This is the combined Part 1 and Part 2 of a heated debate on Behind the Headlines featuring the two spokespersons of the rival Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) factions. SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma moderates as Kudakwashe Chakabva and Wisdom Mgagara battle it out to explain why the students union split and who is the legitimate executive out of the two?
Interview broadcast 18 March 2010
Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to another edition of Behind the Headlines. As some of you will be aware, the Zimbabwe National Students Union, otherwise known as ZINASU, split into two factions sometime last year over disagreements over various issues, one of which was – which direction to take with the constitution making process.
So what we have decided to do, since there has since been two congresses by two different factions and two executives elected, we’ve got the spokespersons from the two factions onto the programme, I’ve got Wisdom Mgagara who is from the executive led by Joshua Chinyere and I’ve got Kudakwashe Chakabva who is from the Executive led by Tafadzwa Mugwadi, gentlemen, thank you very much for taking your time and joining us.
Kudakwashe Chakabva: You are welcome
Wisdom Mgagara: Yes, thank you.
Guma: Right, let me start with you Kudakwashe Chakabva from the Tafadzwa Mugwadi executive, from your side of the fence, why do we have this problem where we have two executives claiming to be the legitimate ZINASU?
Chakabva: I think the whole problem emanates from some few individuals, I am sure they are just power-hungry individuals who are trying to make Zimbabwe National Students Union a platform for self-enrichment. If you go back, if you trace the events leading to this so-called split, that it emanates from the General Council meeting that was held in Harare on the 27th of July 2009, whereby (Lovemore) Chinoputsa was deposed from power through a vote of no confidence by the students of Zimbabwe General Council then that disgruntlement emanated from his failure to execute his duties fully and from there Brilliant Dube led a group of students into forming something that they call a National Executive Council but what you have to remember also is that Brilliant Dube was suspended even before she had created this thing called another ZINASU.
Guma: OK that’s your side of the story. Let’s go to Wisdom Mgagara, the Joshua Chinyere executive, what’s your take on what Kudakwashe has just said?
Mgagara: Our position is that these divisions, they emanated from a problem which was caused by competitive individuals as well who believed that they are the gurus of the student union. What is the so-called General Council which toppled Lovemore Chinoputsa was not constitutional because we have an issue whereby the students who were there to represent the students…..and we also have an issue of the constitution whereby the then president Clever Bere had to move a motion on the position of the students that the students of Zimbabwe had (inaudible) denied a constitution and had to align himself to the Madhuku agenda of the Take Charge campaign.
This was again unconstitutional and an extraordinary General Council which is in the provision of the constitution of ZINASU that even then that there is an office bearer who has abused his powers, there’s need for that and that general extraordinary General Council, we had on the 22nd of August 2009 whereby Clever Bere was ousted out of office and Brilliant Dube was elevated to the President of the Union.
Guma: OK, you’ve raised one interesting issue which has been the dominant theme here that this whole disagreement was over the constitution making process where one faction was supported by the NCA and Dr Lovemore Madhuku and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the other faction supported by the MDC and others who thought that taking part in the constitution making process was the best thing. Let me start with you Kudakwashe. Is it true then to say the students are not really in disagreement here, it’s the organisations outside ZINASU who have their own agendas that are manipulating the students? Would you agree to that?
Chakabva: I actually totally dismiss that. We as the National Executive Council were given the mandate to endorse the Take Charge campaign, the so-called Madhuku campaign. It is now a popular phenomenon in all colleges of Zimbabwe that when you go there, we are actually called the Orange Revolutionaries. It is not, it is not something, it has nothing to do with the NCA chairman, it is actually within the students themselves that we have nothing to do with the constitution making process that is stipulated under Article Six.
Of course there are certain influences especially those at the Crisis Coalition who are trying to field some differences within the students of Zimbabwe. I actually do not consider what the spokesperson, the guy on the other line, what he says because we actually think that he is part of my constituents I speak on his behalf as a student. It is actually a nullity that he is actually saying some things that concern the Union because I am the only one who can speak on behalf of the Union.
Guma: OK, clearly, obviously there is disagreement. There are two factions, both claiming to be the legitimate ZINASU which is why we are having this programme to discuss these issues. Let me come to you Wisdom, in the first discussion, last year I hosted a debate between Brilliant Dube and Clever Bere and the obvious thing that came out was that Clever Bere’s Executive was against the constitution and Brilliant Dube’s one supported the constitution making process. Is this something that both factions can deny – that this rift really has been driven by the constitution making process?
Mgagara: Yah, truly that’s where the problem emanates from. In fact on the 22nd of August when Brilliant Dube was elevated to be the president of the Union, there was a resolution there which was adopted by the legitimate students and they say that the students of Zimbabwe were agreeing to write the constitution and from that resolution, the resolution was later taken to a Congress which we had on the 19th of December 2009 where it was also added that the students of Zimbabwe have agreed to writing the constitution.
So I’m surprised that there are still a group of people who still claim to be student leaders, yet as I speak right now we’ve got our Secretary General Grant Tabvurei who is in Mutare where he is meeting the students, telling them about the progress on the issue of the constitution and as I speak right now, I’m in Midlands, where I’m talking to the students, talking to them about the issue of the constitution and the students have responded in a positive way because they are cooperating and they have said to us that it is a privilege that we need to write a constitution that will benefit us and our siblings and even the generations to come.
So I think the position being taken by our fellow guys is a selfish decision because how can you just say I do not want to get into….(inaudible)…haven’t seen a problem with that, so the students of Zimbabwe, they have made it clear from the resolution we had that they are going to have a constitution.
Guma: OK, how difficult is it to get the two sides to agree and have one united voice because I remember there was a meeting, again last year to try and bridge the differences and have one Congress. This collapsed of course over several disagreements which we want to get to. Let me start with you Kudakwashe Chakabva from the Tafadzwa Mugwadi executive, why did the meeting fail to get the two sides to have one Congress? What were the major obstacles?
Chakabva: I am sure you are referring to the period when Clever Bere was still in power?
Chakabva: What I know is we had some certain set of conditions that we thought could be discussed and probably endorsed and amongst the conditions were that the current secretariat, or the then secretariat should be dissolved, one. Secondly with the mandate that there should be a forensic audit of the Zimbabwe National Students Union financial affairs for the past three years and we actually do not know the reason why the comrades failed to endorse such conditions. It is our belief that an external force was used to impede the effort and for reasons which we are sure are just selfish ends…
Guma: Let me, Wisdom can you respond to that? What caused the collapse of the attempts to get the unions together?
Mgagara: I’m sure that the reason why we couldn’t have one Congress is that the one ousted president, Clever Bere, had to give some demands which even if you go to Mars you’ll not get them. He demanded that he wanted six months in the office to lead the students union and when his term was over, point number one. (Tafadzwa interrupts laughing).
Then point number two we also have some individuals who are using ZINASU to be their political battle field to settle their scores the likes of Lovemore Madhuku, the likes of (Takura) Zhangazha. Those guys they are godfathers for those guys and I remember well that there was once a close agreement, whereby these guys had agreed that they were going to have one Congress but to my surprise, the next meeting which was held, Clever Bere was now talking something else which means that there were some people whom he had to go and consult who were telling him what to do and which is the same problem even happening.
As the students we don’t have problems, I don’t have problems with Two boy (Tafadzwa Mugwadi) from UZ, I don’t have problems with Kurayi Hoyi but the problem is that we have got some individuals who are using ZINASU to their playground, where they want to achieve their issues. The Madhuku agenda is the unpopular thing, to the people of Zimbabwe the (inaudible) thing and therefore they know that the students are a big force for change and therefore they can use the students to manipulate the agenda so hence the problem which you have in ZINASU.
Guma: OK Kudakwashe I heard you laughing as Wisdom was talking there, is there anything that you object to what he said, particularly the fact that he’s alleging Clever Bere had requested an extra six months in office. Is that true?
Chakabva: Ah, well like I said before, his position is a nullity it comes from someone who I can’t consider now, so the point that Clever Bere wanted power for so long it is just an assumption that he himself cannot even prove it. Not even he that he speaks on behalf of, they cannot even prove it. What I can prove to you as a fact is that Clever Bere did leave power on the 28th to the 30th of January in the year of our Lord 2010, that is enough ground to say that the man wasn’t what is being said about him.
In fact to refer back to the issue of money that he talks of, if it is so self-evident that these guys are so authentic why is it that they fear so much the issue of a forensic audit? Why is that? They must question that. They must prove to the world that they stand on behalf of real principals. Remember what Comrade Lenin said about these worshippers of money that when you go through such periods of invasion by these worshippers of money you come out stronger and more resolute and that is exactly what we are. We are not even moved by what he said. These are just opinions by those people that we represent. Wisdom is just a student at the University of Zimbabwe. I speak on his behalf as a student leader.
Guma: Wisdom this is interesting, did you or your faction reject the audit?
Mgagara: Ah actually what I can simply say is that all what he is saying are dubious charges. I think this young man is actually talking from an un-informed prospective point of view because what I know is he was not even part of the talks, one, and two I think what he is saying does not even tally with what happened on the issue of the talks. On the issue of the talks the agenda was not even about the secretariat. I’m sure that he should go back and know the history for ZINASU to have the secretariat.
It was in 2005, 2006 that the then Executive could not produce an audit report and therefore there was need for the secretariat so that it could account for those resources. The issue of an audit is out of the question. That was not an issue which is making the students to be divided. It’s very unfortunate that these guys are actually pursuing an agenda of a certain individual and they don’t even know where the problems emanated from and I mean if you are a blind person and you are being led by someone who can see, he can even drop you in a pit of mess.
So they are heading to mess, we are the legitimate student leaders, recognized by everyone in civil society, recognized by everyone, even the students. Go to the University of Zimbabwe, ask them who is the President they’ll tell you Joshua Chinyere, go to MSU (Midlands State University), go to Belvedere in Harare, so I don’t even know what he’s saying, I mean he’s a student and I’m sure that he’s a student at Harare Poly but not a student leader. We can have even a survey that could go even to Madziva and ask them who is the President of ZINASU and they’ll tell you Joshua Chinyere, so I don’t even know what these guys are talking about?
Guma: One argument that was put Wisdom, against the Secretariat was that certain individuals were becoming permanent fixtures in the Union and there was this feeling that people should come and go and I do remember an email which was sent soon after the talks collapsed that stated that the Secretariat was a problem, certain individuals did not want to be removed. Would you agree it still remains a problem or should it have been a problem?
Mgagara: I don’t think the issue of the Secretariat is a problem. As the leadership of ZINASU we are working well with the Secretariat and I’m sure that these guys were trying to hide behind their fingers by citing the issue of the Secretariat but it is something which is completely out of the story.
Guma: Well on that note we have to conclude the first part of this discussion between the two rival spokespersons of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU). That’s Kudakwashe Chakabva and Wisdom Mgagara representing both their factions. Join me next week as we conclude this debate on just what is the problem in ZINASU.
Below is Part 2 of the debate
Interview broadcast 25 March 2010
Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to the second part of this discussion featuring the two rival spokespersons for the Zimbabwe National Students Union, ZINASU, that is Kudakwashe Chakabva and Wisdom Mgagara. Mr. Chakabva is representing the faction led by Tafadzwa Mugwadi, that’s the president and Wisdom Mgagara is representing the faction led by President Joshua Chinyere.
Now last week we discussed a couple of issues and this week we continue but I first asked about the Secretariat which, the last time we heard led to the collapse of talks to have one Congress to unite the two unions so I first asked, is the Secretariat really that much of a problem?
Wisdom Mgagara: I don’t think the issue of the Secretariat is a problem. As the leadership of ZINASU we are working well with the Secretariat and I’m sure that these guys were trying to hide behind their fingers by citing the issue of the Secretariat but it is something which is completely out of the story. I’m sure these guys they also have their own Secretariat where they have Munjodzi (Mutandiri) as their coordinator where there’s someone who’s writing some alerts on behalf of the so-called spokesperson, so they also have a Secretariat so what’s the problem of us having a Secretariat? The issue is not about a Secretariat.
Guma: OK so let me quickly bring in Kudakwashe Chakabva here from the Tafadzwa Mugwadi executive. I keep having to remind our listeners so that they know who is who here. Kudakwashe, two ZINASU Executives issuing alerts liaising with students, there was that whole messy situation at Bindura where the different Executives issued different statements contradicting each other, how has it been for the students? How are students handling this? Who do they recognize and how are they deciding who to recognize?
Kudakwashe Chakabva: That’s a very critical question. Look if you analyze the issue it all ends up with us competing for SRC elections but the trend has been that this so-called legitimate student leaders, the Wisdom and company, they have been losing all over Zimbabwe. The students have been rejecting them, totally rejecting them, leaving only a recluse, if you go to for instance to Harare Poly, they are actually considered an external factor, they are not even known, this is actually the place where the International Relations Secretary where he is from but they are totally unknown there.
Everywhere, even if you at the University of Zimbabwe, they are not even known there. If you go back to the violence that involved their president Joshua Chinyere he was beaten by a group of students who were disgruntled after he was, he had insulted them that we have beaten your president, we have beaten your national executive council members and because what can you do and the students responded accordingly, they assaulted him. Look that actually serves to indicate that the students of Zimbabwe have confidence in the National Executive Council of President Tafadzwa Mugwadi and the whole National Executive Council.
That’s a clear indication. To compete with people who masquerade as leadership to ask ah that’s something else we do not stand to compete with anyone, we actually stand as a forum to defend the right to education, not to compete with certain external forces, people who are pushing an agenda that even themselves do not understand. Our struggle is a principled struggle for the right to education.
Guma: OK right you’ve raised an issue there which I wanted to go into next, the issue of violence. The Memorial Service for the late Susan Tsvangirai according to reports we did obviously was turned into a battleground where the executive led by Tafadzwa Mugwadi, I think he was the one that was assaulted allegedly by MDC youths. Let me start with Wisdom here, your faction was accused of having coordinated these attacks with the MDC youths at the Memorial, what’s your side of the story?
Mgagara: Oh alright, before I go on can I just take you back on the issue that what my other fellow was saying on the issue that the students are rejecting us. Actually if you can make your own research go to Kwekwe Poly, go to Mutare Poly, go to Gweru Poly, go to Bulawayo Poly ask those guys, even their president and ask them who is their President in terms of ZINASU, they’ll tell you Joshua Chinyere I’m surprised the other guy was saying that we are not recognized by students I think that this is something else which is far-fetched and which is not reality…
Guma: OK just quickly answer on the issue of violence Wisdom, we’re kinda running out of time so I really want to touch on that. What really happened at Mai Tsvangirai’s Memorial?
Mgagara: On the issue of violence, I’m not sure, in fact I’m hearing from different angles that we engineered violence there but I don’t think we were responsible for that. In fact I’m not even aware that there were people beaten there. I’m hearing from you and hearing it from other people. What I simply know is that we went to the Memorial and it was a successful thing and the president Joshua Chinyere gave a very nice speech, that’s all I know. I don’t even know about those (incidents) of violence. The only thing which I know that those guys, those morons, those thugs, they attacked us. That’s what I know, I don’t even…
Guma: But Wisdom, I think you are being insincere because I did interview you and you did accuse the other side of trying to politicize the Memorial and in your own words you said the MDC youths had to administer physical counseling. Did you not say that?
Chakabva: The comrade has got short memory.
Mgagara: No what I can simply tell you is that I had to hear it from the other guys that those guys they received physical counseling from the youth, after they insulted the Prime Minister, they insulted the President of the MDC and therefore they thought probably couldn’t sit down, but I’m not saying that, I’m not actually denying but I’m saying I’m not well clear on what happened…
Chakabva: Not sure you were interviewed or what?
Guma: OK so can we bring this to Kudakwashe Chakabva, after the assault on members of your Executive, was it then retaliation that members of the Chinyere Executive were attacked near Fourth Street? Were you retaliating?
Chakabva: Actually as a matter of principle our National Executive Council was mandated by the Congress, Congress resolution – we denounce violence in all its forms and manifestations. We condemn what happened to the beating of students, of student leaders by whichever force representing whoever. We condemn, it is not in us to use violence against students. What happened at the Memorial Service was a regrettable scenario.
We were shocked to hear that the students of Zimbabwe were assaulted at a ceremony where the MDC was actually hosting because it is our belief that the MDC is a product of the Zimbabwe National Students Union. What happened also to Joshua Chinyere is a regrettable thing but what we can say to you is that it wasn’t retaliation.
Actually what happened is that the students of Harare Poly, University of Zimbabwe, Morgan Zintec as well as Seke, that it is our culture that when we gather for national events we go as a team with our institutions, constituencies, so when they saw that their leadership was being harassed they were in a state of shock and as soon as they got an opportunity to come to the office, they came, I addressed them in the company of the Secretary General.
We told them what transpired at Glamis Stadium, they were disappointed that the MDC on their way back to town they bumped into Joshua Chinyere, Wisdom as well as Grant Tabvurei they had the audacity, the three of them, they had the audacity to say to the students, look we assaulted your leaders, if we could assault your leaders, then what will we do to you as individuals? The students fumed, they were provoked and they acted, they descended upon these people, these comrades and they assaulted them. I’m told they even chased them up until they arrived into Harvest House (MDC HQ). It is not our, it is not in us to use violence as a tool of political objective it is not in us…
Guma: Wisdom, ah sorry to interrupt Kudakwashe, let me bring in Wisdom here because I’m sure this discussion on the violence will go on and on with no end. On a more positive note Wisdom Mgagara, are there any grounds for the two factions to meet halfway, compromise and have one united Union because at the end of the day, it’s the students that suffer with two competing factions battling for influence? Are there any grounds to say OK let’s convene an all-stakeholders conference to try and map a way forward and dissolve these differences?
Mgagara: Ah what I can simply say is that as a spokesperson, I speak the position of the Union and the Union are the students, students of Zimbabwe are the compass. We can only go back to the students and they’ll make a decision. If the students can decide that we have an extraordinary meeting whereby we have the other guys coming, trying to settle the differences, I think there’s no way I can dismiss that…
Guma: Kudakwashe is your Executive willing to do that? Have an all-stakeholders conference where all students come in and try and resolve this once and for all because only one united congress can sort this mess out?
Chakabva: I think there are two dimensions to this scenario for a united ZINASU, that remember we actually believe or are of the opinion that we are two incompatible, ideologically incompatible groups and because of that some of us move with Congress Resolutions. Congress Resolution Article 14, Subsection Three stipulates clearly that we have no agenda of uniting with a group of dissidents. We are actually calling these dissidents to come for a hearing so that they can answer for their habit of violating the Zimbabwe National Students Union constitution…
Guma: But would you not agree, would you not agree Kudakwashe, Kudakwashe, would you not agree though that elections, just in the same way that Zimbabwe’s squabbling political parties are viewing an election as a final solution, would you not agree that putting this to the vote of students, irregardless of what this or that constitution says but just really finding something within the rules that allows the students to once and for all decide who should be the legitimate leader? Would that not be the way forward?
Chakabva: We were elected into power by the students of Zimbabwe, we have confidence in their…
Guma: Yeah but that was via one Congress which you held. My point is, why don’t you have a united Congress where whoever is elected there becomes the undisputed leader?
Chakabva: Yah I wanted to answer that. We have confidence that the students of Zimbabwe have in us, is the same confidence that we have in them that they will elect students leadership with an ideology that is pro-student, an ideology that is not in abidance with money like our fellow colleagues now masquerading as ZINASU. We are willing to enter into an election if that is to help the students of Zimbabwe, the ordinary student who is suffering from exorbitant fees every day. We are willing to do that for as long as we ensure the right to education, we do that.
Guma: Wisdom Mgagara what say you to that? Is it feasible that the two unions can have one Congress and try and resolve this? Is it not in the interests of the students that this be done?
Mgagara: Basically it is in the hands of the students but I’m sure that the other group which is purporting to be the student leaders, in fact they will deny that because they actually know that they are not known by the students. I think it will be a very, very difficult way to try and settle the problem.
What I can simply say is that the students of Zimbabwe they have been exposed to these harsh conditions whereby we have the education sector being characterized by dropouts and this has even affected us, our operation because some other people are controlling the student community, so the issue here is that if the students decide that where we go for whatever is there to unite the students let it be so but make sure I know that the students will decide on the good thing which will make the Unions work again which I know that President Joshua Chinyere will retain the vote of the president and will lead the student union.
Guma: Final question – I pose this question because we are running out of time but I’ll ask this question to both of you and try and answer it briefly starting with you Kudakwashe Chakabva, if the NCA and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions were to find a common position with the MDC with regard to the constitution making process do you think the differences within the student union will continue?
Chakabva: Actually we think that the differences within the student union are not actually a manifestation of the constitutional agenda. It is actually a few individuals probably trying to foster something they do not have, do not have the people of Zimbabwe in mind. In terms of going back to the MDC we are prepared, we formed the MDC but the differences with these people actually like you said, like you proposed, probably an election would send a clear message to the students of Zimbabwe that who really is the leadership.
Guma: OK Wisdom – same question to you – if the MDC, ZTCU, NCA were to find a common position do you think the differences within the students union would remain?
Mgagara: Actually like what I said before that it’s very unfortunate that we have some of us who have been lost and misled and to the extent that they are following some peoples’ agendas, like the Madhuku agenda. If Madhuku and Morgan Tsvangirai ever settled and agree on a single position I’m sure those guys would never, they will have no where to go because the position of the students is clear they are going to have a constitution and these guys in trying to push the Madhuku agenda, they will go nowhere so I think it’s clear, it’s clear that the differences will end because they will have no-one to protect them.
Guma: OK gentlemen thank you so much for joining us. I had with me the two spokespersons from the two rival ZINASU unions that is Kudakwashe Chakabva representing the Tafadzwa Mugwadi executive and Wisdom Mgagara representing the President Joshua Chinyere executive. Gentlemen thank you for joining me on Behind the Headlines.
Chakabva: You are welcome.
Mgagara: Thanks a lot.