Transcript: Nelson Chamisa BBC Hardtalk interview
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is not delivering change in the country after the years of Robert Mugabe, a Zimbabwean opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, has said.
He told HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur: “He has refused to be the face of the new order. In fact, he has chosen to be the new face of the old order.”
Mnangagwa became president after Robert Mugabe resigned in November 2017. Elections are planned to take place later this year. Find below excerpts of the interview
Q: You could be a man in a hurry that your critics think you are a bit too much in a hurry. You understand that criticism?
A: Well I’m a man on a mission, a man willing to change the face of politics not just in Zimbabwe but on the African continent. I’m a democrat, I’m a revolutionary, I believe in the transformation of promise and this is why I’m willing to take up the challenge, no matter how big.
Q: Talking about the man in a hurry because it was quite extraordinary what you did. Your former leader of the Movement for Democratic Change Morgan Tsvangirai died in South Africa, one day later you decided to seize the interim leadership of the party not to the confirmation of other party members.
A: After the death of our icon, a great revolutionary around African continent, the face of change in Zimbabwe, we had to make sure that within the confines of constitutionalism, rule of law the party constitution, we kick in to provide leadership because we have such… (Interviewer interjects)
Q: You didn’t find decency, respect for a man who has just passed and for his family and for the feeling the party as a whole needed at all and then you wouldn’t had pulled this…
A: It wasn’t of course and of course what we did was within the constitution, we then did it much way after, in fact it was two weeks after the demise of our President that we had to have the internal processes that then gave way to a democratic outcome in terms of who should then be leading the MDC.
Q: Well you make it all sound so simple The Chronicle newspaper in Bulawayo and Bulawayo of course is a stronghold of the opposition in Zimbabwe. The editorial in that paper said “we are appalled by Chamisa’s disrespect he’s showing to his leader by angling for his position just a day after his death.”
A: Well they must be appalled because they are rooting for the ruling party, they support the ruling party. They would want to see the opposition in disarray; they would want to see us in sixes and sevens. We have not given them the chance. What we want to have in Zimbabwe is to have Zimbabweans having a real chance to fight for democracy, to have an alternative and to have the best of a new order.
Q: But there’s disarray, that’s the problem. There’s disarray because by the time of his death Morgan Tsvangirai had three different deputies of which you were one. But one of the others who was a long-standing vice president of the party Thoko Khupe she was so infuriated by your grab for the reins of power that she refused to accept it and now she’s running as an alternative MDC leader with her own team, her platform with the determination to destroy you.
A: The beauty about democracy is that we must have more, the merrier and the fact that she has decided to walk away is actually something that is regrettable but something that has not shaken the base.
Q: You say we wanted to avoid disarray, you are not avoiding disarray infact you have made the chaos inside your party.
A: We are the most popular ones, you go across the whole country in Zimbabwe, the mood is just electric. The electricity, the momentum is unbelievable.
Q: Well, we will talk about that, your message and how it’s being received in your country but let’s just prolong it longer with the politics of your party. You say it was all constitutional we did it by the book?
Q: I doubt that there’s any rule book in your party that suggests that young thugs should physically intimidate people in your party that have other different views on who should be leader but that’s what’s been happening.
A: Well we have the challenges and I must say that the challenges are as a result of the DNA, the…of certain of politics of our country where violence has been a major issue we are trying… (Interviewer interjects)
Q: You are supposed to be different
A: Of course this is what I’m dealing with as a new leader, as a new face (Interviewer interjects)
Q: Well if you are dealing with it do tell me what has happened to these young men who surrounded Thoko Khupe at the funeral in the same village while the funeral was taking place of Morgan Tsvangirai she was forced to take shelter in a hut and as the local reporting suggests, there’s a young man who tried to set that hut alight and as far as she was concerned, it was an attempt on her life and these people responsible for that action are supporters of yours.
A: (Shaking his head) All those people who were identified because everything was under a video camera have been dealt with. We have said we are not going to have bad apples affecting the basket of good apples of democracy, we will not accept any violent element, any violent element within our midst.
Q: Could it be because the bad apples still seem to be in the bus when you say you have dealt with, that is isn’t happening because of the fourth of March in Bulawayo Khupe’s supporters were again attacked at a meeting that she was chairing.
A: This was a different meeting all together, a different geographical setting all-together then there’s an investigation that was done to deal with those issues that we have said let’s move forward by making sure that in our midst we do not want people who thrive on violence. We have been victims of violence for the past 18 years we have been at the receiving end of State-sponsored violence. I myself am a victim of that violence, nearly left for dead several times at the airport, at the various circumstances but I have said we cannot use violence to transact politics on a new dispensation.
Q: I suppose the danger is that some of your supporters have picked up habits perhaps in tips from the way with Zanu PF with Mugabe has done Zimbabwe in so many years. In other words they are bad habits that conform in Zimbabwe that your party now seems to be taking along on board itself.
A: Now I can tell you that the Movement for Democratic Change is a happy family of democrats. All those elements are bent on using violence to transact politics have been dealt with and shamed, the devils.
Q: In what way, you say ‘been dealt with’, be specific with me that’s a broad term, what has happened, have they been expelled from the party, have they faced justice, have they been in the courts?
A: We chuck out all the culprits and we also appeal to the police at any given point in time as we did in Buhera to help us deal with those culprits. In fact, our complaint was to do with the police themselves who actually did not do anything about it when in fact they were the ones who were escorting the colleagues that were affected.
Q: Let’s just talk a little bit about the legacy of Robert Mugabe before we get into the election policy platforms and your rivalry with Mr Mnangagwa for the presidency…Do you want Robert Mugabe to face the courts, to face justice?
A: Well I must say that Mr Mugabe is part of our past, he’s part of our old order and I have no time for us to be pursuing the past, to be pursing the old order. Our critical challenge going forward is to make sure that we resolve fundamental deep and structural issues that are affecting our society.
Q: Well of course deep structural issues are including surely an accounting for terrible violence gotten around the killings for example where thousands and thousands of people were killed. Wouldn’t Zimbabwe be an appropriate society if people were held to account for what happened?
A: Indeed they have to account. Part of what I’m going to do under my new administration starting from July after the election is to institute a truth, forgiveness, reconciliation and compensation programme across the whole country. To look at our checkered past, to investigate it to be truthful about it and to be humble about so that we create a new chapter going forward based on peace, based on reconciliation and also more importantly based on nation-building, part of the legacy of Mr Mugabe.
Q: But then the people of Zimbabwe would like to know what that means. For example, there were serious allegations floating around the country about missing billions revenues in the diamond industry reported to have gone missing after the government’s balance sheet…people would like to know are you prepared to take Robert and Grace Mugabe into a court room?
A: If I would be given the chance to drive the vehicle called Zimbabwe into a new dispensation, I cannot be that driver who is driving looking in the rear-view. The past is important but the past should not arrest us.
Q: So I will take that as a no, Mr Mugabe and Grace Mugabe can rest easily?
A: Let us look at Mr Mugabe’s contributions, his omissions and commissions. Let’s say where he has had omissions, we are ready to correct, to repair and of course we need to make sure that those who were affected are compensated so that there’s proper national healing going through.
Q: I suppose nobody would dispute that what Zimbabwe needs right now is mature, responsible, wise leadership?
Q: Would in not be true to say that in the months that he has had power, Emmerson Mnangagwa has exhibited all of those qualities. He did set-up a truth and reconciliation commission. He has insured that the process of the establishment of rules and parameters of elections are in place. Ballot papers have been printed. He has assured the international community it will be free and fair and invited the EU and the Commonwealth in Zimbabwe to send monitors, all that you welcome I can imagine?
A: We don’t. In fact there’s a fundamental dispute around the manner in which these elections are being marred in preparation. We are not in agreement in terms of who prints the ballot paper, we are not in agreement in terms of where the ballot paper is going to be, the security of the ballot paper, its distribution, we are not in agreement. And this is three months before an election we are not in agreement in terms of the role that should be played by our important and esteemed security forces in terms of elections, we are not agreed.
Q: When you say it maybe you sound partisan and defensive and maybe in longest I’m looking at independent analysts like Eldered Masunungure director of the Mass Public Institute in Harare he says “This election looks like it will be the freest and fairest and possibly most peaceful since 2000.”
A: Well he said it looks like, it’s his opinion and this is the beauty of a democracy when you have a diversity of opinions, that’s his view. Our view is that this election can be, has the potential to be a free and fair election, but we need to resolve some of the fundamental issues around how the election itself is going to be conducted. Whether or not the voters’ role has been audited, whether or not the process that are supposed to be done in respect of the electoral amendment of the electoral amendment are respected. Just yesterday we were in Parliament we did not agree the opposition with the ruling party on the content, character and substance of that Electoral Act.
Q: The reason I talk about wisdom and responsibility and truth is that clearly in Zimbabwe political tempers tickle and rise very quickly it did happen in the past. It seems to me you and one of your associates in the opposition Tendai Biti have been stalking the flames in recent days. Tendai Biti said “unless we get a clear commitment from the seccurocrats” by which I think he means the Zanu PF military nexus “unless we get clear commitment from them that they won’t interfere the election” he says will be a “sham” and you have said if you don’t get your way on things like the ballot papers, you gonna bring the election to a halt, you are raising the temperature?
A: We are lowering the temperatures. In fact, Mr Mnangagwa is rising the temperature by continuing to be the old order. He has refused to part with the past, he has refused to be the face of the new order, in fact he has chosen to be a new face of the old order and that is our fundamental issue. If we are to be able to move forward, let us agree on how the election is going to be held. Wisdom is not when you have destroyed the country, wisdom is not when you have problems that we are currently having, cash shortages, failing to deal with the economic issues…corruption like the one we have seen in terms of the Airways in Zimbabwe where there has been massive corruption under the tutelage and tutorship of President Mnangagwa.
Q: Well Emmerson Mnangagwa has a record and his record is since he got in the power he talked about truth and reconciliation and passed measures to…(Chamisa interjects)
A: What has he achieved?
Q: Well I haven’t finished. He also passed the indigenisation law and economic empowerment act which foreign investors seem to like, the foreign governments seem to like. He’s also pledged to fight what you just described as the scourge of corruption…The man is actually delivering on a transformation?
A: In fact we are the change that delivers. Mr Mnangagwa is the change that doesn’t deliver. In fact Mr Mnangagwa represents change without the change; he represents the face of the old.
Q: Why do you think governments like the UK government are reaching out to Mnangagwa and suggesting that they think he’s proven to be a good leader for Zimbabwe?
A: They are reaching out to the people of Zimbabwe. Let me say this, you cannot have change without change agents. You cannot have transformation without transformers. Mr Mnangagwa is not a transformer, there can never be any reform without reformers. What he is, he is a transactional leader who has transacted a particular process in November and he’s there, not as a face of transition, not as a face transformation. We represent that change that is yet to come.
Q: Well you keep telling me you have got that change, I guess it is an attractive slogan for many people in your country, but there’s a difference between making promises you can keep and making promises good enough in a world of fantasy. Let’s go through a few of yours. In January you told people of your country that you could solve Zimbabwe’s liquidity crisis in two weeks and indeed if you fail to do so, you would leave office because you said you are committed. Two weeks to solve liquidity crisis and that’s nonsense to me.
A: That nonsense is very sensible, in fact that is the most credible message that has ever been received by Zimbabweans. Why am I saying so? The most fundamental issue in Zimbabwe is not a crisis of cash, but a crisis of leadership, a crisis and a deficit of confidence and trust. The issues that we are going to deal with are issues of productivity, issues of skills transfer, and issues of investor confidence.
Q: With due respect Mr Chamisa, politicians will say they can fix a problem that has been dogging the country for years, fix it in two weeks that just sound silly.
A: During the inclusive government with all due respect Mr Sackur, during the inclusive government, when I was the minister of ICT, Mr Biti who is my colleague was the minister of finance, we fixed this problem within a time if four days. There was cash across the board in all the banks so it’s not just a question of hyperbole; it’s not just a question of political promises. We know our competence we have a track record, we can trusted, we can deliver.
Q: Well it reminds me of the promise you made to party supporters in Chinhoyi saying you gonna build a bullet train from Bulawayo to Harare, you said with this infrastructure it will help people to travel from one city to another in 35 minutes, that is beyond nonsense.
A: That is the future. I’m a visionary, I’m a young man and I have said we must begin to build infrastructure such as the infrastructure you have in the UK, what it doesn’t do is… (Interviewer interjects)
Q: I’m not a transport expert but it’s well over 400km from Bulawayo to Harare and what this train of yours it’s gonna be travelling at 800km per hour which by the way fastest mangalore train in the whole world can’t take more than 400km an hour so I don’t know where you finding it from?
A: What I must emphasise is that I was emphasising the point of modern transportation, bullet trains being elsewhere on the African continent, we are aware of Morocco recently unveiled a bullet train, we are aware of Ethiopia this is the kind of examples that I was giving.
Q: Zimbabweans should they want politicians who are serious who talk about and make promises that can be delivered in fact the other promise can’t be delivered but one promises that seems to me you could deliver if you want to but maybe you wouldn’t want…just a few days ago you made a speech saying you gonna chuck out all the Chinese investors and workers currently in Zimbabwe you said I will call the Chinese and tell them that the deals they signed are unacceptable and they should return to their country, should that be good for Zimbabwe?
A: I must say that our transformational policy is premised on infrastructure as I indicated infrastructure is going to be key.
Q: But the Chinese have delivered airports, have delivered roads they have delivered clean water and sanitation infrastructure and you want to throw them out?
A: I have not said I will throw anyone out. I have said that all the deals that have been signed have to be reviewed, have to be assessed and audited in the context of what is good for Zimbabwe, what is safe for investment and that position has got nothing to do with any nationality. We are pleased to do business with any serious investors across the border, the Chinese included.
Q: But it is about credibility isn’t it, with all this you actually striking the right balance between populism and credibility?
A: I think the credibility is very high; in fact Zimbabweans are going to vote for us. They believe in our message, they know that what we have promised is not something that is beyond our reach we have promised in the inclusive government. Even when I was minister of ICT, I dealt with issues of WiFi, issues of connectivity bringing in the fibre optic cables into the country, so I’m not a sort of guy who just give empty promises. I’m a serious guy, I mean business, I’m in the digital age and these things I’m saying are going to be delivered, are available with BOO, BOTM, BOOS in terms of triple Ps – public, private partnerships agreements that we are ready to put in place to make sure that we deliver on transportation, on energy on water and of course on communication.
Q: You say you are a serious and credible guy and of course that has been measure not just in Zimbabwe but around the world. At the end of last year in Washington DC a lot of serious questions were raised about your behaviour in Washington DC. You did see some senior people, congress people, you also claimed that you had seen Donald Trump, you claimed you had a conversation with him in which he asked you how much you needed to move the country forward, you told him $15 billion and he said to you he would provide the money if you won the election. That was not true, was it?
A: Very true that, yes in terms of our infrastructure programme according to the African Development Bank… (Interviewer interjects)
Q: What I mean is it’s not true that you had seen Donald Trump and Donald Trump indicated to you that he would provide if you won the election?
A: All those statements were said by other people not what I said.
Q: But look because there’s a video that shows you at a rally in January back home in January you said that you met Trump
A: I said that I met the Trump administration.
Q: You are telling me you did not meet Donald Trump?
A: We did not, we met the Donald Trump administration and that’s the point I made.
Interview transcribed by Daily News reporter Austin Karonga