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I couldn’t trade my conscience for convenience: Tsenengamu

FORMER Zanu PF youth leader, Godfrey Tsenengamu (GT), who was recently booted out of the ruling party for alleged intransigence and indiscipline, says he does not regret being kicked out of the governing party.

INTERVIEW:Brenna Matendere

FORMER Zanu PF youth leader, Godfrey Tsenengamu (GT), who was recently booted out of the ruling party for alleged intransigence and indiscipline, says he does not regret being kicked out of the governing party.

Tsenengamu, who has had this experience twice before, still insists the fight against corruption is beyond political parties’ capacities. In a recent wide-ranging interview with NewsDay (ND) Midlands reporter Brenna Matendere, Tsenengamu said both Zanu PF and the MDC do not proffer solutions to the socio-economic mess the country is facing. He said the MDC was living in the past, while Zanu PF was focusing on the 2023 polls, with ordinary citizens bearing the consequences and living in abject poverty.

ND: In the recent past, the nation has witnessed the launch of an anti-corruption campaign. What direction is it taking?

GT: I birthed this initiative as far back as 2016, when I came up with the idea of initiating a citizens’ movement to fight corruption. For those who think that this is about alleged factional fights in Zanu PF, I challenge them to check on my Facebook account and verify this. From that time, I decided to confront this scourge.

On December 18, 2018, I posted the same on my page. Now we have developed it from just a fight against corruption into an economic revolution, where we want to ensure equitable access and distribution of national resources and opportunities to the general populace of Zimbabwe, dismantling monopolies, promoting transparency, holding the authorities accountable and ensuring the empowerment of the indigenous majority and not just a connected minority.

We are finalising registration of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Citizens Taskforce as a specialised unit under the citizens’ movement, which we have named the Zimbabwe Prosperity and Anti-Corruption Troopers (ZimPACT).

These are voluntary non-partisan and apolitical movements for prosecution of the economic revolution. We have so far held our inaugural anti-corruption citizens summit in Harare and are spreading our wings to all the four corners of Zimbabwe. It is a journey of a thousand miles and we have taken the initial steps and one day we will be there.

ND: When you started the fight, you had Lewis Matutu, but we hear he is no longer with you. Can you tell us more about this?

GT: This is not a personal struggle by an individual for or against an individual. It is a collective effort of willing citizens determined to force through an economic revolution in Zimbabwe in order to deal with an injustice we had long conformed to and given up to fate.

Individuals come and go, but the revolution remains unshaken. The revolution is bigger than an individual and should never be about personalities. Matutu played his part and did what many armchair critics could not.

So let’s appreciate that and maybe because of circumstances, he may not be able to be with us physically, but his position on these issues is very clear. God willing, maybe one day, he will be with us again in the trenches physically. I will not judge him.

ND: Initially, you allegedly intended to name and shame about 20 individuals at your Press conference this year, but you ended up naming only a few and reports seem to suggest that you could have been bribed by the rest. Can you tell us what happened along the way?

GT: Like you rightfully pointed out, it’s hearsay and not based on any facts. Those are narratives from desperate cartel leaders trying to launch counter-attacks on us in a bid to discredit us. It is nowhere near the truth. We never heard about these accusations after our first Press conference at the party headquarters, as party youths then, when we also mentioned party gurus and why now when we have named non-politicians?

It must tell you a story about those we named. I was even labelled an extortionist and a CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] agent all because of Billy (Rautenbach), Kudakwashe (Tagwirei) and Tafadzwa (Musarara). Why? Maybe one day people will get the answers to this question.

ND: Do you think as a seasoned Zanu PF politician before your recent expulsion, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is corrupt as long suggested by people in the opposition?

GT: I have not and will never seek to cleanse anyone or refute any allegations levelled against an individual who can answer for him or herself. Those alleging this have their reasons why they are doing so and if those accused or alleged to be corrupt are clean, let them prove themselves as many are doing. If (MDC vice-president Tendai) Biti, like you have suggested, thinks that the President has a case to answer, let him come forward and say it out.

ND: Considering the punishment you got from Zanu PF over the corruption fight, what is your assessment of the party’s commitment to fighting graft?

GT: The generality of the membership is behind this just fight, but some in the top echelons of the party leadership are not because in one way or the other, they are beneficiaries of this evil menace that has caused havoc in the lives of the masses.

From the leadership, it is just mere rhetoric and there is no sincerity in taking the corruption fight seriously. In short, there is no political will to deal with the scourge. The writing is clear on the wall for everyone to see.

ND: What is your take on your expulsion from Zanu PF and what does the future hold?

GT: No hard feelings. No regrets. My conscience is clear. I could not trade my conscience for convenience and my principles for opportunism. I stand for what I believe in and I knew that since we had touched a raw nerve of the cartelists and those benefiting from it, we had to be ready to pay the price and here I am having lost a luxurious car, a good salary, influential position and my membership.

I have also lost fake friends and gained true friends. Let them keep their membership and I will keep my independent thoughts and beliefs. They have expelled me from the party, but they will never be able to expel the person in me.

ND: Do you feel betrayed by Mnangagwa?

GT: I have no hard feelings for the man. He had to do what was convenient for him and his peers in the Zanu PF politburo. Such is life. But honestly, I feel pity for him because he has surrounded himself with praise singers and pretenders, people who can’t tell him the truth and are leading him up the garden path.

These people betrayed (the late former President Robert) Mugabe when he thought they were genuinely supporting him and it seems history is repeating itself. I wish him the best, though he has to be strong and face the hard truth of the prevailing situation as he must stop lying to himself. Things out there are bad and he must find a solution quickly.

ND: Will you join MDC?

GT: I have no intentions to join any political party, the MDC included. I am concentrating on the economic revolution I have mentioned earlier because we are pushing a worthy cause that can’t be sacrificed by joining political parties that have ceased to represent the wishes and aspirations of the people they purport to be representing.

Most of these parties have become pale shadows of their former selves. To show that they are off rail, just look at how they compare their crowds from rallies other than competing on service delivery since the two (Zanu PF and MDC), in one way or the other, are in charge of the affairs of this country collectively. Their pre-occupation is winning and protecting power. It’s sad.

ND: What is your assessment of the current economic and political climate in the country and is there any hope things will soon change for the better?

GT: Zimbabweans must quickly come to terms with the reality that they are on their own. The MDC is occupied with the 2018 polls as they still intend to lodge another appeal to reverse the Constitutional Court ruling, while the ruling Zanu PF party has now shifted its focus to the 2023 elections as was spelt out by Mnangagwa in his opening remarks in the politburo. None of the two has an agenda to genuinely deal with the current problems affecting the people. They are always trying to outfox and outplay each other at the expense of the suffering people. These are the two parties in Parliament and local authorities. It’s just sad and unfortunate that they continue to exhibit selfish tendencies.

While the two are competing to engage the East and the West, they have failed to engage each other and find a home-grown solution. They are playing to the international gallery, though I thought charity would begin at home. So Zimbabweans must stop relying on the two and seek a solution which does not rely on the two parties. We are on our own and must accept that reality.

ND: What is your assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of opposition parties in Zimbabwe, particularly the MDC?

GT: The MDC lacks strategy to turn the sympathy it has into genuine support. They always think that if people, for some reason, dislike Zanu PF, then that automatically translates into their support and votes. They are also mistaken to assume that when the economy is under-performing, that would translate into their election win. It does not work that way.

They have failed to prove themselves to Zimbabweans as the best alternative. They are the second biggest party in Zimbabwe currently after Zanu PF, but not necessarily the best option. They have a very young and energetic leadership which is appealing to the majority of young people, which to some extent may help them, but as it stands, that leadership needs to prove to Zimbabweans that they are the best alternative.