President Mnangagwa on Wednesday last week held a meeting with leaders of political parties in the country to lay the foundation for dialogue. Here, Our Senior Reporter Tendai Mugabe speaks to MDC leader Thokozani Khupe on what transpired and issues around dialogue.
You attended the inaugural meeting to come up with a framework for political dialogue at State House. Firstly, tell us what motivated you to attend that meeting?
On the 30th of January you will remember that I joined two of my colleagues -- that is Lucia Matibenga of PDP and Cde Trust Chikohora of CODE under the banner of Progressive Parties at a Press conference. The main message at that Press conference was a call for political actors to engage in a dialogue which would feed into a broader national dialogue. President ED Mnangagwa's call was therefore timely in that we were in fact in the process of seeking an appointment with him to discuss when this engagement or dialogue could commence. Me and my other colleagues' motivation is simple, it is to allow Zimbabwe to disengage from an election mode and allow Zimbabweans to focus on bread and butter issues. For me and the majority of Zimbabweans, the main concern is not about who is in the State House, it is about a job, food on the table, hospitals that function, schools where kids can be taught, this is what has motivated me and this is what continues to motivate me and my colleagues in the PPP.
How is dialogue going to solve the national question in as far as economic revival is concerned?
It is our belief that economic revival is predicated on what image the country has. It is a fact that after the July 30 2018 elections whilst they may not have been perfected, there have been a marked difference for the better. It is a fact that before 1 August 2018, Zimbabwe has started a new positive trajectory. 1 August derailed the progress. However, the Motlanthe Commission has given Zimbabwe another chance. Come January 14 to 16, 2019, even those partners who where about to give us a chance regressed. Only a national dialogue can provide pace to frankly engage with the August 1, 2018 and 14 January 2019.
Do you think all parties are committed to the dialogue and what do you think are the fundamental issues that should be addressed by the dialogue?
I can't speak for other parties. I know that for some of us under PPP there is no doubt that dialogue remains the only option which is why we will continue to persuade and engage with other political actors including those who are sceptical to be part of the dialogue. The invite from the President is therefore a step in the right direction. Sincerity of parties can only be judged by how we engage and what the deliveries will be. We agreed at the inaugural meeting on Wednesday that the agenda will be determined by the participants to the dialogue. However, the underlining principle is that a dialogue is not negotiation. Therefore, in our opinion there should and will not be preconditions to talking nor we will attempt to define what should not be on the agenda. The dialogue in our opinion should result in changing the lives of the people of Zimbabwe both economically and socially. It should deal with endemic and systematic issue of violence. It should deal with deepening our democracy. When we are all in unison its easier to engage and speak with one voice. We know capital is a coward, no investor comes to a country that is divided and polarised. Only a united country with conducive environment for business can prosper.
What is your view on parties that chose not to attend the meeting?
An invitation is exactly that, one can choose to accept or decline. Our belief is that it is that it is one's democratic right to accept or decline an invitation. The issue of proffering a reason is a matter of choice, informed by your social background. As a Kalanga woman, I was socialised to deal with invitations in a particular way. It would however, be unfair for me to detect my social understanding and customs on others. On my part, if I am invited to a wedding or meeting, usually there is an RSVP. I do respond so that my host or hostess can plan properly. I won't impose my belief on others who may have their reasons for their actions.
In your view, what do you think is the solution Zimbabwe's current economic problems?
If I had a magic wand or answer I would give you. I think no one has a bullet answer, except that everyone has a role to play. Everyone big or small has some advice that could help and it is only in dialoguing that we have a chance.
What is your take on the criticism from some of your colleagues in the opposition, especially MDC-Alliance who accuse of selling out to zanu-pf?
If I had something to sell I would worry about those criticisms, unlike 2008 where my party had a leverage in terms of numbers in Parliament there was a basis of alleging or entering in the discourse of selling out.
Fortunately, for 2018, no one in the opposition has enough parliamentarians to give them any leverage, so factually there is nothing to sell.
However, my response is in the Shona adage, "Muzivi wenzira yeparuware ndiye mufambi wayo".
I know that one thing this country has to deal with is corruption. Some of us know how many have been used to influence certain political positions that have been taken. We also know how people have attempted to bribe people in high positions to facilitate meetings with President ED Mnangagwa, it's ironic how whilst the same people accuse some us of selling out. They are clearly clandestinely begging for a meeting.
In your view, is it the right time for political parties to put their interest ahead of national interest given the challenges facing the nation?
I can't speak for other parties. I can only speak for PPP, dialogue for us is not about a GNU, there be should respect of what is of issue for us.
Lastly, what is your word of advice to the people of Zimbabwe as they open a new chapter of dialogue in their lives?
My word of advice is that decisions are made by those that participate, I want to encourage the people of Zimbabwe in whatever sphere they are in that they should participate. We only have one Zimbabwe and we can choose to build or destroy. No one owns Zimbabwe and therefore everyone of us has a right to speak what matters, evil prospers when good men and women do nothing.