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Welshman Ncube claims ‘we built Tsvangirai’

Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma for Part 2 of this Question Time interview. Ncube who leads the smaller MDC formation tackles questions from listeners on the dispute with Arthur Mutambara, accusations he connived with Thabo Mbeki to split the MDC, why MPs and councillors from his party are defecting and his chances in the next presidential election among other questions.


Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube, who leads the smaller MDC formation, joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma on Question Time.
Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube, who leads the smaller MDC formation, joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma for PART 2 on Question Time.

Interview broadcast 01 February 2012

Lance Guma: Hallo Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. My guest today is Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube. He joins me for Part Two of this programme where he answers questions from you the listener. To get the ball rolling, we start off with the on-going legal battle for control of your party Professor Ncube.

We understand Justice Bharat Patel will be presiding over an application by Professor Arthur Mutambara’s loyalists who want the party returned into his hands. Just your assessment – how do you expect this court case to go?

Welshman Ncube: Well within the limits of what we are allowed to say or within the limits of what we are allowed to comment on a matter which is generally sub judice, the case before the high court is essentially an application by one Joubert Mudzumwe the former chairman of the party together with 11 others who have applied to have the Congress set aside, essentially on the ground that there were some people who were not given notice of the Congress.

So what the High Court has to determine once the matter is argued – we don’t know how long it will take to deliver a judgement but the matter will be argued by advocates tomorrow (Thursday) as to why the Congress must be set aside. Their lawyers will obviously made whatever argument they have; our lawyers will equally argue that there were no procedural irregularities in the convening of that Congress. That is what is due for argument tomorrow.

The rest – as to the likely outcome, the argument, the strength of the cases – I’m not allowed to comment upon as the matter is sub judice.

Guma: Are you surprised though Professor Ncube that you have former lieutenants like Joubert Mudzumwe and Tsitsi Dangarembga taking this particular position? Is this something you saw coming or it took you by surprise?

Ncube: Well remember that this application was made almost a year ago, late in January last year, in fact over a year ago and immediately after the Congress; at that time yes, we were somewhat taken aback that the application would be made considering that these people were members of the national executive at that time but on reflection it shouldn’t surprise anyone for the reason that all the people who are applicants in this matter are people who failed to receive nomination for re-election into their positions or other positions at Congress.

And so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that you have a group of people who we think due to what you may call sour grapes decided that they will drag us through all these legal processes. Really the only court which matters is the Congress of the party. The courts of law can never decide who the leadership of the party are – that can only be decided by the membership of the party and that membership, five thousand of them gathered on the 8th of January last year and elected a leadership.

Guma: Brendan Sibanda sent an email saying in the interview we had with you last time, that’s Part One, you complained that the MDC-T was actively trying to entice your legislators and other officials to defect from your party. Now Brendan’s question is – isn’t this the nature of politics? Winning over supporters is the name of the game, why are you complaining?

Ncube: It is not the nature of politics. You go and recruit ordinary people there, out there, voters out there. If your electoral strategy is simply that you will spend five years enticing, bribing, paying and doing all sorts of unsavoury things to get support from other parties, it is first disrespectful, it is undemocratic, it shows a contempt for the electoral processes.

Every party which is a democratic party must respect that at a particular date, at a particular election, people decided to vote for certain individuals under the ticket of a particular political party and that should be allowed to prevail until the next elections.

But to use whatever financial muscle you have, whatever inducements or enticements you have to actually literally bribe elected officials of other parties, it’s not the behaviour that you expect of a political party which is supposed to lead us in a different direction from the 30 years or so of Zanu PF misrule. If you are a democrat you are likely as I do, to conclude that the path that will be taken to is not different from the 30 years of Zanu PF misrule.

Guma: Are you suggesting therefore that everyone who has defected from your party has been paid to do so?

Ncube: Well we know for certain that there is not one person, whether, at Member of Parliament level or councillor level; we know the NGO’s which are being used, we know that councillors are being given bicycles, are being given cell phones, are being given allowances. We know because some of our members of parliament rejected those offers.

The sort of inducements that have been made to them, we know the trips, foreign trips, they were paid for, we know some of those who were expelled were even taken to holidays with their wives in South Africa. So we know for a fact that there are all sorts of, what in normal society would be considered illegal inducement.

Guma: Butholezwe Nyathi emailed to say what are the possibilities of you winning the presidential elections if they are held say late this year or early next year, looking at your support versus your opponents support. Some say your defeat to Thokozani Khupe in Makokoba should be used as a barometer of your support and that in participating, just like Simba Makoni in 2008; you are just splitting votes and benefiting Mugabe and Zanu PF. What’s your reaction to that?

Ncube: If one election determines results for all time, then democracy would not require us to have elections every five years. The democratic tenet, the democratic principle is that people should be given an opportunity to judge everyone once again every five years in our political system. So it is I think, foolish for someone to think that the 2008 election or the 2005 election is the election which will decide an election in 2012 or in 2013.

In my respectful opinion we have elections because people are supposed to judge performances over the five year period and make fresh decisions and of course people are entitled to re-elect those that they would have re-elected.

Our responsibility as a party, as a leadership is to offer ourselves to the electorate, explain what we stand for, the policies we stand for, our ideology, the things that we believe we will be able to do for the people so that the people can make judgement on our promises and also to present to the people the performance of those they repose trust in, in the previous election. That is where our responsibility is.

Guma: Well if we are to go with that argument, how come your party did not field a candidate in 2008? You chose to back someone outside the party.

Ncube: It is a matter of public record that we had a president who, on the eve of the election, declined to stand and in fact, it’s a matter of public record that on the eve of the sitting of the nomination court, we convened an emergency national council at the request of the then president of the party who put the proposal that we should back Simba Makoni.

When of course the national council was reluctant to support that, it was his position that it’s either that or we have no candidate and at the end of the day the national council, literally on the eve of the election, was presented with that fait accompli and we had to go with that position because that was the position which the then president of the party preferred and presented on the eve of the election we didn’t have too many options.

But we were very clear our supporters, the electorate has been clear to us over the past five years that they were very angry at that decision and that it cost us a lot of votes and that we must stand for ourselves, we must present our own party candidate at presidential level and all other candidates right down to council. We accept that mistake, we have taken responsibility for it and we will not repeat it.

Guma: Takesure Mazani sent us a text saying and I quote – you managed little more than ten MPs in parliament in 2008. Having suffered from defections by the majority of these legislators, what are your chances in terms of trying to build on the numbers of MPs in the next election?

Ncube: Firstly it is false to say we have had the majority of those members of parliament defecting. As a matter of fact it is simply not true. We also did not garner ten members of parliament, we had 16; ten in the House of Assembly, six in the Senate. The majority of those, both in the House of Assembly and in the Senate remain loyal to the party.

We accept and concede that there are those, as we started this programme said, have been enticed, they’ve been bribed to go to other parties and it’s their democratic right to do so. We do not want to live on the election result of 2008; its history, that election has gone.

We await the election result of the elections for if it’s held this year, this year, if it’s held in 2013, 2013 which is why Lance, we have spent the last year since our Congress literally meeting the people in the communities, canvassing, basically selling our policies, the things that we stand for. And we think what we stand for resonates with the people.

We are an honest party, we are a party that has clear policies, a party that is principled, a party which stands for the ordinary person’s welfare and we believe we are the true successors to the values and principles of the liberation struggle on democracy, on equality of people, on the prosperity of all the people of Zimbabwe.

We have the calibre of leadership; we have the capacity of leadership right across our party ranks to deliver on that promise.

Guma: Anthony Taruvinga sent an email to us, he says and I quote from his question – “it has been revealed by many that you were bought by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and Zanu PF to divide the MDC before Senatorial elections and that you were incorporated into the CIO payroll.”

“Also in his book “The Deep End” Prime Minister Tsvangirai claims Mbeki was a central player in the 2005 split of the party. Tsvangirai claims you held secret meetings with the Zanu PF faction led by Emmerson Mnangagwa to forge an alliance in a bid to secure Ndebele interests. Close quote.” Your reaction to this?

Ncube: Just how such a preposterous proposition can be true, just how someone can enter into, even discussion with Emmerson Mnangagwa to secure Ndebele interests is just so ridiculous.

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You really need to be an idiot to actually believe that one of the architects of Gukurahundi, one of the architects of the murders committed by the CIO in the early ‘80s could be a person that we would enter into a pact with to secure Ndebele interests it’s just absolute madness, it’s not possible. In fact it’s not even worthy of comment.

Guma: In Tsvangirai’s book, he alludes to the fact that you travelled to South Africa and he received a phone call from President Mbeki at the time while you were meeting him. Would such circumstances not suggest an unhealthy relationship with Mbeki? What’s your reaction to that?

Ncube: Firstly on the basis of unhealthy, I’m not sure what unhealthy Lance in this context would mean.

Guma: Asking Mbeki to intervene in an internal party matter.

Ncube: There’s absolutely nothing unhealthy, let me put it this way – as a person I have known President Mbeki since he was external secretary of the ANC during the days they were fighting against apartheid; I’ve known him when he was coming to the Law faculty to co-ordinate the South African ANC students that were training in the law school and therefore again that is a matter of public record.

In terms of what you refer to was an open trip; in fact made at the suggestion of people who were the supporters of the party who advised us that we needed someone to facilitate dialogue between the section of the party which was unhappy with Tsvangirai’s unilateral cancellation, nullification of the resolution of the national council on the one side which was virtually the entire leadership of the party at that time and Tsvangirai.

And those people who were well meaning, well wishers, supporters of the party who wanted to see the party united, advised us that maybe it was best for us to talk to President Mbeki to try and facilitate dialogue among ourselves. We did that trip openly, that delegation was led by Gibson Sibanda, the late, it had myself in it, it had Fletcher Dulini Ncube, in fact the entire so-called top six at that time with the exception of the late (Isaac) Matongo and Tsvangirai himself.

The rest of the four of us went to that meeting, we did make representations to President Mbeki that on advice we thought it was essential to prevent a split of the party for him to facilitate dialogue so that we can find common ground. And he telephoned Tsvangirai correctly, it’s correct that he did that in order to say look, your colleagues are here, they think that I could facilitate dialogue among yourselves in order to resolve your contradictions and Tsvangirai flatly refused.

And on the day he refused, the path to the inescapable split of the party was opened up. So there was absolutely nothing improper, irregular with the advice that we accepted that we should ask President Mbeki to facilitate dialogue between ourselves and Tsvangirai at that time. He did try and facilitate that dialogue, Tsvangirai refused so I don’t know what is improper in that.

Guma: Now Tsvangirai claims you and the others were riding on his popularity and I quote from his book, he says: “…in the forlorn hope that part of it would rub off onto them. They were uncomfortable with me as a person and a leader and I sensed that they wanted to build their political careers using Tsvangirai as a seat-warmer who could ultimately be dislodged as soon as the right opportunity presented itself.”

Now Gerald in Harare sent us this quote as part of his question and he says after the MDC split, many of you lost your parliamentary seats in Bulawayo. Does this not vindicate Tsvangirai’s assessment?

Ncube: Ummm…Thanks for the question. Of course this statement that you have just read out is one of the falsehoods, the many, many, many falsehoods you find in the book that you are quoting from. The parts you don’t quote which goes with that particular statement is the claim that we as a leadership did not want to do meetings or rallies in the absence of Tsvangirai and we all wanted to be where Tsvangirai was so that that popularity that you are referring to could rub onto us.

That is historically false. Everybody knows that in the MDC we had basically two teams, one operating in the southern region led by Gibson Sibanda in doing rallies, another led by Tsvangirai operating largely in the northern region and that these teams would combine whenever there were star rallies in both northern and southern areas of the country. So it is fundamentally false to suggest that we would not want Tsvangirai to address meetings on his own and that we would not address meetings on our own.

Guma: But the question then arises that as soon as the party split, the majority of you guys in the southern region lost your seats as a result of the split so does that not vindicate the assessment?

Ncube: What is the assessment which is to vindicate? The assessment that Tsvangirai was popular? We built Tsvangirai ourselves, we spent the better part of nearly ten years before that election, us as the rank and file leaders of the party canvassing for him, people lost their lives canvassing for him.

The so-called popularity that you are referring to was the popularity built on the blood and the sweat of the ordinary, on the lives of the ordinary people of this country, the members of the MDC who were obviously campaigning for the party projecting the person who was the current leader of the party.

It’s in fact extremely insulting to then be arrogant when in fact people lost their lives going door to door, doing campaigns to project your image, to campaign for you as a leader of a particular party. It’s self-evident that any political party at any one time is associated around the name, the brand, the name of its leader and that’s simply what happened in 2008.

Guma: Now we have another question from, let me make sure I get the name right, this is Nhamo, he’s in the UK, he sent us an email, he says my issue relates to the Bulawayo troubled industries fund that Professor Ncube has championed.

The concern is that while industries in Bulawayo certainly need to be revived the same situation prevails all across the country. So he says why is it that we’ve not seen the minister showing has much passion regarding industries that have closed down or are operating below capacity in places like Gweru.

He quotes Bata and Zimglass, Kadoma and Chegutu, David Whitehead, Mutare – Cairns Food, Quest Motors, PG Mutare and he goes on and on or even in Harare. He says do distressed companies in these towns not need funds as well?

Ncube: Distressed companies everywhere in Zimbabwe need funds, need to be assisted. It is our responsibility as government collectively. It is my responsibility individually as a minister to make sure that industry wherever it is, is saved. We have shown as much passion for all businesses across the country as we have shown for the businesses in Bulawayo.

The point, the systematic point is that cabinet in its wisdom, decided that since Bulawayo is historically the headquarters of industry in Zimbabwe, whereas Harare for instance is the administrative capital, Bulawayo is the headquarters of heavy industry, the clothing industry etcetera, etcetera and therefore the systematic revival of industry must start at the headquarters, at the centre of industry.

That’s a cabinet resolution and that we must therefore devote some attention to the revival of Bulawayo as, if you like, the headquarters of industry in this country. Why continuing to pay attention indeed I as cabinet minister towards the end of last year did go to cabinet with a proposal that we should then immediately move on to Mutare, then to Gweru.

Cabinet said no, no, no, no, do not focus your eyes on many, on too many things. Focus on Bulawayo, ensure implementation on Bulawayo first and once we are satisfied that the programmes we have agreed on in Bulawayo have become irreversible, you will then move on from one city to the other but let’s not chase too many birds.

In Ndebele there’s an expression which says ‘akuxothswa mpala mbili’-you don’t chase two impala’s at the same time. That was the advice we got from cabinet, we agreed to that and said we are going to focus on Bulawayo but as part of our mandate as a ministry, we will continue to dialogue with businesses in other centres. And we’ve done that;

I was in Gweru this very past Monday, meeting business leaders there and discussions about them, with them rather, they were very clear to us that we need to focus on the strategic industries in Gweru, Bata, Kariba Batteries and so forth and so on and assist them so that they can, their survival can impact on the other small players. I have focussed on the revival of ZISCO because I know for instance ZISCO is very strategic in the whole of the Midlands.

If ZISCO lives and is strong, the impact on the small and other related industries will be high, everybody else will breathe. So that is basically what we are doing and we’ll do that in Mutare as well around the timber industry, around the coffee industry. We have the data, we know what is required, we are working on that so with a limited cake where you cannot give everybody, you give a little piece here for this person to survive, you move onto the next, you go on.

That is the philosophy that we are pursuing.

Guma: Okay now we are clearly running out of time but I’ve got one more minute to go. You are a constitutional law expert; several of our listeners sent in questions wanting us to get your take on the constitution making process that we have currently in Zimbabwe. Just a quick assessment of where you think it’s going wrong and where it could be improved.

Ncube: Well there will of course be difficulties and there are many but in the limited time we have, the most important point is that things are back on track; the drafters are working on a constitution; they have substantially drafted many chapters of the constitution.

Of course there will still will be long, long debates among the parties as to whether or not these drafts correctly capture what the people said, or correct indicator of what is desirable for Zimbabwe but I think we have reached a stage where the process has fundamentally crossed if you like, the Rubicon as it were and I don’t think it’s reversible anymore.

I think we are on the right track and yes there are problems, there will continue to be problems, funding problems, grandstanding problems, politicking problems and so forth and so on but these as a leadership, we will always be able to overcome I believe.

Guma: Well Zimbabwe that’s Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube joining us for Part Two of this Question Time interview. Professor Ncube, thank you so much for your time.

Ncube: Thank you Lance, have a nice day.

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