Former Finance Minister and ZANU PF politburo member, Simba Makoni, is the guest on Question Time. Makoni now leads the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party and joins Lance Guma to answer questions from SW Radio Africa listeners.
Interview broadcast 18 April 2012
Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. My guest tonight is the leader of the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn political party Dr Simba Makoni and providing just a bit of background, he’s also former a Finance Minister in Zimbabwe and a former ZANU PF politburo member.
Well this is Part Two of the Question Time interview; we asked listeners to send in their questions for Dr Makoni and he joins us again for Part Two. Thank you so much for your time.
Simba Makoni: It’s my pleasure Lance, thank you very much.
Guma: Now the first question this week comes from Steve Duval Dungeni who says and I’ll quote from his question: Why should people take you seriously? You were part of the government or party that mismanaged the economy, committed some of the worst human rights abuses in modern times, stifled freedom of speech and political association. It took you more than 30 years to come right. Surely that casts a serious issue about your judgement, courage and timing?
Makoni: Well let me say that first of all historical involvement by itself is no basis for doubting someone. Everyone changes in life. If we stayed the same we would not grow. Secondly I want to emphasise what I’ve said many, many times – for all the time that I was in Zanu PF, I was working with others to achieve change from within.
It was only when I realised that change from within was not possible, that I moved out. Let me also remind our questioner that anybody who had any political activism in Rhodesia into Zimbabwe of my age and a little younger would have had an association with Zanu PF.
If you were not involved with Zanu PF and you’re my age and a little younger, then you were politically inactive. So again I repeat what I said at the end of session one, I am very proud of my role in Zanu PF when I stayed there, of my role as executive secretary of Sadc, of my role as secretary general of the Student’s Union at the University of Rhodesia.
The many roles that I’ve played in my life are roles that I gave of my best and I have no regrets about them. So you can take me seriously on my track record or you can take me seriously on a narrow veneer of ‘you were’ and now ‘you are no longer’ – that is your choice and it’s your right to make that choice.
Guma: It’s a given though that your point is taken that many people had an association with Zanu PF in the past and people your age would have worked within Zanu PF in some respects. I suppose a key part of Steve’s question is the 30 years; it took you 30 years to say I’m leaving this, this is not for me. Why did it take that long?
Makoni: Simply because I was trying to work for change from within. Simple, and I wasn’t the only one. There are many people today who would like to see change, they remain members of Zanu PF. There are many people who would like to see change, they remain members of the MDC.
It’s a judgement call anyone and everyone must make at a given time whether the strategy and the platform they are using remains effective or not. I made my judgement after the Extraordinary Congress of Zanu PF in December 2007 that change from within was no longer feasible. Up to that time I believed it was possible to make change from within and that’s why I stayed there that long.
But remember that Zanu PF has not been dictatorial and oppressive nor not done good for the people of Zimbabwe for all the 30 years. Those who were mature enough will remember the good early years. There were blemishes yes, the conflict in Matabeleland was a blemish in the early years of Independence but not everyone is perfect.
Guma: Well there’s that conflict in Matabeleland, the Gukurahundi Massacres, we had sad tragic episodes like Operation Murambatsvina. Some will say how come we never heard you speak out against this?
Makoni: Again it depends on where they were expecting to hear me speak out because if they attended meetings of the politburo and the central committee and other structures of the party they would have heard me speak out.
Guma: Are there many people in Zanu PF who speak out against violence in those politburo meetings from your experiences?
Makoni: I don’t know now because I don’t sit there any more but…
Guma: I mean during your time.
Makoni: but when I was there were a good number of people who wanted change.
Guma: Could you name any of them in the current politburo?
Makoni: No, you know that is not possible Lance. How can you name people in this way? But there are many. There are many people in Zanu PF who yearn for change. There are many people in the MDC who yearn for change but there are lots more people who are neither in Zanu PF nor in MDC who want change and those are the people that we must focus on.
Citizens of Zimbabwe who are neither Zanu PF nor MDC who are looking for a leadership that really serves the people, a leadership that’s committed to a better life, that’s tolerant of other ideas, that wants to mobilize for inclusion, there are many, many more than those who are in Zanu PF or MDC.
Guma: Second part of Steve’s question is – is there enough political space for additional parties on top of the three already in the government of national unity and if so, how realistic are your chances to win any seats in the next elections?
Makoni: Well currently that space isn’t there but it’s not going to be there unless it is created. So part of my effort and those of colleagues who are not in the inclusive government and the GPA is to exactly create that space and that’s what we are doing.
Guma: Last question from Steve – what are your views on devolution and dual nationality?
Makoni: First on dual nationality – it is a right that must be granted. It’s one of those aspects that we have advocated for in the new constitution. On devolution – I don’t think that the case for devolution has been made adequately. There has been no debate.
My sense and my understanding is there is a push for devolution on a negative stimulus, the perception of exclusion and marginalization.
The economies and economics and efficiencies of a devolved structure for a small country like us which is so desperately poor has not been exposed and I would very much like that there be a more engaged national debate for devolution.
I believe that the structures we had, if they were pursued objectively, efficiently with balance and national equity, the case for devolution would be less strong. So what am I saying – that I don’t think Zimbabweans have discussed and exposed the advantages and disadvantages of both the current centralized system and the proposed devolved system sufficiently to conclude that the one is the better.
The drive is more on the basis of a negative pulse, a negative stimulus, a negative sentiment than a positive one – that is the concern I would have.
Guma: From Doni Ndowe comes the following set of questions, he says and I quote: “BBC News Africa described him as Zimbabwe’s roaring lion and the UK Guardian newspaper described him as a rising threat and most Zimbabweans regarded him as the panacea to Zimbabwe’s political problems.
“I personally regarded him as the messiah sent by God to save Zimbabweans from Mugabe’s iron hand of oppression but his silence and passiveness after the elections has led me to believe that Simba Makoni is one of those fly-by-night politicians who only exist to divide the opposition in Zimbabwe and confuse the public.”
Makoni: Well I don’t know where he follows his information because if he listened to your radio and Studio 7, if he followed on-line publications and occasionally independent publications in Zimbabwe, he would have heard me, he would have read me.
But if he follows Dead BC (ZBC) and the Herald probably he may not have heard or seen me. We have been very active from the end of the elections, laying the groundwork for the launch of the party which happened on July 1, 2009 and since then we’ve been very active trying to build the party in rather hostile and difficult circumstances.
The people are still fearful because intimidation is still rife. Threats of physical harm are still very strong in our political sphere and it is under those circumstances, with limited national coverage at home that we are persevering in our effort to offer Zimbabwe a brighter future.
I won’t echo the ideas of the lion and the messiah; I would not portend to be spiritual and that way inclined but what I can assure him is that I’m a committed patriot, I’m a determined Zimbabwean who will make his contribution to the best of his ability to create a brighter future for all of us.
Guma: Another part of his question, probably same thread; he accuses you of not wanting to get your hands dirty by being involved in Zimbabwean politics, but instead lurking in the dark, waiting for the right moment to pounce, possibly after the death of Mugabe.
Makoni: Well again one would ask what is the right moment and to pounce on what but the more positive response is I am dirtying my hands; I am leading a political party that was launched on July 1 2009; I am engaging Zimbabweans of all walks of life about how we can change our country for the better. If that’s not dirtying my hands, I don’t know what is.
Guma: You came out strongly to comment on the ZESA VIP defaulter’s saga. Several questions from our listeners wanting you to expand more on this. One listener says what are your views on that as a former Finance minister? Is that why most parastatals are failing?
Makoni: Well firstly my views are not just because I was a Finance minister before, my views are because I live in Zimbabwe, I experience the pain of plundered public organizations and public enterprises every day. The aspect of those who are not paying their bills that I talked about last week was only because it was current.
I hold very strong views about the governance of public enterprises. I held those views when I was minister of Finance, when I was a member of the politburo of Zanu PF and I expressed them. Incidentally I was a deputy secretary for Economic Affairs in Zanu PF and I was very close to economic issues from that portfolio.
So the shorter answer to his question is we are concerned, not just about the plunder of parastatals, but the plunder of the whole economy – whether it’s diamonds, whether it’s GMB fertilizers, whether it’s agricultural equipment and machinery. That is why our party is building itself in order to offer Zimbabweans a leadership that will not plunder the nation’s assets and resources.
Guma: You rather radically suggested that Mugabe should be disconnected for not paying his ZESA bill – why do you believe that it would be the right thing to do?
Makoni: Because ZESA is disconnecting everyone who owes them money and hasn’t worked out a payment plan. There are two issues to this: ZESA is saying to people who owe it money please give us a payment plan of how you are going to pay us what you owe us, we will agree with you and you implement that plan.
Or if you don’t do that, then we switch you off. My understanding is – those leaders of our country and the media has decided to focus on Mugabe – but he’s not the only one – there is a long list of people who claim to be leaders of our country who owe ZESA, they owe ZINWA, they owe City Council tons of money and all I’m saying is that pay up or get no service. And that should happen to Joe Blog in Kuwadzana and Budiriro as it does to those who are on certain addresses.
Makoni: But what is behind this cancer Dr Makoni? Probably I’m asking you to speculate but the way you see things – why do we have this scenario where people with the means to pay are not paying?
Makoni: No I won’t speculate; I’m very definitive – the reason is greed and selfishness, that’s why.
Guma: Next question comes from Gilbert in Harare. Gilbert says Lance could you please ask Dr Makoni for his views on the problems at Air Zimbabwe? They just won’t go away, year in year out, Air Zimbabwe is in problems.
Makoni: Well let me say to Gilbert, the problems at Air Zimbabwe are not unique to Air Zimbabwe, they are common in many public enterprises, we’re just talking about that now but also the problems won’t go away by themselves. The problems didn’t create themselves, they were created by people and so people will change and make those problems go away.
Let me reflect with Gilbert, a very wise saying that the minds that created problems are not the minds that will solve those problems. So to expect Mugabe and his team who have ground Air Zimbabwe into the ground to then pick it up and let it fly again is expecting the near impossible.
So Air Zimbabwe can be revived, so can National Railways of Zimbabwe, so can Hwange Colliery Company, so can a long list of other companies, the Cold Storage Company – they can be revived by people who have ideas, skills and capacities for progress not those who have ideas for stagnancy.
Guma: Final question for you Dr Makoni – given the assumption or working on the assumption that you will be participating in the next elections, it will mean Zimbabwe will have MDC-T, MDC-N, Mavambo, Job Sikhala’s MDC-99, we’re looking at something in the region of six, seven, eight presidential candidates.
Does that bode well for democracy or is that an advantage for Mugabe? Strategically looking at this, what’s your take?
Makoni: Let me say to you at the last count the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission reports that there are 33 political parties in Zimbabwe so you could conceivably have 33 presidential candidates.
Does it bode well for democracy – I don’t think it does any ill for democracy because a lot of those 33, eight or whatever number will not stand the test of elections so you will end up with not more than five serious contenders and that is good for the country, that is good for democracy and out of those five or so, one will emerge the people’s favourite.
Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that’s the leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, the political party, Dr Simba Makoni is also a former Finance minister and a Zanu PF politburo member although he does not want that emphasised too much because it’s a new career so to speak, he now leads a new political party but we really have to thank him for spending almost 40 minutes with us answering your questions.
Dr Makoni thank you so much for your time.
Makoni: It’s my pleasure, thank you Lance and goodbye to your listeners.
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