Hot Seat Interview with Professor Arthur Mutambara

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Arthur-MutambaraViolet Gonda: Professor Arthur Mutambara the leader of the other MDC in the inter party talks is my guest on the programme Hot Seat. Thank you very much Professor Mutambara for agreeing to talk to us. How are you doing?

Prof. Arthur Mutambara: I am doing fine. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to talk to your listeners.

Gonda: Now the SADC Heads of State met in South Africa (last) Sunday. First of all can you briefly give us the highlights of the outcome of this summit?

Mutambara: The summarized version of the outcome is that they decided by consensus that the government of national unity must be formed immediately. That the contentious Ministry of Home Affairs must be co-ministered between the MDC T and ZANU PF, and that the efficacy of that management will be reviewed in six months. That is the outcome – the key elements of the Zimbabwean outcome from the summit.

Gonda: So how was it taken by the leaders, including yourself?

Mutambara: We were very disappointed. Our position going into the talks was to say ZANU PF has got enough security ministries that it is actually in charge of. Let’s give Home Affairs to Mr Tsvangirai and his party. That was the position of our party. That is what we fought for in the summit deliberations – to allow Mr Tsvangirai to have complete and sole control of Home Affairs. So we were very disappointed by the outcome ourselves.

But I must say that going into the summit there was an agreement between the three Principals and the SADC leaders that we are coming to SADC for arbitration, we are coming to SADC so SADC can make a ruling and there was a commitment by the three players that they will abide by the decision of the summit. So before we went into the discussions there was this issue of coming for arbitration, coming for a SADC ruling. So we are saying ‘we are disappointed by the outcome, we don’t agree with the outcome but however we must show respect to SADC’.

We feel it is very difficult for us to have recourse outside SADC – most importantly because SADC was deciding by consensus. It is not wise; it is un-strategic for us as the opposition to go to war with 15 Heads of State. So we must remain engaged with SADC and try to appeal to SADC through the SADC structures as opposed to going against 15 Heads of State.

Gonda: So what are you saying? Are you going against what SADC is saying or it’s only the Tsvangirai MDC ?

Mutambara: Well, we are saying we did not get the outcome that we wanted. We wanted Mr. Tsvangirai to have control of the Home Affairs. What we are now saying is since SADC ruled by consensus we must respect that decision and then try to work out an arrangement where we salvage our country. We must remember that we have always said as a party we do not agree that we should allow our people to die for eight weeks because of disagreements over one ministry. We do not agree that we can destroy businesses in our country over disagreements over cabinet positions. We have always said that there is no such thing as a ZANU PF Minister, there is no such thing as an MDC Minister – we are talking about Ministers for the people of Zimbabwe . We are talking about collective responsibilities in cabinet and we are talking about mutual respect and mutual trust among the three players. So while we back Mr. Tsvangirai in pursuit of the Home Affairs Ministry we do not agree that not getting Home Affairs is sufficient a condition to destroy the agreement, is sufficient a condition to ruin our country over this matter.

And we are saying strategically, we must all remain engaged with SADC. There are very few options that we have as the opposition. That is our major problem because outside SADC, how do we get to the AU without SADC? How do you get to the UN without SADC? How do you go against your own regional body which is voting by consensus on a position?

So we are asking for caution. We are appealing for everyone – Mugabe and Tsvangirai included to put national interests before self interests.

Gonda: But some people say so what is wrong with demanding what is best for the country from Robert Mugabe because don’t you think it is unacceptable that a government that is killing its own people should be allowed to retain such positions?

Mutambara: Ya, but remember you are preaching to the choir. I told you that was our position to say Mr Tsvangirai must have Home Affairs. The question now is what do we do now after the 15 Heads of State have taken a position, after we had committed ourselves to accepting their decisions? We have to have some integrity, we have to be strategic because you can’t fight 15 Heads of State and expect to win. So we need to engage them. We need to engage ourselves. We need to keep talking. What we are saying is . . . (interrupted)

Gonda: But don’t you think it is strange that the Heads of State have prescribed this solution when in their own countries it’s never happened? They admitted that it’s never happened where rival parties actually co-share a ministry. How do you share a ministry and how will it operate?

Mutambara: I don’t want to repeat myself Violet. I am disappointed. I don’t want this outcome. I had a preferred outcome and I have given you my preferred outcome. That discussion you can have with Kgalema, you can have that discussion with Guebuza, with Salomao. Have that discussion with SADC. My position as a party is very clear. We want to have equitable distribution of ministries. Home Affairs must go to Tsvangirai that is my position. My dilemma now as an opposition leader is what do I do when I have a ruling from 15 Heads of State against me? Is it strategic for me to go to war with the 15 or should I remain engaged with them and work with them, work with the AU, work with SADC to get a resolution? That is what I am interested in right now.

Gonda: So wouldn’t it be strategic to side with Morgan Tsvangirai because this is what you want also – the equitable distribution of ministries. So wouldn’t it be strategic for you to side with Morgan Tsvangirai so that there is an equitable distribution of ministries and do you actually think that SADC has done enough to put pressure on Robert Mugabe, who actually lost the elections, to share the ministries fairly?

Mutambara: I am siding with Morgan Tsvangirai but I don’t side with foolishness, ok? I side with Morgan Tsvangirai in the debate that he must get Home Affairs. I don’t side with him when he says the people of Zimbabwe must suffer over a ministry. That is nonsensical. I do not believe that we should have eight weeks of deaths, eight weeks of destruction of our economy over a ministry. That is nonsense! What is important is to say Zimbabwe must come first before Tsvangirai , Zimbabwe must come first before Mugabe.

Now what we are saying is right now we have a ruling from SADC – from the 15 Heads of Government – we need to keep engaged with them because otherwise what are you going to do next? What are you . . .

Gonda: But . . .

Mutambara: listen, listen. You can’t go to the AU without SADC. You can’t have an election right now because Mugabe is in control of the country and any election right now would be unfair and unfree – it will be won by Mugabe under June 27 conditions. We have very limited options as the opposition. We need to be smart!

Gonda: By smart you said – as I read in some of the articles about this – that you prefer to influence from within? You know – sign this deal, do what SADC is saying and then influence from within. But my question to you is since when . . .

Mutambara: Don’t speak for me. Don’t speak for me. I am here let me speak for myself!

Gonda: Is that what you said?

Mutambara: Listen. What is smart is to remain engaged with SADC. What is smart is to keep working with Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe as three parties. You can’t have a government in Zimbabwe without Tsvangirai. To get this agreement to operate you need amendment 19 to pass through parliament. To get Amendment 19 to pass through parliament you need two thirds (2/3) majority. Mutambara and Mugabe cannot get a two thirds majority. So you need the three players to pass this agreement in parliament. We are stuck in this mess together as three political parties. But what is important is the people, not individuals, not ministries.

Who told you Home Affairs was more important than Education!? Who told you that Home Affairs was more important than Health!? The definition of a key ministry is a misnomer. We are also using a very wrong framework. Health, Water, Education are as important as Home Affairs. It is not worth it to destroy our country over a ministry! That is my position.

Gonda: But the MDC -Tsvangirai has also said they are not only concerned about one ministry but at least 10 key ministries. So . . .

Mutambara: That is nonsense! That is nonsense! We are down to one ministry. The rest of the ministries have been agreed to. This is where the Tsvangirai group becomes un-strategic by making the world their platform for discussion – you must narrow down your debate to one area. We went through discussions in Harare with Thabo Mbeki and Mugabe and settled the 29 ministries minus one plus one, and hence the debate is around Home Affairs. We do not entertain the nonsense around 10 ministries.

Gonda: But Professor Mutambara if it has been scaled down to one ministry – the Home Affairs ministry – don’t you think it is still important since Mugabe will still have the Defence Ministry? Why isn’t Mugabe being forced to share the Defence Ministry like he wants to share the Home Affairs Ministry?

Mutambara: Well Violet don’t keep going in circles you know my views about that one. Tsvangirai must get Home Affairs that is my position. Mugabe has enough Security Ministries. I have lost at SADC. My challenge is how do I operate when I have lost to 15 Heads of State? That’s what I am grappling with right now.

Gonda: But why do you chose to side with SADC and not with Morgan Tsvangirai on this issue because many people feel that SADC is siding with Robert Mugabe on this case and that SADC is not really being fair?

Mutambara: No but I am not siding with SADC I am siding with the people of Zimbabwe . We are saying if we put the people ahead of our own interests we should find an accommodation among the three of us. With some degree of pragmatism, with some degree of flexibility and also being strategic – if you do not work with SADC who do you work with? And ask Tsvangirai that question. If you do not work with SADC how do you get to the AU without SADC? If you do not work with SADC how do you get to the UN without SADC? This is commonsensical and we want our leaders to be strategic. Even the Americans and the British cannot go against 15 Heads of State.

Gonda: But if the 15 Heads of State are not saying what you want – what the people of Zimbabwe want, according to the Tsvangirai MDC , why should he be forced to agree to that?

Mutambara: Whooooa Whoooa Whoaaa! Who says Tsvangirai was the people of Zimbabwe ?

Gonda: But he is the one who was elected. The people of Zimbabwe elected him.

Mutambara: Nonsense, Nonsense let’s speak logically! Let’s speak logically. We have a decision that has been made by 15 Heads of State of which we are a member as a country. Zimbabwe is a member of SADC; we have not left SADC so we are bound by the decisions of SADC. We must respect SADC. We need to operate within SADC for us to have access to the UN, for us to have access to the AU. It is a strategic matter here. There is no disagreement between me and Tsvangirai. I have fought for Tsvangirai to get Finance – he got Finance. I fought for Tsvangirai to get Home Affairs – I lost.

Now what I am trying to do now is to say – how do we move our country forward and we can’t destroy Zimbabwe over a ministry? That is a travesty. We can’t do that! That is irresponsible!

Gonda: But Professor Mutambara I go back to the issue of SADC – how can SADC be taken seriously when in the past it has been seen as siding with Robert Mugabe. Let me give you an example. The current chair . . .

Mutambara: But remember Violet . . .

Gonda: Let me give you an example . . .

Mutambara: Remember Violet I said . . .

Gonda : Let me give . . .

Mutambara: I said don’t ask me about SADC. Be organized Violet go andtalk to SADC. Don’t ask me that question . . .

Gonda: But you are the one who brought this issue up . . .

Mutambara: Talk to Kgalema, talk to Mbeki, get organized!Talk to Salomao. I don’t speak for SADC . . .

Gonda: Professor Mutambara.

Mutambara: Don’t give me irrelevant questions. That is an irrelevant question. Next question please that is irrelevant!

Gonda: Professor Mutambara I want your comment on this issue. The chairof SADC Kgalema Motlanthe declared – you know when he was head of the South African observer mission in 2002 – that the elections in Zimbabwe were free and credible. But this was at a time when people were horribly brutalised and these are the same leaders you are saying you have made a pledge to be bound by their rulings? How can SADC be taken seriously then?

Mutambara: I think – and I politely repeat myself – pick up your phone and call SADC. I don’t agree with those remarks that were made about our elections and you know my views. So I think what you needto do is to discuss this matter with Salomao, withKgalema, with Mbeki, with the SADC leaders. I am an opposition leader in Zimbabwe who is frustrated by the outcome and who is trying to navigate the way around by being strategic and not foolish.

Gonda: Ya, that is my point exactly that why should you accept this ruling when they have made other bizarre rulings before? Why is it you can’t fight and demand that this time we want an equitable distribution of ministries? Why can’t you fight for that now? Why do you have to fight when you are in a government? Are you suggesting that you can pull the wool over Mugabe’s eyes – a man who has manipulated and divided you for a long time?

Mutambara: Ya but we have not even said that. Next question please.

Gonda: No but . . .

Mutambara: Can you give me the next question please? There is no question there. I have answered that question already.

Gonda: Professor . . .

Mutambara: Give me a next question.

Gonda: When have you ever gotten anything out of Robert Mugabe?

Mutambara: Ask SADC.

Gonda: No I am asking you as a Zimbabwean leader. When have you ever gotten anything out of Robert Mugabe?

Mutambara: But I never said I got anything from Robert Mugabe.

Gonda: So why is it you would think that by giving him the Home Affairs Ministry or sharing the Home Affairs ministry that things will just change automatically when he has killed people . . .

Mutambara: Things won’t change Violet. Things won’t change. We don’t agree with the SADC decision. Our proposal was for the opposition – in particular MDC T – to own that ministry. We have lost at SADC. What we are now strategising is what is the best way forward and we are saying as part of our strategic framework we must remain engaged with the three players. There can’t be a government in Zimbabwe without anyone of the three and secondly and more importantly we need to keep on talking to SADC because that’s the only way we can get recourse at the AU or UN. You can’t navigate outside the SADC framework.

As to the details of our strategies of confronting SADC I think that is a matter that we will reveal later on. But we are saying we must remain engaged with SADC and we must remain working together as Zimbabweans and in the process we must put national interests before self interests.

Gonda: Now can you confirm if this actually happened – that after you all made your presentations before the Heads of State on Sunday, you and Morgan Tsvangirai actually went out but Mugabe refused to leave the room and sat in judgment in his own case?

Mutambara: I think you can confirm that with SADC. What we know is that we were recused and asked to leave the room because they were going to discuss the details of Zimbabwe . As to whether Mugabe was in or not – but Morgan Tsvangirai and our party left and allowed SADC to continue with their debates. We are not privy to who was actually inside the House but you can confirm that with SADC.

Gonda: Now Mugabe has threatened to go ahead and form a government or announce his cabinet. What will your party do if he does that?

Mutambara: But I have already answered that but I will repeat it so that you can understand because you seem to be very slow. We will not be involved in a government that is a twosome. The government that we are talking about is an inclusive government including three players. And three players are required to operationalise the agreement. Amendment 19 to become law requires two thirds majority. Two thirds cannot be achieved by two parties. It can only be achieved by Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Mutambara working together. So there will be no joy without the three parties.

Gonda: I am sorry for being slow Professor Mutambara but we all know that this is the ideal and practically Mugabe can do whatever he wants. And that is why I was asking you that question that what if he still does that, because he has threatened to do that even though he needs a two thirds. So I am asking you what will you do – will you go ahead and be part of this government or not?

Mutambara: Do you want me to repeat again, I will repeat since you want me to keep repeating this. There will be no two-some, there will be no one-some, there will be a three-some. The threesome involves Mutambara, Tsvangirai and Mugabe – anything outside that is not legitimate it’s not even practical. For you to convert amendment no19 to become law – which means the agreement becomes law in Zimbabwe – you need two thirds majority. Two thirds can only come from the three parties. Is that clear enough!?

Gonda: How do you answer your critics who say you are being used as a destabilising force?

Mutambara: Nonsense. They can go and hang themselves that’s nonsense. Next question please.

Gonda: Thank you very much Professor Mutambara (laughing)

Mutambara: (laughs) alright.

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