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ZINASU faction presidents debate on BTH

The gloves are off in this heated debate between the two presidents of the rival Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) factions. SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma tries to get to the bottom of the factionalism by inviting both Obert Masaraure and Tafadzwa Mugwadi onto the show. Who is the real ZINASU? What happened to the unification of the factions in May this year?

Interview broadcast 06 December 2010

Lance Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and welcome to Behind the Headlines. In May this year we reported how a secret meeting organised in Harare was able to bring the two warring Zimbabwe National Students Union ZINASU factions together culminating in the setting up of an 11 member interim executive.

The background is that last year the union split into two over a variety of reasons including whether to support the government backed constitution-making process or not. A new executive comprising members of both factions was said to have been elected and led by Obert Masaraure, formerly a deputy to Tafadzwa Mugwadi who was originally the president of one of the factions.

It was reported that in this unification meeting, Mugwadi walked out vowing he was still leader of ZINASU so it’s still a very convoluted picture with two factions still in existence and issuing out press statements.

So who is the real ZINASU? To answer this question I have both the presidents of the two factions – Obert Masaraure and Tafadzwa Mugwadi. I’ll start off with you Tafadzwa – can you explain to us why this unification never really happened?

Tafadzwa Mugwadi: I want the people of Zimbabwe and the generality of our students the partners, comrades and friends of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, formerly known as the Zimbabwe National Students Union to say that the meeting that was organised at St Lucia Park, you have said it truly yourself Lance Guma, it was a secret meeting and we have never heard of the purpose of secret meetings for the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

We do not have secret meetings in the structures, in the constitution of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, we do not have secret meetings as organisers of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, that is the first port of call. The second point is that the reason why the St Lucia Park farce failed it was simply because, by its very orientation, it was meant to fail and no wonder why it didn’t go anywhere.

The truth is simply that it was one, I mean in fact it was very, very unconstitutional, it was a political error on the part of those that organised it because it didn’t take into consideration the essence of the people, I mean the students of Zimbabwe.

The students of Zimbabwe were the people that were supposed to be consulted first in terms of what is the way forward in addressing the problem that has rocked the Zimbabwe National Students Union instead of having a boardroom arrangement, instead of having a Saturday, a Sunday gathering, instead of having a kangaroo committee sitting down to decide on the fate of hundreds and hundreds of thousands in Zimbabwe that are led by the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

What we sought to achieve at the Zimbabwe National Students Union which I’m proud to have stood for is that whatever that happens at the Zimbabwe National Students Union in the interest of progress it must be determined by the generality of the students of Zimbabwe, through constitutional organs of the Zimbabwe National Students Union that is involved.

The general council, the extraordinary general council and the by annual congress are the only three bodies that are empowered for decision-making, fundamental decision-making at the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

Obert Masaraure vs Tafadzwa Mugwadi on BTH
Obert Masaraure vs Tafadzwa Mugwadi on BTH

Guma: OK Tafadzwa, if this was a flawed meeting, you’ve just said you don’t have secret meetings, why did you attend?

Mugwadi: The reason why I attended that meeting on the 2nd of May it was because I was called in the middle of the night and I was told that a meeting had been organised by the Students Solidarity Trust and the purpose of the meeting was to create a framework of engagements between ourselves (inaudible) including Mr Obert Masaraure when he was still the vice president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, before he unceremoniously and unofficially resigned.

The decision was we were going there to build a framework of engagement following the violent skirmish that had taken place along Fourth Street after the event that had taken place at Mai Tsvangirai’s memorial service. And when we went there, we were going there to build that framework of engagement and create mechanisms and the criteria of bringing together the Zimbabwe National Students Union warring factions.

Guma: OK, OK, we’ll go into detail a bit later on. Let me just throw this one to Obert Masaraure. Obert, you have just heard what Tafadzwa is saying there, can you respond to what he is saying? He’s saying the meeting should not have been held, it was flawed and the whole framework was wrong.

Masaraure: OK thank you Mkoma Lance. I think the first thing I can say, people mustn’t dwell much on constitutional issues which they are not well versed in. Let us begin with the meeting that was held at St Lucia Park, I was invited by my then president Tafadzwa Mugwadi, in a phone invitation he clearly told me that he wanted to dissolve both factions and come up with one executive of ZINASU.

When I went to that meeting obviously, those factions had been dissolved and I think I was told that I no longer had a position and people were in a position now to form one interim executive. Now I think the meeting was a process of engagement for the warring factions, the warring executives who had been elected in the congress that had been held so obviously ZINASU was coming from a place of factionalism and there are no factions in the ZINASU constitution.

Now the meeting had to be secret because we agreed amongst ourselves that we want to run away from dirty hand of handlers, we want to be our own as student leaders who were elected at different congresses and just clear a way forward for ourselves without the influence of handlers. It’s just very unfortunate that on that historic day Tafadzwa Mugwadi decided to desert the Union and ran back to the handlers whom we were then running away from.

And I think we had a secret meeting and we switched off our cellphones, our cellphones were in one bag and we said this was purely going to be a student engagement with no external influence and it was because of that meeting that we came up with an interim arrangement. That interim arrangement I was tasked to lead it.

The interim arrangement was tasked to call for a general council in a space of not more than two weeks and I did that on the 22nd of May and we called for an extraordinary general council meeting. Now when people talk of engaging the students, when they don’t even have a student followers themselves, when people Tafadzwa talks of a general council when it doesn’t even know one general councillor on the ground is shameful, insulting.

But I think the general councillors met on the 22nd of May this year and they were informed that those who they had elected at different congresses and so it fit to unite the students across the divide and ZINASU was now one and unified.

Guma: OK, OK I’ll have to cut you there, let’s give Tafadzwa an opportunity to respond. Tafadzwa a question for you – from the original executive that you led, I believe it was only the two of you, I think that the other one is Kudakwashe Chakabva out of the original executive that you led, only two people objected to this unification. A lot of people are making something out of that saying the numbers show that yours was not a popular decision to walk away.

Masaraure: Yes

Mugwadi:  Well let’s have a lot of people speaking about that but I’m glad you didn’t say a lot of students. Now what I represent as the Zimbabwe National Students Union president are not the people that Obert is talking about, are not the ten men that involved Obert Masaraure during then.

I represent the majority of the students in Zimbabwe, who involve  student’s from Polytechnics, students from teachers colleges, students from the institutes of technology, students from school of mines, students from universities, students from all corners of Zimbabwe who have a vision to see a robust education delivery system in the country. Who have a vision of seeing the Zimbabwe National Students Union claiming the political, economic and social space that it deserves in the geopolitics of the country and that’s not what Masaraure is talking about.

The second thing, let me tell you comrade Lance, the confusion has always been there that the president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union is the leader of the people who are in the executive council’s of ZINASU. That is a fallacy that I need to correct at this juncture. Now Obert Masaraure, if you lead, if you claim that you are the president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union because you lead ten people plus yourself, the 11th one whom you claim were elected at St Lucia Park.

I want to pose to you this question – are you saying that the majority of the students of this country, the capacity to make substantive and fundamental decisions on behalf of the Zimbabwe National Students Union becomes useless at St Lucia Park? Are you saying that St Lucia Park that small house you are talking about takes precedence over the legitimate and constitutional organs of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, it involves congress?

Guma: OK let’s give Obert a chance to answer your question. Obert the question there from Tafadzwa, would you like to answer that?

Masaraure: Yah, yah, the Zimbabwe National Students Union is run by the general councillors on the ground. We have an SRC president and a secretary general from each and every institution…

Mugwadi: ….(interrupts)…now..now…

Guma: Hold on Tafadzwa, you asked the question – let the question be answered. If you speak over him our listeners will not be able to hear who is saying what, so Obert answer the question that Tafadzwa posed.

Masaraure: Yah, the 92 general councillors that sat on the 22nd of May made a decision that they were for the unification of students those are the people who run the students union, I think there’s clear testimony that the students of Zimbabwe are in agreement.

Even Tafadzwa himself he knows that because immediately after the general council he even attempted to convene a meeting for the general council and you showed up with a few friends of yours, 11 of you and you failed to convene a general council.

Now the general council that we are talking of is when elected SRC President and secretary generals constitute the general council you cannot handpick your friends and then claim that they are the general council.

Now we can no longer continue to say that the St Lucia engagement was a fallacy because that engagement was a beginning of the unification of warring factions. You must answer this – are there factions in the constitution of ZINASU? This was an extraordinary crisis, an extraordinary situation. No wonder why the leaders of our generation were able to go out of their way and even engage or even beyond the hands of the handlers, the handlers that are now controlling you.

Guma: OK, OK. Now Obert you are raising the issue of the handlers, now Tafadzwa, I want to ask this question to both of you because from the very beginning it was always alleged – one faction is handled by the NCA in Dr Lovemore Madhuku and the other faction is handled by the Crisis Coalition through various other people.

My first question is to Tafadzwa Mugwadi because much has been made out of the fact that you are still operating from Bumbiro House, which houses the NCA so how do you answer the allegation that you are essentially controlled by the NCA?

Mugwadi: Firstly let me (inaudible) categorically comrade Lance. Those are unfounded allegations because the National Constitutional Assembly does not house Zimbabwe National Students Union. Zimbabwe National Students Union shares offices with the NCA and let me draw you back (inaudible) otherwise I realise people easily forget.

The National Constitutional Assembly was not formed out of nothing, it is not an organisation that exists out of nothing. The National Constitutional Assembly exists out of the unparalleled membership of the students union which is the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the workers movement which is the ZCTU.

Those are the two organisations that were at the centre of the formation of the National Constitutional Assembly as a constitutional wing of the Zimbabwe National Students Union according to the former secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, comrade Tinashe Chimedza.

So our alliance and our working relationship with the NCA cannot lose validity in 2010 simply because we have a group of power hungry politicians, we have a group of power opportunists, we have a group of confused cockroaches that are running in the name of the Zimbabwe National Students Union led by Mr Obert Masaraure simply because they are able to print a lot of t-shirts and then they are able to claim that they are the leadership of the union.

And to the extent that they want to cause trouble in the Zimbabwe National Students Union and destabilize its stakeholder base. Honestly that cannot happen during our time and as the current leaders of this generation of students, I can confirm to you that the students union in the country, the students in Zimbabwe are happy with the cooperation and relationship with the NCA, they are happy with the working relationship with the ZCTU, they are happy with the working relationship that they are taking from partners and friends and former student leaders who are committed to see the Zimbabwe National Students Union rising as an institution, rising as an institution beyond the destabilising and dissident mechanisms of Obert Masaraure.

After all, let me remind Obert Masaraure that Zimbabwe National Students Union and the (inaudible) of the students in this country is bigger and more important than your quest to draw certain financial benefits from your claim that you are the leader of the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

I am in Bulawayo as I’m having this interview and the students in Bulawayo were gathered at a popular area, were gathered at a popular gathering today at (inaudible) Zimbabwe National Students Union and planning to go beyond all forms of unnatural discrimination, all forms of unnatural differentiation to say this is our time, this is our time as students in 2010 to determine the future of the students in pursuit of collective destiny as members of our union.

Guma: OK we’ll have to stop you there Tafadzwa we’re running out of time but we’re closing the programme and I need to get solutions from both of you. I’ll start with you Obert – clearly the positions, it’s almost trench warfare, its a war of attrition. People listening to this programme want to know – are there solutions? What would you suggest as a solution? I’ll start with you Obert.

Masaraure: Yah but before I go to the solution, I think I also have to respond to the issue of the Crisis Coalition and NCA and then I’ll go ahead with the way forward.

Guma: OK just quickly.

Masaraure: When people claim that they share offices with the NCA, I think that is a fallacy when they have a very isolated cottage at the backyard of the NCA where there’s only one desk and I think when people claim that ZINASU only formed the NCA, ZINASU also formed the Crisis Coalition, ZINASU also formed the MDC but that doesn’t mean that we have to go and find a small refugee at the MDC or Crisis coalition.

What it only means is that we now have the alliances, a deep pool of alliances and when people claim as Tafadzwa claims that they are determining the way forward for ZINASU in Bulawayo, I don’t know with whom, at a beerhall or whatsoever but I know the way forward for ZINASU started at the general council meeting or at the bi-annual congress and when people claim they are now charting the way forward for ZINASU that has already has a way forward is also very pathetic.

Then I think it is also has to be mentioned that ZINASU is a big institution and that institution has been weakened over the years because of the factionalism that Tafadzwa cherishes so much and that he enjoys so much but I think as a leader of this unified union we are in the process of building a very strong institution that can defeat any strong man with any sinister motive of furthering selfish ambitions.

Be it endearing yourself to take charge campaign of Madhuku or finding friends at the NCA whatsoever , ZINASU is bigger than that and it’s only there to serve the interests of the students of the day and I think when I go to the way forward I’ll still get a situation at the University of Zimbabwe where I was today, students with no IDs are being refused entry to access the University of Zimbabwe and they won’t be writing exams on the 13th of December and that amounts to around three quarters of the students at that institution.

That takes more than bickering in beer halls and bickering in Bulawayo claiming to be charting the way forward, that takes more than writing alerts on internet, it takes more than radical expressionism to confront that insensitive administration. The way forward for ZINASU is it doesn’t go beyond what we are doing now that is to build a strong institution so that no-one can gain from the …….that are in ZINASU.

Because I understand on the 3rd of May that’s when we signed the sole memorandum of dissolution that we are no longer part of any executive, but an interim one, everyone was supposed to respect that but just because the institution was not stronger then, there were people who went to the street and started to claim that they were ZINASU.

There was Tafadzwa Mugwadi and Kudakwashe Chakabva busy on the internet claiming that they were ZINASU and they are still there at the NCA office were they are finding some refugee and doing some thuggish behaviour from that side. But I think obviously as ZINASU we are now in the process of rebuilding this institution, making it stronger, running a web site so that no-one can just generate an e-mail account were you can just write your funny stories, your funny alerts, claiming students have been murdered by state security in Bindura, then you go scot free, then you claim to be ZINASU because you are using a g-mail account and we will be running a very organised union with…

Guma: OK, Obert, Obert I’ll have to stop you there. Let me give Tafadzwa obviously the chance to respond, but one question a lot of Zimbabweans want to ask is – you guys are elected by the general councillors, why do you not get the same general councillors, because I don’t think there are factions in having different general councillors at different institutions, there probably are no factions there, so why don’t you get those people where you draw your mandate from and have them decide what to do? I’ll start with you Tafadzwa.

Musaraure: Yah I think I’ll respond. The last general councillors that were elected I think we were at Bindura recently were they were SRC  elections. A new SRC is there and it has a president and with that candidate he is part of ZINASU and believes that ZINASU is one, in Masvingo the same….

Guma: Sorry, sorry I think you are talking over each other. Just finish what you were saying Obert and Tafadzwa if you could answer the question, OK I think I posed the question to Tafadzwa so it’s only right we give him the opportunity – Tafadzwa, why do you not get the general councillors to decide the way forward?

Mugwadi: We had an extraordinary, a historic extraordinary general council on the 8th of July in 2010. While the majority of genuine councillors in the Zimbabwe National Students Union came enmasse on the 8th of July and rubber stamped a student driven unit, we had a successful and historic general council extraordinary general council according to the constitution of the Zimbabwe National Students Union which is different from what was found at St Lucia Park where Obert claims to have driven legitimacy.

Guma: OK quickly, Obert is that true? Was there this meeting of general councillors where Tafadzwa’s executive was endorsed?

Masaraure: I think the word general councillor is over used and abused. A general councillor is the SRC president and Secretary General of an institution. There are no presidents or secretary generals attending those funny caucuses being called by Tafadzwa as general council meetings…

Guma: OK so sorry guys I’ll have to intervene there because you are talking over each other. I think what Obert is saying is the general council is made of the president and secretary general of different institutions, so the question to Tafadzwa is are those the people that came to the meetings that you are talking about?

Masaraure: I was not yet through, I was not yet through comrade.

Mugwadi: (inaudible)  we are discussing and engaging on ideas on what is there but then as Obert continues waffling I don’t think this is the best way of proceeding with an interview. Let’s have a battle of ideas and what you are doing for the citizens of Zimbabwe. The solution according to myself has already…

Guma: Sorry, sorry Tafadzwa I’ll have to stop you there because you’ve not answered the question. The point raised by Obert was that the general council is made of the president and the secretary general of each college and are those the people that turned up for the general council that you’re talking about?

Mugwadi: Of course. Let me draw you to this statistic the Zimbabwe National Students Union is a conglomeration of 43 institutions. Forty three credible institutions, not including some of the…

Masaraure: (inaudible) they are 46 comrade….

Guma: Hold on Obert, just let Tafadzwa finish.

Mugwadi: And those institutions convened on Harare on a historic extraordinary general council and they decided on what happened at St Lucia Park and defined it as invalid and they nulled it and what they thought was having a solution of a student driven unit where the students in the Zimbabwe National Students Union, instead of rushing to create positions for others, begin to interrogate such matters as what exactly divided the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

What had made these people have separate congresses and the Zimbabwe National Students Union general councillors on the 8th of July 2010 managed to interrogate those matters and came up with a position on the constitutional reform, on the interference of the Movement for Democratic Change-T in the operations and internal democratic (inaudible) of the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

They also came with positions on people such as Obert if those people want to continue as bona fide members of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, common members for that matter, they are supposed to come for a hearing that will be chaired by the secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union and that…

Masaraure: Yah but…

Guma: Sorry Tafadzwa, if you can say that the MDC have been interfering in ZINASU affairs, the same could be said of your faction because you do have a close relationship with the NCA and the position that you have taken on the constitution is clearly reflective of the NCA position so shouldn’t people in glass houses not be throwing stones?

Mugwadi: The long term solution in the Zimbabwe National Students Union is simply to kick people like Masaraure from the streets …..

Both start talking over each other……………..

Guma: OK sorry I’ll have to stop you there. We’ve run out of time. What I’ll do, forgive me Tafadzwa and Obert, we’ll have a Part Two, I’ll invite you again next week because the hope for this programme this week was to get you guys to suggest solutions and a way forward so clearly we’ve not been able to do that in the first part of this programme.

So I hope next week we will have a discussion on what is the way forward rather than the continuous mud-slinging which basically is serving no purpose. On that note I’ll have to end the programme and thank both the faction presidents if I may call them that, Obert Masaraure and Tafadzwa Mugwadi but certainly Zimbabwe join us next week as we continue this debate and seek solutions and hopefully get other people involved and have them suggest a way forward.

Feedback can be sent to lance@swradioafrica.com  http://twitter.com/lanceguma or http://www.facebook.com/lance.guma

SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe’s Independent Voice and broadcasts on Short Wave 4880 KHz in the 60m band.