MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa last week raised the stakes in the opposition's push for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to provide guarantees that the July 30 elections will be free and fair.
Chamisa accused Zec of trying to manipulate the keenly awaited polls by fiddling with the newly-created biometric voters roll and manipulating the ballot paper to give President Emmerson Mnangagwa an advantage.
Over a month after the coalition of opposition parties rolled out a massive protest against Zec over electoral reforms, the MDC Alliance's supporters will return to the streets of Harare this week to press for a credible poll.
One of the MDC Alliance leaders Tendai Biti (TB) spoke to our senior reporter Obey Manayiti on measures the opposition is taking to ensure that the elections are not manipulated.
Biti also spoke about the MDC Alliance's electoral chances, saying there was no way its candidate could lose against Mnangagwa if the process is free and fair. Below are excerpts from the interview.
OM: It's less than a month before the July 30 harmonised elections. How prepared is the MDC Alliance?
TB: The MDC Alliance is actually over prepared for this election. As you have seen we have been in every corner of Zimbabwe. We have been in places that we, hitherto, had never been before and have been shocked by two things:
First is the level of overwhelming, suffocating support and chemistry that we have with people. There has been an overwhelming chemistry with our new president Advocate Nelson Chamisa.
So the legacy of Morgan Tsvangirai is alive, the legacy of the struggle is alive and people want change, people want change, transformation and opportunities. People want change. We have also been shocked by the huge levels of underdevelopment.
I have been to places like Mukumbura, Dande, Muzarabani, Tsholotsho, Chiendambuya, Binga and the levels of under development are criminal. Zanu PF was asleep for 38 years and don't deserve to be given another chance. There is a chance to liberate our country from mediocrity, from failures, from cruel people and corrupt people.
OM: There are reports that you are under-resourced for this election, can you comment on that.
TB: We have absolutely no cent. I have been secretary-general for this movement for over 10 years and we have never been so broke in terms of what is in our coffers, but we have never been so spiritually rich. So struggling as we are, miraculously we are here with only three weeks before elections without even a cent. God provides in many ways.
OM: Are you going to match Zanu PF which is running a multi-million dollar campaign?
TB: We don't have resources, we don't have money and Zanu PF stole $15 billion worth of diamonds and the military were at the centre of that and are financing this campaigning.
We have got a Singaporean commodity broking company and it is supporting the Zanu PF mafia.
They have got Russians that are supporting Zanu PF, the Chinese that are supporting Zanu PF and dubious people who cannot win tenders in a fair way who are supporting Zanu PF.
Therefore, dirty money and blood money is supporting Zanu PF but with their money we will beat them hands down.
OM: The MDC Alliance has indicated that its supporters will return to the streets of Harare this week to put pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to address a number of grievances? What problems do you have with ZEC?
TB: We have not made many demands. We have just said be open about the ballot paper. What is its quality, what is its traceability?
Who is printing it and where has it been sourced? Who is going to transmit it? This is a basic routine standard. You cannot go and write an examination without knowing the syllabus, without knowing the name of the exam paper.
We have been asking them about the biometric voters roll, give us the voters roll in searchable and analysable form as is required by the law, section 21 of the Electoral Act and put people's faces because the whole essence of BVR is to ensure that a person is alive and what is secret is the vote and not the voters roll, that one is not secret.
It is just like your ID, it is a public document, it is not secret. You cannot say to a policeman I cannot show you my ID because I am protected by the right to privacy.
It is idiocy, more so by people who pretend to be lawyers, its idiocy.
We are asking for very simple things like equal access to the media but the ZBC belongs to (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife and The Herald is toxic, its poison, unashamed poison and these are public institutions.
The constitution is very clear on equal access to the media, Section 61 is very clear.
The Herald is a pathetic pamphlet for Zanu PF. The other day they were lying that Chamisa met (former president Robert) Mugabe in Dubai. Chamisa has never been to Dubai in his life. They should stop writing news items and go on to write fiction literature, Mills and Boon.
OM: What are your options if Zec continues to ignore your demands?
TB: We are very clear that we will not boycott the election, but there will not be an election in Zimbabwe.
OM: What does that mean?
TB: It means that there will not be conditions for a credible, free and fair election in Zimbabwe and if we pull out, as the biggest political alliance in the country, Zanu PF cannot vote on its own.
Zanu PF cannot compete with Elton Mangoma and Bryan Muteki and say we have got an election or Lovemore Madhuku. They cannot compete with themselves and their shadows and their egos, their creations and muppets and puppets.
OM: Do you mean other contestants are a joke?
TB: What do you think? Do you honestly think that Bryan Muteki is a candidate?
OM: There are others besides Muteki...
TB: Like who, Nkosana Moyo? If he gets his deposit back he will be very lucky. He is a nice man, but this is not his game. He is a wrong man at the wrong place, but a very nice man and I am sure when we win we will make use of him in some areas.
OM: Do you think the army will facilitate a smooth transfer of power in the event that you win?
TB: I don't think so but they don't have a choice in the matter so the army is not our concern. The army will respect the constitution.
OM: Chamisa announced last week that he was launching a diplomatic offensive in the region to force Mnangagwa and Zec to organise a credible election. Do you think this will work, coming a few days before the elections?
TB: This is a multi-faceted fight. We are going to the courts, we are going in the streets and we are launching a diplomatic offensive.
There is a different mood and different leadership by the way. We are prepared to die for a free, fair and credible election.
We are prepared to go to Chikurubi [Maximum Security Prison], we are prepared to die or any consequence to make sure that there is a free, fair and credible inclusive election in Zimbabwe.
OM: In the event that you succeed in ensuring that the elections are free and fair, are you prepared to accept defeat?
TB: We will not lose a free, fair and credible election in Zimbabwe. That is not possible. Emmerson Mnangagwa with all his history of bloodshed, history of supporting Robert Mugabe, history of incompetence cannot win a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, never.
OM: What immediate steps are you going to take to address pressing issues affecting Zimbabweans?
TB: We have produced a fantastic document called SMART, our new Zimbabwe pledge and we were very clear and we are focusing on transformation opportunities and prosperity.
The first thing is to stabilise the economy and we have in that document what we call the Zimbabwe Emergency Recovery Plan (ZERP), which will restore macro-economic stability that will resolve the cash crisis.
We intend to demonitise the bond note, we intend to strength multi-currency regime but introducing fresh (foreign currency accounts) FCAs.
Every Zimbabwean will have fresh FCAs and we will make it illegal for the government to borrow from the central bank.
We will make it illegal for banks not to honour any withdrawal of money being made from an FCA and in other words, if you put money in an FCA and if you go to take it, but the bank fails to give you, there will be consequences for that.
We intend to attract FDI in this country and address the ease of doing business.
We intend to address the challenge of ghost workers and the wage bill, which is taking almost 90% of total expenditure.
We intend to rationalise state-owned enterprises that are a fiscal drain, we intend to resolve the debt crisis in this country, we intend to reintroduce for the public service a defined benefit pension scheme, a standalone pension scheme and we intend to monitise pension values that were stolen and mismanaged by banks, by Zanu PF and insurance companies themselves.
We intend to amend drastically the Income Tax Act, move the calculation of taxation from residents to source Section 14 of the Income Tax Act, we intend to introduce a flat tax rate of 15% for corporate tax and increase the bracket of tax free income in respect of those who are charged (pay as you earn) PAYE.
We intend to join the Rand monetary union, we intend to create spatial development, particularly in the mining sector with spatial linkages, we intend to give title deeds to everyone who is on the land, we intend to pay full and adequate compensation to those that were dispossessed of land.
We intend to ensure that there is a land audit and that one household has one farm. We intend to have maximum farm sizes per region, we intend to embark on what we call Dura, which is the Development of Urbanisation in Rural Areas.
We intend to instill the seven lines of civilisation that includes water, energy and markets in rural areas.
We have a very robust social agenda, so we will make primary school education free for every child in Zimbabwe.
Those who wish to take their children to private schools can do that, but basic education in Zimbabwe will be free.
We intend to introduce a national health insurance plan in Zimbabwe, which we are calling the Chamisa Care.
This will look after cancer patients and those with HIV, diabetes, heart failure, renal failure and so forth so that our people do not have to go to Singapore or to South Africa or India for medical treatment.
We intend to have a special care and programme for those living with disabilities, there would be a special grant for persons living with disability. Public amenities will be upgraded to recognise people living with disabilities.
We intend to protect the elderly with free public transport as well as a grand. We intend to create a rights-based society where citizens' rights are fully protected and the bill of rights will be fully protected.
Some of the categories of rights that we will specifically protect are the following (i) women because they are so disadvantaged in our society on divorce and on death of a husband.
So we want full equal rights for women particularly on divorce and death of her husband.
We intend to protect children particularly against child marriages and exploitation, pornography and cyber terrorism on the internet.
We intend to come up with a broad new Children's Act that protects children against child marriages, child labour and so forth.
We intend to protect workers' rights by introducing a tripartite negotiating forum, right to collective bargaining, ensuring there is both paid maternal and paternal services.
We intend to protect the rights of the so called aliens.
No one should be called alien and we are going to issue an ID card which doesn't specify where you come from.
We also wish to give rights to prisoners. they are people and one of the rights that we will give them is the right to vote.
We also intend to give rights to people in the diaspora and transform this country from an infrastructure point of view.
We believe we can mobilise the $15 billon that is necessary to modernise and upgrade our railway system for the bullet train, the metro systems that we have been talking about, the spaghetti roads that we have been talking about, 4000 megawatts of fresh energy in this country, dams and irrigation to make agriculture a 365 day business.
Most importantly we intend to alter the structure, infrastructure and culture of governance in this country.
We intend to introduce devolution, deal with the problems of transitional justice and the problems of national healing and corruption.
This country is corrupt, Emmerson Mnangagwa is corrupt, Zanu PF is corrupt so we intend to deal decisively with those whose hands are sticky and are sticky to people's coffers.
OM: How are you going to mobilise the $15 billion you say is needed to kickstart the economy?
TB: First we resolve the debt crisis. This is a developmental crisis and Zimbabwe owes about $2 billion to the World Bank, $500 million to the African Development Bank, $4,3 billion Paris Club of Lenders.
Let's find a solution and we call it Sadza in our Smart document, meaning sustainable agenda for debt and development strategy so we clear that through a programme called debt cancelation and debt forgiveness.
Once we do that we derisk Zimbabwe and we are able to get huge amounts of money at concessionary rates and grants that are sitting at the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Remember the original name of the World Bank is actually the Bank of Reconstruction formed after the Second World War to reconstruct Europe and America.
We will also do public private partnerships (PPP) in the form of build operate transfer or build own, operate and transfer.
Oversees development, (foreign direct investment) FDI will come in and our own resources will also come in. That should not be a problem.
OM: Mnangagwa has said Zimbabwe will be a middle income earner by 2030. Do you think its feasible?
TB: That is not a vison and after all the World Bank already classifies us as middle income, so how do you expect put this as a vision when we are already there.
A vision is an aspirationary goal and ours is to build a sustainable, democratic, green developmental God-fearing nation.
Mnangagwa is dull and that challenge in conceptualising a vision shows he is limited by nature, he is incompetent.
What does the mantra Open for Business mean? Are you just going to open up for everyone?
It's not possible and we on the contrary I will say we will be best for business and that is why we are lowering tax rates to 15% and we are attending to ease of doing business.
We are guaranteeing private property investments and we are restoring the land market in Zimbabwe.
We are protecting strong institutions to be built in this country and that is best for business, we are liberalising the capital account.
OM: There are reports that principals in the alliance are drifting apart over unfulfilled promises in the distribution of parliamentary seats. Others feel that they were taken advantage of by the Chamisa-led party.
TB: Don't you guys get tired. We were told the alliance was going to fall before nomination and it didn't. The alliance will not collapse and remember the key people there are friends. Nelson Chamisa is my friend, Welshman Ncube is my friend. These are close friends, so we were there before politics and how do we collapse. The alliance will not collapse, it will form the next government and another in 2023.
The alliance is going nowhere because that is what the people want.
The alliance was not formed by the genius of the leaders but by the vision of Morgan Tsvangirai after listening to what people wanted and that is why we are there.
Collapse over what, what are seats. There are always challenges and even in marriages there are challenges but you don't divorce you husband because he spent $10 in a bar.
OM: Finally, what are your chances of winning the polls?
TB: We are going to defeat Emmerson Mnangagwa and he is lucky if he is going to get 25% of the vote. He must do the right thing and accept that result. We will look after him, we guarantee his pension.