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Transcript of interview with with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai on SW Radio Africa's Hot Seat (Part 1)
Violet Gonda, 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 Mr Tsvangirai.

Morgan Tsvangirai: Thank you.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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 years.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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 ask.

Morgan 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 futility.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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 undemocraticconstitution.

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: Have you actually been able to talk to these so-called reformers in ZANU PF?

Morgan 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

Violet: What aboutÖ Sorry?

Morgan Tsvangirai: About this 2010 project.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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 a difference.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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 thousands?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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

Morgan 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.

Violet: But as we speak, we hear WOZA demonstrating, we hear NCA demonstrating, but no MDC, no Save Zimbabwe Coalition?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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

Morgan 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 abandoned that.

Violet: But itís over a year now since you said those things. When are we going to see the programme of action?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Well you wait and see, itís going to happen.

Violet: Are people in your party preventing mass action from taking place?

Morgan 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.

Violet: 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.

Morgan 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.

Violet Gonda: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. Tune in next Tuesday for the final segment.

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