Exiled MDC-T Treasurer General Roy Bennett is the guest on Question Time. He answers questions sent in by SW Radio Africa listeners about whether he is likely to go back to Zimbabwe, the downgrading of MDC-T structures in the Diaspora, his reaction to former ZANU PF MP Tracy Mutinhiri joining the MDC-T and the way forward for the GNU.
Interview broadcast 06 June 2012
Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. My guest tonight is Roy Bennett, the exiled Treasurer General of the MDC under Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. We asked listeners to send in their questions for him and during the course of this interview we hopefully will get him to answer them. Thank you for joining us Roy.
Pleasure Lance, how are you doing?
Well you've been a busybody over the last few weeks, a presentation at Oxford University, several articles quoting your sentiments - what is all this about? Last time we spoke I know you said you were spearheading a Global Advocacy campaign - is this still part of what you're doing?
I've completed that and that's been taken over by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs within the MDC, so Lance, I was in London, the main thrust of my involvement around all that was to raise the resources to support the party back home and to support the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections and that is basically what I did.
I then went back to South Africa to try and implement everything that I'd done this side and consolidate it all. So basically it's just I was invited to speak to the Rhodes scholars at Oxford, which ended me landing up back in Oxford and being back in South Africa and being more in touch with the people at home and with the grassroots.
There are a number of issues which I am able to raise being in exile and out of reach of the totalitarian and repressive authorities of Zimbabwe. So that's what's caused me to get out and speak and it's mainly on issues that have come back from my colleagues in grassroots structures at home.
Now before we get to what those issues are, several reports are suggesting that you'll be returning home to campaign for your party leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and that there's also the possibility of you running for your old Chimanimani seat in the next elections. Is this true?
Lance, like I've always said and I've always maintained my entry into politics is from the people. I'm not a career politician, I don't seek political office; I'm there to represent people if they want me and in the manner that I can, so yes, definitely on the Chimanimani issue - again if the people want me there I will do my best to represent them.
And with President Tsvangirai it's completely different, I am there to support him as I've done from day one with all the support I can around the logistics and finances to run a campaign. So yah, that's where I'm at and definitely conditions permitting and we move forward with free and fair elections, I will definitely be there to campaign.
One question that we have comes from a woman called Dadirai and she wants to know legally what your conundrum is. It's been quite some time since your case was covered, I think this relates to Justice Bhunu and others and she wants just an update regarding that - do you have an arrest warrant out for you? What is it that is stopping you from going home? she says.
Yah definitely I understand there are two arrest warrants Lance. One is for contempt of court, the other is for perjury. But again Lance we need to understand the regime we are dealing with, we need to understand the way they operate.
Right now we see all the activists barred or supporters or family of Solomon Madzore and the 29 others in remand, their case has not been heard, they've been in for how long? It's, any charge can be put against you, it's about the regime, it's about the persecution, it's about them targeting individuals and certainly those warrants of arrest were issued and when the treason trial.
I was acquitted at the treason trial, Justice Bhunu himself came up to sue me and the Law and Order pressed charges against me. Prior to that they brought charges against me for storing grain dating back to 2001. So in short Lance, they don't need a charge. It's about them being totally in control, about a lack of security sector reform, it's about the Generals running the country and repressing people they feel are a threat to them.
I've always wondered why they've picked on you and they've been so consistent in this persecution. Some obviously speculate it's a race issue but you ask the question why someone like David Coltart is not being harassed at all or at least to the extent that you are being harassed. Have you been able to get to the bottom of it and find out why it's so sustained?
Lance I think it's not just me. Anybody that is effective within the political sphere in Zimbabwe. Politics is a game of numbers Lance; it's about grassroots support, about constituencies, it's about people's votes and if somebody is showing and their intelligence picks up the effectiveness or input of somebody that is pushing the process forward then those are the people that are fully targeted.
So I think if you look at Solomon Madzore being the chairman of the youth, his bravery, his total sacrifice and continued from day one as soon as he was voted into office as the new youth chairman, the repression against him started and his effectiveness, his support at grassroots and his ability that will keep him in prison because they don't want him out because he's more damage to them outside prison than he is sitting in a cell in Harare.
I think that's what the real reason's all about yah. And I also think they've never, ever forgiven me; if we go back in history and the start and the change in Zimbabwe when the people of Zimbabwe realized that Zanu PF had failed to deliver on their promises and all the promises from the liberation war and mobilized for the referendum.
At the same time the MDC was set up I had been courted by Zanu PF to represent Zanu PF and had been introduced by the Zanu PF structures by Mai Knight around the whole of Chimanimani to meet the people, I'd been at grassroots with them, I'd eaten with them and when it was time for me at elections just prior to the formation of the MDC and I was pushed forward to be the Zanu PF candidate for Chimanimani.
The regime refused to accept me and when the MDC was formed and I went with the elders from Chimanimani to go and meet the new leadership of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai I basically took the whole Zanu PF constituency of Chimanimani and delivered them to the MDC. Through the leadership of the then Zanu PF, a lot of the Zanu PF people then came with us and I think these are the things that they don't forgive, they don't forget and they victimize.
Recently MDC Diaspora structures have been up in arms over a decision by the party to downgrade their status from external assemblies to co-ordinating committees. What was the rationale behind that decision and do you support it?
Lance, we are all members of the MDC, all of us and yes, I do support it for the reasons, the following reasons: there has been absolute chaos in the Diaspora for the last era that we can look at. You have leaders imposing themselves, you've had leaders getting into position you've had corruption, you've had misappropriation of funds.
You've had damaging emails kicking around from country to country challenging the leadership at home bringing the party into ill-repute and you know sadly these are only a few individuals Lance, it's not the Diaspora yet the Diaspora now has to take the flak because of this irresponsible behaviour from certain leaders.
And the people in the Diaspora fully know who these leaders are, fully know what the issues are so sadly that's what is happening but that's not the issue Lance, the issue is we need change at home in Zimbabwe; I am in the Diaspora, I have purposely stayed away from fundraising functions because of the infighting with the inside structures of the Diaspora. I don't want to get involved in trivial matters when the big picture at home is in dire need of support.
All I can say, being in the Diaspora and to my colleagues who are the majority in the Diaspora, let's focus on home, let's organize, let's do it without looking for personal agendas, without looking for personal aggrandizement or political position, let's mobilize and support back home. Those who put their back into it will be recognized and seen by the people and in a new dispensation, will hold a very prominent place within the hearts of Zimbabweans. So that's all I can really say Lance.
You though admit that it's only a small minority, the decision to downgrade the external assemblies, is that not equivalent to throwing out the baby and bath water together?
Well again Lance I wasn't in Zimbabwe when that decision was taken I'm sure it was taken after serious consultation. I'm telling you my views - I personally think it's only a few. I don't know what the perception is at home or at the committees that discuss this, or when it was tabled with the party as such, I've no idea Lance.
But I believe that it's all the problems and actions from the past pushed this decision to be reached but again it's not a decision of throwing the baby out with the bath water, it's I would feel and I would believe personally it's more strengthening the Diaspora in so much allowing those who want to get involved, throw their back into it, organize, raise money, support the structures back home, it gives them the opportunity without being oppressed through political structures or not oppressed, without being directed through political structures.
Recently you blasted some in your own party for having no appreciation of the efforts of those in the Diaspora. You went further to say some had become Zanu-fied and had abandoned the people for the comfort of Zanu PF's gravy train. Several listeners have questions on this; Edward, Priscilla and others would like you to explain what did you mean exactly?
Well it's very simple, if you look back home, if you at our councilors, look at elected officials who have betrayed the very values of what we all stood for and why the MDC was formed. We have councilors in Mutare, six councilors there who met with Chombo who have gone against the party, who've issued plots of land, who have been corruptly involved in corrupt practices, we've had Chitungwiza council that did exactly the same thing.
It's the shot over the bows of all of us to understand why we formed the MDC, what the MDC was formed for and what it's there for and there has been remarks, I've picked up remarks again here and there on the internet of people saying things that are not good about the Diaspora and I know that the majority of people in the Diaspora have put their backs into raising funds.
I as the treasurer now see funds moving to support constituencies, to support programmes from people in the Diaspora so we need to be one, Lance, there shouldn't be criticism of one against the other, that is Zanu's way and that is the Zanu-ification and when people become comfortable, forget about the reasons as to why they were elected into power, forget about who they represent and what they represent it shows a bad reflection on the brand that we've built as the MDC.
And it's to pull everybody back, the Diaspora is as important as the people at home and the reason why people are in the Diaspora is as a result of what has happened back home. The people back home are equally important, and need the support of the Diaspora so all of us, whether we like it or not are bound together by a common goal and the big picture of bringing about change in Zimbabwe.
And it's more a shock to urge personal differences and personal individuals to remember why we formed the MDC. What the core principles and values of the MDC are and you know that more than ever we need to be united and together in pushing forward.
Last week Wednesday on Question Time I had the former Zanu PF MP for Marondera East Tracy Mutinhiri; on Monday this week I had Douglas Cartwright, the son of the late tobacco farmer Guy Cartwright whose family was violently evicted by Tracy and her ex-husband retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri. As a dispossessed farmer yourself Roy, what do you make of the MDC allowing Tracy Mutinhiri to join the party after being expelled by Zanu PF? Lots of questions from people on this.
Well again Lance, I unfortunately was not in on the decision? (inaudible) profile that she had, I have my own views on these things but to be very blatantly honest and very frank with you, anybody that's involved with Zanu PF's atrocities where they haven't been held to account for justice against any atrocities that are proven and definitely they have committed, then they should hold no place in the MDC.
I don't know the circumstances around Tracy Mutinhiri, I don't know what she's done or hasn't done but if she's got a case to answer, and she has done things then definitely the course through the courts is the first thing that's going to ever bring about any sort of change in Zimbabwe and secondly her entry into the MDC, I have no idea as to how it happened but if she has been involved in these sorts of actions then I find it very, very strange that she's been accepted at the level she has.
Do you think it's more for the propaganda value than her actually adding anything to the party?
Well again I think we should always show that the MDC's doors are open, to anybody from Zanu but if they come to join us, they don't come and join us bringing with them baggage that they haven't been accounted for.
You know the high profile of getting someone like her across obviously sends a very big political message and I'll say for her, she's certainly been brave in doing so because we all understand how Zanu PF handles people that betray them or desert them.
So again she's got to be commended for her bravery there but at the same time if she has been involved in these acts that have been alleged and then she has to answer them and she has to be brought to account before she holds an office, or post in the MDC.
Now you've claimed a network of white commercial farmers have resigned themselves to sponsoring Zanu PF with money in order to keep their farms. Is this true?
Not a network of white commercial farmers, it's a network of white people in Zimbabwe, white business and commercial farmers who are in bed with Zanu PF, who use Zanu PF to further their aims and at the same time, enrich individuals and supply funds to Zanu PF.
Yes that's an absolute fact Lance, and it's more prolific and visible than ever now because all the business around anything that involves mining concessions, land has to have a Zanu PF entity and the only way these guys can move their business interests forward is by being in bed and being the front person for these Zanu PF entities.
Do you sympathise with their position that they're caught between a rock and a hard place or do you think...
Not at all, not at all. Every Zimbabwean had a chance to make his choice. People that have chosen a course to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority, at the expense of people and standing on people's heads while they sup wine with the devil is totally unacceptable and if anything are ten times worse than the Zanu PF people themselves because they know better Lance.
They know better, they come from privileged backgrounds, they've had money before, it's not about poverty it's about greed and greed is far worse than somebody who's pushed into circumstances by poverty.
My last question comes from Richard Mboma he sent it via Twitter, he says what does Roy Bennett think is the way forward for the government of national unity?
There's only one way forward Lance and that way has been very, very clear from the beginning and that is the way of the Global Political Agreement for all the conditions of the Global Political Agreement be met, for a constitution acceptable be endorsed and for Zimbabwe to go for free and fair elections, security sector reforms, a level playing field where all Zimbabweans can vote without fear or favour for the person of their choice, where there can be a transition of power and where a government can implement policy changes that will benefit the people of Zimbabwe.
Realistically do you see Zanu PF conceding to all those things?
Lance I don't personally again, as a personal individual, I don't see, it's not a case of Zanu PF. I think Zanu PF is very divided Lance, I think there are many within Zanu PF and I would say possibly the majority in Zanu PF understand that they cannot continue the way they've been with the repression, the beatings, the violence, the corruption but they are not the ones in control.
The ones in control are the less educated, the more brutal, the people who have always achieved their goal through repression and brutality starting from the liberation war. We need to go right back to the liberation war to see how many people were killed in that time and that same mentality of rovayi munhu (beat up this person) is a mentality that is believed, is a belief for them that they can hold onto power.
They now own the diamond concession, they are in partnership with the Chinese military in platinum, in the diamonds, in agriculture, they have become immensely rich, they're not going to walk away from that Lance. So there is a serious battle ahead for the people of Zimbabwe and at the end of the day it is the people of Zimbabwe that have to stand up and claim their future and claim their rights Lance and it is there where I lend my hand in whatever little efforts I can do is to be able to help those people structure, organize and be responsible for their own future at a later date.
Well Zimbabwe that's our guest tonight on Question Time, Roy Bennett the exiled Treasurer General of the MDC under Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Roy as ever, it's been a pleasure having you on the programme.
Thank you Lance and all the best to you.