A lot has been said about the Makone family, from its supposed role in choosing girlfriends for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to suggestions that Home Affairs co-minister, Theresa Makone (TM), has warmed up to Zanu PF. The Standard reporters (SR), Jennifer Dube and Lesley Wurayayi, recently spoke to the minister about these and other issues. Excerpts:
May you tell us about the current state of your ministry, highlighting things you are happy with and those that you are not so happy with?
TM: My ministry is multi-faceted; it is topical almost in every area -- from the Registrar General's Office, immigration, and police, state lotteries and national museums. It is unlike other ministries that deal with one particular item. We deal with people's lives; from issuing them with birth certificates, to issuing them with death certificates and everything in between.
You are the chairperson of the MDC-T's women assembly. Tell us about your relationship with former MDC-T women's assembly chairperson, Lucia Matibenga.
She is someone I have respect for. I have got no real hard thing that I can say about her. She is a decent person and we have treated each other as party colleagues and as sisters once this whole thing (contesting for chairwomen's position) was over. But obviously there are individuals, and I want to say in this case, men, who would like to see us continue to fight each other for their own personal interests because they think that for as long as we continue to lock in horns, their positions are not threatened because we are two very strong people who can actually contest for any position.
Is the MDC's women assembly happy with the constitution? Which areas do you like most?
As an assembly, the things that we lobbied for are there and we are waiting for implementation. The major highlights of things we like are basically to be treated, as equal citizens. To be recognised as the daughters of the soil of Zimbabwe and not second class citizens. To be paid equal pay for equal work with men. To occupy those economic and political positions that we deserve according to our ability just as men. Basically, we got all that and we are happy.
But some of your partners in government have said they are not happy with the draft?
All I know is that they have been having long endless meetings and I wish them well in their deliberations. All I know is that the document that was delivered by our representatives in the discussions and also from Copac has got the signatures of all parties. Once you put your signature to any document, you are bound by your signature. Now what you need to do is to go to the population and point out what is wrong with it and then let the population decide whether they want it or not. It is now up to the people of Zimbabwe. It is no longer about the political parties. They did their horse-trading and did all their arguing and they agreed.
Tell us about the relationship between the Makone family and Prime Minister. It has been suggested that the family influences a lot of his leadership and personal decisions.
I try to smile but I actually find those kind of comments irritating, to put it rather mildly. One, it says that the Makones are evil people. Secondly it says that my president, Tsvangirai, is an idiot. I find both of these suggestions highly offensive. Morgan Tsvangirai as a man is like you and I. He has a personal life. I want to think that you have friends, because if you do not, then you have a big problem. So does Morgan Tsvangirai, he has friends. You do not get voted into being a friend. A friend is someone that you have got something, however small, in common with and that you want to share personal things with. I have no regrets whatsoever that my president of the party, also happens to be a personal friend. I have no regrets with that at all, and I make no apologies to anybody for that because I am a being, and so is he. If we have something in common, and that we want to share, who is anyone to tell us that we may not do that? Who is anybody to do that? Who is infringing on our human right to be friends?
When we get to the party, that is another ball game. In the party we are voted for as individuals. He is elected by the people of Zimbabwe as the president of the MDC in his own personal capacity. And I am elected as the national chair of women in my very personal capacity, much to the displeasure of a lot of people. But there is something that the women think they benefit as having me as their leader. Something they see in me and as long as they see that thing, people can whoo-haa as much as they like but until 2016, I am the national chair of the assembly of women of the MDC and that is it.
There are things of a personal nature that you cannot talk to someone about. For instance, if I was going to start having affairs, I cannot go and discuss that with him, that's my private area and he cannot come in there. And if my husband was going to have a small house, he can choose to discuss that with him or not, that is his own personal area. The same with him, if he is going to have a love life, that is his personal area and it is ridiculous and stupid for anyone to suggest that Theresa or Ian can actually cause him to fall in or out of love with anyone. But what we can do as friends, and as well-meaning friends, is to give him what we think of what he does, and what effect it has, mostly because he is a national leader and it is entirely up to him to take it or disregard it. That is what friends do for each other. Your friend can tell you what to do, which they think is in your personal interest but you do not have to take it. So, that bit actually makes me very sad because it wants to create an impression of a power base which is malicious and evil and actually is non-existent.
But one thing that I will always say is that before and after MDC-T, I do not see anything that will destroy the personal relationship that we have. It cannot be influenced by newspapers, by the radio,by television and people can scream and shout and say what they like, it really does not concern us at all. Because if it had been based on popularity, by now there should have been nothing left because we have been taken to the cleaners and back. But it does nothing because our friendship is not based on anything material, it is a person to person relationship and we are the only players in that relationship and we are the only people who can break it and people must understand that.
When we are at the party, we are different individuals doing our different jobs. We just so happen to have met because of our identical political interest and we met many people in that struggle. Why did we not become friends with all those many people? There are reasons why people are drawn to each other and there is nothing anyone can do about that. I did not know Morgan Tsvangirai before the year 2000. I had never met him, I had always seen him in newspapers and I do not think that he knew anyone called Ian Makone or Theresa Makone. We just did not know each other but when we first met and first interacted, something happened there, which I cannot explain and which no one can explain and we became friends and there is nothing anyone can do about it, unfortunately.
What is your response to suggestions that the Makones are in the PM's kitchen cabinet, with Mr Makone being the kingmaker?
To me this is the same nonsense as suggesting we influence the president. I do not know what a kitchen cabinet is. But assuming that there is a kitchen and the kitchen is the one that works with its president, then every member of the MDC is in the kitchen. Because if you are not working with him, who are you working with? Anyone who is a president of a party, any party, members of his party are supposed to work with him, and defend him, and work for him and if you do not, then you are antagonistic, and in that case you are not in the party. If you are a member of the MDC and you are not in the kitchen cabinet, then where are you? Which room of the house are you in? Are you in the lounge? Are you in the bedroom?
To me, this talk is all nonsense. It is meant to create disharmony and discord. But the people in the party have matured beyond that. Labelling and condemning is a tool that was used by enemies to create division within our party, hoping that after the division of 2005, there would be another breakup and they think what better thing to use than the word kitchen cabinet. I am afraid they have to coin something else.
I do not even see anyone in this party wanting to break it up at the moment because it is actually the biggest and strongest party in the country right now. I want to dare anyone to prove to me that there is a stronger party in Zimbabwe today. If you are a party to the winning team, how would you want to opt out and become party to a weak losing team? Everybody in the party today can feel that they are with the people, they are riding high.
How close are you to the PM's wife Miss Elizabeth Macheka, considering that you are said to have been very close to the late Mrs (Susan) Tsvangirai?
I want to be very honest; she is a new person in the PM's life. I would be telling a lie if I said I am particularly close to her. She is someone I am getting to know. I think all in all, because of my work schedule, and her work schedule, we have actually not had a chance to have a private meal alone. I want to think that sometime in the near future when things have settled a bit and all these things, the constitution and other, which have been keeping us busy, are out of the way, we will have time to sit together, talk and get to know each other. Then I can talk of a relationship. Right now I only know her as the PM's bride but I do not know her well enough to be able to say this is how tall she is or these are her favourite clothes or this is her favourite food. I do not know her yet. But I am sure the time will come that we will get time to meet and get to know each other.
But there are suggestions you could have had a hand in her relationship with the PM?
I did not know her until the day I was introduced to her in Buhera. That was my first meeting with her. Much as I would have loved to have something to do with it, I did not. That tells you that the guy actually does his own things alone. But once he has made a decision, as a friend, my job is to accept that person and help her along. That is what friends do for one another and that is the role that I can only play -- to help her settle into the party and to play her role as she should. That's all.
What do you think of the PM's leadership of the party, from an independent point of view and not from a friend's point of view?
Right now, at this moment and time, I cannot think of a better individual to lead the party than Morgan Tsvangirai. I actually do not know anyone who commands the same respect and has the same aura of spontaneous love from people as he has. People say maybe it should have been this one, maybe it should have been that one, it is very unfortunate. I think leadership is not something that you choose for yourself. I think it is something that is thrust upon you by the Gods and right now, it is his star that is shining the most and there is very little most of us aspirant people can do about that.
He is the man of the moment and you do not have to like him or dislike him, but that is how it is right now. I wish anyone well who thinks they can step into his shoes at this moment and time. I cannot see them doing it without falling into a very deep bottomless hole (laughs), never to be seen again. He is the man of the moment, fortunately for Zimbabwe.
Khupe automatic running mate for Tsvangirai
What do you think about the issue of running mates and the view that your husband may land the post?
I have to laugh. For me, if the constitution as agreed goes through as it is, it is automatic that Thokozani Khupe is the first running mate because she was chosen by our congress as the vice-president. You know, in our party, we don't have two vice-presidents, we only have one. But when it comes to the second running mate, it is up to the president of the party alone. then I really wish him well in that process because I think he is going to have a real awesome task because there are a lot of good and capable people in our party. But he has indicated at our last council, that he might actually ask the national council to assist him. Whether he will do that in the end or not, I don't know because he did not commit himself, but just indicated that he might ask for the assistance.
But one thing I can tell you is that Ian Makone has never been approached by the Prime Minister to be his running mate. Neither has he got the interest of being a running mate. Ian Makone is just like any other person in the party, with just a party membership. Infact, you might not know this, but he does not hold any particular post in the party hierarchy like I do. He is just an ordinary member. So I do not even see how his name comes except if it is meant to probe the Prime Minister and make him pronounce his actual running mate. I don't see any other reason why Ian's name comes up. I don't see how he fits into the picture. He has got no such ambitions, no such interest and no position in the party to even have a claim to that position.
It would have been more interesting if people have said Mai Makone wants to be, because I am a member of the standing committee, so I might had some kind of ambition but in this case, it does not exist. There is no way, even if I wanted to be, there is no way I could ever become the president's running mate when I have openly said that I am also a friend of his. It becomes nonsensical. That alone disqualifies me from becoming a running mate. So I am automatically disqualified by virtue of our personal relationship. Even if he wanted to have two female running mates, which will be quite ridiculous, the other one cannot be me, it has to be someone else.
'Mohadi a gentle, professional work colleague'
Tell us about your relationship with your colleague, KemboMohadi, the co-minister of Home Affairs.
TM: Kembo Mohadi! (Laughs) People have all sorts of impressions about him and I am not quite sure what they are based on. But as an individual, he is so mild and gentle that the kind of images that are sometimes brought to the public about him are sometimes worrying. When you get to know him and work with him, he is soft spoken, he is gentle, and his answers and his thoughts are always well-considered. I know people say Mai Makone is now softening to Zanu PF but when a person is born they are not born as MDC or Zanu PF. They are born as persons and I am talking about Kembo Mohadi the person. What I do not know is how he is like when he is upset because we have not yet reached there.
He and I at this stage, on an intellectual level, when we make our decisions, they are well-considered decisions, based on the facts in front of us and they are non-partisan to the best of our abilities. We try to make decisions together that we can defend together. I have a good, professional working relationship with him and that is all I expect.
In a statement you issued in January condemning misconduct by some police officers in Nkayi and Harare, you complained that Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri, disobeyed your instructions. Does he take your instructions now?
I want to give you the facts as they are. Initially, when we started, the relationship was bad. Both of us did not even try to work together. The relationship was soured with suspicion. I had my pre-conceived ideas about him and I am sure he also had his own pre-conceived ideas. It has taken us months to actually come together and to see that we actually need to work together for the good of our country. I must say I have been pleasantly surprised by the way things have turned and I want to be very honest and say right now, the working relationship is as healthy as it should have been from the start.
The fact of the matter is that if there is a problem and I tell him, it gets attended to positively. That I must say is the current situation, whereas in the past I would have had to think twice whether to call him or to talk to my co-minister or another minister. I am his minister and he is my Commissioner General and there is no question about it.