LESS than a year to a watershed poll that could define Zimbabwe’s political path and chart a post-President Robert Mugabe era the country already has countless political parties. The opposition is literally teeming with “parties” some that exist only in name.
Yet in the midst of this mayhem a new party led by a 40-year-old business executive, Zifa board member and ex-student leader Phillemon Machana has been born.
Machana wants Mugabe to vote for his Zimbabwe Transitional Alliance (ZiTA) “to secure his future because he will be hunted like an animal”.
NewsDay senior reporter Richard Chidza (ND) trekked down Machana (PM) and below are the excerpts:
ND: Who is Zimbabwe Transitional Alliance (Zita)?
PM: We are pleased and surprised that you came into contact with our work. This is because we have been around for a year, but we made a deliberate decision to work away from the glare of the media. Zimbabwe has an unforgiving political terrain and our decision to work under the radar was to guard against infiltration from the very people we are working to replace which is Zanu PF famed for using State apparatus to kill new parties before they are announced. They are infiltrated before they form themselves into structures. ZiTA is a Zimbabwean-born political party formed by youthful business persons in Zimbabwe and the vending populace after realising that we cannot continue to watch and say politicians will resolve our country’s troubles. We are answering to a clarion call from no less than 60% of Zimbabwe’s population who have either seen no reason to take part in our electoral processes or have by hook or crook been shut out by an establishment that has arrogated itself the position of “political god” who should preside over the affairs of our nation forever.
ND: You are associated with Zifa, where you literally came out of nowhere to become board member in-charge of finance. Who is Philemon Machana?
PM: I am a young businessman who was born at the tail-end of the war in 1977. I have been a student leader at Masvingo Polytechnic and professionally I am a chartered secretary, a sugar technologist and holder of an MBA. I am also a vice-chairperson of the Cosafa finance committee, ex-president of the Conscious Youth of Zimbabwe (CYZ) and past Chairperson of the Chamber of Mines Joint Suppliers Committee. I want to change my country’s fortunes. We have been failed by our leaders. I have asked Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa to bring forward the association’s elective congress to early next year so I can handover to someone else. I will not hang on to my Zifa position and it is a culture we must cultivate in our people.
ND: Would you not rather stay in business and wait for the environment to change than join the rough and tumble of politics given its vagaries?
PM: The ugly nature of our politics has forced many citizens and especially young Zimbabwean professionals and businesspeople out of politics. But we have come to the realisation that this country does not belong to a Mugabe dynasty, a single family or party in the form of Zanu PF. For as long as we remain seated on the fence, then we will allow these bad apples among us to masquerade as our leaders. Zanu PF answered to the call to end colonialism, the MDC 19 years later responded to end dictatorship and exactly 19 years later, ZiTA will be here to provide the bridge to a new Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has a lot of human capital in the business sector scared of joining politics because their businesses will be targeted and there will be mudslinging as well as character assassination. We have considered these things and come to the conclusion that these are secondary things. Beyond the Strive Masiyiwas (Econet founder) and Nigel Chanakiras (banker), Zimbabwe has not seen any other generation of prosperous business leaders, but that is not to say there is none capable.
Our leaders have obstructed young capable business leaders out of the economy and the only way to correct that situation is to correct political leadership. We are out to get power and take our country back to the family of nations. We have run successful businesses in an environment such as we have; surely we can run this country better than those who have run it aground. So, in short, we are going to the basics, solving the political crisis first then businesses can run smoothly.
ND: Zimbabwe is basically polarised between two political parties, the MDC and those associated with it on the one hand and Zanu PF and its associates on the other. Where do you think you fit in?
PM: True that our politics can basically be defined by two political epochs, Zanu PF gaining power in 1980 and the MDC’s emergence in 1999, but our analysis shows that these two parties have been fighting for 40% of the population leaving out an untouched 60%. That is where we are tapping. We are not fishing in MDC ponds.
ND: Are you not one of this fly-by-night briefcase parties that are out to “divide” the vote in the opposition movement or better still a creation of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)?
PM: We are not in any way associated with the CIO or Zanu PF. We think we can win elections without tapping into what any other opposition has in terms of support. Zanu PF can keep its support base and the same as the MDC along with any other parties in the body politic.
We are ready to talk to other opposition parties and we have been doing that already. We are part of the National Election Reform Agenda (Nera) and will be joining the Coalition of Democrats (Code) soon. But if need be and the issue of coalition which we think is critical to the removal of Zanu PF from power fails, we are ready for a coalition with Zimbabweans to save our nation. We are basically moving beyond the Mugabe must go mantra and providing answers to: What is to be done beyond Mugabe?
That Mugabe must go is now out of the question, if anything Zanu PF must go, lock, stock and barrel. But beyond their removal it is only ZiTA that will provide the path to prosperity.
ND: What is the message you are bringing onto the political market that you think Zimbabwe will buy into?
PM: We believe in radical transformation of the country’s economy to benefit Zimbabweans. The country is crying out for new fresh breed of political leaders and such is presently not found anywhere except in ZiTA as most even in opposition have become disillusioned and career politicians with nothing new and unique to offer in terms of real solutions to the crisis and the strategic thrust to win the elections. This is why you see a lot of fighting for positions, we are people-centred, selfless and baggage-free party with totally new thinking and new faces and we believe this is what Zimbabwe need at the moment. Further, Mugabe has allowed his friends from China to loot the country and such we will chase away without blinking. Mugabe is all talk and no action besides allowing a few of his lieutenants and cohorts to strip the country bare at the expense of 14 million of us.
The Chinese are masquerading as investors and coming here to sell matches, toothpicks and human hair. That is not investment. We do not care whether Mugabe has friends in China or not. There is no investment in downtown Harare.
If these Chinese and other such foreigners really want to do business in Zimbabwe they must bring real money not crowd out our people from areas constitutionally reserved for them. They actually must move out or go back to their country if they cannot provide real investment in manufacturing and other high capital areas of the economy. Mugabe and his cohorts in Zanu PF are better off with a new political party taking over than any of their factions. There is going to be bloodshed is any of the factions in Zanu PF are to take over. They will hunt and kill each other, so the ruling party will be the greatest beneficiary of a ZiTA government.