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Transcript of 'Hot Seat' with David Coltart (MP), Arnold Tsunga and Raymond Majongwe (Part 1) 
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
February 20, 2007

Read Part Two: Transcript of 'Hot Seat' broadcast on 27 February, 2007

Violet Gonda: Zimbabwe has been witnessing a wave of strikes by many groups including junior doctors and teachers demanding better working conditions in a country which now has the highest inflation rate in the world and the fastest shrinking economy outside a war zone. The country has also been seeing a spate of spontaneous demonstrations from several pressure groups and the opposition. To discuss the issue of the growing discontent within society, we welcome on the programme ĎHot Seatí Raymond Majongwe who is the Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, David Coltart, a legal expert and member of the Mutambara MDC and Arnold Tsunga, the Director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Welcome on the programme.

All: Thank you Violet. Good evening Violet. Thank you.

Violet: Now let me start with Raymond Majongwe, what are your thoughts on the clashes between the police and the people this past week?

Raymond Majongwe : Apparently I think nobody must apologise. People in Zimbabwe are demanding their space back that has been taken over by both the politicians as well as the Military and the Police. And, if we really sit down on our laurels and think that we will be able to reclaim that space without blood, without sweat, then we will be fooling ourselves.

Violet: Now, we have also seen scores of people getting arrested for exercising their rights. We have seen MDC supporters, WOZA activists, NCA, Students, now, is it not also the case that you were arrested about a week ago for saying teachers earn the equivalent of 17 bananas a day?

Raymond: Ya, apparently I think I have no apology to make. 17 bananas was actually an overstatement. Teachers are actually earning four and a half bananas a day and I think we cannot tolerate and allow that to continue and I think somebody has to say the buck stops here. Because, ultimately, the most important factor and the most important thing is that the world over, and citizens of this particular country must know that when ZANU PF say they liberated this country, it does not mean that they are going to take this country and run it like their own tuck-shop or say that everybody must shut up because they took us from the dungeons. That must not be allowed. We must, as citizens, be allowed to freely express, freely question and be citizens of this particular country.

Violet: And, Mr Tsunga, people are now beginning to retaliate. We saw how the WOZA women, in defiance, were throwing back tear gas canisters that had been thrown at them by the Police and also this past week we saw how Students and the NCA activists and also Opposition activists fighting back and some also assaulted police officers in Harare. Now, has Zimbabwe, has the nation now reached a tipping point?

Arnold Tsunga: Ya, you see the problem of the heavy handedness on the part of the police in dealing with peaceful protests by people on legitimate concerns about the economy, about the social-political situation in our country, it has reached a stage where we were beginning to predict that at some point people will not always be sitting and waiting to be attacked. So, I think the way to sum it up, thereís no better way than to look at what Tibaijuka (UN envoy) said in her report when she was commenting about Operation Murambatsvina. She said that the State in Zimbabwe in particular the Police, they need to show respect for the Rule of Law before they can credibly begin to ask citizens to in fact comply with the Rule of Law. So you are actually beginning to see that her prediction that in the absence of the State showing genuine commitment to the Rule of Law then you are going to see a situation where the culture of impunity, the culture of lawlessness, the culture of violence begins to permeates and pervades the whole of society.

Violet: Weíll come back to the issue of the Rule of Law, but, Mr Coltart, what are your thoughts on the unfolding events in Zimbabwe and also what is the mood of the people.

David Coltart : Well Violet we warned about this many years ago, going right the way back to the early 90ís. We said that if the ZANU PF regime refuses to respect fundamental human rights, they refuse to respect the democratic process; the right of people to choose their own government, their leaders through peaceful democratic means, that ultimately, people will lose faith in the democratic process, and that is what we are seeing happening in Zimbabwe. We have had a succession of elections stolen since 2000 and weíve seen how the regime has responded by imposing oppressive legislation and oppressive policies on the people of Zimbabwe and now the tension is rising. I liken this to a pot on the fire. Youíve got this pot on the fire with ZANU PF stoking the fire all the time through inflation, through corruption, through mismanagement, and instead of allowing the contents of the pot just to bubble and simmer they are actually putting a lid on, and the lid is through this oppressive Police action, through trying to suppress the legitimate rights of people and this has resulted in this massive build up of pressure and tension in the country and it is inevitable that this will explode. If the regime does not allow this pressure to be released through allowing people to vent their emotions and their feelings through legitimate peaceful demonstration, it is inevitable, unfortunately that this will unravel and spin out of control. So, I fear that this tension will increase and that if the Regime does not sit down and genuinely negotiate with civil society, with labour leaders, with all political parties, with the Churches to work a way out of this mess, that Zimbabwe could explode.

Violet: Also you know, the Police defied a High Court order this week, or this weekend rather, and blocked a rally organised by the Tsvangirai MDC and they also disrupted a public meeting organised by your party in Bulawayo. Has Zimbabwe officially become a police state?

David Coltart: Well, what was very worrying about this weekend was the statement made by the Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi to Professor Ncube on Friday afternoon that a decision had been taken the previous Tuesday to ban all public meetings that is a very serious development, it means that the Regime has now decided to clamp down on legitimate expressions of discontent and, as I said just now, that is just going to increase tensions. Weíve seen how the Police over the last few years have used force against organisations like the NCA, WOZA, my colleague Raymond Majongwe and many others have been subjected to this abuse. But, never before have we seen a blanket ban like this imposed. So this is a very serious development and I think itís a sign of increasing paranoia by the regime.

Arnold Tsunga : You see the history of defiance of court orders is a history that associates itself with the present government and there is nothing entirely new in terms of this government agreeing with Court Orders that favour the Ruling Party and being contemptuous and defying all those judgements that are seen as not in the interest of ZANU PF or maybe propping up the Oppositional Forces. So thereís a litany of cases that Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has been tracking where thereís been defiance of Court orders

It started in the 80ís but I think the most notable one which led to the situation in which we find ourselves now, you know, it started with the Mark Chavanduka and Ray Choto cases where they got orders against the Minister of Defence when they had been arrested by the Military Intelligence who have no policing responsibilities in the country, and then from there you saw Andrew Meldrum, he was kicked out of the country like a dog, you know sent out of the country in violation of a Court order. Then you had the Daily News case where there were various orders that had been given to restore property back to the Daily News owners and there was a Chief Superintendent Madzingo and the Commissioner of Police who defied Court Orders. The list is completely endless, you know the Roy Bennett, Chimanimani; there were numerous Court Orders in respect of the expropriation of his property, the killing, extrajudicial execution of his workers etc.

Violet: And the lawyers for Human Rights actually took some of these cases to the African Commission. What was the outcome?

Arnold Tsunga: You see what the African Commission has done is to safely frown at the flagrant defiance and disregard of Court orders by the Zimbabwean Government. But, they have also come up with recommendations generally around the issues of creating an environment that is conducive to democracy and human rights where they have made a specific recommendation that the Government should abide by the judgements of the Supreme Court and other Courts before they can begin to expect citizens to want to comply with the Court Orders and the Rule of Law. Theyíve also made very specific recommendations about the independence of the judiciary; that it needs to be guaranteed in terms of legislative processes and administrative practices. But, I think one of the most telling recommendations that they made is that you need a professional Police force that is not politicised. They made a very specific observation that the current law and order Unit is operating under political instructions and without accountability and that they needed to remove the Youth Militia from policing responsibilities.

Violet: But t hese are just recommendations that are never enforced; that can never be enforced in Zimbabwe, isnít it?

Arnold Tsunga: Ya, the issue of enforcement is one thing, I think in terms of the political acceptance, you know, the findings by an organ that has been set up by the African Heads that Zimbabwe as a State is in violation of the African Charter which is the instrument that the African leaders have said they want to bind themselves in terms of how they practice democracy in their countries, I think itís a very telling finding that the African Union has made. And then, the defiance of the Government of Zimbabwe on that recommendation is consistent with the defiance of decisions in local Courts. And, itís now up to the African Heads of State to show political muscle.

Violet: OK but the State continues to defy court orders and get away with it. Now, Mr Majongwe, is this why there are civil wars because people are then forced to take matters into their own hands, to defend themselves?

Raymond Majongwe: Let me start by commenting and looking back at what Coltart was saying, I think I agree with him when he says the issue of the boiling pot and I think I would present it poetically and say Ďno Regime will put and keep its hand on a boiling pot foreverí. But, the weakness and the tragedy in Zimbabwe is that we donít have one pot, we have five hundred pots, some that are simmering, some that are boiling, some that donít even have firewood or anything beneath them. Because the tragedy here is we have so many organisations doing so many things at the same time and thereby confusing everybody. Because, if we donít explore this particular fundamental then we would be lying and fooling ourselves. Look at it, when you speak you say NCA, PTUZ, WOZA, The Lawyers for Human Rights, the MDC, that small group there Ė Why are we making reference to a plethora of all these organisations and not talk of one single powerful movement? Because, people, many of the comrades who are talking and speaking are doing it for commercial purposes, and, if we ignore that particular fundamental then we might not be looking at this particular thing and seeing itís results. There are so many people who are engaging in this thing for material benefit, and there are people who are praying that the crisis in Zimbabwe goes to eternity.

Violet: Mr Coltart, what are your thoughts on this and also some critics say the objectives are generally too broad. They say for example the ZCTU has in the past planned to march in protest against high levels of taxation and inadequate ARVís for HIV/AIDS. Now these are all crucial issues but in Zimbabwe today are these objectives achievable and are they not too broad?

David Coltart: Well I think that thereís a general consensus about what solution should be offered to Zimbabwe. I think that thereís a broad consensus in Zimbabwe now that the way out of this crisis is through a new constitution which enjoys support from all parties and that elections must then be held in terms of that new constitution which is supervised by the International Community and endorsed by the International Community and especially SADC. So, I think that, as I say, thereís a broad consensus regarding the goal and a broad consensus regarding ideas on the way out of this mess that weíre in. However, where Raymond Majongwe is correct is that there are so many different groups pursuing their own different means of achieving that end. But Iím not sure that you can ever contain that or change that because ultimately human beings have their own personalities and you get selfish people and ambitious people and I think that in one sense the wide spectrum of organisations that we have constitute quite a headache for the regime.

For example, take the MDC split, many people look at it very negatively and in many ways it has been a negative phenomenon in our recent history, but if you look at this last weekend, had the MDC been united, you would have had the entire leadership up in Harare for example focused on that meeting and the Regime would have been able to focus all itís resources on that single meeting in Harare. Ironically, because of the split, there was a meeting in Bulawayo on the Saturday and a completely different caste of actors protesting down in Bulawayo on the Saturday and then of course on the Sunday and that must have created a headache for the Regime and the same thing with the different Unions, youíve got different Teacherís Unions.

WOZA is a completely separate organisation with a separate leadership, a separate agenda and I think that an absolute headache has been created for the CIO and the Regime as a result of this plethora of different organisations, all single minded in terms of the ultimate goal but pursuing different agendas and different avenues to get to that goal. So I donít fully agree with Ray Majongwe where he says that you know diversity is a problem. Diversity is a problem if we are pulling against each other but I think that there are increasing signs that people are starting to pull together even in their diversity, like for example the Save Zimbabwe Campaign.

Violet: But do you agree Mr Coltart that workers have been left with no choice because thereís growing frustration with the slow pace that the Opposition is engaging in resolving the crisis?

David Coltart : I can see that, of course, and I certainly agree with Ray when he says that there are people ostensibly who are civil society activists who actually are doing very well out of this crisis. There are people in NGOís who are paid in salaries that are denominated in hard currency. But not everyoneís in that position, in fact I think that thereís a small clique of people, but your point is absolutely correct that it is the workers who are suffering more than anyone else and the unemployed as well and they have been left out on a limb, but I think that the economic collapse is becoming so intense now that the middle class and even people that considered themselves fairly wealthy are now facing economic destruction and are as a result, being pulled into these campaigns in which the Unions have been the vanguard up until now.

Violet: Let me go back to Raymond Majongwe. Others have said that the other problem is that itís not just the countryís workforce that is suffering and that there are all these other people like housewives, farm workers, other people that are self-employed. How do you get all these groups involved?

Raymond Majongwe: Ya, apparently the most important thing that really needs to be understood, if you really go back to history; a lot of people dismiss history as nothing; but history should be able to teach us that where people are going to be united, where people are going to rally behind the necessary few things, where people are going to be led by a single leadership in terms of directing operations, you are likely to find out that results come easier and quicker. You look at the South African process, you look at Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, you look at many other African countries. You are really not going to succeed if youíre going to have splinter-ism and so many of these small groups doing a lot of things here and there. Whilst it is correct that people might see the CIO being stretched, but I honestly donít want to believe that the CIO will not be stretched because there are a group of seven people gathering under a tree singing a song or wanting to do that thing there. Ultimately, the whole thing is that if people want to see real political change, the housewives, the workers in the farms, the people who are suffering with HIV and AIDS, those people who are failing to get transport, the people who are failing to send their children to school, we need to correctly agenda-set.

And, agenda-setting will be correctly done by a group of people who will sit down, come up with the correct credentials in terms of how they are going to build the momentum within the country, because, itís not going to be good and nice because the ultimate beneficiary of what is happening in the country is ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe. We are going to have a lot of this confusion and the people will continue suffering! Iíll just maybe end this particular submission by saying the more people have these splinter organisations that are going to be fighting and most of all, if you really trace them back, many of the people who are in all these NGOís were at one point in one organisation in the past.

In 1986, í87, í88 many were at one institution, then you come to 1995, í96, í97 there is one organisation then the organisation split and these same people still belong to the same organisation because they are still members in the other organisation. So much so that I honestly want to believe that the split between the MDC is not a solution to the crisis. The split in many of these small organisations worsens the situation in the country and ZANU PF becomes the biggest beneficiary. Only until and unless all these organisations come back, discuss, have at least a correct shared vision under a correct leadership. Because, democracy doesnít mean that everybody must be doing their own thing separately and independently, because if democracy means that then Zimbabwe will be far away from what we are seeking to achieve.

Violet: What about Mr Tsunga can you give us your thoughts on this, some have said that strategies and tactics are not clear because there is no core issue in which people can base the struggle on. Do you agree with this?

Arnold Tsunga: You know, I think generally Zimbabweans have an idea about what they want. They obviously want a democratic society. They believe that a constitution that is arrived at after involvement, you know, genuine involvement of people in terms of process is desired, and that you hold elections that are going to be supervised by the International Community around giving life to a constitution that will have been established with popular people participation. I think, in terms of that being the end-game, thereís absolutely no doubt that there is clarity. But then, the how to get there; which is basically the methodologies and the processes; thatís where, unfortunately, there seems to be disagreement or lack of clarity as to what route we are going to take. And, the issue of diversity, in terms of having many organisations that are involved in the pro-democracy movement, in the human rights movement as well as in the political processes; in the absence of a clear, coherent strategy, yes, there is going to be confusion.

So, on the strategy side, what you need is a method of cohering these organisations if they cannot come under one umbrella organisation. The ideal thing would be for all of them to be participating in one organisation under one umbrella and agitating for change as one. But if, for some reason, the diversity or the disagreements are such that itís not going to be possible to do that, then you need to be moving towards a strategy of coherence where the different groups are interdependently working but in a coherent manner, which then emphasises what David Coltart was talking about, that you have a number of spontaneous activities in many parts of the country. It stretches the Police, it stretches the CIO, it stretches the justice delivery system, itís becomes very expensive for the dictatorship and thatís one way in which you can actually continue knocking on the pillars that support dictatorship.

Violet : And Majongwe, would you agree that as Arnold Tsunga has just said and David Coltart, that strikes and CBD protests could be just merely tactics and if so, how do all these things connect and feed into a broader strategy that encompasses the concerns of the general population

Raymond Majongwe: Ya, I think it is there that I differ with a lot of people. If you are going to have the Teachers going on strike in one week, then the doctors and the nurses in the other week then the farm workers in the other week, then so and so in the other week, I honestly want to believe that it is there that we will fail because I am convinced that a wholesale approach when all of us come together will really be the best in terms of having people to say - now we are going to be doing this. But nonetheless I honestly am convinced that maybe the people in this country havenít come to a point where they necessarily agree because ultimately you are going to find out that so many small things happening in different places will obviously stretch the people who are then following these things up. But, in terms of the strategy, in terms of the ultimate political goal and vision, nothing changes, because I go to prison today, so and so goes to prison the next day. Because ultimately if you really look at it this country does not have political prisoners anyway. People still are talking about POSA and AIPPA, laws that we have all seen that they are discredited. If we really say we want to liberate this country, POSA and AIPPA are nothing but just laws, and people must ignore them. People must be prepared to challenge the system and say this is what we believe in even if it means death, even if it means going to prison. But then the people that are here are not ready to do that!

Violet Gonda: Mr Coltart?

David Coltart: Violet Ya I did want to chip in there. I think that what Ray is saying is the ideal. Look, obviously the ideal is that you get a co-ordinated strategy, you get all these different groups working together with agreements and strategy and tactics. But I think that in very few struggles throughout the world has that happened. I think that our best and perhaps closest example is what happened in South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, there were many different political organisations. There was the ANC, the PAC, the IFP; there were civic organisations, the Legal Resources Centre, Black Sash and the Churches, a wide variety of organisations with different agendas. But, ultimately, what changed things was when they agreed to work under the UDF and you had an inspirational figure who had no political ambitions in the form of Desmond Tutu who provided leadership along with other people - brought all these disparate organisations together. But, even then, they didnít manage to co-ordinate things perfectly but there was a broad mass of organisations with a single goal in mind, the removal of apartheid.

And, ultimately, it worked and I think that we are getting to a similar stage in Zimbabwe and whilst I understand Rayís ideal, I just want to encourage him and other Zimbabweans. I think that what weíre seeing in Zimbabwe, certainly in the last few weeks, is resistance and defiance taking on a life of its own. And Iím no longer worried because I see so many different organisations now realising that unless there is fundamental change in this country which is only going to come through a new constitution, through a new order, life will just get tougher and tougher. And, what we desperately need now is an organisation like the UDF in South Africa which we may find in the Save Zimbabwe organisation; we may find in the Christian Alliance a neutral body, a body of men and women who have no political ambition themselves, who act to coalesce all these different organisations, to give it some structure, to give it coherence and then I think you will see this process of defiance and resistance gather momentum.

Violet Gonda: Be sure not to miss this crucial and frank debate next week

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