OPPOSITION MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa says he would soon use the occasion of the party’s upcoming 19th anniversary celebrations to be installed as ‘People’s President’ and unveil his alternative cabinet. NewsDay reporter Obey Manayiti (ND) caught up with the youthful opposition leader yesterday where he gave insights into what that move would mean for the nation that is saddled with economic, service delivery and health sector challenges and is heavily polarised.
INTERVIEW: Obey Manayiti
ND: In your address yesterday (Saturday) in Chitungwiza, you told your supporters that you will be installed by the people this coming Saturday. I want to find out if you meant you will also be inaugurated in place of President Emmerson Mnangagwa at this 19th anniversary celebration?
NC: No, this is an anniversary. If you listened to what I said, this is an anniversary, but do you really understand what it means to be installed by the people? We were installed by the people on July 30 and a person is not voted twice.
ND: You went on to say you will appoint your own cabinet?
NC: Alternative cabinet yes. That one yes, but I said ours is an alternative cabinet and it is allowed at law. Any serious party which is in Parliament must have an alternative cabinet. An opposition can have a shadow cabinet but ours is different because we are an alternative government.
ND: President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be swearing-in his Cabinet tomorrow (today). What’s your analysis of the new ministers?
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NC: On that one I said one or two fresh apples cannot redeem a condemned basket. The bottom line is that there is a legitimacy problem and that problem will not be resolved by a Cabinet. It’s a political problem which is almost an economic problem. For the country to go ahead, this is what needs to be sorted out first. Rushing to put up a Cabinet, even if you are going to assemble a Cabinet from another planet, it will not resolve the fundamental problems that are affecting the country because government is about the consent between the governed and the governing. Now when the governing chooses to forsake and tear away the interests of the governed — it’s a broken covenant, it’s a broken promise and broken trust.
Where there is no trust, confidence and legitimacy, it doesn’t matter how much we do. We must resolve the fundamental question of the day which is the will of the people. It is the very reason why we went to the Constitutional Court and the very reason why we are saying there has to be a political solution to the problems. Hiding behind a Cabinet and inaugurating oneself as Mnangagwa did and will not resolve the question. Zimbabwe is entrapped in a vicious cycle of disputed elections and legitimacy questions and government crisis. We must be able to extricate our country and pull it out of this cycle of disputed elections.
There must be a national agreement and consensus of people and all political players. No nation can ever move when key and dominant players, even citizens are pulling in different directions. No nation can sustainably stand and prosper when people are not pulling together. People need to dialogue and agree on what the problem is and what is the solution. Mr Mnangagwa is choosing the path of arrogance, he is choosing the path of unilateralism and the path of emphasising divisions rather than unity of a people to resolve their challenge in a very sustainable manner.
ND: You spoke about resolving the legitimacy problem through dialogue. Are you ready to dialogue with Zanu PF?
NC: We offered dialogue as an answer to resolve the legitimacy issue and there hasn’t been a response from Mr Mnangagwa. Perhaps he feels it is not necessary but he will discover that it is necessary. Like I said, you cannot govern without the consent of the governed. Government is a contract and it is early advice to Mr Mnangagwa not to ignore citizens particularly the over 2,6 million who voted for me. It is really unfortunate and it cannot be sustained
It doesn’t matter hiring foreign-based players where the stadium is full of stones. It will not help much because the players will come, no matter how skilled they are, no matter how talented they are they will find the problem with the stadium. There are people who are mistaken and say let’s move on, but it is difficult to move on when you have unanswered questions and unresolved issues around the issue of legitimacy. If you choose to move on in that situation, you are simply moving around.
It is not possible to move on without resolving the legitimacy issues. This is not difficult, we just need to agree on what happened and that it shouldn’t happen again. How do we go again to the people and say your vote counts? You cannot have an opposition that garners over two million votes and fails to form a government, it is impossible. They know what they did and they know the reality.
ND: Are you ready for a GNU?
NC: Dialogue doesn’t mean that there will be a Government of National Unity or inclusive government, but dialogue is a gesture of moving the nation forward. This country is divided and it requires a united front. Without unity of purpose and singularity of the national objectives and common vision, it is difficult to have answers to people’s problems. It is impossible. Going to the international community with a divided view will not help us because there are questions that need to be resolved.
They date from way back and nothing much has changed. The same problems that were there in the 2000 elections are the same problems experienced in 2002, 2005, 2008, 2013 and now. Anyone who thinks a Cabinet can work miracles, especially when that Cabinet is contested, a disputed Cabinet appointed by a disputed leader cannot produce a result which is credible.
ND: So, it is not you who refused dialogue?
NC: You must emphasize that because a lot of people think that it is me who is refusing to dialogue. His (Mnangagwa’s) tweet was just a PR (public relations) tweet and on the ground there is nothing, he hasn’t shown any interest.
ND: Do you think Mnangagwa’s government will last the next five years leading to the 2023 elections?
NC: You must understand that we must be recognised because we were players in this election and it takes two to tango. They cannot tango alone because this is a national project and a national project cannot be advanced using a partisan view. It doesn’t work and even the Bible says a house divided amongst itself cannot stand.
ND: So, what is the way forward?
NC: It must be understood that we are not being unreasonable. We want this country to genuinely move forward. People are suffering and a Cabinet that rests on the grounds of illegitimacy and disputed outcome is on shaky ground and even if they want to argue that they are the ones in power, that is not how you move forward. Even in matured democracies, they always find a way to find each other. It is so unfortunate that I am alone in the room with my national approach.
ND: What do you mean when you say you are alone?
NC: I am alone in my national view to unite the country, to be patriotic, to be forward looking. President Mnangagwa is choosing a partisan view. He is forgetting about the national perspective. We contested the election and we won it. Mnangagwa claims he was declared by Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) and claims that ConCourt (Constitutional Court) declared him, but beyond that the nation must be able to sit and say: What is our national problem? Courts and Zec cannot resolve legitimacy issues. This belongs to the forum of the citizens, the forum of the political players, the forum of the political leadership and that leadership is not one party, but different parties and especially the dominant parties.