THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Transcript of 'Hot Seat' interview with Arthur Mutambara and Lovemore Madhuku
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
May 08, 2007

On the programme 'Hot Seat' journalist Violet Gonda hosts the final discussion with one of the MDC Presidents Professor Arthur Mutambara and National Constitutional Assembly chairman Dr. Lovemore Madhuku.

Violet: We bring you the final segment of a two-part teleconference with opposition leader Professor Arthur Mutambara (right) and civic leader Dr Lovemore Madhuku (left) on the programme Hot Seat.

The discussion last week centred on the status of the talks with South Africa's Thabo Mbeki with Dr Madhuku ending that particular discussion sharing his reservations about the consultative process. He said civic society doesn't know what is happening as far as the talks are concerned, as they have not been involved. Dr. Madhuku pointed out that they have little trust in politicians as they are in the habit of making compromises. Critics have said there seems to be a lot of posturing from political parties on the issue of the crisis talks. So I then asked Professor Mutambara if someone should put together a group of stakeholders as they did in South Africa with CODESA, instead of just politicians negotiating behind the scenes.

Professor Arthur Mutambara: In answering your question let me just quickly agree with Dr. Madhuku. Zimbabweans will be masters of their own destiny. We cannot depend on foreigners to deliver us from this dictatorship. We should be in charge of our lives. We can't out source our emancipation to foreigners. So our success will depend on activities on the ground, it will depend on what we are doing ourselves as Zimbabweans as opposed to focusing on what Mbeki, SADC or the West can do for us. So that is a very important point. We are going to be the ones responsible for our emancipation, not Mbeki and not SADC. Secondly we must make sure that we have an all stakeholder approach. Political parties cannot be engaging ZANU and Mbeki on their own. They must leverage the wisdom - they must involve civic society. It's an all stakeholder approach we seek in our country. So we agree that it has to be a CODESA type activity. It must involve civic society in a formal way not informally but formally because we are in this fight together. We need to make sure that the political parties are involved in a process of thorough and formal consultation with civic society. We want to learn from the Kempton Park processes in South Africa - CODESA 1, CODESA 2. We want to learn from Kenya so that we can actually be effective in terms of what we are doing in our country.

Violet: So have you actually identified who your friends are in Africa because many people believe that as long as these other African countries are attached to South Africa by the hip, many believe that Robert Mugabe will get his own way?

Professor Arthur Mutambara: I think that is a very simplistic way of looking at things. We don't share that observation. We have faith in the African government of the ANC; we have faith in Africans being able to provide mediation in our environment. We believe the Africans are more effective than westerners in Zimbabwe because of the history of double standards, hypocrisy on the part of the West. So the West can do justice to us by making sure they support the SADC initiative, they support President Mbeki in this initiative because the Africans are the most effective in terms of trying to push for change and push for democratic change in Zimbabwe. But we want to emphasize that we agree that we don't want any piecemeal approach to reforming our constitution - Amendment 18, Amendment 19. We don't want any of that. We want a holistic and comprehensive approach to changing our constitution. We share the reservations of Dr. Madhuku around that and also we share his reservations about politicians. We don't want to depend on Mutambara; we don't want to depend on the politician. We must depend on institutions; we must depend on value systems. We have seen it in Kenya where they promised to deliver a constitution but up to now Kibaki has not done that. So we are also very, very strong about having a constitutional dispensation before a new government takes over because there is a danger that these politicians, like myself, will get carried away with power and not deliver on the essence of a new constitution. So we would want to make sure Zimbabweans should never depend on personalities or depend on politicians but rather depend on systems, processes and institutions so that we can have a holistic and comprehensive approach to changing our constitution before a new government takes over. We have seen this in the past . . .

Violet: But Mr. Mutambara why do you believe that Thabo Mbeki will do things differently this time because he was been embarking on this quiet diplomacy for a long time and some critics say he really doesn't have any faith in Zimbabwe's opposition. Why do you trust him now that he will do things differently?

Professor Arthur Mutambara: First and foremost we don't speak for Mbeki, Mbeki speaks for himself. What we can say to you is that this time around it's not a Mbeki mandate it's a SADC mandate, it's an African mandate. Secondly, the Africans in general from Kuffour, Mwanawasa, Mbeki, Ian Khama are very clear in their minds in terms of the nature of the brutality that Mugabe is meting out on Africans. Mugabe is now clearly a despot who is brutalizing black Africans, who is denying black Africans human rights. Who is denying black Africans economic opportunities and there is movement in opinions and attitudes in Africa vis a vi Mugabe. And so that is a starting point. This is not business as usual. It's clear to Africans in the Diaspora, it's clear to Africans in Africa that Mugabe is no longer a liberator, he is no longer a liberation hero, he is no longer a land revolutionary.

Secondly Mbeki has more than Zimbabwe on his mind. We are talking about national strategic interests for South Africa. The World Cup 2010 soccer is a national achievement for South Africa. It's a regional achievement for SADC. It's a continental achievement for Africa so the Africans are not prepared to have Zimbabwe spoil that opportunity for Africa to showcase itself in this world cup. So, if you want at a very cynical level, South Africa has clearly strategic interests in resolving the Zimbabwean crisis. That's new, that's new, that's different from the past and in any case we have faith that the Africans in South African believe in the success of SADC. They believe that they cannot have SADC succeeding without Zimbabwe. They cannot have Africa succeeding without Zimbabwe functioning properly as an economy. So we have faith that there is good will on the part of the ANC government, there is goodwill on the part of Mbeki. As Africans they believe the destiny of Africa is dependent on the success of Zimbabwe and so we are saying, "let's give Africans the opportunity and space to bring about effective intervention in our country." When all is said and done we must continue with the fight in our country to get freedom. We can't out source our liberation to foreigners. We must be masters of our own destiny and the price of freedom is death! Give me freedom or give me death. If Zimbabweans are not prepared to sacrifice their lives to be free then they don't deserve freedom! So we must continue with our defiance campaign. We must continue confronting Mugabe so that we can bring about change in this country.

Violet: Dr. Madhuku your thoughts on this because while Mbeki is facilitating dialogue, Mugabe continues to beat opposition leaders and supporters and is this not an indication that he has already - Mugabe has already started his election rigging campaign? And do you think Zimbabweans will get a fair deal?

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: I think we should understand what Professor Mutambara is saying and I think I made the point also. The point that the basic approach that we have is that we will have action here in Zimbabwe. That is what our focus is on - a united front that puts pressure on Mugabe to get the reforms that we want. The initiative by SADC where President Mbeki is involved is actually indicated on the actions that SADC is playing, Zimbabweans are playing. And remember that SADC only met after 11 March when all of us were arrested - Mutambara there, Tsvangirai, myself - all of us. That's when SADC came in and so it's not like we are sitting and waiting to see what Mbeki does, we are sitting to see what the SADC initiative is all about. We are engaged daily in the struggle to get our country better to achieve the kind of objectives that we have set that Professor Mutambara has clearly outlined. And it is in that context that we would really, with a lot of hope, see what President Mbeki does. If the SADC initiative or the Mbeki initiative comes to nothing that will not mean that our struggle will come to nothing. It will simply mean that initiative has not worked but the struggle for Zimbabweans is continuing. That's what our objective is at the moment.

Violet: And what about the violence issue. Who is going to run, let's say the 2008 election campaign when the leadership from the opposition is spending time recovering and severely weakened? Dr Madhuku?

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: There will be no election campaign without the violence stopping. There will be no election campaign without a new constitution. There will be no election campaign without a clear democratic dispensation in this country. I think the assumption you are making is that - not withstanding all that you are saying - if Mugabe calls an election tomorrow or the next day and has done no changes; he is still violent, he is still abducting people, he is still crippling the opposition we will still say; "Okay let's go to an election?" This is the point that has changed. This is the point that we wish to make clear to the world that as Zimbabweans we have reached a stage where we are able to say; "No we will not accept that." Mugabe can do that kind of façade called an election but he will do it on his own!

Violet: So what are you saying exactly because if elections are going to be held next year and so far the negotiations haven't actually started its just facilitating dialogue between the political parties, will there be enough time?

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: Ya there will be a lot of time. In fact the whole basis is that there is enough time for us. There is nothing that is cast in stone. March is not cast in stone. What is cast in stone is that Zimbabweans must determine for themselves the kind of country that they want to see. That's what is cast in stone. The people must decide how they want to governed and that is all. I am sure Professor Mutambara has a lot to add on that point.

Violet: Professor Mutambara?

Professor Arthur Mutambara: Ya, you see March 2008 is just a number, meaningless number. The most important thing in our country is the issue of creating conditions amenable to free and fair elections. We could care less about the name, the number - March 2008. If there is total buy in, if there is political will, if they are irreversible processes towards a new constitution if everyone is agreed we are working together and it requires 15months to get a new constitution in place, it requires 15 months to carry out electoral law reforms, we will allow the 15 months to be used in the creation of those conditions. That is if there are irreversible processes towards a new constitution. SO the obsession with elections must be killed in our country. We don't want people who talk elections, elections. We are not interested in elections without a new constitution. We are not interested in elections without new electoral laws. So the obsession should not be March 2008. The obsession is - "Do we have conditions in our country that allow us to have free and fair elections?

Also we are saying - that first election under the new constitution, under the new dispensation must be internationally supervised. Mugabe and ZANU have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that they are not capable of carrying out free and fair elections. So international supervision of that first election. So please our charge, our mandate is to say - let's not be obsessed with elections. Let's be obsessed with creating conditions that will allow us to have free and fair elections and let's allow the necessary amount of time required to allow those conditions to take route in our society so that whatever government is elected is a legitimate government that is not being challenged by those who have lost that election.

So, yes we would want to have a new constitution, electoral laws and removal of AIPPA by March 2008 but if we sit down as Zimbabweans and agree that it will take us two years, it will take us 15 months we will allow the necessary amount of time to be put into the process of producing a genuine political dispensation that allows us to have a new society.

Violet: What about the issue of sanctions? Some have said that all that Thabo Mbeki has to do right now is threaten to close the border like what South Africa did with Ian Smith. Do you agree with this?

Professor Arthur Mutambara: First and foremost we have never . . .

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: We have never called for sanctions . . .

Professor Arthur Mutambara: . . . called for sanction against our country. Just briefly before Dr Madhuku comes in. We have never called for sanctions against our country. We have said publicly - the biggest imposer of sanctions on Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF. The sanctions of corruption, the sanctions of misrule, the sanctions of illegitimacy, the sanctions of complete economic mismanagement. Mugabe must remove those sanctions against Zimbabweans before he discusses the removal of sanctions by other people. Now with the South Africans we are say; "The South Africans must use what ever influence they have to drive Mugabe - the dictator - to the negotiating table." We are not going to prescribe to them how to do it. We are saying you are Africans. We are saying you have a vested interest in the processes of Zimbabwe so use whatever influences you have to force the opposition, to force Mugabe to dialogue and come up with solutions for Zimbabweans. So we respect the government of South Africa and we believe they are genuine and we are saying they must use whatever influences they have to drive the process towards dialogue in our country.

Violet: And Dr. Madhuku you were just about to say something about the sanctions?

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: Yes I was actually going to give a shorter answer than that. Mine was clearly that we have never called for sanctions. What we have called upon the international community to do is to support the cause of Zimbabweans who are fighting for democracy. Like what Professor Mutambara is saying - we are not going to tell the world how to do it. What we have asked the world to do is "you see what we are doing, we will do it as Zimbabweans and we will call upon your support." That is all we have been doing and will continue to do.

Violet: And Dr. Madhuku what are the possible scenarios, in a nutshell, that can unfold in Zimbabwe. Now that the SADC heads of state have tasked Thabo Mbeki with facilitating dialogue between the political parties?

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: The first scenario is of course the initiative by SADC where Mugabe agrees to come to the negotiating table and talks to the opposition, perhaps with the involvement of civic society and some settlement is reached and he agrees to constitutional reform and thereafter elections. That will be like the ideal scenario and so on. But there is the other likely scenario where Mugabe would like to confuse the SADC leaders, pretending that there is no time to do this wholesale initiative coming from themselves and then continues to push in the direction of saying - please we are running a democracy here and that the problem is the opposition and then goes ahead with the election that his party has called for March 2008. In that event it will very much depend on what we do as the united group of civic society and the opposition: -whether we legitimize Mugabe by participating in those elections or we simply, as we are saying currently, non participation in the election. If we were to not participate in the election Mugabe would clearly be illegitimate and the process of continuing with pressure will be shorter. Within a year of that restricted non event we will get a Zimbabwe that is free, with free and fair elections, internationally supervised and under a new constitution.

Violet: And a final word Professor Mutambara

Professor Arthur Mutambara: We are saying Zimbabweans are going to be masters of their own destiny. We are going to free ourselves from this dictatorship. We appreciate the assistance and mediation from foreigners but we don't depend on foreigners, we depend on ourselves. We are also saying we don't depend on the benevolence of Robert Mugabe. We are not going to be freed by Robert Mugabe committing political suicide or Robert Mugabe self destructing on our part. We are saying Mugabe will have no choice. We are going to drive Mugabe to the negotiating table. We are going to force Mugabe to deliver what we want in the same way that Smith delivered what we wanted in 1980. And so we won't depend on the goodwill of Robert Mugabe. We will depend on our actions on the ground. We will depend on our sacrifices on the ground to deliver this change.

In terms of scenarios, we are hopeful we have cautious optimism that out of the SADC initiatives there will be a process of achieving minimum conditions that are critical for us to have free and fair elections in our country and once that is done we are going to work together even before the new constitution, even before the new conditions. The paradigm going forward is a united front to negotiate and establish a consensus on a new constitution. To negotiate and establish a consensus on levelling the political playing field in our country. Working together is the operative phrase. There is absolutely no alternative in our country to working together in terms of working towards a new political dispensation.

After that dispensation when we have our conditions that are favourable for elections, again we are going to present a united front inspired by a single candidate principle so that every vote will count against Mugabe. We are saying to Zimbabweans please let's close ranks. Let's manage our differences and drive Mugabe out of town through unity of purpose, unity in action that is what we want to see in our country. In the event of worst case scenario where Mugabe refuses to give us a new constitution, no electoral reform, no removal of AIPPA and POSA - in that worst case scenario here is our position: We want to make sure that all the democratic forces the opposition parties, civic society come up with a common position. A common position that will bind us together because if we have divisions in terms of how we address that worst case scenario that's what Mugabe is looking for. That's what Mugabe would want. So the starting point is that whatever we decide to do - participation or non participation - it has to be a collective and common position across all civic society, across all opposition parties and also as democrats we are going to consult our people, we are going to consult our national councils and the national councils of our political parties and the leadership of the civic societies we'll sit down and come up with that position as to what we do.

But we are saying we are not interested in participating in fraudulent elections, we are not interested in legitimizing Mugabe by participating in elections that are predetermined. We demand free and fair elections in our country as a minimum requirement. The issue in Zimbabwe cannot be resolved because remember it is illegitimacy that comes from fraudulent elections. SO if we participate in illegitimate elections, if we participate in fraudulent elections we have not solved the crisis of governance in our country. We would not have solved the issue around illegitimacy of the government.

Finally, let's not be caught up on the politics of emancipation and democracy. We must talk about economics. What are we going to do as the opposition when we get into power around technology, around science, around macro-economics, around social policy, around HIV/ AIDS, around land? As we debate freedom, as we debate constitutionalism in our country we must also proffer technocratic answers to the challenges of our country. We can't wait until we get into power to develop our policies. We can't wait until we get into power to built technocratic capacity in civic society, technocratic capacity in opposition party members & leaders so that when our change does come that change will have both form and substance.

We are not looking for the change that happened in Zambia where Chiluba was worse than Kaunda, what happened in Malawi where Muluzi was worse than Banda. We don't want that in our country. We want change that has both form and substance. That's why our challenge in the opposition is to make sure we deliver democratic change, we also deliver economic transformation from poverty to Zimbabwe which is a globally competitive economy characterized by a business growth, entrepreneurship, value addition, beneficiation so that we become the Singapore of Africa, the Malaysia of Africa. We are dreamers. We have the potential. We have natural resources in our country. We have very good infrastructure on the ground. We have very, very capable human capital in our country. We were the bread basked of Southern Africa we can go back to that and do more. The future is great and as Zimbabweans, if we work together, we will be able to achieve the promised land. But there will be more blood, sweat and tears before we reach the tipping point. We won't claim any cheap victories, any easy victories. Zimbabweans must work harder than what they have done so far and we are saying this hard work must be carried out in a collective way by emphasizing a united front in everything that we do.

Violet: And final word Dr. Madhuku.

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: Well I think my word really goes to all the people of Zimbabwe that this is the best opportunity we have. Which is that all the players especially the political parties and the civic society have got united. They share the same vision and almost the same language - word for word we agree as to what we want to do. This is the best opportunity for us to remain united and pull our energies together. And once we do that I think we have no doubt that we will succeed.

Violet Gonda: Thank you very much Dr. Lovemore Madhuku and Professor Arthur Mutambara for agreeing to participate on the programme Hot Seat.

Professor Arthur Mutambara: Ok thank you very much.

Dr. Lovemore Madhuku: Ok Thanks.

Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa 's Hot Seat programme (08 May 07). Comments and feedback can be emailed to

NB: SW Radio Africa is back on MULTIPLE frequencies. Broadcasts are between 7:00 and 9:00 pm Zimbabwe time on shortwave; in the 25m band 11775kHz, 11810kHz, 12035kHz and in the 60m band 4880kHz. Also via the internet at

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.