Former deputy prime minister Thokozani Khupe last week took the bull by its horns and went on an aggressive campaign to urge MDC-T supporters to register to vote in their numbers during the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) blitz.
By BLESSED MHLANGA
Khupe (TK), who met MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai for the first time on Monday after their publicised fallout over attempts to build an opposition coalition, visited Chitungwiza, encouraging people to registering in their numbers.
Our reporter Blessed Mhlanga (BM) spoke to Tsvangirai’s deputy about the voter registration exercise, her fallout out with the party leader and MDC-T’s prospects in 2018. Below are excerpts from the interview.
BM: Can you briefly tell us your assessment of the BVR process so far?
TK: I think the registration process is a bit slow because of lack of proof of residence, this is why given a choice, I would scrap the proof of residence requirement so that people just come with their IDs and register to vote.
But as the MDC-T, we are doing our best to make sure that MPs and councillors assist, as you know they are commissioners of oaths.
We are trying to make sure that they give people proof of residence so that they come and register.
This is why we are doing this exercise. We are going to the homes where people are, talking to them, whoever does not have proof of residence we do it there and then and encourage them to register and vote because next year we want to make sure that everyone goes to vote.
Things have gone really, really bad. People have gone through untold suffering for a long time and people cannot continue toiling and suffering. As you can see, we have youths sitting under these trees yet they are supposed to be working and providing for their families.
Personally, I want to make sure that many people register as voters and as MDC-T, we are very confident that we are going to win. there is no doubt about it. this is why we are going around and we will continue.
BM: But your party has been calling for electoral reforms, which have been slow in coming. Do you think you will win without these reforms?
TK: This is why we are encouraging people saying politics is a game of numbers, let’s register in numbers first, let’s go and vote in our numbers. Once we vote in our numbers, we will beat everything else.
We want to make sure that the MDC wins; if we can garner a million votes, who can say we didn’t win?
This is why we are saying we can mobilise people so that we increase our votes. President Tsvangirai will be at State House (in 2018).
BM: Over the weekend we heard from the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network that voter registration observers were allegedly harassed in Chipinge and Epwoth by Zanu PF and Zec officials. Is this not an indication of a violent poll ahead of us?
TK: It is very clear because I don’t see why observers should be harassed because they want to observe and see how the system is proceeding. They want to see if there are any loopholes so that they tell Zec. [transparent processes mean] many people will come to register and have confidence in the system.
[They should observe the process] so that when voting comes, people are able to vote for the people they want without any fear or favour.
Therefore, the harassment of observers by Zec officials or whoever must come to an end. This is a democratic country; people must be allowed to exercise their democratic right to go and vote for whoever they want.
Anyone who is above 18 years is an eligible voter and they must be given that opportunity to go and vote so that come voting day, they go and vote.
BM: At a policy level, what are you offering the people of Zimbabwe as the MDC-T if you win the 2018 elections?
TK: As MDC, we have said it time and again, we want to institute massive policy changes, which deal with corruption, attract investment and create real jobs, not the imagined Zanu PF two million jobs.
We want to do that so people have food on the table. What people of Zimbabwe want are jobs, once you have a job you will be able to send your children to school, buy them food, build yourself a good house and change your own life.
Investors will come and invest in this country once we deal with corruption and bring new money.
We want to revive the mining sector, agriculture and manufacturing all at full capacity and stop Zimbabwe from being a net importer not through laws that block imports, but by ensuring that we are competitive in the region and the world.
Once we achieve this, we will generate foreign currency and new money. This country requires new money, there is no money in this country and that is why we are being forced to use bond notes.
There is no foreign currency, there is nothing. Bond notes will not resolve the problems of this country. We want new money and new money can only be created once this country starts producing.
BM: On a personal level, you graduated with a doctorate degree from the University of Zimbabwe. What motivated you to pursue this qualification?
TK: I was motivated by a desire to improve the lives of the people of Zimbabwe as a decision-maker.
I was studying the informal sector and empowerment of women in Zimbabwe. To say, can the informal sector change the lives of people, but I realised in my study that there is little meaningful change because the monies that they are earning are very little.
This is why I am saying the formal sector must start operating so that the informal sector can complement the formal sector.
The formal sector is not producing but buying goods from other countries. We want to make sure that the formal sector is capacitated so that they begin producing goods from this country so that we can trade with other countries and earn money from those exports.
Once we do that, things will change, hospitals will start functioning and schools will start functioning [and we will have] access to clean water.
BM: Following what appeared to be a misunderstanding with your leader, there have been fears and speculation that there might be a split and you would be leaving the MDC-T. Is there truth in these rumours?
TK: I was elected at congress in 2014 as the deputy president of the Movement for Democratic Change and I am not going anywhere. I am here to assist President Tsvangirai because this is why I was elected.
I was chosen so that I assist him in exercising his powers, implementing congress resolutions and making sure that we change things for this country so that every Zimbabwean has a better life.
BM: Recently, you held a meeting with your president after this rift, can you let us in on the discussions?
TK: We discussed a lot of things captured in statements that have already been released.
We also discussed ward-based programmes where we are supposed to go to the people and mobilise them to vote, which is exactly what I am doing today. The president has said go to the people, talk to them and make sure that everybody registers as a voter so that next year we win this election and we are doing exactly that.
BM: Your president has been unwell, do you have confidence in him and the party to win the 2018 general elections?
TK: I am very confident that President Tsvangirai is going to be the President of this country come next year and yours truly is going to be assisting President Tsvangirai to run this country.