RENEWAL Democrats of Zimbabwe leader, Elton Mangoma, is one of the few former MDC-T officials, who has refused to build bridges with MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai under the banner of MDC Alliance.
Mangoma still holds memories of how he was hounded out of the MDC-T by the party’s violent youth, and still hold Tsvangirai accountable for the bouts of violence being experienced at the opposition party.
Last week, Mangoma (EM) granted an interview to NewsDay (ND) reporter, Obey Manayiti, where he spoke on various issues, including his decision to snub the recent launch of the MDC Alliance.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
ND: You have been a senior member of the MDC-T and you were pushed out following your fallout with Tsvangirai. The same violence seems to have been meted out on Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe and others after they too expressed divergent views with the party leadership. What’s your impression on this culture of violence?
EM: Certainly, we don’t countenance violence. We don’t want to see violence. There has been enough violence perpetrated by Zanu PF, but at that time, I was aware that the culture had gone into MDC and weeks before I was beaten, there were talks of me being beaten. In the letter I wrote to Tsvangirai, I indicated that there was this culture of violence and at that point I was asking him that we need a new narrative. The old narrative was stale and we really were no longer able to distinguish the difference in Zanu PF and MDC-T and that there was need to go back to the founding pillars of MDC-T, so that we would be able to connect with the people, who were abhorred by everything that Zanu PF was doing. That culture needed to be rooted out, so I was not surprised that other senior members were going to be beaten because that culture is now embedded in the MDC-T. This is actually a confirmation that culture, instead of Tsvangirai dealing with it he is actually promoting it. The use of violence and cohesion is wrong.
ND: Do you think the MDC-T is capable of shrugging off violence within its system?
EM: The MDC-T is no longer capable of shrugging this off. It is now endemic, it is really like Zanu PF trying to reform itself, the MDC-T has failed to reform itself and, in fact, it has been copying more and more the things that Zanu PF has been doing that people don’t want.
ND: Last week, the MDC-T formed an alliance with six other parties, what is your impression of that pact?
EM: I get this alliance as people who are going to share an elephant they think they are going to kill before they have killed it, but it is also a confirmation of the big-man power politics, where all what was being talked about is who takes what piece of the power and who has got the power to give other people as opposed to really what is critical and what works for the people.
People want jobs, they want freedom and a new narrative that makes Zimbabwe a country, where they will be happy to be citizens of and not simply substituting one dictator for another, one violent character with another and this is not what they are looking for.
ND: You are a member of Coalition for Democrats (Code) yourself. Do you think it has what it takes to transform the party? Some people within Code are also leaving to joining the MDC Alliance.
EM: We believe that indeed Code has got what it takes because it is properly grounded. There is a framework of how people will work together, there is a framework that makes sure that when there is disagreements how are they going to be handled. There is a framework that refers back to the country and working with the larger population. There are policies and values that are clear and they promote tolerance, inclusivity and this means that everyone matters. They might not matter today, but they will matter tomorrow.
ND: Why do you think Code is an alternative? What do you really stand for that makes it different from other arrangements?
EM: Code is probably the best thing that has happened to Zimbabwe. You actually have the leadership that cares not just by speaking, but looking at what they have done to see that these people really care. Code has a leadership that understands how things work. There are people, who have fought in the war, there are people, who have worked in the government, there are people, who have languished in prison, there are people who have stayed in the Diaspora, so they bring all these things together to be able to provide these unique solutions to the problems that Zimbabwe is facing.
ND: Is this the narrative that you are talking about to persuade people to focus on Code?
EM: The narrative is that of creating a new path based on inclusivity, nation-building, reduction on the presidential powers, developing the country and really giving the youth a platform to be able to articulate and be able to take a greater role in shaping the future of this country. Talking to the people to make sure that their issues are heard, that is the new narrative that will be on the table for Code.
We will get what the people want from themselves and not as defined by the leaders, some of them who are simply looking to say this is our turn to eat or this is our turn to revenge, but really based on getting Zimbabwe to be the best it can and be the first world country.
ND: Have you decided on the presidential candidate yet?
EM: We have not yet decided on it, which actually tells you that we are not power politics people. We simply want to make sure that the narrative is correct, the framework for which the president will work in is agreed and correct to make sure that everything is in order. The moment you put up a person, some of them would start to think they are the best thing that has been created and instead of listening to other people, they start to dictate. We are trying to make sure that in Code we don’t recreate (President) Robert Mugabe. We don’t want that so the emphasis is on the framework and we are getting the framework done.
ND: Are you still open to accepting other partners?
EM: At any particular time, if there are people who agree with the values and principles of Code, there is no reason for the door to be shut because, as you know in everything else there are people, who will realise that this is a good thing much later than others.
ND: Is there a possibility for Code to work together with MDC Alliance?
EM: As far as Code is concerned, we don’t put the emphasis on personalities. We deal with issues, we deal with values and frameworks. If they find that those frameworks are correct or if we all agree to a framework then there is no reason why we can’t work with any Zimbabwean and after all if you read our agreement it says it is open to all.