The opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai celebrated its 17th anniversary last weekend.
Ahead of the event, senior political reporter Wongai Zhangazha (WZ) interviewed Tsvangirai (MT). This is the second and final excerpt.
WZ: Does your party have a bigger plan beyond protests to force the regime to adopt electoral reforms?
MT: We have never said that we want to engage in a revolution. We just want to express our discontent for this government which is failing to attend to the people’s grievances. I hear people say why don’t you wait for 2018? We will wait for 2018 but the question is that by the time we reach 2018 there will be nothing. The pressure is not intended to overthrow anyone. The pressure is intended for Mugabe and the regime to sit down and find a national solution.
WZ: If electoral reforms are not implemented by 2018, is the MDC going to participate in the elections?
MT: The question is not about participating or not participating. We are created to engage in electoral participation. We are a democratic movement, we believe in the electoral process, we believe in the right of people to choose their government. When a government is determined to prevent people from free choice, it is up to that government to justify why they are preventing people from exercising their democratic right.
WZ: And if they are not?
MT: If they are not, that’s another matter altogether which we will have to decide at the appropriate time
WZ: In the past, you have boycotted by-elections for parliamentary and local government positions due to government’s failure to implement agreed electoral reforms. How effective has this been, if at all, considering that it has resulted in the seats going to Zanu PF?
MT: The strategy not to participate has had its effects. We brought to the attention of everyone that there is no use of going into an election which is rigged even before the outcome. We have exposed Zanu PF for what it is.
WZ: Given the ongoing talks for an opposition coalition, do you ever regret the split with former members of the MDC?
MT: Ideally one would not want a split. But if a split occurs because one has decided to leave, what can you do?
When it comes to the coalition, one of the things that I have said repeatedly is that what should precede any form of coalition is the question of conditions. Let’s fight for conditions together like we are doing in Nera (National Electoral Reform Agenda). Why don’t we converge and work together so that we can create conditions for free and fair elections?
WZ: You have been diagnosed with cancer of the colon; do you feel you have the energy to lead the party into the 2018 elections?
MT: It has been an experience that took me by surprise also because I was not aware of this condition. You start off by shock and then you take it in strides, you go through the treatment, you go through the operation. I have said that whatever it is I will go through it and I will confront it without any remorse. I have gone through the operations and four sessions of chemotherapy and I have been responding very well to treatment. I feel strong enough and hope that by the end of this year I would have completed my chemotherapy sessions. My doctor is very positive that the benchmarks are very positive and that, like all other cancer patients, we will overcome this.
WZ: Some analysts say that the MDC made a mistake by agreeing to be part of the Government of National Unity (GNU) — on reflection, do you think it was a right move?
MT: It was a very strategic move. We served the people. We cannot always serve politics, we have to consider: what we are doing, is it helping or not? I think we did help the people. If anyone asks me I will say, yes, the agreement might have been skewed against us but it was an agreement that we committed ourselves to but Zanu PF was not committed to it. I think people have a reference point of how we dealt with the economy, health, education and other sectors water and sanitation. We also gained as MDC the governance experience that is necessary for any future reference point.
WZ: Other activists think that the MDC should not have taken part in the 2013 general elections without reforms. Do you regret taking part in the elections and what lessons have you learnt?
MT: When I look back at the last rally of the MDC — the crossover rally — do you think it would have made sense for me to stand there and say we are not participating in the elections? It would have been naive for me to say that.
The level of rigging, we found out that it was massive. I don’t think anyone would have advised we should not go into the election. But now that we have gone into elections and witnessed the level of rigging that took place in 2013, I think it’s justifiable for the MDC to take stock of the current electoral preparedness and the level of potential rigging that may obtain to make a very decisive position on the issue.
WZ: What is your relationship with President Robert Mugabe after the GNU? Do you engage in any discussions — formal or informal?
MT: No. There was no engagement between me and Mugabe. After the GNU he refused completely to engage me.
WZ: You did try to engage him? Over what?
MT: Yes, I had to discuss a lot of things over the post-election situation around the national status and the state of the nation. Unfortunately he didn’t find it necessary.
WZ: In terms of funding, is the MDC adequately funded? Do you have enough resources to challenge Zanu PF in 2018?
MT: We will challenge Zanu PF anytime anywhere provided there are reforms. It’s not a question of resources. We will find our way of getting resources but what is the use of having resources when the lection management system is rigged? We will never have adequate resources.
WZ: There has been a lot of debate about the Highlands house with some people saying your continued stay in that house compromises you in taking a robust stance against Zanu PF. What is the position regarding that house?
MT: How does my house compromise me? This is my house. This is not anybody’s property, it’s my property. Why should anyone try to raise an issue about a house which they do not even know about? They made an issue out of the house but to me it’s nothing.
WZ: Minister of Local Government Saviour Kasukuwere told you, several times, to move out of the house. Why are you not moving out?
MT: I am not answerable to Saviour Kasukuwere. He doesn’t know anything about this house. He is just trying to make political hot air out of something that he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that I have a house which has a contract and I advise him to talk to President Mugabe before he starts uttering something that he doesn’t know.