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of interview with with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai on SW Radio
Africa's Hot Seat (Part 1)
SW Radio Africa
January 23, 2007
Read Part Two: Transcript
of 'Hot Seat' broadcast on 30 January, 2007
Violet Gonda: Opposition leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is
the guest on the programme ĎHot Seatí. Welcome on the programme
Tsvangirai: Thank you.
Now Mr Tsvangirai Mugabe and his ZANU PF party plan to harmonise
the Presidential election and Parliamentary election and move the
Presidential poll from 2008 to 2010. The opposition has said it
will resist this and launch a campaign for the 2008 Presidential
election. First of all, how are you going to do that exactly?
Tsvangirai: Well, we as MDC have clear objectives as far
as that proposal is concerned. Our first objective is to ensure
that we as a party go on a campaign country-wide against such a
proposal by mobilising the people to understand what this implies.
The second objective is to ensure that together with the broad civic
society we are able also to broaden the campaign to include our
colleagues and partners in civic society. And thirdly, to insist
that there shall be an election in 2008 under a new constitution
remains our rallying cry for the nation to ensure that this crisis
is not postponed by another three years.
Now, some agree that elections should be combined but they say that
they should be extended from 2008 to 2010 to give people more time.
Now, as the opposition, will you be ready if the elections are held
next year as scheduled?
Tsvangirai: Violet, we will be more than ready. We have
been ready since the formation of the party. Thatís why we beat
Mugabe in the 2002 Presidential election, thatís why we beat him
in the 2005 Parliamentary election. What is only required is not
the readiness of the opposition, what is required are the conditions
under which these elections are being held. The free and fairness,
the democratic control of national institutions like the electoral
management systems, the police and the military. All that will ensure
that the outcome is not pre-determined.
But still, again I ask, is there enough time for all these things
to happen? You know, to fight for a new constitution and the opening
up of the democratic space, because, the harmonisation process needs
to be accompanied by serious reforms, as youíve just said. Now,
ZANU PF, Mugabe in particular, has made it clear that elections
will be held in 2010. What is your concrete strategy, to ensure
that this wonít happen?
Tsvangirai: Well the defiance is characteristic of Mugabe,
we have heard him before, but, when there is sufficient mobilisation
of the people like in 2002 or at the time of the campaign for a
new national constitution, he will succumb. There is no way he can
continue to defy his own people and the people at large because
we know this 2010 project has no support within his own party. And
so is the nation. The nation is saying we face such a critical colossal
crisis that to delay to resolve this issue by a free and fair election
will only mean that we have condemned the people by another three
But Mr Tsvangirai, the flawed electoral process has been a major
complaint of the opposition since the parliamentary election in
2000 and subsequent elections after that. Some say Mugabe can easily
turn around and say Ďfine, letís have the election next year as
scheduledí, how will you stop these next elections from being rigged?
Tsvangirai: Well the point is that I underlined the fact
that we need an election under a new constitution and under a new
electoral management system that will ensure that the vote is free
and fair. It obviously poses a very critical question to the opposition
to say at the right time do you participate in an election which
is already pre-determined, or you insist that the election shall
be conducted in a manner that is accepted internationally. This
is the predicament, the dilemma that we face as a country. We want
an election but we donít want an election under the current conditions
because it will just mean that they will be rigged. So, it is a
dilemma that we need to deal with and the people, I think, would
insist, that in conditions where it is obvious that Mugabe has the
full control of the rules and regulations of the elections, itís
a futile exercise.
And, is it not prudent for your party or your parliamentarians to
begin pushing in parliament for electoral reforms and use ZANU PFís
denial in Parliament to launch mass action, thatís what others would
Tsvangirai: Well, the problem is that parliament has proven
to be a worthless exercise in so far as you can make noise but Mugabe
ensured that he had his two thirds in March last year, in 2005,
and so the debate by the opposition is just merely an exercise in
So others would then ask why you continue to participate in an ineffective
Parliament that ZANU PF uses to railroad through draconian legislation.
What is the point then, is this not a contradiction?
Tsvangirai: Well I think itís like participating in an
election; what you do is you give some semblance of legitimacy to
that process. But certainly, I have full confidence that that institution
is working to the fullest benefit of the people other than just
a conveyor belt of Mugabeís wishes.
You know, this is exactly the question that people keep
asking. How is that institution working for the benefit of the people
because Parliament is seen as ineffective and that the opposition
should stop participating in Parliament? Just like they say you
should stop participating in elections under what you say is an
Tsvangirai: Well, I think that what one has to understand
is that from time to time this position is reviewed by the MDC as
a tactical question and not as a matter of principle. As a matter
of principle we would like to participate in elections but on a
tactical basis itís no use going into an exercise in futility like
I have said earlier which you know has no effect, you can make as
much noise as you want but still the ruling party is in defiance
and in denial as to what are the real issues that the parliament
should be doing.
Now itís been reported that some ZANU PF moderates want Robert Mugabe
to go early, so what is your party doing to build consensus with
these so called reformers in ZANU PF?
Tsvangirai: Well, we have extended our patriotic hand to
say that all patriots must come together now at this critical juncture
in the history of the country, to have one common purpose, which
is one common purpose in so far as ensuring that the elections are
conducted as scheduled. And, to put the country first beyond the
partyís interests and the individualís interest. I think this call
has sympathies in ZANU PF and we would certainly be in a position
of finding means and ways of working with those people in ZANU PF
who want to see this thing be resolved.
Have you actually been able to talk to these so-called reformers
in ZANU PF?
Tsvangirai: Not in a formalised way but in an indirect
way, we know the feelings in ZANU PF are just as strong as within
MDC about Ö
What aboutÖ Sorry?
Tsvangirai: About this 2010 project.
What about the issue of getting people to participate. Who is working
on getting rid of voter apathy because itís been said, that ZANU
PF strategy to suppress, ZANU PF has always used that strategy to
suppress voter turn-out, so what is happening about that?
Tsvangirai: Well, Iím sure that occasionally, depending
on the peopleís interpretation, certain elections they tend to be
apathetic. But Iím sure that the people of Zimbabwe are ready for
the Presidential election, were ready to participate in the Parliamentary
election. So it depends on how the people interpret an election
as useful or not. So whilst there is this conclusion that there
is apathy, I donít think that come certain elections the people
of Zimbabwe will wake up and interpret that their vote will make
But, is it not a fact that people right now feel despondent. As
the opposition leadership how do you get rid of that feeling especially
as it has taken six years to get people on the streets?
Tsvangirai: Well, the thing is itís not about just going
and getting people on the streets. I think that thereís romanticism
about this Ďget people on the streetsí pre-occupation. What is important
is to what extent are the people themselves realising that they
are in a struggle against a dictatorship. It takes a lot of education,
it takes a lot of mobilisation, and thatís what we have been working
at, with limited resources. As you know resources equal results;
we are not as endowed as the ZANU PF government with all the resources,
the communication and all the monopoly of communication at its disposal.
We donít have that. So we have to come up with a strategy that is
going to be ensuring that our structures on the ground, our education
on the ground, our message on the ground has to resonate with the
feelings of the people. So the despondency may appear artificial
and academic, but the people on the ground are not despondent. They
know that they have to tackle the dictatorship and unless they themselves
are involved, nothing will happen.
But as the opposition, how come you are failing to use the energy
of all those people who attend your rallies, to protest? Why are
they not marching on the streets if they can attend rallies in their
Tsvangirai: Itís a million dollar question. It also depends
on the response of the State, which has been brutal, and, you can
understand that fear is endemic in the people, and it is how to
get rid of that fear, how to get rid of this regime which is totalitarian,
which is controlling all their lives. That will make a difference.
For us, fear is a slow process; itís a process that you engage in
for people to remove fear. But, itís generally fear; nothing else.
But you know, many ordinary Zimbabweans we speak to say they donít
see any practical options that the opposition has, you know, that
you can possibly take to dislodge Mugabe because they say everything
you have said, or you are saying even now, you have said before.
In Parliament you are outnumbered, when you call for stay-aways
or mass action people donít participate. So how do you believe you
will do it this time?
Tsvangirai: No, itís not about this time. You know the
problem is that people believe that there is a time in a struggle.
Just go back to your history and see that there was an armed struggle
that started in 1963. Itís only up to 1980 that that stage of that
struggle was an armed struggle. So, one, there are phases in a struggle
and there are moments in that struggle that can be exploited. Right
now, at the moment we have this issue that can mobilise all Zimbabweans;
the issue of the 2010. And itís just a question of what are the
issues that can mobilise people. But to say that you have tried
this, it has failed, you have tried this, therefore it is a permanent
failure, I donít think so.
But you know, sorry to go back to the same issue , everyone knows
that Mugabe is holding on to power; you know he has militarised
the State, he has refused dialogue because if there was any dialogue
we would have seen some progress in the country and there is no
progress right now. And then the Government has made it clear that
those who participate in mass action would be dealt by force. So
what is your plan for dislodging ZANU PF given these circumstances?
Tsvangirai: I think that itís a strategic question Ďwhat
is your planí, Iím sure it would be naive to say that you would
be able to articulate a plan and say we are going to do one, two,
three things without necessarily having ZANU PF also having a counter-plan.
What Iím saying here is pure and simple. The people of Zimbabwe
must realise they are in a struggle for freedom, and that this regime
is not convincingly on the side of being a perpetual dictator for
ever. What Iím seeing is that it can be defeated. It can only be
defeated by the people of Zimbabwe . The right to be on the right
side of history is to do the right thing, and thatís what the MDC
and all the democratic forces are doing. And, eventually the people
shall prevail. I canít give a timeframe; I can only rely on our
experiences on the ground, our ability and capacity on the ground
to overcome some of the obstacles that ZANU PF places in the way.
One of the things is that we cannot follow ZANU PFís agenda, we
have to design an agenda for ourselves, as I have outlined in the
objectives earlier on, and thatís what we have to work on.
But you know right know on the ground in Zimbabwe it seems
like there has been a lot of fragmented activism; WOZA
are doing their thing, NCA
is doing their thing, but you know there doesnít seem to be a spark
to unite these forces and it seems one Ö
Tsvangirai: No there is, there is already a forum, there
is already a platform where all the political parties in the opposition
and the civic society are working together under the ĎSave Zimbabweí
campaign, and we have a programme for the whole year that we have
outlined together. And I hope that there will be no fragmentation
as you say, but a united campaign with a specific programme co-ordinated
by the ĎSave Zimbabweí campaign.
But as we speak, we hear WOZA demonstrating, we hear NCA demonstrating,
but no MDC, no Save Zimbabwe Coalition?
Tsvangirai: Well the fact that we have a Save Zimbabwe
Coalition does not mean that individual organisations cannot engage
in protracted actions according to their own individual effort.
But, at the end of the day when we co-ordinate the whole effort
together, I am sure that it will have more impact.
And how would you answer people who say you promise things but they
never materialise? You promised ĎThe Final Pushí, ĎThe Winter of
Discontentí, and at one point you said the MDC would not participate
in future elections but you continue to participate in what you
say is a flawed process. How do you respond to these statements?
Tsvangirai: Those are armchair critics. I donít promise
anything. The fact that we said that there is a winter of discontent
does not mean that the next day the action is there. Iím saying
that as a programme this is where we are focusing on according to
our agenda of the Congress. A winter of discontent can be a metaphor
but itís being interpreted literally to mean that winter is from
May to June therefore something must happen within that period.
So I think that those are just people who are outside the sphere
of the struggle who believe that things will come on a silver platter.
Itís not about what I say, itís about what we do.
OK, you said it was the agenda of the Congress, and one example
was the Winter of Discontent, these are the timelines that you give
as the opposition, so when Ö
Tsvangirai: But it was not a timeline, thatís where you
make a mistake. It was not a timeline, it was a metaphor making
sure that people are mobilised as a discontent but not on a time-frame
as to say that because winter is June to May therefore it should
happen during that period. I said as a programme of action the democratic
resistance of the MDC will start immediately as we finished our
Congress in March and itís an on-going programme and we havenít
But itís over a year now since you said those things. When are we
going to see the programme of action?
Tsvangirai: Well you wait and see, itís going to happen.
Are people in your party preventing mass action from taking place?
Tsvangirai: What is happening is that mass action or popular
resistance takes various forms and popular resistance cannot be
defined in a particular action, one activity. It is the on-going
pressure that you apply on the regime and it takes various organisational
and resource needs on the ground.
The reason Iím asking this Mr Tsvangirai is, you know, people would
then ask, what is causing the delay, because it would be understandable
if there was a divergence of reaction in the party.
Tsvangirai: Well there was no divergence, there is no divergence.
I mean we are all agreed. We adopted as one of the party programmes
that the only game in town was a democratic resistance programme.
The delay assumes various constraints that the party has. For people
in Europe to go on those massive revolutions that have taken place
over the last two, three years, there was massive resource input
in that. We donít have that advantage. We suffer resource limitations;
sometimes a programme is limited because there are no adequate resources.
You know it takes a lot of organisational input throughout the country
to have that impact. Itís not that the people of Zimbabwe have never
acted in the past.
Gonda: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. Tune in next Tuesday
for the final segment.
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