Former Zanu PF losing candidate for Hatfield constituency (2013) — Acie Lumumba — has no regrets leaving the party he said sold him the dream which it never lived; the smooth-talking young politician who now leads Viva Zimbabwe, after his fallout with President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, says the future belongs to youths like him.
He speaks to Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki and below are the Excerpts of the interview.
Q: In 2013 you were among the youngest breed of aspiring MPs in Zanu PF and almost won a seat in Hatfield, what went wrong for you in Zanu PF?
A: First of all, I was actually the youngest in 2013. I stood for elections on a promise Mugabe and Zanu PF were making to the country, that promise was to indigenise, employ and empower.
I not only believed in the promise I believed in the role I could contribute in achieving it.
The trouble for me came when I worked with Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao whose government portfolio was supposed to be instrumental in fulfilling the three promises.
I realised he had no intention of keeping this promise and in fact despite losing in his primary election, his uncle had imposed him to still serve the same people who rejected him.
The man was not only disinterested in empowering Zimbabweans, he was hellbent on disempowering them all and destroying everything I felt so many in Zanu PF had worked hard for.
I mean you are talking about a man who everything he has in his life is because of another man, the president made an error there and thanks to Zhuwao I got a lense into the Mugabe family and dynasty.
Q: There has been a lot of speculation regarding your origins in Zanu PF, how did you join Zanu PF?
A: Like a guy wooing a girl, Zanu PF had been wooing me since I was a young man. I had gone through the roller coaster of loving and hating its ways like any political student but eventually it was in 2010 when I had a conversation with Saviour Kasukuwere who made me buy into the ideology of Zanu PF. Frankly speaking, without Saviour I would have never joined Zanu PF.
When I did, he sold me the dream.
He encouraged me to join at grassroots level to prove myself and while it was near impossible, it was the now minister Miriam Chikukwa who accommodated my registration in her Waterfalls political district in 2012, November.
From there I worked my way up the ladder to become the youngest district executive in Waterfalls by 2013. I moved to my residential district in Hatfield in 2014 where I was elected youngest district chairman in the country.
Early this year, I was elected to the province as secretary of tourism making me again the youngest provincial executive in Harare.
So, every step of the way I worked hard and the people elevated me. The principle that matters here, however, is — why I joined.
I joined because I believed and maybe naively, that Zanu PF on paper had the better plan but more importantly the instruments to make people’s lives better.
Q: Do you regret having been part of Zanu PF and what lessons can young people learn from your experiences in the party?
A: No. I have no regrets. I would not know what I know or be who I am without all my experiences. I would say the biggest lesson for me is you must never forget the people.
The day you forget who you are doing it for is the day all your problems begin.
Politicians must always be at the mercy of the people not people at the mercy of politicians.
Q: In your view, why is ... Mugabe failing to name a successor?
A: Because he hasn’t sensitised the people enough yet to accept her (His wife Grace). But once she makes VP the rest is just the inevitably of time and ED (VP Mnangagwa) will realise he was played like a chess move.
It’s a game of thrones out there. I actually think there is nothing else occupying his mind (Mugabe) except how to make these deciding manoeuvres.
Q: You were said to be among the people pushing for his wife — Grace — to succeed him; is this true and do you believe she’s primed for that role?
A: Yes I was. All else being equal, she will be president of Zimbabwe. By the way, nothing is wrong with her being president; she too is a Zimbabwean and must be allowed to aspire in her own country, as long as that decision or deployment is brought by the people.
You can’t disqualify someone based on who they are married to, let her becoming or not becoming be premised on the people. I was proudly G40 (Generation 40). Not because I don’t like ED, the man has never done anything against me, but because my team has issues with him, I had issues with him too.
My allegiance was pure political tag-teaming. I went to school with ED’ss sons and they are good friends, my father is a military man who supports ED as a fellow war veteran but me, I supported Lady Gaga (First Lady).
If it was football, Lacoste would be the bench and G40 would be the junior team.
I preferred being in the junior team, besides I never liked how ED let all his loyalists suffer for him and never stood up for them, at least successfully. I rolled with the winners.
Q: Recently you were attacked in Bulawayo by Zanu PF youths; how ironic was this given that at one time you were part of them?
A: Nothing surprised me about the attack. I was never a part of the youth league, since I joined the party.
I was in the main wing, but it’s that behaviour I worked to change when I was in the party to get the youths to understand that he who throws the first punch proves he has lost the argument.
Violence is a tool mainly used by little children and big governments to solve dispute, it’s sad the youth league won’t raise their argument instead they will raise violence.
Q: How is your party shaping up?
A: Right now we are spending a lot of time on policy think tanking. We haven’t launched yet. We announced our intent. We are really trying to zone in on the matter of voter education.
About 84 percent of eligible voters under 40 are not registered. Right there is a big problem for us to solve
Q: Can it be taken seriously given the scepticism that people have over your history in Zanu PF?
A: We are the only youth sensitive and led party. It’s not about young people taking us seriously it’s about young people taking themselves seriously. Outside of Viva Zimbabwe we will remain led when the truth is we can lead ourselves better than we are being led by all the parties
Q: You have spoken strongly against the old guard in politics; do you think that Zimbabwe is ready to have a young president at the helm?
A: If it was Zanu PF, I would push for a Kasukuwere presidency, if it was PF I would push for a Mujuru presidency on default really, if it was MDC I would push for a Chamisa presidency. But all these are at the mercy of people who are leading them worse than they can lead themselves. Is Zimbabwe ready? Zimbabwe is tired of being ready.
Q: How is this possible given that the military views civilian politicians with suspicion?
A: The military is perhaps the game changer. MDC is doomed because the military today will never allow their presidency, it puts too much at stake for them.
The ones I have named above I think they will reach a fair compromise. It becomes about managing interests too, a good deal for a transition will need to be explained and be put in place, the military has a choice to make, particularly the general, will history remember him/them as guardians of the transition or obstacles to it, but then again in Zimbabwe I would not be surprised if the military also wanted political office.
It must be disappointingly heart-wrenching for the generals and war vets to see what civilians have done to the country they fought for with their lives.
Q: Where do you see Zanu PF and Zimbabwe in the post-Mugabe era?
A: I don’t think about Zanu PF anymore and their future, there is enough people in Zanu PF to obsess with that, where I see the Zimbabwe only if we do what it takes is a place where the country is fit for all who live in it.
A Zimbabwe where we have created space politically, economically and socially for each person to chase after his/her version of a good life.
This can now only happen post-Mugabe.
Mugabe has nothing good to offer the country, contrary to his labelling of others, he has sold us all out, he is the biggest sellout of them all especially because he actually had a promise to keep, and that promise was to make our lives as good as he has made his own.