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  • Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign

  • Transcript of 'Hot Seat' with poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and Pedzisai Ruhanya
    Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
    March 13, 2007

    View Save Zimbabwe Campaign index of images and articles

    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 Zimbabwe.

    Violet 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 you

    Pedzisai Ruhanya: Ya, welcome

    Violet 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: So even though they've been taken to hospital they are still under arrest?

    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 . . .

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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 very bad.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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 with this?

    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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet: 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 the people?

    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.

    Violet: 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?

    Violet: 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 possibility.

    Violet: 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.

    Violet Gonda : thank you very much Pedzisai Ruhanya and Chenjerai Hove.

    Pedzisai Ruhanya: Thank you

    Chenjerai Hove: It's my pleasure.

    Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa's Hot Seat programme (Tues 13 March 2007). Comments and feedback can be emailed to

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