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Bernard Ndlovu on Behind the Headlines
Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
November 22, 2010
SW Radio Africa
journalist Lance Guma speaks to human rights theatre artiste Bhekilizwe
Bernard Ndlovu, who recently wrote an
article suggesting that Morgan Tsvangirai, Dumiso Dabengwa,
Arthur Mutambara and Simba Makoni should form an alliance to take
on Mugabe and ZANU PF in the next elections.
can enter into a temporary emergency landing agreement and part
ways as soon as they land,- he says. Ndlovu argues the power
sharing deal was a mistake and simply allowed ZANU PF time to regroup.
Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and welcome to another exciting
edition of Behind the Headlines. My guest this week is a human rights
theatre artist and his name is Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu. Mr Ndlovu
thank you for joining us.
Bernard Ndlovu: Thank you Lance.
OK let me give the background so that our listeners understand why
we have you on the programme.
Recently you wrote an article "Lessons from
History for Tsvangirai, Dabengwa, Makoni and Mutambara" where
you are essentially saying the solution to Zimbabwe-s problems
is a rainbow coalition of sorts, grouping all the opposition parties
in a fight against Mugabe and ZANU PF. Let-s go into your
motivation for writing this first of all - what, in your assessment,
is the problem in Zimbabwe?
OK my motivation of course has been the condition of our country.
What-s happening now, what I believe is, I wouldn-t
even call it a stalemate but things have stopped in my opinion.
There-s no, they are no longer moving forward, we-re
getting ZANU PF representatives like Jonathan Moyo literally having
a field day on the MDC and the rest of the opposition.
Changing goal posts, talking about creating a new
constitution, a few days or a few months down the line it-s
changed, they are talking about something else. So I thought to
myself there-s need for us to say to these leaders -
why don-t you come together and come up with something that-s
going to be in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe, not just
themselves as individuals who have political interests.
Because at the end of the day for the people, the
general populace of Zimbabwe, they want bread and butter issues
not positions and posts but something that is going to put us back
on track as a country.
Let-s start off by analysing the problem - you do, in
your article, criticise the MDC for going into, or the two MDCs
rather, for going into this coalition government. Was it or was
it not a mistake for them to do so?
Ndlovu: Well in my considered view that was a big
mistake for the reason that Zimbabweans had been pushed to a point
where they were saying 'kusiri kufa ndekupi or okungasikufa
yikuphi (we are dying anyway)? The situation had become so tough
and they-d been asked to tighten their belts, they-d
gone through a lot of difficulties.
When you take someone through such difficulties
you can-t then afford to abort the fight because they-d
suffered enough already. There were people who had gone through
a lot of problems - there was no food, nothing was there,
no fuel, no nothing but the fact that they had voted for the MDC
even then, shows that they were willing to fight.
What became a problem was leadership because leadership
did not then have a good solution. They got into a unity agreement
which did not serve the people, worsened by the fact that when they
got onto this unity, they were not careful in terms of using the
correct words, the correct legal terms to ensure that ZANU PF would
not then have room to arbitrarily make decisions that would cost
Guma: The argument used by many in the MDC has been
that political sacrifices had to be made in order to benefit the
people. They cite the availability of food in the shops, the general
stability with things like inflation. Would that argument still
not sway you?
You know when you get involved in a fight like that of Zimbabwe
you know that there are lots of things you are going to have to
do without or things you are going to have to forgo and in a problem
that is almost like a war like the Zimbabwean one, food is one of
the things that you should be ready not to have at that particular
moment when you are fighting.
So really to
use a food argument, the shelf, the goods that have gone back to
the shelf that the MDC continues to say was what had to come back,
that-s not something that you can sacrifice people-s
entire lives for. In any case Zimbabweans had already suffered and
they were getting used to those problems.
they were going to reap what was going to be a holistic solution
for the Zimbabwean situation so that argument I don-t buy,
I know it-s been there, it-s now an old argument but
I think it-s high time we revisited and started criticising
it so that as we move forward, we come up with better solutions.
Guma: OK so we have the opposition who won the elections,
they in a sense gave ZANU PF a lifeline by entering into this power
sharing agreement, ZANU PF has not abided by the terms of this power
sharing agreement, in fact it seems they are in a position of advantage
- so how do we move forward? What is the solution? How do
the MDC extricate themselves from this?
Ndlovu: It-s important that the MDC understands
that the situation right now requires that they work with others,
that they bring everyone who hates ZANU PF at least, to come with
their agendas. These opposition parties have got one agenda and
that is to remove ZANU PF.
If you were to ask them the question - why
are you in the opposition right now? - they will all say -
we want to replace ZANU PF for the reason that ZANU PF has run down
our country and we want to correct that and I believe that is the
super objective of every opposition party in Zimbabwe right now.
So if that-s the super objective, they should come together,
use each other-s advantages.
The MDC has
got its advantages - it-s got the largest number of
people who follow them; Simba Makoni is a respected economist, Mutambara
has got, in my opinion, a well-balanced foreign policy - that-s
why Zimbabweans have failed to understand him. He comes in as someone
who is balanced in terms of his relations with the international
community and at the same time at home.
So we-ve got people with different credentials
- we-ve got Dabengwa who has got what the SADC is looking
for - someone who is going to ensure that what they call 'gains
of independence- are not reversed. So if you have someone
in the mould of Dumiso Dabengwa going to the SADC to say to them
- can you create conditions that will ensure that elections
in Zimbabwe are fair and free, they will listen to Dabengwa because
he is a former soldier like them.
So we have got people here with different advantages
and if they put those together, I am sure that we would have a good,
what I call a good emergency landing solution.
Guma: The problem of course Bernard is the way our
politicians politic if I may put it that way because there-s
a lot of name-calling at rallies and a lot of personal attacks.
How do they overcome that and form alliances?
You see the situation we are in now requires that people swallow
their pride and say to each other - look arms down, let-s
come together and see how we can get rid of this common enemy before
we can get back to each other and fight our fair fight because I
believe that if there was no ZANU PF, there could be a fair fight
So coming together
like I said with their different advantages and saying look guys,
I might have said to you Simba Makoni that you were 'zhing
zhong- from ZANU PF, sent by ZANU PF to destabilise elections
and make sure that we don-t win; you Dabengwa, you are a Matabele
who is bent on avenging what happened in the past. We are talking
here about a man for instance who was arrested by Robert Mugabe
for three years without trial and spent time in prison.
We want to use his anger and say come here, Tsvangirai
has been beaten by Mugabe-s soldiers and policemen, come together,
all of you. Simba Makoni tried to come rescue the situation, unfortunately
he came too late. Mutambara, a very good former student leader who
actually made ZANU PF run for their money at one time. Take advantage
of all these people, stop calling names and come together.
Ignore those differences for a while, you can revisit
them if you want and we like it for democracy later for them to
differ again but for now they cannot differ. We-ve got a big
problem on our hands, we-ve got soldiers who are holding us
at ransom, using the SADC to ensure that ZANU PF stays in power.
That needs to be addressed and is a matter of urgency in my opinion.
Guma: Now you talk of course about Lessons from
History and use the example of Joshua Nkomo. For the benefit of
our listeners, can you explain that comparison for us?
Ndlovu: The one that I want to focus on is the Lord
Soames analogy where I-m saying SADC right now is like Lord
Soames. You know in 1980, if you followed history, if you follow
history you will see that the 1980 elections, and people have been
saying that they were just a formality, it was just window-dressing.
This thing was in the hands of Britain. Britain sent Lord Soames
to govern elections and hand over power to Robert Mugabe.
That was not understood by Joshua Nkomo then unfortunately
and he says it in his book that he was not prepared for that kind
of shift. He would run to Lord Soames to complain about intimidation,
people getting killed in the rural areas and getting intimidated.
In the meantime Robert Mugabe and Lord Soames were having meetings.
They knew very well that power had to go to ZANU PF.
So foolishness on the part of our former leaders
- sorry to use that word - was failing to understand
the game plan of ZANU PF. It was failing to understand that ZANU
PF was not playing alone in the ring, there were other shadows that
were invisible and that the main shadow then was Lord Soames representing
We now have a very big shadow in the form of the
SADC that ZANU PF is using to ensure that they don-t get out
of power. You have a person like (Jacob) Zuma whom people believed
that he would help Zimbabwe go back to democracy but he is the representative
of the SADC that ensures - you read this week that he-s
actually going to meet the principals again this week, sometime
this week - and it-s a waste of time, it-s a waste
of people-s time because there-s not going to be any
difference that comrade Zuma is going to bring about.
He-s a former soldier who represents the interests
of military veterans, who represents the interests of all SADC leaders
who believe that Tsvangirai is a threat to the regional gains of
independence. So we have a case again where there was an attempt
by Joshua Nkomo and others to come together with ZANU PF in Zambia
in 1975 to form one party and then go back to Smith who had actually
invited them to say - guys let-s stop this war and let me
hand over power to you and we take it from there.
Joshua Nkomo, (Julius) Nyerere, (Kenneth) Kaunda,
Robert Mugabe, (Herbert) Chitepo and other prominent leaders met,
they disagreed. The most, the sad news about that disagreement was
that Chitepo was one of the people who was at the forefront, he
refused. Immediately after that he died. Due to differences again
there in Zambia amongst the liberators, he died and a lot of other
soldiers died fighting a war that could have been stopped in 1975
by the opposition, by a group of people who purported to liberate
Zimbabwe but at the same time they continued to fight among themselves.
We have an opposition now of people who all purport
to have one agenda which is to liberate the people of Zimbabwe from
the hold of Robert Mugabe but they are fighting amongst themselves.
I-ve also said that I-m not a prophet but I can tell
you that if they don-t take heed - watch next year -
ZANU PF knows that a lot is at stake. People will die, innocent
people and even those who are taking this call lightly might be
affected. Things will get worse next year, no-one will like it.
Guma: Do you think part of the problem Bernard is
maybe the MDC-T under Tsvangirai feel they can go it alone, they
have the biggest following and probably are underestimating the
importance of getting the smaller parties, Mavambo, ZAPU and the
Ndlovu: It is, it is. I-ve read some of Morgan
Tsvangirai-s statements. He-s been arrogantly saying
that other oppositions should come and join them. It-s fine,
they-ve got the largest number of people following them, that-s
very true but if that works, why did they fail to take over power
in 2008? If they can answer that question it-s arrogance on
their part and I-ve even said in my article, I can say even
if they were to win by 75 per cent, I am almost certain that ZANU
PF will not hand over power to MDC-T.
Mnangagwa said recently that whatever happens, they
won-t salute Tsvangirai. So what does that mean? Why is ZANU
PF saying that now? They want to scare the people of Zimbabwe whom
they know are peace-loving people and who won-t want to go
to war so there is the truth in what you are saying that MDC-T has
gotten to a point where they believe that it-s them, they
are the people, they are risking becoming the biggest liability
in Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe.
Guma: But the same argument of course can be used
to shoot down your unity argument Bernard because people will say
even if Mavambo or MDC-T, MDC-M and ZAPU form an alliance that still
does not counter ZANU PF violence, that still does not counter the
Joint Operations Command (JOC), that still does not counter individuals
like Emmerson Mnangagwa and others.
Ndlovu: Yes but if Emmerson Mnangagwa says to Dabengwa
that even if you win we won-t support you, that-s something
else even to the SADC because the SADC respects soldiers, they respect
people with military credentials so if that argument is between
Dabengwa and Mnangagwa that-s a different story altogether
because the referee respects, in my opinion in terms of military
credentials, Dabengwa better than Mnangagwa.
Guma: Isn-t that a problematic view of things
though where we as Zimbabweans are saying basically, because you
seem to be mortgaging Zimbabwe-s future as far as your argument
is concerned to SADC. What about us, the people of Zimbabwe deciding
our own destiny? Why does it have to be via SADC? Why does it have
to be via the African Union?
Ndlovu: Unfortunately that-s the situation
on the ground Lance, we want that but in politics you want to put
into consideration all variables and one big variable right now
is the SADC, we cannot ignore that, that-s a fact that we
cannot ignore. If it means us taking that into consideration temporarily,
while we find a corner where we can then say - look guys this
is about us, that-s fine but in my opinion for any politician
to disregard that is lacking cunning and lacking shrewdness because
SADC is a critical part in this equation.
Tsvangirai unfortunately thinks that UN is more
influential in Zimbabwe than the SADC. SADC is the most powerful
organ right now that-s making sure that Mugabe stays in power.
True at the end of the day ideally, the people of Zimbabwe have
to decide their destiny but they cannot do that in a vacuum. You
don-t do that by disregarding the fact that you are not playing
Even if it means compromising for a while, just
for now in order to get rid of this big problem that we have on
our hands before we start claiming certain right around us, you
know what I-m saying. It-s like someone being raped,
you are being raped, the main focus is to ensure that you stop this
person who is raping you before you start claiming certain other
rights that you might have around yourself.
It is our right, we are a sovereign nation but the
SADC is playing a role and ZANU PF understands that, that-s
why they are leaning on SADC right now. Without SADC, ZANU PF would
have been removed in 2008.
Guma: Well that-s human rights theatre artist
Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu joining us on Behind the Headlines. Mr
Ndlovu thank you so much for your time.
Ndlovu: Thanks Lance.
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