ZIMBABWE’S never-ending political and economic crises are blamed on the failure by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the opposition, civil society and the church to have an all-inclusive dialogue to hammer out solutions.
Forthright former Zanu PF spokesperson and the only surviving member of then Zanu’s Dare reChimurenga (the party’s 1970s war council), Rugare Gumbo, believes mistrust between Mnangagwa and the opposition was scuttling talks to end the country’s myriad challenges.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News on Sunday Senior Staff Writer Blessings Mashaya last week, Gumbo — who was controversially fired from the ruling party in the run-up to Zanu PF’s sham 2014 congress at the height of its factional, tribal and succession wars — reiterated that dialogue was the best way out for crisis-ridden Zimbabwe and has implored Mnangagwa to initiate talks with the opposition and other social formations to end the country’s deepening political and economic crises.
He also spoke on the controversial constitutional amendments before Parliament, Mnangagwa’s government performance since assumption of power through a bloodless popularly-supported putsch in November 2017 that jettisoned the late former president Robert Mugabe from State House after 37 years in power.
Below are the excerpts of the interview.
Q: Political parties have started preparing for 2023 harmonised elections. You are on record pushing for dialogue between all stakeholders in Zimbabwe, but that has not happened. Do you think the upcoming elections will solve the country’s political and economic problems?
A: Elections by their nature are fractious, they intensify fights and conflicts. Elections will not solve Zimbabwe problems. What I have said before and continue to say is that dialogue must be done in order to discuss fundamental issues that affect society.
Political, social and economic stability is necessary, but you can’t achieve that without having a dialogue, that’s my concern. I don’t see elections solving Zimbabwe problems. People are ambitious, racing for posts. There is a lot of confusion which is brought by elections.
Q: After elections, are we not going to face the same situation we witnessed in previous years if political parties fail to have a dialogue and what is the permanent solution to Zimbabwe problems?
A: There is no way one can say this is a permanent solution or this is not a permanent solution. A process of bringing people together is part of the solutions. Bringing people together, that’s a solution without doubt.
However, as long as people hold on to their own position and they don’t want any other person to be involved, there is no way you can find a solution.
As far as I am concerned, really the economy is in bad shape, so there is a need to find solutions to the economic problems that we are facing.
Political solutions and unity are needed and people must agree to certain fundamental issues, this can help. If we cannot agree, there will be no permanent solution.
It’s like we are moving in a circle, we are seeing the repeat of the same situation. I don’t know how we can solve the problems when people have entrenched positions like what we have right now.
Q: Do you think Mnangagwa, MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa and MDC leader Douglas Mwonzora are willing to have dialogue?
A: With the experience we have had and as long as they remain with their positions (thinking), It’s difficult to have a solution. There is a need for them to move a step forward to come up with a dialogue. I don’t think our people are serious about the issue of coming together and there is also mistrust which needs to be addressed.
This is something that we experienced during the war. (Late Zanu PF chairperson Herbert) Chitepo was particularly concerned about the issue of unity and that is why he left a legacy in Zimbabwe, that of bringing the nation together. Democracy and inclusivity, those are critical issues that all liberation movements fought for. If you ignore those things and think solutions will come out of the blue, then you are joking because there will be no solutions whatsoever.
Q: Zanu PF succession problems; what is the solution to this problem because recently some people say Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 was introduced to give Mnangagwa more power to choose his own successor if he decides to leave the political stage?
A: Look, Zanu PF has its own programme. I personally, am not involved in their programmes.
As far as I am concerned, the succession issue has been a major issue and until we are able to solve it, we are really running into problems. The succession issue has been a fundamental issue since the death of Chitepo, there hasn’t been a normal succession and proper succession plan.
When Mugabe won power, he ran away with that power and that was unfortunate. What is important is that there is a need for democratisation of institutions, ensuring that we have a running mate whether it is by choice or whatever it is.
Most of the national liberation movements have succession systems, look at the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa and Swapo in Namibia. Serious political parties have clear systems of succession
Q: The removal of the running mate clause, is it a bad move and what do you think motivated this move?
A: You can remove the running mate clause, but does this solve the problem? The issue which is there right now I think it’s a question of trust. Do we have trust in each other or not? It appears that the people don’t seem to have trust in each other, because there is no trust. You can’t trust the running mate. It’s a question of mutual trust, as people are we trusting each other? Some of us really understand these issues. Some people just see shadows. There is a need to build trust in Zanu PF so that this succession issue can be solved without problems.
Q: Do you think Zanu PF is going in the right direction?
A: To be honest I have been on the side-lines, I have been in the terraces. For now I really don’t know the right thing or wrong. All I can say I wish that they can do better than what they are doing. Opportunities are there, they must utilise them for the better of the party and the country.
Q: You worked with the late Mugabe. Do you see any difference between the old dispensation and the current one?
A: I haven’t seen any difference at all. It’s still the old system, old shenanigans, elections disputes and all sorts of things. It’s really painful for the country.
Q: Your advice to Mnangagwa?
A: Mnangagwa has got his advisors and I think they are telling him you are really doing a good job, but things are not looking good. It’s difficult.
Q: Do you see any economic and social improvement?
A: Unless there is a change in the way we handle social, economic and political issues, we are in for a high jump.
I know people are talking about agrarian reforms, Command Agriculture. It’s fine, there is nothing wrong about that, but things are difficult, people are suffering, so maybe they will find a way out of this. I may be wrong because I am now an outsider, but really things are really difficult.
There is a need for an urgent solution so that people’s lives are improved, the situation cannot continue like this.