of 'Hot Seat' with poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and Pedzisai Ruhanya
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Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
March 13, 2007
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In the programme
'Hot Seat' Journalist Violet Gonda talks to Zimbabwean
poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and Pedzisai Ruhanya an Information
Officer with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition about the arrests
and assault of Save Zimbabwe Campaigners in the last few days in
Gonda: We welcome on the programme 'Hot Seat' Zimbabwean
poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and journalist Pedzisai Ruhanya who
is also an Information Officer with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.
Chenjerai Hove: Thank
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Ya,
Gonda: Now a lot has been happening or going down in Zimbabwe in
the last few days and I know that Pedzisai you've been following
the events on the ground with the political and civic leaders who
were arrested on Sunday. First of all, can you give us an update
on what's been happening so far?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Ya,
currently as we are speaking a few minutes ago we were feeding those
guys who've been arrested, they are currently at the Avenues
Clinic in Harare where some of them have been admitted. So the Court
proceedings could not go ahead because the conditions of the detainees
were not good, some of them were passing out and as a result they
had to be taken by ambulance to the Court and as we are speaking
they are being attended to by a team of doctors at the Avenues Clinic.
So that's the situation as it is now. Court proceedings have
been suspended pending the treatment of these detainees.
And we understand that the magistrate did not turn up?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Yes,
from around 1.00 to 3.00 o'clock when some of the detainees
were taken to the Avenues Clinic, there was no magistrate but we
were told that around 6.00 o'clock the Chief Magistrate, one
Guramombe, Mishrod Guramombe, he is now at the court awaiting the
release of the detainees from the hospital so that the proceedings
can go ahead in the dead of the night.
So even though they've been taken to hospital they are still
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Yes
they are still arrested, the police are here and as we were giving
food we were told what to do and what not to do by armed riot police
so they are still arrested and under arrest and the police are . . .
And before we go, oh sorry, carry on?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Yes,
I was saying the police that the police are in charge at the hospital;
they have taken over the security of the hospital.
And before we go to Mr Hove, are you able to describe for us Pedzisai
what you saw in terms of their conditions because we understand
that some of the leaders like Mr Morgan Tsvangirai had serious injuries
and people like Grace Kwinjeh. Can you tell us what you saw ?
Pedzisai: Ya, I saw Morgan
Tsvangirai, he had a blood-stained shirt, he had a cut on the head;
he had deep cuts on the head. I saw Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, he was
bandaged, his shirt was full of blood. I saw Grace Kwinjeh her right
ear is damaged and she had blisters, she had swollen legs. I saw
Holland, Sekai Holland; she was in a pathetic state of condition,
in fact the riot police had to assist her to get into the ambulance.
So generally the condition of the detainees was not good, it was
Now Mr Hove, what's your interpretation of these events, what's
your comment on this?
Chenjerai Hove: I think
that tyrannical regimes at the end, when nothing else is left that
they can use, they use brute force and this has happened in many
countries that where the government knows that it has made every
error, every mistake political and economic, they resort to the
most brutal methods, they resort to violence and cruelty. So, for
me, it looks like everybody knows that the regime is collapsing
so it wants to collapse with many corpses.
And you know, Pedzisai back to you, and I know that right now it's
a bit difficult for you to talk because you are actually at the
Avenues Clinic where you know most of the detainees are and the
police have surrounded the area as you've said. But, could
you tell us, because you are on the ground, do extraordinary and
unsafe conditions exist in Zimbabwe right now?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Ya,
the political environment in Zimbabwe it is very bad, because as
these people were in detention, I think you have heard that two
other activists were shot and injured by the police at the funeral
in Glen View, at the funeral of the late Gift Tandare. And, as we
were at the Magistrates Court, when Tsvangirai was leaving the Magistrates
Court to be escorted to the Avenues Hospital, people broke into
a song Ishe Komborera, others were crying, you know, relatives were
crying because you can't believe the state in which Morgan
Tsvangirai is, you can't believe that this is a lawful citizen,
a legitimate leader of the Opposition in this country, but the manner
in which he was brutalised is just simply shocking and tempers are
rising in Zimbabwe. You would also remember that just yesterday
when Tsvangirai's torture was made public, people in Mutare
responded by demonstrating, and a lot of people, I think close to
125 people were arrested by the police. So the situation in Zimbabwe
is very bad.
And Mr Hove, you know, as Pedzisai has said and also we've
all seen how the violence this time was so severe and many people
believe that the regime is trying to break the back of the opposition.
So you know, does any of this activism, particularly rallies, get
us any closer to achieving a resolution to this crisis?
Chenjerai Hove: I think
rallies are part of the programme that can be used, but not the
only one, I think a multiplicity of methods have to be used in conjunction
with rallies. Because if there are no gathering points, if there
are no meetings, people become isolated they lose hope and they
despair into apathy which is painful. So people have to re-group
every now and then and that is part of the project and it should
work like that but of course there are the risks. But, this risk
is also necessary because I think that by brutalising the nation
the State itself is brutalising itself. It's presenting its
ugly face and that makes people who see that the Government does
not respect any law that makes them actually stand up and also possibly
end up not respecting any law. That's why people are fighting
the police now, they are throwing stones at the police because they
have seen that the police who are supposed to protect them are actually
commissioned to kill them.
Pedzisai do you think that a lot of people on the ground understand
why it's important to participate in these protests and attend
rallies? Do they see how their participation can cause change?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Ya
I think there's a lot of appreciation by the Zimbabweans that
the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis needs people to express
their views on how they are governed. And, what has critically happened,
I think there is an issue that has not been pointed out, on Sunday
11th March, I happened to be one of the people who was present.
I saw Morgan Tsvangirai, I saw Professor Arthur Mutambara, I saw
Dr Lovemore Madhuku conversing, discussing on how they think the
crisis in Zimbabwe should be resolved. And now I think the State
is in a quandary, they don't understand what is going on,
they have been celebrating the divisions in the MDC but now, Morgan
Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara, Lovemore Madhuku and others are sharing
the same cells. They are together as I speak, they have been talking.
So they are in a quandary as to understand the reasons behind this
unity, the reasons behind the coming together. And the followers
of the MDC and the people in civil society who matter are here and
they have made a statement that they are not going to give up. In
Glen View, as I speak to you there's a funeral and up to 500
people are there so people believe that fighting the regime, just
like during the liberation struggle people confronted Smith, they
believe that confronting the regime, expressing themselves, exercising
their rights is the way to the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
That's the question that I wanted to ask you that, this is
the first time you know since the MDC split last year, that we have
seen both factions of the Opposition working together. Is what happened
to the leaders a perfect recipe for re-unification Pedzisai?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: I may
not be privy to what they are doing, but from what people are talking,
from what we hear, particularly the coming together of these people,
because you'll remember that when these people were arrested
they were actually moving in the same convoy. They actually had
a brief meeting where Tsvangirai and Mutambara discussed and agreed
that they need to do one, two, three things. So, there is hope among
Zimbabweans that their coming together in action, their coming together
in unity to confront the common enemy of Zimbabweans, in a way shows
that something could be in the offing. We may not be privy to the
finer details, but their understanding of the Zimbabwean crisis
and their coming together is something that shows Zimbabweans that
there is some unity of some sort.
And Mr Hove, some critics would say that although there seems to
be leadership commitment what seems to be missing right now is the
mobilisation capabilities to get groundswell support. Do you agree
Chenjerai Hove: No but
I think that observation lacks understanding of the political situation
in the country. There is repression in every corner, everywhere;
the secret police are in every household, in every institution.
It's very difficult for the leadership to simply be able to
mobilise at every level as they wish. People have been ruled through
fear from 1965 during UDI under the State of Emergency and that
fear is still there. So, the little that is happening now, even
now surfacing, is a result of people having realised that even if
they isolate themselves they cannot to be subdued and suffer and
pretend to be happy at home. So, this is, I think, leading to other
things which, as Pedzisai was saying, even the leaders are realising
that even if they are divided they will be victimised, even if they
are together they will be victimised. So they realise that they
should be together because they will be victimised anyway but they
will form a closer bond when they are together in order to be able
to put together a strong plan of action to the nation. But, it goes
with sacrifices. There are sacrifices that the leaders are beginning
to realise that they have to sacrifice their individual positions
to be able to create a greater and more powerful platform.
In the recent International Crisis Group report on Zimbabwe there's
a roadmap for change in Zimbabwe which is the retirement of Mugabe
and then a transitional government leading to a new constitution
and elections. Now, will a change of face change things in Zimbabwe?
Will a change of face solve the problem?
Chenjerai Hove: I think
so but what I am worried about, if Mugabe was not there in power
things will move smoothly and there are people on both sides who
are prepared to sit and negotiate and discuss and share certain
common grounds. But, I think that my worry is that President Mugabe
will not yield power. He will not give up power. He is a man who
is absolutely power hungry and thirsty for power. He will not listen
to anything which makes him lose power, he wants to die in power.
That is where the problem is. We have always said that the problem
in Zimbabwe is Mugabe.
You know, Mugabe just turned 83 this year and those who saw his
birthday interview say he was just rambling. Do you think he is
still physically fit to govern?
Chenjerai Hove: If it
was a matter of being physically fit alone that would be no problem
but I think his mind; he is completely out of touch with reality.
He is not fit to govern. People, everybody knows that the President
is no longer fit to govern, his mind, psychologically is not strong
enough, he was just rambling on and he is being kept there by people
who are wanting to keep him there so that they can loot the economy,
they can plunder the resources of the country, because, as you can
see each Minister is running is own private fiefdom. Ministers are
doing what they want, they make that statement, another Minister
that one, a Police Commissioner makes a different statement, so
nobody is actually in control. So, the man has actually lost the
capacity to govern and people have to face that in the country.
And Pedzisai, what did you make of the ICG recommendations and the
issue of an interim government? Do you think any of this is feasible?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: I disagree
with the ICG report on the premise that it is not Mugabe alone who
is the problem. The problem in Zimbabwe is a problem of legitimacy
and governance and in order to deal with the crisis of legitimacy
and governance that the country has been grappling with for perhaps
seven years or so, we need an overhaul on the governance structure
of Zimbabwe. And, critically, we need a constitutional overhaul,
we need to create structures that can produce democratic processes
and democratic outcomes. So, what we need fundamentally in Zimbabwe
is not necessarily a change of government, but a change of governance.
But, in the case of Zimbabwe a change of governance means also a
change of government. Because if we change the structures of governance
in this country we put structures that can produce legitimate processes
and legitimate democratic institutions, everything will be OK. But,
if we change a government without necessarily changing the institutional
framework that governs our country it means we have not done anything
because we are simply putting someone into the shoes of a flawed
political structure and we can reproduce the kind of violence, the
kind of state that we have in this country. So, beyond the change
of government, we need a change of governance, we need a new constitutional
dispensation. That's why some scholars in constitutionalism
say that constitutions are not made for the angels we know but for
both the angels and devils we don't know. We need a constitutional
framework that treats both angels and devils equally. So we would
be narrow to say we need a change of government, we need fundamentally
a change of governance and we know, in the Zimbabwean case, if we
change the governance structure it automatically follows that the
interim government is also booted out.
But how do you get to that point because we've seen how pro-democracy
groups since 2000, you know the Opposition since 2000 calling for
a new constitution. How do they get to that point?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Listen
Violet my sister, the struggle in which Zimbabweans are in is not
a struggle for sprinters; it is a struggle for long-distance runners.
We know people are in despair because of the continuity of the current
crisis that we have. If you look at the history of regimes in Zimbabwe
that has governed this country since colonial rule, the life of
a regime in Zimbabwe has been that long, but, ultimately, change
has always, changes have always come. Even if you look at the history
of Hitler, how many years did Hitler rule in Germany and what is
the state of Germany today? There has never been a regime in the
history of mankind that has been there for all time. So, if we understand
that, it therefore means that, yes, it may take time to remove this
regime but ultimately this regime is going. If you look at what
they are doing now this is not consistent with an illegitimate regime.
It may take time, it will take deaths, it will take assaults, but,
ultimately, this regime is going to leave office.
And Mr Hove, as an observer, are there any other alternatives?
Chenjerai Hove: I think
that for example, what I think ideally this Crisis Group report
gives a possibility of an interim situation. That would be an ideal
situation in which a transitional mechanism will be able to put
all the constitutional things in place before a proper election
is held or proper elections at every level are held. So this is
why in the long term, I think we need this transitional arrangement
which will actually change the structures of government in order
to write a new constitution, to change the bad laws, to change electoral
laws, to be able to put an efficient well managed democratic institution
in all corners of governance, including the judiciary even. So,
while the fight is long term, it's for long distance runners
as Pedzi is saying, it's also important that sprinters are
needed to be able to change this crisis, to be able to transform
this crisis into a positive force which can bear fruit, which can
actually produce what we need in the long term. If we fight for
the long term solution only, I think we will have a lot of casualties
to early and people will probably go back into apathy again. So
what the situation in Zimbabwe needs I think as far as I can see,
is a quick solution at the moment because it is a crisis which is
actually a catastrophic crisis. And, when that mechanism is there
which is put in there to change things; to be able to create long-term
solutions to all these crisis which have been created over the last
27 years, then we can make that transformation and make that the
mistakes of 27 years ago will not be repeated again.
And you know, some of said maybe Mugabe should be offered a retirement
package. Now do you think an exit strategy that left Mugabe free
of prosecution for crimes against humanity will be acceptable to
Chenjerai Hove: I think
some sections of the population will not accept that. Look, I used
to work a lot, to do some work in Matabeleland. People there some
time ago were asking just for an apology and an acknowledgement,
that the brutality of the Fifth Brigade must be acknowledged and
the President must apologise. He refused. He simply said it was
a time of madness, whose madness he didn't say. The other
time later on when I used to go to Matabeleland, when I used to
work there, people were so angry because there were youngsters who
didn't go to school because their parents had been killed
and there no death certificates for them to be able to get a birth
certificate to write an exam at grade seven. So they are extremely
angry. It would be very difficult for a people whose anger and frustration
has been stretched for so long to be able to forgive and make him
have a nice time as if nothing happened. People will have a lot
of problems in forgiving a man who goes on for all these years without
accepting responsibility for the things that he actually did. So
that would be difficult. As far as a package is concerned, the President
has always had a package open for him, I mean, the late President
Banana had his package, exit package, beautiful one. The President
is entitled to his salary until he dies if he retires, and all the
other benefits are there. But the exit package after human rights
abuses; I don't think people will accept that.
And Pedzisai, the International Community have imposed targeted
sanctions on members of the Zimbabwean Government, and so my question
is what else can the International Community do because it seems
that the targeted sanctions seem not to be having any effect? And
also, why do you think African countries are so reluctant to condemn
human rights abuses in Zimbabwe?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: I think
first of all, we, as Zimbabweans, we need to be seen to be doing
quite enough before we cry for international help. Yes, international
help is needed to support our struggle. But, fundamentally and critically,
we need to mobilise our people, we need Zimbabweans to take agenda
of their own liberation. It is only when we are organised on the
ground, when Tsvangirai, when Mutambara, when civic society leaders,
when community leaders speak with one voice, identify the problem,
that the problem in this country is a manufactured problem, manufactured
by Mugabe and his cohorts. We confront them, like what is happening.
We know it is painful when we say people must sacrifice, when you
have someone's father, someone's mother, when you have
someone's sister, when you have someone's brother but
the moment we become organised it will be very easy for the International
Community to intervene. But, if we are divided, if we are not organised,
it becomes very difficult for them to simply say 'we are coming
to Zimbabwe, Mugabe is bad'. Let us, let Zimbabweans on our
own prove that Mugabe is bad by defying illegitimate laws, by defying
illegitimate directions by the regime police officers. And, it is
only when we do certain things, like what happened on Sunday that
the International Community has a standing to say what is happening
in Zimbabwe is wrong. But, if we are not organised, if we are not
united, if we don't involve the communities that we live in,
it becomes difficult for the International Community to intervene
on the basis of press statements, on the basis of megaphone diplomacy.
We need to be on the ground, do empirical things, observable things
like what Tsvangirai and Mutambara and others who have been attacked
by the police did on Sunday. This should continue. And it is on
those premise that the International Community has the strength
to come and intervene?
And finally, Mr Hove, if discontent is widespread, what is the spark
in your view that will change things in Zimbabwe right now?
Chenjerai Hove: What
might happen, for me, especially if the Opposition fails to come
with a common front, a solid common front, is that the young people
are going to be so angry that nothing for them will matter for them
any more and the country might go up in flames because the government
doesn't observe it's own laws and even when it makes
illegal laws then it breaks them again and the young people are
really over stressed and they are going to be more angry, which
is the worst case scenario for me. They will be so angry that they
will just, like the food riots of a few years ago, they will just
burn everything on their way. So, that is a possibility which is
now there which I think the regime now knows is a very, very likely
And Pedzisai, a final word?
Pedzisai Ruhanya: I think
we will not have a situation where we have unorganised sort of spontaneous
demonstrations. We have the Opposition organising itself as we speak
under the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, and this last weekend was organised
by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign which brings everybody together. But,
I agree with my brother Hove when he says that if people don't
come together, if people don't organise themselves and people
start doing what happened in 1998 when we had the food riots, we
can have such a situation, because each time we had public meetings
at Crisis, you will hear people saying 'tipei zvishandiso',
when they say 'tipei zvishandiso' they are saying 'arm
us because we cannot continue to be attacked by armed people while
we have no arms'. This is the worst scenario, root of conflict;
it's not good for us. So, we need this process to be guided
and we need leadership in these processes. People are angry and
we need people who channel this anger in a democratic fashion in
order to resolve this crisis.
Gonda : thank you very much Pedzisai Ruhanya and Chenjerai Hove.
Pedzisai Ruhanya: Thank
Chenjerai Hove: It's
can be heard on SW Radio Africa's Hot Seat programme (Tues
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