MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa on Sanctions

ZANU PF has announced it will not make any concessions to the MDC in ongoing talks until targeted sanctions on companies and members of the regime are removed. This week on Behind the Headlines, SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa about this development. Chamisa tells the programme the coalition agreement does not put sole responsibility on the MDC to call for the removal of the measures, but says it is meant to be a collective effort, and ZANU PF must also play their part.

Interview broadcast 28 January 2010

Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to the programme Behind the Headlines. A lot has been said in the media this week about the targeted sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF have of course seized on statements made by British Foreign Secretary David Milliband to the effect that they would be guided by the MDC on whether to remove the targeted sanctions or not. I have with me MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa joining me on the programme. Mr. Chamisa, thank you for joining us.

Nelson Chamisa: Thank you.

Guma: Now this is quite a development, Zanu-PF is now saying talks are doomed and they’ll not make any concessions until your party calls for the removal of sanctions. What is your response to this?

Chamisa: (laughs) That’s a laughable argument. In fact it’s a very weak argument, perforated argument, I’m sure conceived by very weak and barren minds. There is no reason why a particular individual, particularly in this case, why a whole institution would try to hide behind a finger, the finger of the so-called restrictive measures.

We feel that Zanu-PF should just come out clear that they have exhibited encyclopaedic levels of insincerity. That deafening deficit of goodwill and sincerity, that clearly has been the case of Zanu-PF since the beginning of the Global Political Agreement in September the year before last year.

In fact when one looks at Zanu-PF’s position through the politburo yesterday, this position was made through their Congress and so it is a Congress position which they took in December way before any particular statement of any leader so for them to try to say this has been necessitated by statements or revelations from Milliband or to say that now they have suddenly hit the AHA moment or they’re suddenly seeing the light on their way to Damascus, a Damascan moment is very unfortunate.

In fact they’ve always known about these measures when they signed this Agreement. The GPA does not in any way give the obligation of dealing with the restrictive measures on the MDC. It is a collective effort in the GPA between Zanu-PF and MDC in the context and within the aegis of the inclusive government. So any attempt to try and apportion blame on the MDC is unfortunate.

Zanu-PF failed and failed alone. They’ve made their mistakes, they’ve their own sins of omission and commission. We were not there when they committed crimes, we are not the ones who persuaded them to chase away journalists, we did not advise them to beat up people on the farms, we did not advise them to kill people – political opponents.

These are the issues that have caused the kind of impasse between them and those who have imposed whatever measures and we have said out of the abundance of our integrity and good will as MDC within the country as the people who are the legitimate holders of the legitimacy of the majority of the people in Zimbabwe and also considering our legitimacy internationally and our integrity and good will internationally we are willing to put our lives on the line for the purposes of serving the inclusive government and the people of Zimbabwe by trying to even help Zanu-PF by remedying their past acts of omission and commission that have caused the kind of misfortunes they have encountered.

Guma: But would you in this instance Mr Chamisa admit that remarks by Milliband were slightly unfortunate in that they have given oxygen to Zanu-PF’s claims?

Chamisa: Look we are not interested in even commenting about that. We are not in the business of choosing supporters. If people have confidence in us, if they want to choose us, to support us from the terraces, our duty is to play to win for the people of Zimbabwe, to bring about real change in Zimbabwe. Real change is not going to be brought by the kind of parroting and politicking that we are seeing in Zanu-PF. The kind where they clutch on the straw of statements by Foreign Secretary Milliband.

We do not in any way want to comment on such statements. It is the decision of the British to make a particular position on the basis of consulting whoever they want to consult. We are not in the business of saying please consult us or don’t consult us. If they want to ask us on where we are going, we have our common position as a political party and we don’t make any apologies for that.

Guma: I spoke earlier in the week to Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro the Public Service Minister and he does speak for the Party on matters of Foreign Affairs. He spoke about a re-engagement committee that was formed by all the parties to seek a removal of these restrictive measures. What has been the progress of that re-engagement committee so far?

Chamisa: That’s correct. In fact that’s the correct position within the context of the GPA, in the Articles of the Global Political Agreement. As the inclusive government we have a duty and obligation, together with Zanu-PF to find a common way forward, to find a common solution in terms of any of the problems that may be affecting any of the parties to the GPA. In this case these measures are haunting our colleagues in Zanu-PF.

We have said look, we can try to find a common way forward on the basis of a common understanding on how we are approaching issues in Zimbabwe so that we have a common voice, a common step of action and also common direction. Once we have that we are speaking the same language, acting in similar fashion then we will be able to speak with one voice on issues that we feel are affecting any one of us. This is a very clear position in the inclusive government.

Nowhere does it say that it is going to be the MDC who are going to lift the so-called measures and who are going to do all sorts of things and we don’t make any apologies for that. We are clear with a clear conscience, we are not in any way willing to be held accountable for the authorship of the misfortunes that have bedevilled our colleagues from Zanu-PF. It is their own misfortune which they actually authored and it has nothing to do with the MDC. But we have said as the inclusive government we are willing to show our goodwill by going out of our way to help a brother who is lying on the ground, to lift him, but for the brother to then accuse us of not doing enough to raise him is unfortunate.

Guma: Finance Minister Tendai Biti has already called for South African President Jacob Zuma to intervene, show leadership in the matter and try and get a resolution going. Does this mean clearly a deadlock exists here?

Chamisa: There is. It’s a clear deadlock. We can call it another name but it is a deadlock. It’s a clear log jam, we need to locate exit points to this log jam. We need to come together as political parties. In fact we should not continue to play this delaying game, procrastinating, misleading the people of Zimbabwe that something is happening. We need certainty, stability and predictability in the way in which government business is transacted so that the economy can actually have planners who plan with some kind of predictability, the same thing with people at household level, everywhere even in government department people need to plan but they cannot plan when there’s still this lingering chance that this project called the inclusive government is bankable.

We need the bankability of the inclusive government for that to happen, we need resolve the outstanding issues and for us to resolve the outstanding issues we now need the intervention of our adjudicator, the umpire, President Zuma as the facilitator and of course our guarantors SADC to come and move this process forward. Even if we agree to disagree they have to come in.

Guma: Mugabe has already spoken about having elections in 2011, we all know that under the Agreement that you signed a new constitution has to precede that. Already the constitution making process has already been dogged by squabbling over money, rapporteurs and things like that, do you see yourselves going into an election with a new constitution under the current climate?

Chamisa: It’s going to be a bumpy road but the bottom line is that the fact that we are going to succeed in cracking the shell that will expose the new Zimbabwe is inevitable. In fact we are going to make it, it is going to be very tough, our colleagues in Zanu-PF obviously are going to try and put a lot of bombs along the way, they are going to try and plant landmines along the way but I’ve no doubt personally that the people of Zimbabwe have the resolve, the tenacity to move forward and to succeed. We want to make sure that we finalise this last stretch of our democratisation project so that we are able to have a new Zimbabwe, a new beginning where real change is going to be palpable, real and experienced by every Zimbabwean.

Guma: So far the MDC strategy has relied on seeking external help, particularly from the likes of SADC and the African Union as guarantors of this deal but we had South African President Jacob Zuma asking the MDC to be flexible in order to have an agreement here. Does that not worry the Party that already they are asking you to make the concessions and not Zanu-PF?

Chamisa: You know that the Bible says – blessed is the hand that gives than the one that takes. We have been the hand that has been giving all along, giving and giving. After winning the elections we actually loaned Zanu-PF our legitimacy, legitimacy is in the hands of the MDC but we loaned it to Zanu-PF in the interests of the people, in the interests of stability. However being the hand that has been giving, we have not received our blessings. The hand that has been taking seems to have all the blessings and that is the hand of Zanu-PF.

Guma: Final question, slightly separate matter, the Party has been going on a crackdown on corruption and uprooting officials involved in corruption, how has that been going because different media houses have been taking different stances on this particular matter? Are you confident this crackdown is the right thing for the Party at this very fragile moment?

Chamisa: Look we make no apologies again for making tough decisions, for taking a tough stance on bad apples in our midst. There is no organisation, no institution without bad apples. It is how those bad apples are targeted and nipped and this is what we’ve done well than any other political party because we do not celebrate the demise of principles, we do not celebrate the erosion of values, we do not celebrate that kind of betrayal of that which drives us, our totem. Our totem is about transparency, accountability and answerability to the people of Zimbabwe and this is what we want to be respected. We hold these values and views very sacred. We will not allow those to be violated in any way.

And so we are so happy with the progress, in fact we are going to be producing a report in a very short space of time of what has been happening in Chitungwiza, what has been happening in Bindura and any other areas and we are going to tell the world what is going to be the way forward. We believe that we are in the right direction, we are doing something about corruption unlike any other political party in Zimbabwe which is kudos to the MDC.

Guma: That was MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa joining us on Behind the Headlines. Mr Chamisa, thank you very much.

Chamisa: Thank you.

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