‘Let’s unite to address socio-political challenges’

Self-exiled former Cabinet minister Saviour Kasukuwere who was blocked from contesting in last year’s general election as an independent presidential candidate believes that Zimbabwe, “requires all hands on deck” to resolve the political crisis that has plunged the majority into poverty.

Self-exiled former Cabinet minister Saviour Kasukuwere who was blocked from contesting in last year’s general election as an independent presidential candidate believes that Zimbabwe, “requires all hands on deck” to resolve the political crisis that has plunged the majority into poverty.

In a wide ranging interview with NewsDay senior reporter Miriam Mangwaya (ND), Kasukuwere (SK) bemoaned lack of political will to unite to address the socio political challenges affecting Zimbabweans.

Below are excerpts of the interview.

ND: How can you describe the current political and economic situation in the country?

SK: I think it's always been self-evident but the chickens will come home to roost one day. I think this situation that our country is in cannot last forever. There is a need, really, for us to have a country that belongs to all, a country where everybody has equal rights as well as opportunities.

But more importantly also, I think as citizens we must now introspect over some of the things that are happening right in our faces. I think a lot more of citizens, be it in the political world, be it in the economic sector, you know, it's really, really pushing the people to the wall, more so in a year where the nation must be united against a big drought that will ravage the whole country.

I'm deeply concerned about the situation of the drought, whether the government and private organisations make efforts to alleviate the impacts. But you know that food security will always remain a challenge.

And we need to start thinking about how to overcome these challenges, around food security and poverty levels in our country, and ultimately also ensure that we have decent politics, also intelligent and decent politician.

ND: What do you call decent politics?

SK: When I say decent politics, well, I mean, look at South Africa, even the fact that Zuma can go to court, get a decision that might not be well-received by individuals or organisations, but still the capability of the institutions is something to marvel at, you know. You don't have to spill blood to achieve your political objectives. You don't have to break the law to achieve your political objectives.

ND: Earlier, you spoke about unity as a necessity in addressing the challenges that the country is facing? May you elaborate on that?

SK: Yeah, really the drought situation will affect a lot of our people. Already there is pain across the country. You know that our poverty level is going to rise. The situation of the majority of people in rural areas, urban families, they can't afford basics because the funds are just not there.

They don't have enough funds to move around. The depression in the economy, now it is being greatly affected by this climate change-induced drought and is going to hit hard on society, notwithstanding the fact that the State might not even have sufficient resources to meet the drought requirements.

It has raised an appeal of over US$2 billion thereabouts. But it shows that there is a huge task ahead. And that task needs a unity of purpose to confront it. And that will affect each and every family which is already affected by rising poverty levels in our country, as well as limited disposable incomes. These are factors that require leadership coming together to resolve and assist our country through this difficult period.

ND: Who should unite?

SK: When I say the aspect of unity of the people, I'm talking about the belief that each and every one of us has a duty to play. I think what is in our country right now is politics of polarisation, politics of ethnicity, politics of division, and so forth. And these do not build that unity, saying, all of us, let's march in the same direction, and give each and every one of us, and let's call on them for the country.

ND: You were barred from participating in the 2023 elections; does it mean you are waiting for 2028 for you to remerge on the political battlefield?

SK: Politics is an everyday reality. I think the concerns some of us have, have not changed. The hopes we have for our country have not diminished. The ambitions have not evaporated. We still believe this great nation of ours, at the right time, has to emerge out of the pain that we are going through. And part of this pain is really out of desperation by empty, or by bankruptcy in terms of thinking and leadership. When you are bankrupt in leadership, you don't focus on building the country. 

But let's be frank, I think we have been in this maze for quite some time. We have been on this journey for quite some time. We need to find the break and rebuild our great country.

Sanctions, the devastation that has been brought on the economy, and also the lack of political tolerance in our country, have brought a huge premium on the economic landscape.

And this premium is even affecting the emergence of a national currency. The efforts by the central bank will yield not much tangible benefits, as long as the polarisation, the divisions —  if it remains like that, then nothing will ever be possible.

ND: You are talking of political polarisation —  Are there any steps that you have taken yourself to ensure that there is unity or there is dialogue to resolve the challenges that we are facing as a nation?

SK: Who to dialogue with? When someone says, it's mine, I don't allow it. Dialogue is when someone says, guys, in the interest of our country, let's push the same agenda. But if there is no desire whatsoever, there is the winner-take-all approach.

This is the tragic nature of our politics. There is no room for people to come together. There has to be leadership provided to say, we are all citizens and children of our nation. And as much as we may know that there are differences, when we are confronted with the questions of the survival of our nation, we unite and build a country.

This nation requires building. Someone who understands that yesterday I might not have said good to you, but that doesn't necessarily mean that tomorrow we carry on with the grudges all the way to a point where we leave our country vulnerable.

ND: As we were beginning this interview, you said all the challenges that Zimbabwe is facing will not stay forever. What are those indications, or what makes you think that it will end?

SK: We must believe that better days shall come to our country. But we have to build towards that direction, right?

ND: How should people build towards that direction?

SK: Well, this discussion we are having, I'm sure these are the kind of discussions, deeper discussions that must precede the development of our country, deeper introspection in what is happening, what is going wrong, and what we must avoid in the future.

The key element of our country revolves around a strong democratic system that works for everybody, a strong set of institutions that protect the rights of our people, an economy that is inclusive, that delivers on behalf of everybody, opportunity, and dismantling of a colonial system that continues to class or put people in segments, say, the rural people, the towns’ people.

It is in fact Zimbabweans, across the breadth, who must be supported irrespective of their political opinions.

In other words, it is an all-encompassing political economic system that looks at placing the people of Zimbabwe at the centre of our development, and one that negates the continued perpetuation of predictive politics.

ND: Your supporters here in Zimbabwe, amid the challenges that the citizens are facing — the current economic situation, the drought — what would you tell them, at this moment, as their leader?

SK: Well, in my mind, I have spoken about the responsibility that all of us have with regards to the rebuilding of our country. My thinking at this moment in time is really that the pain that is in our country is huge, quite deep, and more so with this impending drought that we are already in.

What we must do, therefore, to assist and uplift people out of this huge quagmire, I think all our efforts must really be focused on helping to ease the pain that our society is facing. Already, our economic performance has not been that great, meaning that most families are going to bed on empty stomachs.

Most families even those who are earning or are working, they are earning way, way, way below the poverty line. And you see this, naturally, in the exodus of our people out of the country to neighbouring nations and beyond, at this peak of loss of hope that the majority have now in the country.  It's not a one-way street. You have to give and also take. So if Zimbabwe has to succeed and certainly it should, it requires all hands on deck to get our country out of this quagmire.

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