SUSPENDED Zanu PF Harare provincial youth leader Jim Kunaka remains a controversial figure even after the recent fallout with the ruling party’s leadership over his alleged extortion case.
In a recent interview with NewsDay (ND) Senior Reporter Richard Chidza, Kunaka (JK) maintained that he was not fired from Zanu PF.
He thinks Chipangano founding leader Ali Khan Manjengwa’s murder could have been an internal hit, and concedes that the gap opened by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s ouster will be difficult to fill.
Below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: At the peak of your reign, you literally rode roughshod over everyone in Harare. Where did you draw your power from?
JK: Jim Kunaka is a young man who lives in the Mbare suburb of Harare. I am a former Zanu PF Youth League chairperson for five years and worked for the Harare City Council stationed at Mbare Musika.
There were a lot of stories, bad stories about Chipangano (a Zanu PF-linked group blamed over a litany of violent disturbances in the poor neighbourhood) and me.
I must say from the outset that the power that I had is still there because the people of Mbare, and in particular the youths in the area, look up to me. They looked up to me to change their fortunes.
ND: What is Chipangano or what was Chipangano? Did it ever exist?
JK: I was not part of any group known as Chipangano.
ND: Chipangano stands accused of terror against the opposition. Were you ever part of this violence and outright murders?
JK: Politics involves a lot of things from beating each other up to name-calling. I am a man who does not brook any nonsense if I want something.
If anyone stood in my way, then they were likely to be brushed aside by whatever means. I would just force my way and if anyone got injured, then it was part of the game.
ND: So you would call this collateral damage?
JK: Exactly! These were things that happened along the way.
ND: But are you aware that some lost their lives along the way?
JK: Yes. It could have happened. Some got injured or were maimed, while others may have died, but I do not have any record of having killed anyone.
Misunderstandings happen when people support different political parties or ideologies. I must say though that we need to accept that people are different and have different perceptions of politics.
However, this should never be lost to us. We are all Zimbabweans despite our political differences and it is not necessary to resort to violence. We lacked this knowledge at that time
ND: When did you realise that political violence is bad despite ideological differences?
JK: As one matures, you begin to realise these things. One begins to distinguish the good from the bad.
Even then I can tell you that though we used violence, it did not change much in terms of people’s choices because we would not be with them in the ballot box despite the beatings.
That is why we lost elections. We forced people prior to the elections, but they would make us pay especially in urban areas. These are learned people we were dealing with.
ND: But this violence and coercion would work in the rural areas?
JK: Remote areas have older people who do not like violence and take intimidation seriously.
But 35 years after independence, Zimbabwe needs to move with the rest of the globe in conducting free and fair elections.
ND: Do you think you only realised that Zimbabweans deserve a better political culture after you were expelled from Zanu PF?
JK: First, I need to correct one thing. I was never expelled, and neither did I receive a vote of no confidence. I did realise violence is a bad political tactic.
I knew it while I was still in Zanu PF. I knew it was bad. I understood that people needed to be allowed to sell their political ideologies across the board without hindrance.
If people buy it, then so be it and vice-versa. That is what we are expecting as young people.
ND: You said you were employed by the Harare City Council but there were reports that you did as you pleased and got paid for your political activities rather than your work for the city?
JK: The time you are talking about, I was a provincial youth chairperson. The claims that you are saying were not from my immediate bosses.
The council is led by the opposition and they wanted to tarnish my image. There were also claims that I collected money from city ranks but I never worked at a station where I handled council funds. It was all politicking and I just took it as such.
ND: Did you know about another Zanu PF vigilante group called Mandimbandimba?
JK: I do not know about Mandimbandimba but I knew of a group known as Urban Transport Association made up of rank marshals operating in the city. I was not part of it but whenever they sought advice from me, I would offer it.
ND: Did this group collect money for any political godfather?
JK: No, that is a lie. These people never forced anyone to pay. They would help load people into commuter omnibuses and get paid a pittance actually, a dollar at best or R5.
Whatever the rank marshals got, it was for their own benefit. People must understand that these people are forced into such activities because of unemployment.
ND: So, what is Jim Kunaka doing now?
JK: Nothing has changed. I am still the same person I was in 2013.
ND: And your future in politics?
JK: Very bright. I will bounce back and those who think I am finished should think again. The respect that I am getting from the grassroots tells me that I am still relevant.
ND: Who killed Ali Khan Manjengwa, the first Chipangano leader in 2001?
JK: I worked with Ali. You see, I do not want to open a can of worms. We just heard it was the opposition. I would not want to open old wounds.
ND: Some have called for a re-opening of investigations into his death. They are saying it was a Zanu PF internal hit?
JK: I cannot say yes and neither can I say no. I am not part of the investigation. I just know he was killed.
ND: If the police where to interview you about the killing, are you willing to tell all that you know?
JK: I know nothing. We just heard he had been shot overnight and killed. However, it boggles the mind that in a small country with 13 million people, it is difficult to understand why Manjengwa’s killers have not been apprehended.
ND: Did you believe at the time or now the official position that the opposition was responsible?
JK: After what happened to some of our heroes, one begins to have doubts as to how such things happen.
The kind of situation as happened to General Solomon Mujuru, one begins to have doubts and suspect that something sinister might have happened even to Manjengwa internally because he was becoming powerful.
ND: Do you think Manjengwa was killed as part of the factional fights in Zanu PF?
JK: People do not understand the issue of factions. According to me, it means a few people but after the congress, if (former Vice-President Joice)
Mujuru had so few people behind her, why do we need to continue with the purges?
We could just ignore them right. But now because Mujuru was commanding the majority in Zanu PF then they have to continue weeding out people associated with her.
That is why you see the problems continue. The vacuum that Mujuru left will be difficult to fill and is yet to be filled.
ND: Do you think Zanu PF will recover?
JK: It can if the leaders turn around to listen to what the grassroots are saying.
ND: But will they listen?
JK: I am not sure because some of the leaders were imposed on people.
ND: What is your assessment of President Robert Mugabe and do you think he is still capable of leading the country?
JK: As a young person, I think what is required is for Zimbabweans to bury their differences. Stop calling people along party lines. Forget about Zanu PF, MDC-T or Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and focus on nation building.
ND: Are you going to join the MDC-T?
JK: I will never. But if someone wants to negotiate with me then they can come. The people who are peddling those lies are afraid of me that if I go back to Zanu PF it’s trouble for them and if I join the other side then even more trouble for others.
ND: Your last word?
JK: My plea to President Robert Mugabe is please tell us the correct history of this country. In school, we were told Mujuru downed a helicopter, now they tell us its lies.
So the certificates we got from school are based on the wrong facts.
We may as well tear them, we need the truth. We need the likes of (War Veterans minister) Christopher Mutsvangwa to tell us the truth.
We are watching what is happening in the revolutionary party and we feel pity given what is happening.