Former MDC Kwekwe legislator Mr Blessing Chebundo (BC) is among many opposition members who have jumped ship to join the ruling party this year. Below he shares his experiences with our Political Editor Fungi Kwaramba (FK) on the journey so far.
FK: In February this year, you defected from the MDC to join Zanu PF, how has been the journey so far. Some see joining Zanu PF as a means to seek comfort, why did you join the ruling party?
BC: Since I made a personal decision to move from opposition to the ruling party in February this year 2021, many people have asked me this same question over and over again, why and what informed me to take this decision, especially given my political CV?
I must state that, if it wasn't for the persistence of these many people, some of whom I have known and worked with so closely over the years, I would have taken a rather 'biblical position' to just keep it to myself, avoid explaining the contributing factors as doing so means ending up dragging and involving people's names. I could just move on with 'my latest chosen political path' because I am not given to denigrating people even if I am wronged.
However, now that I have given in to answer this unceasing question, I herein explain below, albeit in somewhat greater detail: hoping that it will help to answer many who have been interested to know. Firstly, I took the move for national good, putting the nation first.
Secondly, as a human being who reacts to "stimuli", I could not continue to endure the endless silent persecution from the new order within the opposition MDC party, post-Tsvangirai era. My first test of politics was the period immediately before, and post-election 1980 that ushered in majority based black Government. As a very young man I took interest in being actively involved in the revolutionary Zanu PF political organisation.
People (those around in 1980) should not fool others to say they never were Zanu PF or PF Zapu. The truth is the majority of people who were 18 and above in 1980, with the enthusiasm for liberation, one was either Zanu PF and or PF Zapu. Very few were otherwise.
I had always supported the cause of the Chimurenga war, and the pursuing organizations, Besides, my fiancé, Alice Katsande (thank God she made it back and we got married after the war) had joined the liberation struggle from her closer to border Mutoko home area to Mozambique. I had also contemplated that I would also one day join the war front.
It so happened that when the efforts to bring together the warring organisations to Lancaster House, talks began in earnest, I became more alive to active involvement under the internal supporting groups, and in Kwekwe. With the conclusion of the talks, and with others, we began to actively campaign for Zanu PF in Kwekwe, albeit at the risk of UANC's Dzakutsaku members who then controlled and were supported by former state apparatus.
So, I was with the revolutionary party immediately before, and post elections that brought independence. And I occupied positions in district structures.
But then I also became a member of the trade union leadership post- independence and the relationship between government (and governing party) and labour was initially that of father and son. However, as time went by, differences developed between Government and labour, due to disagreements over Government shifts in economic and labour related policies. And so the two parted ways.
FK: What led to the end of the marriage with the Government as trade unionists.
BC: It followed that majority of us trade unionists who were active in the party Zanu PF, and PF Zapu, silently left to pursue worker interests.
FK: After all these years why join Zanu PF now?
BC: Many issues triggered this personal decision, the death of MDC founding president Morgan Richard Tsvangirai (MRT). Since MDC president's death in February 2018, things went bad for the MDC family, in all its forms, and formations. The party is now almost like a 'Shadow of its Former Self'. The new centre failed dismally, to hold.
FK: You were an insider then, educate us a bit on what happened and how you saw the drama unfold?
BC: Things went bad from the onset immediately after MRT's death. If honesty is to be respected, it's justified to say that the party gradually became like, without direction: it became like, without shape: lacked cohesion and a leadership that is aloft in oratory rhetoric, but with serious deficit in wisdom and strategy . . . and non-receptive to advise.
Unfortunately for many ordinary democratic citizens and others who are limited to seeing things from outside the party, it is like admiring the looks of an attractive/shining pumpkin from outside: oblivious of the carcinogenicity inner situation.
One and half years post MRT departure, you could not tell whether the party was going, or static, or coming back. The party lost campus, no end game plan whatsoever.
Against all endured humanly possible advises, the new leadership went on to clandestinely attempt to 'renew the party' by elbowing/decimating all those perceived to have been closer to MRT as his lieutenants/old guards, 'maGogoderas' all for various reasons'.
However, in so doing, little did the leadership realise that they were destroying the inherited pillars, and foundational party heritage.
FK: Post the 2018 harmonised elections, what did you do?
BC: The unsustainable post 2018 election unyielding stance, coupled with the unprecedented party Command Congress 2019, the so-called 'Chinhu Chedu' Congresses, accelerated the destruction of party. The 'Chinhu Chedu Team', (majority of them being members who dismally lost positions/ defeated during the 2014 congress, and now re-teaming up with the former Renewals clique that had returned into the fold courtesy of the magnanimity of the late MRT. These forces converged to wreck vengeance and purge perceived MRT loyalists who had thwarted their revolting agenda in 2013, (Renewals), and 2014 congress (Chinhu Chedu defeated around the then fiercely contested SG etc positions).
Personally, I was systematically worked out for specific number of reasons. Whilst I tried to endure, but at the end, these continued to haunt me. Having been one of the perceived closest to MRT, lieutenants, who were seen ad defending plots to systematically working MRT out? This beginning Congress 2011 when I successfully stood ground against Renewal/Chinhu Chedu coalition in Midlands North.
FK: Having reached that dead end, what was the way forward?
BC: I examined the reasons that we formed MDC. I interrogated the last vision of MRT in 2017: I contrasted the policies and conduct of the first republic versus that of the Second Republic/New Dispensation. I asked myself that isn't what is being pursued by the latter exactly in line with our 1999 agenda, notwithstanding that not everything has changed, but it is the course of plans and action being put in place, and the achievements so far, that worth giving Government a chance and supporting.
When such developments/opportunities happen for the country that had suffered so much for nearly four decades, why not give a chance for the sake of the nation and citizenry? Is it a question of as long as the presidium is not for those from us? And what guarantee that they will be infallible?
Regarding the journey since joining ZANU PF in February, it has been so far so good. I was well received: successfully introduced to all levels of party structures in the home Midlands Province. And am attending both party, and state occasions in the area. I make significant contributions using experiences acquired over the years of looking at issues through the 'opposition lens'. I have been made to be at home.
And after successfully attending the Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology, I felt put in good stead, and have since started to hit the ground running. I am overwhelmed with invitations from structures of my former party from across the breadth and length of the Midlands Province. This is not surprising given that the majority of them have built their MDC political muscles based on my pioneering of the party in the entire province, and were under my mentorship, and guidance of the same through and through. They have confidence in my leadership and decisions. And indeed I did everything possible for their good, and that of the country. I am advising them that we do not need to continue opposing for the sake of opposing, and wielding confrontations, especially when the situation is taking the direction that we have been advocating for all along. The opportunity is ripe for us to contribute towards the good of Zimbabwe. And indeed they are taking heed in large numbers. Those on ground will testify
FK: Our politics is polarised with hate, poisoned with intolerance. Haven't you suffered torment from your former allies?
BC: The brickbats were expected, and came from some of the former allies, especially through the social media. Some were creating allegations meant to inflict psychosocial pain. Not least because they were angered by my move, no, but many confessed that I had been such a pillar and of significant political capital to the opposition given my political CV. And so this was a terrible loss to MDC. Then I would ask, why then were they throwing out a 'cornerstone' through the mantras of their Chinhu Chedu mafia.
If we were such spent force as some of them alleged, then why cry over our leaving the party? You may recall the MDC party's new boss describing those who were leaving the party, (all those old who started with MRT etc) as falling dry leaves that have to be replaced with fresh new ones. Really!
Maturity, wisdom and experience are facets that ought to be gained, and imparted gradually, and intergenerational. Not to get rid of older generations abruptly. Experience is not easily replaceable with academic insight overnight.
Because of the way we were treated, there are so many, including key position holders/ members, who have congratulated me for taking such a wise decision. Some of them have crossed the floor, but some are bidding their time, because of their positions, they cannot move now but come 2023, they will.
FK: Apart from being a politician, how do you survive, do you go to work?
BC: I have a number of activities I engage myself in. I still offer some limited services to Parliamentary networks. On the ground, I am into some small business.
FK: We have noticed incidents of violence in the MDC, is that how the youths in the MDC are wired?
BC: It may not be an open well programmed system. But as it has been seen many a time, serious intra party, and inter party violence has been recorded. Definitely the leadership is aware of this, they tacitly approve.
FK: What should the nation do to move from the politics of violence that we see often?
BC: My honest and humble opinion would be to advise MDC leadership to cultivate a culture of practical democracy, and not just on paper and verbal democracy. They have to do away with politics of hate and unjustified confrontation. A real and responsible opposition is needed in any country practising democracy, but to live by confrontation is not the qualification to be democratic.
FK: You were a former MDC top official, where does the party gets its resources and what is the connection with western embassies?
BC: That the party will possibly get funding from within, and outside is not deniable. What is not privy to many within the rank and file are the details. This is the purview of the leadership.
FK: In the ruling party Zanu PF, have you been well received?
BC: Yes, I have been well received from the apex down to the ground. But as is expected with human beings, at first, you get a feeling, and hear there and about of a few individuals, and or small groups who are/were a bit unsettled about the move. Especially those who rivalled you negatively on the ground in the past. But then these came to pass faster as the leadership demonstrates its sincerity and serious business for the sake of the country.
FK: What are you doing in your little space to push the Zanu PF agenda?
BC: I am into contributing towards growth of the party. Politics is a game of numbers: good stewardship: good policies: good strategies and methods of doing things for the party and people'.
FK: What is your impression of President Mnangagwa, his leadership style.
BC: To be honest with you, I am seeing a different leader in President Mnangagwa from the one I perceived in the old dispensation. I have been speaking to myself aloud that sometimes people are judged not entirely because of their own doings, but because of the environment and or situations commanded by the ones in charge of your work, and or those who do things for you or on your behalf. Remember, for any work arrangement, there is one at which the final decision stops at.
The trends and happenings within the Second Republic and its New Dispensation, and policies tells it all. I also found him to be visionary. He is doing something on the positive that has not been done by the first republic during its 37 years. Yes, I agree with those who say that he has been there all along, but it's good to remember where the buck stopped.
FK: What word of advice can you give to your former MDC colleagues.
BC: Let's think big, let's put Zimbabwe first ahead of personal positions. We all live but once and one life. It shouldn't be a question of as long as so and so is not the President then no cooperation. No, I am not advocating for disbandment of opposition, but only for all of us to play our roles responsibly. And if it's happening quite well in Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda and Malawi etc, why not in Zimbabwe? Let's seriously think around supporting this promising New Dispensation working responsibly from our different respective institutions and or as individuals.