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Seat: Interview Simba Makoni
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
May 03, 2013
SW Radio Africa’s
Violet Gonda speaks to opposition leader Dr. Simba Makoni on the
Hot Seat programme this week. Why does Makoni say Rhodesians did
not set upon their own as Zanu-PF has done? He responds to people
who say his comments are “of a frustrated man who will say
anything to revive his fading political career?” Makoni’s
critics also say he has leadership qualities but has failed to mobilize
support. So what is his support base and is he attracted to the
idea of forming an election pact with Zanu-PF or the MDC formations?
The former finance minister also talks about the state of the economy
and why he feels dollarization was not brought about by the GNU.
Gonda: My guest on the Hot Seat programme is Mavambo.Kusile.Dawn
leader Dr. Simba Makoni. Welcome on the programme Dr. Makoni.
Makoni: Thank you very much indeed, good day to you.
There are certain sections in the Zimbabwean society who feel you
should be charged with treason for saying that President Mugabe
and his party are responsible for the brutalities being suffered
by Zimbabweans now than what was experienced by Rhodesians under
the Ian Smith regime. Did you say this and if so, what makes you
say this when many Zimbabweans are saying that life is a lot better
What I said was the Rhodesians did not set upon their own in the
manner that we are doing. That was the comparison I made. Then I
made another comparison which said in Rhodesia we lived in fear,
in Zimbabwe we still live in fear. I even said President Mugabe
himself lives in fear of losing his position. The dominant force
afflicting people in Rhodesia was fear and in Zimbabwe it’s
still fear. But coming to your direct question, I don’t believe
there are sections of Zimbabwean society who believe I should be
charged for treason. There was one person I feel pity for her because
obviously she doesn’t know what makes treason. As a learned
person who is teaching at a high institution of learning, probably
she needs to take time to educate herself on what exactly makes
treason. Having a different view and even having an opposing opinion,
nowhere in the law makes treason.
Right and just going back to one of your points where you said that
in Rhodesia there were no Rhodesians who set upon their own. Others
would argue that there were some white Rhodesians who were victimized
because they supported the nationalists.
Well I think we want to establish the facts. I did not dispute,
I was at one with some of those white Rhodesians but there were
white Rhodesians who formed opposition parties to Ian Smith’s
Rhodesian Front; they were not arrested, they did not suffer violence,
they were not long sleeved, short sleeved it’s the degree
of victimization if you want to call it that. But yes certainly
whites who were with the nationalist movement, some of them were
sent out of the country, others were put in prison but the degrees
are different from what we are talking about. If you look at some
of the brutalities that we have meted on our own, there is no comparison.
In the state media, your critics say your comments are of a “frustrated
man who will do anything to revive his fading political career.”
What is your reaction to this?
Makoni: In politics
I accept that people take different views on issues. I wish there
had been evidence of why they think I am frustrated. That I’m
trying to build my political brand is correct, that’s what
this game is all about. I believe Mugabe is also trying to build
his political brand so that shouldn’t be an issue should it?
Gonda: So in
your eyes, what is the correct situation in Zimbabwe as there are
different views depending on who is talking? For example civil society
organizations say there are rights abuses and that there’s
no conducive climate for free and fair elections and if it’s
Zanu PF – there are no problems in Zimbabwe.
I think it’s very important that you make that distinction.
The only person who won’t tell you that anything is wrong
in the country is Zanu-PF and when they concede that something is
wrong they say it is because of others, they blame other people
not themselves. Everybody else; political parties, civil society,
business leaders, faith leaders, everyone else who are not Zanu-PF
acknowledges that there is a lot that’s wrong in the country,
that we have responsibility for correcting it and that’s the
point I was making.
must take primary responsibility for the condition in which we find
ourselves in. Either by omission or commission we’ve allowed
our country to be destroyed. Secondly, Zimbabweans live in fear
and I repeat this, Robert Mugabe everyday lives in fear of losing
his position. That’s why he and his party are doing all that
they are doing to the citizens. He even had the arrogance to say
to the people you must not repeat
the mistake you made in 2008. Why is it a mistake to choose
someone that you believe in?
So what is the
situation? People live in fear, people live in privation whether
it is of food, of medicines, of clean water, the hospitals can no
longer dispense medicines, teachers no longer have chalk with which
to instruct their children, everything that we would call normal.
Jobs have been lost and are still being lost in business. Tendai
Biti described Zimbabwe as the world’s biggest supermarket.
We trade other people’s produce and we don’t produce
anything. People have been turned into petty traders selling airtime,
tomatoes, vegetables and trinkets from China. That’s not the
signs of a country, an economy and a society that is improving.
Gonda: But do
you admit that the situation has changed significantly since the
formation of the coalition government?
I don’t know what you are measuring to make that statement.
We just had a miserable 18% O’level pass rate announced two
months ago. People are still in fear. The only thing that Prime
Minister Tsvangirai claims has improved is that there is plentiful
supply of goods in the shops, imported goods that are not made here.
One question that comes to mind is who and how are we financing
these imports? So those who are claiming that things have improved
are measuring the stability in the economy which was brought about
by dollarization but I would say to you, dollarization was not brought
about by the inclusive government, it was not even brought about
by Zanu-PF. Dollarization was brought by the people of Zimbabwe.
As late as October
2007 nobody was trading in the Zim dollar anymore; high officials
in government and lowly people in the market, we were all using
foreign currency in our trade. That’s the only factor that
has brought some improvement in terms of price stability and low
inflation but every other yardstick that you can use will show a
The only other
yardstick that shows growth is growth of imports but when Tendai
Biti presents his statements he tells you how terrible it is that
our budget deficit and our trade deficit especially is ballooning
in sympathy with the growth of imports and the decline of exports.
sure you have seen reports saying western countries are changing
their stance on Zimbabwe because they believe there has been progress.
What can you say about that?
first I have always known that western countries have wanted to
re-engage with Zimbabwe to restore normal relationships so I’m
not surprised that they will find the slimmest pretext and the adoption
of a new constitution by them represents progress but I can tell
you and you can ask any Zimbabwean whether the adoption of a new
constitution has changed anything in their everyday life. I don’t
think so. But at the same time it is useful that countries try to
engage because with engagement comes influence and hopefully positive
Gonda: As a
former Finance Minister in the Zanu-PF government what is your understanding
of how the funding of elections works and what do you make of the
dispute with the UNDP?
Well first of all I must say that I personally and many other self-respecting
Zimbabweans that I know are very ashamed that our country is having
to beg for money to run our national elections. Elections are financed
from the national fiscus; the government budgets for the conduct
of elections. This government budgeted
$30 million for the conduct of a national
referendum and a national election where they estimated at least
$200 million was needed. Where did they expect to get the rest of
it? So it’s shameful, it’s embarrassing, I wouldn’t
go about waving a big sovereignty flag when I cannot even finance
basic national imperatives like elections.
Well Finance Minister Tendai Biti says that Zimbabwe should not
be asking for money from outside as we have enough resources and
Professor Welshman Ncube also said that diamonds
are being stolen in Zimbabwe. What is happening to the diamonds
and if you were Finance Minister what would you have done about
I don’t know what is happening in diamonds because nothing
is done in a transparent manner but if Finance Minister Tendai Biti
says what he says, he should know better; all I know is Biti two
months ago said his purse contained only $217. It’s pathetic
that a nation can reduce itself to such pauperism. What would I
do if I were Finance Minister? Obviously I would marshal all the
resources available to the country openly, transparently that’s
what I tried to do when I was Minister of Finance then and I wouldn’t
acquiesce to people robbing the nation. I wouldn’t continue
to associate with people who are robbing the nation in broad daylight.
If I didn’t manage to turn them round then I would disengage.
So it is mind boggling, it is puzzling that people who claim to
be partners, to be working together can be at such loggerheads with
each other on a very simple thing like please bring what belongs
to the nation to the national purse.
talk a bit about the elections, the forthcoming elections are you
going to contest?
Well if elections are called under conditions that provide for credible
free and fair outcomes, we will participate. The parties to the
Global Political Agreement
defined very clearly in the GPA and in the road map to free and
fair elections what make free and fair elections. It’s a removal
or what I call demobilization of the agents of fear and violence,
it’s enabling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to have the
competence and the capacity to run free and fair elections without
political interference and without political bias, it’s resourcing
the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the other institutions of
state to manage elections in a manner that allows every citizen
who enters a polling booth to put his X in the box that he or she
wants not he or she is forced to.
Gonda: Do you
see this happening realistically?
Makoni: It can
happen if we have the will and the commitment to do it. Currently
the will doesn’t exist so I don’t see it happening in
the near future.
Gonda: I have
heard quite a lot of people say they would like to vote for you
in the elections but they are worried that you have no followers.
What is your reaction to this?
I don’t know how they can say that before we have measured
the following. The simple method of measuring what following one
has is either in a survey or in an election. Neither of that has
been done. But I would say that I am striving to generate more following
than I have at the moment and I’m sure that come the day we
vote in a free and fair election those who are suggesting I have
no following will be surprised.
So how many people do you have at the moment?
Makoni: Oh I can’t count them. Too many to
Gonda: You can’t
give us numbers?
are different categories of following; there are card carrying members
of the party, there are supporters and sympathizers of the party
and there are people who support the platform, the ideas that we
give and they are different numbers in all those. Members of our
party are currently measured in tens of thousands but I know that
supporters who believe what we stand for is what the country needs
are in their millions.
Gonda: I recently
spoke to the International Crisis Group’s analyst for Southern
Africa Trevor Maisiri and he had this to say about you and I quote.
“I think Simba Makoni stands out as a good technocrat, with
leadership qualities that seem to be well placed but again the issue
is of grassroots mobilization. I would put Simba Makoni in the same
realm as Welshman Ncube in terms of being good as individuals but
failure to mobilize on the ground.” What’s your reaction
it depends on timeframe. We are building a party, we are a very
young party and I would say if he’s talking about grassroots
following at this point in time, yes we are not a dominant party,
I wouldn’t deny that. But does the size of our membership
equate to the following that we have? The people who find our ideas,
our values, our principles attractive, that is where we make the
distinction. Trevor would be right if he’s reading how many
people carry an MKD card in their pocket but if we are reading how
many people resonate with our values and principles, I would say
in the millions.
Gonda: So what
are your values and principles and what achievements can you point
to that should make people want to vote for you if you are to participate
in the next election?
take the latter part, achievement in terms of service to the people
– none at the moment because we are not in a position to serve
the people. But our principle value proposition is service and servant
leadership. We are not looking for power and control, we are looking
to serve, to participate, to contribute. Other politicians are looking
for power, command and control that’s a big distinction. We
are looking for integrity and honesty. The key character of our
country at the moment; two key characteristics of our country are
fear and corruption and our leaders are not only participating in
but are aiding and abetting corruption, victimization of citizens,
dis-empowerment of citizens. We are about genuine empowerment where
citizens can do things for themselves without impediment. We are
for inclusion, unity and participation. We don’t want to split
the nation into little groups; this party, this religion, this group,
this region – we want togetherness.
Gonda: So why
do you think Zimbabweans are not seeing that?
first of all I don’t know that I would agree with you that
Zimbabweans don’t see that. I don’t know what yardstick
you are using to make that statement. I believe that Zimbabweans
see all this. I don’t want to sound like blowing my own trumpet
but I know that what Trevor Maisiri reflected to you is reflected
to many people including to myself by others who say ‘if you
have the opportunity to lead us, we know that you would lead a clean
government, a competent government, it would not be corrupt, it
would not be cruel, it would not set citizen upon citizen’.
Zimbabweans say this every day so I believe they see it. I would
not allow under my leadership the cruelty that we have seen, that
a leader will feather their nest when the rest of the nation is
groveling and wallowing in abject poverty. I would not do that.
Gonda: And of
course you have heard many Zimbabweans are calling for opposition
forces to form a pact against Zanu-PF in the next elections. Are
you attracted by this idea?
Makoni: I am
attracted by citizens working together to bring positive change.
I am not attracted by notions of pacts against or opposition. Opposition
in what form? I know that there are people in Zanu-PF who are yearning
for change just like there are people in MDC. I know that there
are many people in Zimbabwe who are not in either Zanu-PF or MDC
who are yearning for real change. So my positioning is, and I put
it out on January 23, we would like to work and are currently working
for a grand coalition for change. We are driven by positives not
negatives, and so all those Zimbabweans who want to see the demobilization
of the machinery of violence and intimidation, and I know there
are many in Zanu-PF who want that, I know there are also many in
MDC. All those Zimbabweans who want to uplift the country out of
poverty, who want to remove the shame of joblessness, the shame
of lack of clean water, we would like to work with all of them without
putting labels on them. So the underlying foundation is Zimbabweans
for change not Zimbabweans against so and so.
Gonda: So have
you been in talks with any of these parties?
Makoni: We are
not talking to parties, we are talking to individual citizens and
some of them are in those parties. We are willing to be in coalition
with those citizens who want to work for genuine change, they could
be in MDC, and they could be in Zanu-PF. If we are going to work
as entities, as this party and that party we must first construct
the platform on which we are going to work and that is what the
discussions I am talking about I’m engaged in. It’s
not just to say because there is MDC, let’s join them to oppose
Zanu-PF, and because there’s Zanu-PF let them stand away from
us because in the end it’s the personality of citizens, individually
and collectively that make the personality of the nation.
And I would
like to say for the long term, Zimbabweans should resist being paddocked
in little circles that are given characteristics of pro-this and
anti-that, especially anti-that because that is what has taken us
down the tube for all these years because we are being forced to
make a choice of who we are against rather than what we stand for.
I am saying to my compatriots if real change doesn’t come
even in my lifetime, let us agree that we lay the foundation for
our children and our grandchildren not to live in fear, not to live
in hunger, not to yearn for good education, not to miss aspirins
at their central hospital. That is our long range vision that we
want to mobilize and energize the whole of Zimbabwe behind.
Gonda: Why can’t
you mobilize them to be part of the Mavambo Kusile Dawn party?
you want to make a distinction between supporting, believing in
and subscribing to a vision and being in an organization. We would
like Zimbabweans to believe in the vision and values that we are
advancing whether they hold our party card in their pocket or not
because that is important. Your value system is important before
you are labeled by any name and that is our first prime. Let Zimbabweans
accept this value proposition then we can work for the attainment
of those values in whatever formation we find ourselves in. Over
time we will converge into united formations on the strength of
our belief and our value conviction. Let’s not start by putting
people into an MKD paddock before they are converted to the faith.
Gonda: It seems
there are a lot of new platforms and organizations; don’t
you think people are tired of these organizations and different
groupings and that all they want is to see change?
I would remind those people that we came from a de facto one party
state and we didn’t make progress. Secondly I would remind
them that choice, variety are the essence of democracy. You couldn’t
really have full democracy if there was no choice. But I don’t
think that our problems are caused by too many organizations; our
problems are caused by a leadership in one organization, in two,
three organizations who are not committed to the mission of serving
the people but who are committed to self-service. That’s why
we have done all these horrible things to each other. Whether you
are talking about the brutalities, whether you are talking about
the impoverishment, the disempowerment, even the victimization that
led people to leave the country numbers of up to three million Zimbabweans
and last week I had the pain of visiting the Methodist Centre in
central Johannesburg, I was pained, that we can’t be doing
this to ourselves. All those things have a reason because of lack
of democracy and lack of choice.
people were actually shocked to find out that in Zimbabwe there
are about 18 political parties and this came out when political
parties met with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission last week. Who
are these political parties and what have they been doing?
I was also surprised; actually the number I heard was 33 not just
18; I think 18 are the ones that attended the event organized by
ZEC last week but I would agree with you that even with my passion
for choice and variety, 33 or 18 is too much. But I also would say
that it’s really not an issue because like you asked who are
they? Where are they? Who takes them seriously? So I think that’s
not an issue; let 33 names be on that ballot paper and I can tell
you that not more than five, six will be the significant one.
Gonda: As you were once a senior Zanu-PF official what do make of
reports of serious infighting in the party and how significant is
nearly five years since I left Zanu-PF so I don’t know the
goings on inside that party, I don’t know the goings on inside
the other parties as well. I’m sure they don’t know
the goings on inside my party. But as a Zimbabwean I am saddened
by that because that underlines the key characteristic I made at
the beginning of our conversation; the fear, the violence, the victimization.
If members of one party cannot resolve contradictions peacefully,
is it any wonder that between different parties we do long sleeves
and short sleeves. So I don’t know the extent of it, I don’t
know the factuality of it but I read about it just like you and
all I can say is it’s sad that this is happening because what
we need is amity and togetherness. Even where we disagree in our
ideas, in our views, our approaches to issues, we shouldn’t
be enemies to that extent.
commentators say that with what is going on in the coalition government
it is possible that we will have a second GNU. Do you see this?
Makoni: As I
see things at the moment, it is not likely that any one political
party will win an outright majority in the next election if the
elections are conducted under free and fair conditions of choice,
in which case then we would be committed to another coalition. I
doubt that the composition of that coalition will be the same as
the one that we have now.
are others who say it is unlikely there will be another coalition
government since there is no provision of a prime minister in the
new constitution. Is that a correct reading of the constitution?
not necessarily. I don’t think that would be a correct reading
of the constitution. My own understanding, and I’m not a constitutional
lawyer or any lawyer for that matter, is that the position of prime
minister is that of a minister and that ministers are appointed
by the president because our constitution has provided for an executive
president who is head of state and government. He will appoint ministers
and he is at liberty or she is at liberty to appoint a prime minister
which means a minister above other ministers. So I don’t believe
that the fact that there isn’t a stipulation of a prime minister
in the constitution necessarily means that the country may not,
could not and should not have a prime minister.
Dr. Makoni, what did you make of recent surveys by the Freedom House
Institute saying the MDC-T had lost a significant number of voters
and that Zanu-PF is likely to win in the next elections?
There are a number of points to make about that: the first one is
that the significant finding in all those surveys, not just Freedom
House, Afro Barometer, Mass
Public Opinion Institute, is that the larger majority of Zimbabweans,
bigger than those who will vote for Zanu-PF and MDC, are people
who would not say they would vote for Zanu-PF or MDC. Now that is
very significant because it means that any party or parties that
will win the support of that section of voters who will not vote
for either MDC or Zanu-PF but they will be the dominant party.
finding is that the majority of those uncommitted are the younger
scale 18 to 35 and that is the segment of our voter that my party
is particularly concerned about because they represent the future,
where we are going, not where we are coming from. But let me also
say that one issue that will bear on this is whether people actually
turn out to vote on the day and vote for who they said in the survey
they will vote for. One of our biggest problems going back to I
think 1995 is that fewer and fewer people turn out to vote at each
election and this voter apathy, this low turnout of voters could
change those number dramatically on the day of voting.
we’ve come to the end of our programme; thank you very much
Dr Simba Makoni for talking to us on the programme Hot Seat.
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