Tsunga hired thugs to beat students: Bere
Background: The Zimbabwe National Students Union has reportedly split into two factions over differences on whether to support the government sponsored constitution making process or not. Lance Guma moderates a heated debate between the rival Presidents, Clever Bere and Brilliant Dube. It’s claimed in several press reports that Dube is backed by the Tsvangirai MDC who want students to support the constitution making process, while Bere is backed by the ZCTU and NCA who have boycotted. Are all these allegations true? Lance seeks to get the answers for you.
Programme Intro: As Zimbabwe struggles towards a new constitution, SW Radio Africa in conjunction with Zimbabwe Democracy Now, bring you Rules for our Rulers, a programme that gives you the chance to air your views on the constitution you want. We speak to the youth, women, churches, politicians and civil society groups working in and outside Zimbabwe. Rules for our Rulers….telling politicians what you want.
Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to Rules for our Rulers. This week we are focusing on the infighting within the Zimbabwe National Students Union otherwise known as ZINASU. Now I have with me, I don’t know whether to say the current or the former President Mr. Clever Bere and I also have Brilliant Dube, who according to what is being reported is the new President of the students union. So I’ve basically got both sides, Clever Bere and Brilliant Dube onto the programme. Right, let me start with you Brilliant, there was this move to remove Mr. Bere. Can you just maybe summarize for our listeners what has just happened?
Brilliant Dube: Thank you very much. I really don’t know whether to call it a move to remove Mr. Bere but there was an extra-ordinary general council that was held on the 22nd of August, whereby 36 institutions out of the 43 that ZINASU represents attended and the General Council actually decided to recall the President Clever Bere. That is what happened over the weekend on the 22nd of August.
Guma: Now in terms of recalling Mr. Bere what were the reasons motivating his being recalled?
Dube: The general councilors were citing a lot of reasons amongst them that of late Clever Bere has been acting on his own personal opinions and purporting that, that’s what the general councilors want. And the other reasons the general councilors were also purporting was that Clever Bere was actually taking positions, fighting the Take Charge Campaign, that, that’s what they want. So they actually felt that of late Clever Bere has been acting in his own capacity and using the ZINASU mandate. They were also pointing out that comrade Clever Bere even went on to appoint a certain board without prior consultation with general councilors. And the general councilors were citing that they were not happy at all with what President Clever Bere has been doing of late.
Guma: Right, now we’ve got Mr. Clever Bere also on the line as I pointed out at the beginning of the programme. Mr. Bere how do you respond?
Clever Bere: Well I think, let me start by thanking SW Radio Africa and yourself for affording us this opportunity to discuss these issues and try to be able to clarify matters to the public and the people of Zimbabwe. Well first and foremost what is being viewed as a meeting carrying the ZINASU banner on its own is actually a process where one flouted the union’s position and constitution. The President of ZINASU has the sole responsibility and mandate to convene a general council and not any other person like Arnold Tsunga coming to the student’s council saying you have to convene a student’s general council meeting to discuss these matters. He ceased to be a student in 1989. He ceased to be involved in student affairs some three months ago when the National Executive Council of ZINASU met and relieved him of his duties as a board member of ZINASU.
So from our position as the National Executive and I have been in touch with the legitimate general councilors of ZINASU, they are actually shocked with what my colleague Brilliant Dube is saying. It’s something that is getting them by surprise. The students union still remains very clear that it’s still under the able leadership of myself and my entire leadership which comprises Secretary General Freeman Bhoso, Spokesman Blessing Vava and the other national executive council members. We are not aware of any processes that led to the recalling of anyone. And by the way are you in government where one has to be recalled? Who deployed me to be in the students union, probably if it was the students union at NUST or the University at NUST which had recalled me back to my university then I think it could make sense. The word recall is not to be abused and over-abused by people. When President Mbeki was recalled….
Guma: Okay lets do it this way, we get the point. You are likening that to (former) President Mbeki and the ANC but let me come to Brilliant. There is a report in the weekly Standard newspaper saying students have had a serious fall out over the ongoing constitution making process and are said to be keen on controlling the union to advance parallel agendas. Now the groups clashed at a Harare lodge where the faction led by Lovemore Chinoputsa who was ousted as Secretary General had organized a congress to pass a vote of no confidence on ZINASU President Clever Bere. So now we hearing that this matter is about who is supporting the constitution making process and who is not. Is this true?
Dube: Let me say that is not true at all because Zimbabwe National Students Union does not actually focus on the constitutional reform process. As much as the students actually agree that the constitutional reform process is very important, that is not our core mandate or core business. Our core business is to defend academic freedoms. And therefore for someone to actually report that the student’s movement is being divided because of the issue of the constitutional reform process, those allegations are actually unfounded. I’m not sure which article you are referring to. But if you are referring to the article in the Standard, that is a one side story that does not actually have both sides, it is biased and according to me Lovemore Chinoputsa is still the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the fact that Lovemore Chinoputsa was actually ousted because of a general council that was purported to be held on the 20th of June 2009 that…..had general councilors who are not even bonafide.
Guma: Let me just ask you one more point raised by Mr.Bere, Brilliant. He is saying as President he has the sole mandate to call for a general council meeting. Is that a valid point? Is that in the constitution?
Dube: I’m not sure where he is coming from but the general council that was held on the 22nd was an extraordinary general council that was actually called to make sure that internal problems and internal fights that have actually hindered ZINASU should actually be corrected. I also have to quote section 9c of the constitution which provides for an extraordinary general council to be called when the circumstances require such action. And that is actually referring to that part of the constitution of the Zimbabwe National Students Union that is why the extraordinary general council was actually called.
Guma: Okay Mr. Bere she is quoting a section in the constitution that gives them the mandate to do so. What’s your response?
Bere: Well the most important thing I think which you need to capture there is a word ‘general council’ whether its extraordinary or an ordinary council meeting it remains the prerogative of the President in consultation with the National Executive to convene a general council. So I think on that it still goes back to the point that, that meeting was illegal, that meeting was an illegitimate meeting and that meeting cannot be referred to as a ZINASU general council meeting.
Guma: Okay let me slot in one quick question. It does look like there is a lot of boardroom infighting here. I’ve just received one e-mail saying there are two boards, one that has Jacob Mafume, Arnold Tsunga and another board which is led by Takura Zhangazha. Is this true Mr. Bere?
Bere: Well we actually have one board the board that is led by Mr. Takura Zhangazha which was appointed by the National Executive Council, beginning the first week of July. That is the position that we have has the National Executive Council. We met to discuss who should be the people meant to give us advice. By the way the ZINASU board is advisory, yes it’s a board of trustees, but its main role is to provide advice to the student’s union and the Executive so it fit to bring in on board the former President of ZINASU Hopewell Gumbo as the Vice Chairperson, Takura Zhangazha the former Vice President of ZINASU and the other board members include Madock Chivasa who is a former student leader. So basically this is the board that we have in the students union and this is the board that is clearly giving the much valued and needed advice to the student’s movement and this important and critical time in the country’s history.
Guma: Brilliant Dube is there an admission on your part or do you sense or pick what I’m trying to put forward here that it does not look like the students themselves are fighting but at board level there seems to be a power struggle going on?
Dube: I am not sure about the power struggles at board level because according to me and the bonafide general councilors I don’t know of a board that is actually chaired by Takura Zhangazha. I know of a board that is chaired by Arnold Tsunga and the Vice, there is Gorden Moyo, there is even Takura Zhangazha in that same board and the fact that Clever Bere is purporting that Takura Zhangazha is the board chair after the national executive appointed of which by then I was also part of the national executive. I don’t even know of any meeting of that sort that actually appointed that other new as it is purported board. And I am not very sure where this e-mail that you received is coming from but according to me there is only one board that is being chaired by comrade Arnold Tsunga and the other one Clever Bere is purporting that is in existence I am not very sure of that board. I don’t even know there is such a board that exists all I know is that there is a board that is actually chaired by Arnold Tsunga.
Guma: Okay there is a further allegation here about the congress that was held, that it barred certain members from attending. I have here, ‘The credibility of the congress was brought into question as students from the rival camp were prevented from taking part, and some of them were beaten up. And the report is also quoting spokesperson Blessing Vava saying it was a non event because of that. Is it true that certain students or members were barred from attending this meeting?
Dube: I don’t remember any person who was actually barred from attending that extraordinary general council and the fact that the spokesman of the Zimbabwe National Students Union Blessing Vava is actually reporting that some people were actually beaten up I don’t know of that. There was no fighting whatsoever that actually took place, that extra-ordinary general council. Because my understating is that if there was any fighting as they are purporting why they didn’t follow the procedure of reporting that matter to the police because there was no one who was barred from attending that extraordinary general council. All students were there, President and Secretary General, from 36 institutions out of the 43 institutions that the Zimbabwe National Students Union represents.
Guma: Hmm Mr. Bere?
Bere: Well we actually got reports from the media and later we verified those reports well. There are 5 students who were seriously injured and these students are actually claiming they were beaten in front of Arnold Tsunga who was actually witnessing and they are actually claiming that Mr. Tsunga was actually….the students were actually clapping and ululating upon the arrival of Mr. Tsunga whom they were celebrating saying that now Mr. Tsunga is there, the money has now come, the man with the purse has now arrived. So it seems there were some people who were there who were promised money upon the arrival of Mr. Tsunga and when the students who wanted to attend this meeting who were perceived to be supporting myself were then barred and then went on to be beaten. I have on record Archford Mudzengi who had 15 stitches on his leg who was beaten. I have the NUST SRC President Comrade Kurayi Hoyi who also sustained serious injuries and 3 other general councilors. So we are actually surprised to hear that there are people who are claiming these people were not beaten when we have them and have them on record as evidence that they were beaten. And beyond that some of the journalists (attending) had to call me, Mr.Bere we are being beaten at your meeting, I was not aware of any meeting, so clearly people must stop lying. There were thugs who were hired, who were paid by Arnold Tsunga and we are shocked that a prominent human rights lawyer can go to an extent of financing political violence of any sort.
Guma: What would Mr. Tsunga’s motivations be Mr. Bere if you are making such serious allegations?
Dube: Yes, thank you.
Bere: Well I don’t know exactly what would be the reasons but what we know for sure probably is that Mr. Tsunga wanted to remain in the ZINASU board. Mr. Tsunga has been in the board of ZINASU from 2003 until in July when the students union realized that Mr. Tsunga had served more than necessary in the student’s union board so probably Mr. Tsunga never thought it would come a time were the students union would say, chief you have served the students union, it is now time where we need to bring in new people with new ideas. Surely every generation cannot continue to have advice from one person. The context is changing, the political situation is changing and further to that Mr. Tsunga is now based in Switzerland. How can he be the chairperson of the ZINASU advisory board when he is based in Geneva when the students of Zimbabwe are suffering on the ground? We need someone who is on the ground who can continuously provide much needed counsel for the students union to continuously articulate the positions and aspirations of the students of this country and comrade Takura Zhangazha the chairperson of the board has been able to do that at the level that we can actually applaud and to levels which have been satisfactory to ourselves and the national executive and the entire students population of Zimbabwe.
Guma: Okay let me take this thing back to the constitution making process because maybe in Shona ‘tiri kurova imbwa tichiviga mupini’. Brilliant there is a report that is talking about two factions one sponsored by the Tsvangirai MDC who want the students to participate in the constitution making process and Bere’s faction who are alleged to be aligned to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the National Constitutional Assembly who are opposed to the current constitution making process. Is this a true reflection of the situation on the ground? Are the factions divided over their support for the constitution making process?
Dube: I think before I answer that question, I need to respond to what Clever Bere was saying with regards to general councilors who were actually beaten up at the extraordinary general council. I want to respond to what Bere was actually saying about Arnold Tsunga. I think Clever Bere is just trying to bring Arnold Tsunga’s name into the mud for no apparent reason because that he was saying is not true and those allegations are unfounded but just some with scores to settle for himself and not in the interests of the union. There is no reason whatsoever that a credible man like Arnold Tsunga should be seen sponsoring violence and there is no reason why Arnold Tsunga would want to remain on the ZINASU board because the ZINASU board is the steward and guardian of ZINASU and it actually overseas, it plays an advisory role. He does not get any incentive or salary whatsoever. And there is no need for someone like Arnold Tsunga to be seen sponsoring violence. All that he is saying is actually not true and I don’t know where those guys were actually beaten if ever they were beaten but surely it was not at the extraordinary general council.
Guma: Okay and then my question.
Dube: Okay let me actually respond to the question that you had said. No one is actually sponsoring ZINASU with regard to maybe the constitutional reform process like you said the other faction is actually sponsored by MDC-T. MDC-T is actually not sponsoring anyone but it is anyone’s democratic right either to take part or to take charge. No one is actually going to force someone to take part or to take charge. It is anybody’s democratic right to take part or to take charge. And those allegations that MDC-T is actually sponsoring factionalism in ZINASU that is not true. And if ever these factions that are coming out of ZINASU, the major reason why we are having these factions is because of late Clever Bere as acted as a dictator to the students movement and the students movement is saying no we can not actually have a dictator if you say we are fighting Mugabe. We cannot the same person we are all facing and that is the major reason why we are having these divisions in the Zimbabwe National Students Union. Not because of the taking part or the taking charge, no that is not the main reason, it might be one of the reasons that is exacerbating the factionalism in the Zimbabwe National Students Union but surely that is not the reason why we have that division.
Guma: Okay let me take it to Mr.Bere. Mr.Bere you are being accused of being a dictator, making unilateral decisions, how do you respond to that?
Bere:….ha ha ha (laughing) well its something that actually deserves a laugh really. Probably I need to know the reasons why she is referring to as a dictator but if it is in the context of constitutional reform there is no way that one can actually claim that I am being a dictator. We are guided by the historical processes and we are equally guided by our congress mandate. Surely as a student’s movement everyone is allowed to express their democratic right. For a movement you allow people to do that but also need to make collective positions where you need everyone else to come together to see if we can come with a consolidated position as a movement where everyone is bound by that decision. And for us we are bounded by the congress resolution of 19 January 2008 at Eastlea where we were elected and we resolved that writing of the people’s constitution must be driven by an independent commission which comprises of all stakeholders. This is a position that has been historical. Even the congress of the 3rd to the 4th of May in 2006 which was held at MTB in Harare resolved on constitutional reform that the constitution of this country be written by a commission of independent people appointed outside a partisan system and not appointed by the President. This is the same resolution that was made in 2001 in Mutare, the ZINASU congress and on the 29th of March in 2003 in Njube Bulawayo again at the ZINASU congress. This is a position that we have been consistent in articulating. So on constitutional reform there is no debate. The students union can never support a flawed process.
And also just to get back to some of the resolutions that the Zimbabwe National Students Union has participated. The resolutions of the Working Peoples Convention and I quote, “The writing of a people’s constitution be initiated with immediate effect through a constitutional commission not based on presidential partisan appointments but defined and accountable to a conference of representatives of elected civil and other social groups. This was made in February 99 and you know students participated in that process very actively and you know the leadership of the students union that time, Nelson Chamisa, Learnmore Jongwe and other student leaders of that generation made that declaration together with the working class people, together with the peasants and other interested parties. And just recently on the 9th of February 2008 you know the people of Zimbabwe in their civil society organizations met in Harare at HICC to discuss and deliberate on a number of issues and at the end of that convention the people of Zimbabwe adopted what is called the Zimbabwe People’s Charter and on constitutional reform it says and I quote, ‘The collection of the views of the people and their compilation into a draft constitution that shall be undertaken by an all-stakeholders commission composed of representatives of government, parliament, political parties, civil society, labour, business, church and with gender and minority balance. A transparent process of appointing an all stakeholders commission members as well as their terms of reference.” This is something that we made collectively as Zimbabwean civil society on the 9th of February 2008.
Guma: Okay I will have to stop you there Mr. Bere because of time constraints. Brilliant what’s going to be the stance of the ZINASU faction that you are leading towards the constitution?
Dube: I am not leading any faction, I am leading the union and for someone to say I am leading a faction I think it is an insult.
Guma: Well the thing is we cant take a side, so I will have to try and be as neutral as possible.
Dube: Well I’m speaking on my part. Before I actually answer that question, when you asked me that, is ZINASU divided over the constitutional process, I actually said no. I don’t think that is the reason why ZINASU is actually divided. So for Clever Bere to actually put words in my mouth and say that we are defecting basing on the constitutional reform I think it clearly shows that he actually pre-conceived that I was actually going to speak on the issues of the constitution. And now getting into your question, what is our position? The general council debated the constitution making process and actually noted that education as a parliamentary human right is not contained in the constitution. Therefore they have decided to take part and in the event that education is not included as a basic human right that’s when they can actually vote no in the referendum. This is what the general councilors want and not what I want but this is what the general councilors want.
Guma: Okay Brilliant if I may interject when I started the programme this is what I pointed out that this is what the reports are saying that. Its very clear from what you are saying that Bere and his group are opposed to the constitution making process and are taking the same stance as the ZCTU and the NCA. You and your group are taking the complete opposite and are favouring participation. So is not very clear that this is the division line here between the two groups. I will start with you Brilliant.
Dube: It’s not at all the issue of the constitution but like I said there are other power hungry leaders in the civic society who want to use the students union as a battling ground for this constitutional reform process or this constitutional making process or whatever term it is. But that is not the issue why we are divided but some people are just taking advantage of this change that we are currently having in Zimbabwe to actually further their own interests. That surely is not the reason why the students union is divided.
Guma: Mr. Bere in 20 seconds we running out of time, your comment on that, are you divided, is this division line or the fault line here based on the constitution making process?
Bere: Well it’s actually shocking that comrade Brilliant Dube is saying this. Actually you are aware Saturday before this one we had a meeting with the leadership of the MDC where we were clear and also in her presence we told the MDC leadership that were against the constitution making process and you agreed to that. We actually had another committee where I and her participated in creating a dossier that the Prime Minister was supposed to take to government. So on constitutional reforms I think she is having double standards probably because of other agenda’s but Brilliant is clear that she was with us at that meeting and agreed with the resolutions of that meeting and agreed that the MDC must come back to the people. So I’m actually shocked that she is saying that she went to another process. Why was she part of a process that made such a position and engaged the MDC on the constitution making process? And then tomorrow she gets back and vacillates
Guma: Okay I will have to stop the programme there, many thanks for your time Brilliant Dube and Clever Bere on Rules for our Rulers. Thank you very much for your time.