OUTGOING Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said he was glad to be leaving government as Cabinet posts were often associated with a culture of corruption. He said he was proud to have worked in a ministry which managed to deliver a new Constitution for the country. The minister, who was also Buhera West MP said there was no need for a bloated Cabinet in Zimbabwe. The following are excerpts of an interview with NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) and Matinenga (EM).
Report by Veneranda Langa
ND: Minister, you are the only member of the Executive who made an announcement that you will be retiring from government. What are you going to be doing after your retirement?
EM: I will be going back to my law practice the moment a new President is sworn in. I am going back to advocates chambers. I certainly think that I was enriched by my participation in government and I thank God I am one of those who managed to retire from a Cabinet post. I consider myself lucky that I had that political experience, but I have always said that I am still of the view there is life after politics and that is why I am retiring.
ND: Are you completely retiring from active politics, including being a member of the MDC-T?
EM: It does not mean that because I am not an active MP or minister then I leave politics. Although I will no longer be Buhera West MP I will always be available to them and discuss issues with them, as well as assist in issues of development and governance. I want to stay with those people as the best times I have ever had in politics have been with the people of Buhera West. Before I even came into Parliament I was always involved with the people of Buhera. For now I still consider myself as a member of the MDC-T. I have always been a member and I am hoping the path which MDC-T will follow will be one I am going to be happy to be associated with.
ND: Would you say that leaving a Cabinet post for the advocates’ chambers is a climb-down?
EM: This is where people make huge mistakes. For people to believe being a government minister is the end of everything is wrong. There is a difference between being a ruler and a servant. Being a minister is actually one of the lowest positions because you are a servant of the people. In our culture being a minister comes with pomp and ceremony and is associated with corrupt patronage and I am glad I am leaving this post.
ND: Your ministry managed to deliver a new Constitution for Zimbabwe. Would you like to say something about it?
EM: It was a very difficult time and it needed a lot of patience, reading the mood of different people and I am glad I managed to stay up to its final conclusion. I am happy I was part of this historic process.
ND: Now that Zanu PF has a two-thirds majority in Parliament, what is your view on such a scenario and the Eighth Parliament?
EM: There is going to be 49 MPs from the MDC-T and two independent legislators. In reality those two said they were Zanu PF and so we will have a situation whereby Zanu PF has a two-thirds majority. However, I still think there is a place for the 49 MDC-T MPs to be heard in the sense that they need to represent the interests of those persons who voted them into Parliament. That is where I differ when people say Parliament should be boycotted. I think it is not fair and it is not tactical to surrender that democratic space. It is different to boycotting Cabinet because when you are invited into Cabinet, you accept the invitation on the basis that you are going to behave like Zanu PF, but in Parliament you are going to behave on the terms and conditions of those people who voted for you.
ND: What are your comments on the just ended elections?
EM: I am yet to see anybody today who is euphoric about the results of this election. I was attending a ceremony somewhere and someone there said that there are many little good things in Zimbabwe to the extent that when we have electricity blackouts and whenever the power comes back we are euphoric that Zesa power is back. But when you look at this election, it is a non-event and there is nobody who is euphoric about it because of the extent of cheating. People are saying what are we going to do during these five years given the shrinking democratic space and that there is uncertainty in the economic and social fabric caused by the stolen elections. I do not respect this so-called election victory. It is quite clear that Zimbabweans should appreciate we are on our own and we need to start afresh and say how do we re-group and move forward after this devastation? I liken it to a team at half-time whose coach keeps saying they need to win since they still have another 45 minutes. We need to finish off.
ND: Would you say the withdrawal by the MDC-T from the ConCourt of their election challenge was wise?
EM: I am sure that the MDC-T has a valid reason to do that. They are not withdrawing because they are accepting that Mugabe won, but because of other good reasons.
ND: Do you think the ministry will be disbanded?
EM: While it was appropriate to have a fully fledged Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs ministry at that time, it might not be necessary to have a standalone ministry now that the Constitution is fully done. The ministry might become a department elsewhere because Zimbabwe is such a small economy and country. If we are going to be serious in meeting the expectations of people of this country, we cannot have more than 16 ministries in this country. There is need to rationalise and have a lean administration. This business of having ministers and resident ministers was all about patronage and giving jobs to the boys. I am hoping that when a new Cabinet is formed issues of having a bloated Cabinet should not be a necessity. It was necessary during the inclusive government.