At the launch of Zanu PF’s election manifesto on Friday, Vice- President Constantino Chiwenga devoted the bulk of his speech to attacking MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, describing him as a juvenile politician.
By Obey Manayiti
Chiwenga, who joined politics full-time in November last year, after staging a coup against former president Robert Mugabe, said Chamisa should first address the issue of his legitimacy before “dreaming big”.
He claimed the former student leader’s promises to create spaghetti roads, build airports across the country and introduce bullet trains were unrealistic.
However, Chamisa (NC) told our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) in an exclusive interview yesterday that in fact Chiwenga’s outburst showed that he admired MDC Alliance politics.
He said the former army general’s comments about his legitimacy also exposed the sinister role Zanu PF allegedly played in the recent MDC-T split, which saw the party’s former vice-president Thokozani Khupe being expelled. Below are excerpts from the interview.
OM: On Friday, Chiwenga launched a scathing attack against you over your promises on infrastructure development such as spaghetti roads, airports, bullet trains etc. What is your reaction?
NC: Chiwenga is not a presidential candidate and I have no time for him.
It is clear that these people admire our policies and I thank them for admiring us.
It’s clear that they follow my thought processes as the alternative and that is very good.
Let it be a battle of ideas and a battle of policies. General Chiwenga did a lot for this country, but he certainly doesn’t have the general knowledge about everything in this country and he cannot be a hero of all generations.
He is a hero of our liberation generation and now we need young people as the transformation generation and I happen to be young.
I have seen that he is attacking young people and I take it as a complement.
To be young is not an insult, he was also once young, ED (Emmerson Mnangagwa) was once young, Robert Mugabe was once young, (Josiah) Tongogara was once young, (Herbert) Chitepo was once young, (Joshua) Nkomo was once young and when they were young, they carried the burden of the nation through the liberation struggle.
Why are they denying us the chance to do our bit as they did for our beloved country, why?
They have done their best and we appreciate and thank them for liberating this country.
We couldn’t do it because they were there.
They must appreciate and accept us to transform this nation and thank us when we transform it so that we are both liberated and transformed.
OM: How are you going to implement that?
NC: You want me to give you the plan before I launch it?
OM: Maybe, let’s talk about the resources side. Where are you going to get the resources for this massive plan?
NC: We have a lot of resources in this country. The first most important resource that we have in Zimbabwe is the human resources.
The people of Zimbabwe are a phenomenal, fantastic and exceptional resource and just because we have great intellect, we have great people, peace-loving people and that is the number one resource.
We have mineral and material resources, only that a few are benefiting out of these resources.
So how will I do it? I will make sure that I stop the few from eating the entire cake and allow the whole nation to enjoy the cake together.
We have over 60 minerals that we can leverage; we have one of the best climates in the world for tourism purposes.
We are wired for a solid base of financial services and how do we fail?
We can easily transform and translate ourselves into the transport hub of the southern African region and how do we fail?
We can easily become an outsourcing country, offshoring services in ICTs and how do we fail as a people?
We have diamonds, gold with platinum. Do you know that most people know our capabilities more than we know ourselves?
They actually know about our competences and capacities more than ourselves.
Look at Canada, they did a geological survey of our resources and most guys in Europe know, even the Russians know and that is why they are visiting here.
When you have too many visitors it’s not that they love you, but it’s because they love what you have and who you are so that they leverage on our resources.
We need to move from a power culture to an empower culture, we need to move from a self-culture to others culture.
We need to move from a self-service in leadership to an others service in leadership.
That is what we need in transformation and that is why I mentioned three pillars, which are transformation, opportunity and prosperity.
The problem with my general Chiwenga and ED [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] is that they love power so much and when they get that power they don’t seem to know what to do with it.
Power is not for self, power is for others, for the nation. It’s service, sacrifice and that is why I differ with them.
When Chiwenga signed the Mgagao Declaration in 1975, he was 19 years old, he was attested to be a brigadier in 1981 in Bulawayo and he was 25 years old, ED was 33
years old in 1975 and these are the ages to start something new.
Here they are talking about the new dispensation at 75 years, a new dispensation in your retirement age?
OM: In the past few weeks you have been criss-crossing the country drumming up support for the MDC Alliance at well-attended rallies both in urban and rural areas. What is your assessment of the support for the coalition?
NC: Our only issue at the moment is for us to have a free and fair election which Mr Mnangagwa and his company seem not to appreciate.
They are paying lip service to a free and fair election, they are not willing to have a free and fair election, but I can tell you that the people in Zimbabwe are determined.
It is the people versus the few led by President Mnangagwa, the people being led by myself.
Most of our comrades have forgotten what we fought for, the war veterans are crying, chiefs are crying, village heads are crying, young people are crying, women are crying and even church leaders and community leaders are crying, all regions such as Matabeleland and Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland are crying.
We have tears on our cheeks as a people. People with disabilities are crying, farmers and business people are crying, why? Because we have undermined the essence and ethos of our liberation struggle starting with one-man one-vote, issues of the sovereignty of the will of the people, issues to do with effective leadership and there is a lot of corruption.
If you look at all corruption, if you trace the streams of corruption they are all leading you to the dam of the ruling party, they are all leading you to the supply tank of senior fat cats in government.
Wherever there is theft, there is the hand of a senior chef in government. They will promise reforms but they will not deliver any reforms.
They cannot deal with reforms because reforms are a hazard for them.
Reform is a subtraction and minus for them and they will not reform.
They will tell you Zimbabwe is open for business, but it is clear that it is open for the business of corruption, open to the business of marginalisation, open to the business of favouritism and partisanship and in the rural areas when you are not Zanu PF you are not a citizen, which is a crisis for this country.
For the past 38 years we have not had a nation, we have heard of a country and not a nation.
A nation must have values and that we have not had. We will start to build a nation when we have a vision and for the past 38 years we have not had a proper government of the people, we have had a party leadership, a president of a party and not of a country.
Those are the issues. We don’t want to trade insults, age comes from God and nobody applies to be old or young or even to be born.
We are all born in different dispensations and we must all contribute to this country favourably.
The voters between the age of 18 and 54 in terms of the Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) statistics are 81% and the voters between 55 and former president (Robert) Mugabe’s age are actually 19%.
So why should 19% be the leaders of a population of 81%? ED belongs to that category.
Chiwenga belongs to that category and in fact the entire cabinet belongs to that 19% and why should they be a burden to us and why should we be a burden to them?
Why can’t we save them and carry them on our backs? we have strength and we are young.
OM: You have threatened not to participate in the forthcoming elections if there are no reforms…
NC: I have never threatened that. That is not correct. I said and categorically that if reforms are not there, then there is no election.
It is different from saying we will not participate. We will make sure that as Zimbabweans we don’t have a sham election.
OM: Are you happy with the pace of the reforms seeing elections are just two months away?
NC: Until and unless if we agree on who prints the ballot paper and its security and the national logistics committee and who deploys polling officers and the auditing of the BVR (biometric voter registration) voters’ roll itself, whatever election that will come will be disputable because the process is as good as the outcome.
If there is a disputed process, the outcome is definitely going to be disputed.
There can never be any restoration in this country, there can never be stability in this country until we resolve the political question.
OM: You once wrote to Mnangagwa raising these issues, has he responded?
NC: That is my problem with the approach of my grandfather ED.
Out of courtesy I wrote to him saying that dialogue is what heals a nation, but he chose to simply ignore that communication, which is not a problem for me.
He thinks Zimbabwe is open for him to go to Russia and China and how you engage and handshake the Chinese and others and you cannot handshake your own brother.
How do you do that? How do you go to neighbours when you cannot take care of your own brother?
OM: We have heard that there are plans to bring the National Patriotic Front (NPF) into the MDC Alliance. Are you open to welcome other partners?
NC: My brother, we are working towards a grand national union, which is a convergence point, an omnibus of all progressive forces who want to see Zimbabwe prosper, united and peaceful and enjoying its wealth with respect to its citizens.
That is what I want to see. The moment is ripe, the opportunity is ripe, the circumstances and the environment seem good.
OM: When are you likely to appoint an MDC-T vice-president and fill in other posts following the recent split in the party?
NC: My preoccupation at the moment is not prepositions, but proposition, what we will do when we form the next government.
OM: Do you still entertain any hopes of reuniting with the breakaway faction led by Thokozani Khupe?
NC: You keep saying it’s a faction, I don’t know your funny language. Khupe and some two leaders were expelled on account of indiscipline.
You cannot call them a faction. Would you say Mugabe has a faction? he has a different party and it’s not a faction of Zanu PF.
Would you say [Ambrose] Mutinhiri is a faction of Zanu PF? there is a different party and I don’t know why you want to call them MDC because they are not.
It is not what they call themselves, it’s what they are and who they are. They are not MDC, period.
That is an individual who is disgruntled and has chosen to join with two others and they are busy recruiting.
Maybe they think of forming their own party and it is their right because we are a democracy, but don’t continue to push them back to us.
If they want to come, let them come back, but don’t mislead the nation to say that they are MDC, no, they are not.
Those who are in MDC know where their headquarters is and it is at the Harvest House and they know their leadership and they are very clear.
It is this confusion that they are trying to cause and we know where it is coming from.
Chiwenga let the cat out of the bag when word escaped out of his mouth through a statement where they were talking about legitimacy and this thing we are seeing is sponsored by Cde Chiwenga and his company.
It is very clear and listen to what he said, it tells you a big story and we know it that they promised to divide the vote so that I don’t get 50% plus 1 vote so that they take her into a GNU (government of national unity).
OM: Are you saying there are plans to form another GNU?
NC: Yes, they were told to divide the vote and then they would be accommodated in the government.
She is not there to win elections but to just disturb, but fortunately these antics are all under our full radar.
OM: I understand you have a trip to the UK, can you tell us more about this trip.
NC: I will not share my itinerary, but I will be meeting senior government officials and the prestigious think-tanks like Chatham House and Oxford Union where very prominent people the world over have gone to address.