Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu Behind the Headlines
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.
‘They 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.
Interview broadcast 22 November 2010
Lance 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.
Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu: Thank you Lance.
Guma: 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?
Ndlovu: 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.
Guma: 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 the nation.
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?
Ndlovu: 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.
Eventually 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?
Ndlovu: 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 amongst them.
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 Britain.
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 Mutambara MDC?
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 alone here.
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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