; I am saying, did you not grab power in the same manner that Chamisa allegedly did?
EM: Zanu PF has always gone to its congress every five years to elect a leader.
ND: Mugabe was not ousted at congress.
EM: That was not a Zanu PF process; that was certainly not Zanu PF. Zanu PF had to come in after the (former) President had been earmarked for removal by the military. There was a military intervention, there was no way Zanu PF could have intervened in that and there was no way Zanu PF could remain without a leader because Mugabe had been removed by the military.
ND: He had been removed from government not the party; the military was not involved in the party, was it?
EM: No! No! That was not a Zanu PF issue.
ND: Let me try and break it down. Chamisa was installed to power, rightly or wrongly, by the party national council, Mnangagwa was installed to power by the Zanu PF central committee (CC) and there were arguments that the CC which installed Mnangagwa was unconstitutional because a number of people like Christopher Mutsvangwa and Victor Matemadanda had already been fired from the party but attended that meeting.
EM: For Zanu PF, I can assure you that this is not the same issue because there were intervening issues. First of all, the President of the Republic, then Robert Mugabe was facing impeachment for allegations for having given his wife certain executive powers and Parliament taking measures to impeach him. The military had intervened in the process of government on a very clear issue that the status quo had broken down so that is why the central committee had to sit in a formally-constituted meeting to determine who would be elected as the leader or interim leader of Zanu PF and then substantive leader. That is how Mnangagwa’s name emerged. So this cannot be the same or some kind of replication or similarity of what is happening in the MDC.
ND: Indulge me on this: Zanu PF has been campaigning for someone who is not Chamisa to lead the MDC. For instance, some of your party leaders were backing (MDC secretary-general) Douglas Mwonzora to lead the party. What is your interest in appointing the coach of a rival team?
EM: That is not true.
ND: Victor Matemadanda, a deputy minister and member of Zanu PF central committee, Douglas Mahiya and a number of youth league members were open in that campaign until Mwonzora was forced to distance himself from those statements.
EM: I am sure if they did that, they were expressing their own personal opinions and not the opinion of Zanu PF because we would not interfere in the operations of the MDC. If they did, then of course, as Zimbabweans, we are related here and there. They are a lot of relationships that occur in politics behind the scenes and I am sure that is a personal opinion and not the view of Zanu PF.
ND: Given this judgment, does government recognise the MDC as led by Chamisa.
EM: We recognise the MDC opposition, but the recognition comes through the law, it comes through the recognition of their own constitution. Now this is the constitution that has taken them back to the 2014 structures and those structures are what we want to recognise.
ND: Where do you get the 2014 structures because the judgment does not speak of 2014 structures?
EM: The judgment, in our view, said the genuine structures are those which were there in 2014.
ND: Can you take us to the point where it says that because it only spoke to the legitimacy of Chamisa and others and did not aver to structures.
EM: It says up to the time Chamisa was made vice-president and also Mudzuri and those structures and activities by the former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai are unconstitutional, so what then it means is that, the structures that preceded the appointment are the legitimate structures.
ND: So the MDC MPs who ran with Chamisa as their president risk losing their seats.
EM: The election of MPs has nothing to do with political parties, once they are elected they are in Parliament.
ND: So why then can they be recalled by political parties.
EM: That is why we are saying the legitimacy of the MDC leaders is important because in case they want to recall an MP, it has to be done by a leader who is going to be respected by the Speaker of Parliament.