“Countries of the north – the European Union, the United States, Canada, other countries of Europe – need to continue and increase their isolation of the ruling clique of Zimbabwe, to be consistent in use of the sanctions that they have imposed, and to develop new forms of pressure. Also, financial support is needed by the MDC for its work to make democratic change happen in Zimbabwe.”

On May 29, Movement for Democratic Change President Morgan Tsvangirai was interviewed by Zimbabwe Watch, part of the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa.

Transcript by Zimbabwe Watch:

 ZimWatch: How do you see the process leading up to the establishment of a transitional or new government?

Morgan Tsvangirai: The way forward involves two possible options. Either of these would follow the removal of the impediment or blockage, which is the illegal presidency of Mugabe.

Either there would have to be a ninety days period leading up to a presidential election, or there would need to be an extended period – with the necessary constitutional amendment being decided and approved by Parliament – so that the institutional arrangements for elections can be made. If such an extension is needed, a very clear process must be carried out to justify to the people why it is necessary to postpone elections.

So we need to put pressure on the government – through organised non-violent protest – to open the way for the negotiations that are necessary. We have to remove the impediment to negotiations: that is, the self-serving elite of ZANU that is clinging to power, that is holding the country to ransom. 

Whichever process occurs – whether a Presidential election after ninety days, or an extended transition - it is going to be necessary immediately to begin to deal with the substantive issues of the crisis – the humanitarian crisis, the food and other shortages, and the ending of the violence, the intolerance and the coercion that is currently taking place.

As we see it, the problem with an extended transition is twofold: first, there are all the problems of working with the ZANU elite, which has shown itself to be very devious and untrustworthy; and second, there is the need to set up effective and legitimate governance as soon as possible. But we are prepared to dialogue and negotiate with people in other parties who enter into negotiations in good faith, who demonstrate that they are committed to a process which is in the interests of the people as a whole.

ZimwWatch: What must be discussed and decided in the dialogue and negotiation for setting up the arrangements to go forward, whether for elections immediately or for a transitional authority?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Really there are three phases:

Firstly, to deal with the problem of Mugabe, the blockage caused by him remaining in power following the illegitimate electoral process.

Unblocking the situation then can lead to the negotiations and discussions about the transition period: the confidence building measures, the repeal of draconian legislation, the restoration of impartial law and order, the urgent steps to deal with the humanitarian crisis and the economic crisis.

The main objective of the transition period must be the setting up of electoral arrangements and institutions, so that a legitimate government can be installed and can govern. This needs to be done urgently, because effective and transparent governance is needed for the reconstruction of the economy and for meeting the desperate humanitarian emergency needs.

ZimWatch: How do you see the return to the rule of law and the operation of legitimate legal processes and institutions?

Morgan Tsvangirai: What is needed is a national healing process; we in MDC are talking about, exploring, the question of a Truth and Reconciliation or Truth and Justice Commission, but what we are meaning and intending to do is to restore due and lawful process: impunity can only be dealt with by due process.

The judiciary and the police will have to be renovated, renewed with new values and a new spirit. Security forces are of course needed, and as we have often said, we know that the majority of officers are professional and are uncomfortable with the way they are forced by the regime to carry out illegal actions. But the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) may not be amenable to reform.

Parliament, even as it is presently constituted, needs to be involved. But the full legitimation of the institutions of government can only be achieved through a thorough constitutional reform, a truly consultative and participatory – and unifying – process, perhaps this will serve as a first example of a national participatory process, that can serve as a model for other issues. We really wish to have the constitutional reform process completed in time for parliamentary elections, in 2005. 

ZimWatch: How can the culture of violence and impunity be overcome and changed?

Morgan Tsvangirai: MDC stands by its commitment to teach restraint and to live by its non-violent nature and conviction. This is clearly its policy, its position. We keep on telling people that there will be due process for abuses and violations of human rights, for violence and repression: personal vengeance is not the answer. 

So for example in the large-scale actions planned for the first week of June we have trained a large number of marshals, called on our members and the public to be disciplined, to be focused on the task at hand: opening the way to negotiations about the way forward.

We are faced with the violence of the party militias, the green bombers and war veterans, the police and army units deployed to intimidate and brutalise the people, our members and leaders. People responsible for this violence will have to be subjected to due process of the law. We have called on the security forces, the police and army, to demonstrate their professionalism by not being used for partisan ends.  

ZimWatch: How do you see the process of dealing with the emergency issues of hunger and starvation, and other shortages?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Firstly, we would like to thank the international NGOs for the splendid job they have done in getting food to many people, often in the face of provocation and threats from the ZANU militia and the war veterans.

Once we have opened the way for change in terms of governance, we are going to have to ensure that humanitarian aid is increased, and is distributed effectively and in a non-partisan manner. We will need the help of NGOs and civil society to ensure that this happens.

Humanitarian assistance will be needed for some time, given the destruction of productive agriculture. But it is very important for the need to be clearly defined, and it has to be seen in relation to the restoration of agricultural production. We believe that in two years, if it can be started very soon – and if we have good rains – it is possible to recover most of agricultural production.

We believe that as soon as it is clear that Zimbabwe is beginning to return to legitimate governance, and to take steps to deal with corruption, that credit for fuel and other goods will be available very quickly.

ZimWatch: What would MDC demand and implement in terms of economic recovery? How would the land issue be resolved in a forward-looking and progressive way?

Morgan Tsvangirai: The key to starting an economic recovery is the restoration of the rule of law, a peaceful situation in the country, a situation of law and order. Confidence-building measures have to be carried out so that all the potential players can be reassured that recovery is intended and under way. There needs to be a clear signal that respect for individual rights and for property rights has returned.

The will need to be significant work in the reconstruction of institutions, of infrastructure, of government. The manufacturing sector is in deep crisis, we all know about the crisis in terms of land and agricultural production, we know about the crisis of the currency and the exchange rate, the fuel procurement process.

Really, in order to deal with the overall economic process we need a commission of enquiry into serious economic crimes, because the economy at the moment has become distorted with serious ill-gotten wealth, obtained through theft and looting, corruption, connections (for example in the privatisation of parastatals), the black market. To restore confidence to the financial system, and to the banking and investment sectors, we need this serious investigation. Whether it should be a parliamentary commission, or judicial, we haven’t yet clarified. But clearly there will have to be prosecutions and legal processes to ensure the return of ill-gotten wealth.

In addition, economic recovery will come about through the restoration and development of a national market which is dynamic, thriving and healthy. The national market at present has been undermined and indeed almost destroyed by the black market – for currency, for fuel, for food – and also by the informalisation of the economy.

The financial institutions – banks, the Reserve Bank, the international partners – will have to be involved in a process of cleansing and strengthening. New lines of credit will have to be negotiated, current debts will have to be rescheduled, and we will have to review whether some loans have been misused.

In relation to land, the key thing that is needed is a transparent land audit, which is politically unbiased and technically sound. There is real urgency to unbundle unlawful settlements, but especially the land grab by the ZANU elite.

The MDC’s land policy is for a transparent and equitable process that enhances production – we in no way endorse the status quo, either of land ownership before the current land invasions, nor the present chaotic and corrupt situation. Our policy envisages agriculture being principally based on viable small-scale market-oriented production, with some larger-scale commercial agriculture. Resettlement, a very large scale redistribution of land in favor of hundreds of thousands of rural and even some urban people, has to be done in a transparent, non-partisan, orderly manner and must be supported by capable and well-resourced programmes (both financial and technical). We don’t disagree with ZANU(PF) on the need for radical land reform; but we completely disagree with the manner, the corrupt, violent and destructive way in which it has been done by the ZANU elite.  

There will be the need to re-capitalize the whole agricultural sector, as well as to restore capacity to the institutions that should be servicing and supporting agricultural production. 

ZimWatch: How does MDC define itself, in the political spectrum, and in relation to the concept of ‘liberation’? In what ways does this make it different from ZANU(PF)?

Morgan Tsvangirai: The MDC sees the liberation struggle as a national and peoples’ struggle, it is not owned by one party, even less by the elite or individuals within one party. We believe that the liberation process has been betrayed by ZANU(PF). We have independence, but no real freedom, no substantive rights. So the MDC definitely places itself in the path of continuing and carrying forward liberation, deepening the sense of liberation. After all, MDC comes from that history, we are part of the struggle for Zimbabwe’s freedom; and we believe people have the right and indeed the duty to continue the struggle.

MDC sees itself as a social-democratic formation, coming out of a working peoples agenda. The two meetings of 1999, the Working Peoples Convention and then the launch of the MDC, were intimately connected. This agenda is the agenda of the majority, the vast majority of Zimbabweans, who are marginalized and deprived.

How we differ from ZANU(PF) is that while they believe that people are accountable to them, and have to be grateful to them for having brought independence, and behave in a paternalistic and patronising manner, we in the MDC aim to unlock and release peoples’ real control over their lives and their futures. We believe in real participation, consultation and collective decision-making. This comes from our primary origin in the trade union movement.

ZimWatch: Do you think the MDC is a united party, with broad agreement on ideology and policy, and with strong organisational structures?

Morgan Tsvangirai: MDC is a young party, just three years old. It continues to undergo some transformation. It started as a mass movement, a broad front, which gradually is becoming a structured political party, with a consistent and synthesised ideological framework, which is enabling the party to check and clarify its policy positions. All this it has had to do while being harassed and attacked; we have had to operate and develop in a state of emergency, even if that is undeclared. So we have done well to come this far.

Coming as it does from the side of the marginalized and the poor, the MDC is always struggling for finances. Unlike ZANU (PF) the MDC cannot (and of course will not, when it is in power!) loot state resources for party needs; nor does it have the resources that have come to ZANU PF through its financial and business interests, some of which are extremely corrupt and nefarious (and which are part of the proof of the betrayal of the promise of liberation from the ZANU elite). 

ZimWatch: What do you expect and demand of the international community in terms of carrying forward the process of change in Zimbabwe?

Morgan Tsvangirai: We expect and demand solidarity from the international community for the struggle of the Zimbabwe people to have the opportunity to progress freely, to continue the struggle for full liberation.

This needs political and diplomatic pressure to be maintained and increased on the small elite of ZANU that is blocking the way forward. There must be no relaxation: Zimbabwe has to be seen as, and treated as, a crisis point for Africa.

ZimWatch: At the global level?

Morgan Tsvangirai: The international institutions need to be more active in taking up the questions of human rights abuse, corruption, mis-governance: the destruction of a whole people’s livelihood and prospects for the future because of the arrogance and pride of a single man, and a small clique around him, has to be refused, condemned and changed.

ZimWatch:  In the North?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Countries of the north – the European Union, the United States, Canada, other countries of Europe – need to continue and increase their isolation of the ruling clique of Zimbabwe, to be consistent in use of the sanctions that they have imposed, and to develop new forms of pressure. Also, financial support is needed by the MDC for its work to make democratic change happen in Zimbabwe.

ZimWatch:  The African community?

Morgan Tsvangirai: While there has been good progress in the last month, there is still need for a complete convergence among African governments – a clear understanding that the crisis in Zimbabwe is neither the land, nor the British, but the crisis of governance: the centralization and retention of power, by Mugabe and a small elite around him, through antidemocratic and corrupt practices. African leaders and governments must increase their pressure on Mugabe. They have to recognize that the longer the Zimbabwe crisis is left unresolved, the greater the negative effects will be on African countries. 

ZimWatch:  Other countries of the South?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Other third world countries need to see that Zimbabwe at present is ruled by a rogue regime, which has no legitimacy, which is essentially run by a criminal elite. The ruling elite has betrayed the promise of liberation, and now operates in its own interests. Thus the ruling elite has betrayed the aspirations of the southern countries, which need to have strong equitable economies and participatory politics to be able to challenge the inequalities in the world economy.

ZimWatch:  International NGOs  and Solidarity networks?

Morgan Tsvangirai: International civil society needs to ensure that the governments and international institutions continue to pay attention to the situation in Zimbabwe, and continue to pressure the ruling elite in Zimbabwe to accept to take part in the process of returning Zimbabwe to legitimate governance.

Monitoring and campaigning around the continuing human rights abuses is a key activity that needs to continue. Solidarity support for civil society initiatives and programmes is greatly needed.

The MDC itself also is in great need of financial support. Solidarity for the Zimbabwean people can be expressed through financial support for the work for democratic change in Zimbabwe that the MDC is doing.  

ZimWatch: In conclusion?

Morgan Tsvangirai: Zimbabwe must be seen as a test case for Africa, for the resolve of leaders and peoples to deal with a rogue and illegitimate regime. We in MDC recognise and affirm that violence does not resolve such a crisis, and we will not use the same tools that are used by the repressor.

Democratic resistance and action for change ensures that the state does not fail. We do not say that the state in Zimbabwe has collapsed. It has been corrupted, and so it needs a political renovation and renewal, a new spirit, a transformation of its values, its practices, its structures.

Zimbabwe Watch

c/o NIZA (Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa),

Prins Hendrikkade 33, 1001 ES Amsterdam

Tel +32 (0) 20 520 6210, Fax +31 (0)20 520 6249 

Contact email: [email protected]

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Issue Number 51
July 31, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story - Analysis: The Debate on Zimbabwe Will Not Be Throttled... African Americans must debate the issues of human rights and economic development in Africa among themselves

The DLC’s National White Man’s Conversation - Let the rich rump of the Party go where they belong

Cartoon: Halliburton Coming and Going

Bush Uses IRS To Push Around Poor People - ACORN fights fed's proof-of-poverty scheme

e-MailBox: Hip-Hop Hits Back... Killing Africans as Policy... Bush Mental Disorder Catalogued... Obama’s name off DLC list

No safety without peace, no peace without change - A speech by Cynthia McKinney, Former U.S. Rep. (D-GA)

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Contents of Issue 50 - July 17, 2003:

Cover Story: Barefoot, Sick, Hungry and Afraid - The real U.S policy in Africa

The Consequences of Believing Your Own Propaganda by Mamadou Chinyelu

Cartoon: Hollywood's Magic Negro

Think Piece: The Pretense of Hip-Hop Black Leadership By Dr. Martin Kilson

Affirmative Action as a Tool of Imperialist Expansion and Aggression by Mark P. Fancher, Guest Commentator

One Bush Too Many in Africa by Kweli Nzito, Ph.D., Guest Commentator

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.