Sikhala expresses his disappointment with Arthur Mutambara’s leadership, accusing him of making utterances that have cost the party politically.
He says Mutambara called Mugabe ‘Father Africa’ and ‘the best leader Africa has produced.’ This angered a lot of people, ‘and we were ashamed to move on the streets,’ he claimed.
Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to another edition of Behind the Headlines. My guest this week is former St Mary’s Member of Parliament Job Sikhala who in recent reports is being quoted as not being happy with the leadership of Arthur Mutambara in the party (MDC-M). We understand a series of rallies have been lined up in which Sikhala and a few other party members are outlining their opposition to Mutambara’s inclusion in the unity government. Mr. Sikhala thank you for joining us on the programme.
Job Sikhala: Okay, thanks Lance, how are you Lance, how is London?
Lance: Ah London is okay and we understand right now you are on your way to Rusape, what is this all about Mr. Sikhala?
Sikhala: No I have got a rally in Rusape, my second rally. One of the many rallies that we have lined up for us to meet our membership at the grassroots level. Specifically they are quite a number of issues which the general membership of our party have been worried about since the formation of the all inclusive government. Eh..of major worry to the membership of the party are utterances by the party leader since the party got involved in the inclusive government. One major issue being that he praised Robert Mugabe as ‘Father of Africa’ and also ‘the best leader Africa has ever produced’.
We were ashamed to move in the streets. We were asked by each and every member we met in the street, even commoners were surprised and shocked that we as an opposition political party. Do we believe in the ideological thinking that Robert Mugabe is the father of Africa? It has angered quite a number of people and also it angered some of us, that we don’t believe in the same, because we understand Mugabe as a genocidal relic, as a person who has been involved in the oppression of the people’s will, as a person who did not accept democratic electoral outcomes, as a person who has been involved in the torture of human beings.
As far as we are concerned Robert Mugabe is no different to Al Bashir, the president of Sudan who is currently being indicted for his involvement in the massacre of thousands and thousands of people who have been living in Darfur, in that Robert Mugabe has a lot of blood on his hands and we don’t accept the utterances which have cost out party.
Those utterances have put the party into disrepute. So eh.. in a normal political situation, if it is a normal democratic political institution like for example in Britain, if the Labour Party leader utters such statements and puts the name of the party into disrepute he deserves to be called for a disciplinary hearing, because he has put the party into disrepute.
The same applies to Arthur Mutambara, he has put the name of the party into disrepute through his reckless utterances and that we are now taking that disciplinary hearing to the public for them to make their own verdict to see whether this man still deserves to lead us or that the party deserves new leadership that will be able to shape and take themselves to the promised land where we have been fighting for change. Of which the change we have been fighting for is not the change we are seeing Lance.
Lance: Now a lot of people will say to you Mr. Sikhala you are in a sense washing the party’s dirty linen in public, is there no mechanism within the party where such issues can be addressed?
Sikhala: If you would understand and if you could have read today’s Financial Gazette article, we have been trying to talk to him privately and we have been trying to chide him privately but he has been in a defiant mood. He thinks that he knows it all. So now its time for an open warfare. It’s now an open warfare for him to understand that this thing is now in the public arena, we have been trying to talk to him secretly and he has been defiant.
He has not been listening to advice. He has been taking the party as if its his own private property, the party no longer exists as such but now belongs to him and a few individuals who no longer consult the broader apparatus and institutions of the party, so basically this is the issue, and the public must know that the majority of us are not happy about the conduct of the party leader.
Lance: Ya… I was about to get to that point Mr. Sikhala. I mean how representative is your position on what’s going on. How many, or how significant….(interrupted).
Sikhala: These sentiments are being shared by the majority of the general membership of the party. You have to understand that my political party is the largest political organization in this country. It is one of those voices with members and supporters in all provinces inside the country. We have got structures, provincial structures throughout the country and the gist of the matter is that the majority of the people are not happy with the conduct of the party leader and we have to fix it and we cannot continue to have a person who continues to behave like Mugabe’s surrogate, who utters Mugabe’s ideological thinking, who on his lack of wisdom would stand up and attack Barack Obama, one individual who has given people hope, who has given the poor and the marginalized and the oppressed masses of the world hope.
After Nelson Mandela there is no any individual who gave the oppressed masses of the world like Barack Obama. But he (Mutambara) stands up in parliament to attack in the same verbose and ferocity with what Mugabe has been saying about the West and it means that there is no distinction between us and Robert Mugabe, which we want to say to the people that we are not part and parcel of those utterances. Those utterances are doomed and they belong to the people who have been thrown away by the people.
Lance: I recall a picture that I saw recently that had you traveling with Professor Arthur Mutambara at the Heroes Acre and it looked a very cordial picture. You look like you get along very well, Surely you must have tried to say some of these things, person to person to the Professor, what has he said?
Sikhala: Very true. We have tried it. But when you have a leader who thinks he knows it all because he has a title called the Professor, then you must know that you are in trouble. This man thinks that he knows it all. But we want to show him that what he knows is not really what people want. You might know but you might not know what people want.
Lance: And eh…it does look, obviously you are talking a lot about Professor Arthur Mutambara but is he the only person in the party that you are having problems with as a membership?
Sikhala; No they might be many but as the head, the captain of the ship, he must be able to act responsibly and he has not been acting responsibly and he is one man who has disappointed me so much that I had trust in him. I thought he was the leader of the party. The leader who will be able to tackle and meet the dictatorship head on but it seems that he has now changed himself to dance to the tune of the dictatorship.
Some of us we have been in trenches for a long time before he even joined the train. But however we thought he would give good guidance and leadership to the party. But what I have been expecting and the change that I have been expecting, is not the one that he is delivering. He is delivering the status quo. He is chanting and singing the status quo, which I don’t believe in Lance.
Lance: What is to stop someone from accusing you Mr. Sikhala and say well you feel bitter because you were left out, you were not included in the unity government, so what can you expect from Mr. Sikhala, this is sour grapes?
Sikhala: Whatever….that will be the democratic thinking of that individual. But I think every member of my party is very clear, that I have said it at our last National Council, that I am not interested in being involved in this government for the following reasons;
That when I became one of the founder members of the MDC in 1999. My objective was for me to see total and absolute change. Secondly during the process of my participation in the struggle I have escaped 7 assassination attempts from Robert Mugabe’s regime. The whole of 2001, myself and my wife Ellen and my son Job Junior we have been sleeping in the maize fields and also in the banana trees that are adjacent to our home. We have been asking people to accommodate us in their tuck shops for us to have a sleep when Robert Mugabe was threatening behind my back.
I have been tortured by Robert Mugabe which become one of the major talking points that exposed torture in Zimbabwe as an instrument of political organization and political coercion in the year 2003 together with my lawyer Gabriel Shumba and my other colleague Charles Mutama who is currently based in the United States of America. I have been sleeping in the mountains in Bikita for me to simply go there to campaign for my party and for me to express my own different political view. So I told them openly that I am not prepared to work for Mugabe.
I am not prepared to advance the thinking that today, how will I be able to dine with the person that tortured me. And you have to understand that for 6 solid months, I was flown to South Africa and to Denmark for me to be able to get medical treatment for me to be alive today. I am not and I was not prepared to serve in Robert Mugabe’s government and it is very clear to each and every party member of my political party that I totally rejected any offer because I am one of the senior members of my party.
If I could have wanted to bull-dozed my way into the government, I could have simply done that more easily than anyone else but I am not prepared to be Mugabe’s servant. I am not prepared to share the same plate with Robert Mugabe whose hand is full of blood. So basically that is my…it’s a principled position that as an individual I am not prepared to work under Robert Mugabe or to advance Robert Mugabe’s interests.
Lance: You have had several rallies Mr. Sikhala, one in Nkayi, I think last week or several weeks ago and today as we are interviewing you, you are also traveling to Rusape. Exactly what is happening at these rallies, are you denouncing your own party? Are you saying things are not right? What exactly is happening?
Sikhala: I am not denouncing my own party, I am simply telling them that the utterances which Mutambara is making, is making them as an individual and not as a party leader because we as a party don’t believe in those things that he is saying in the inclusive government, that we denounce the West, that we denounce Barack Obama, that we say Robert Mugabe is the godfather of Africa.
So I am telling them that is not what we believe in as a party. We have got principles and values that bind us together, that put our political party on the map and that is what we are telling our membership, that what Mutambara is actually saying is his own view. It is not the reflection of the general membership of the party and that they must keep confidence in the party. The confidence which was so low after the utterances of this man.
Lance: Some will say to you Mr. Sikhala the reason probably why you were not able to retain your St Mary’s seat is the fact that you left the Tsvangirai formation of the MDC and joined the Mutambara camp. Are you considering going back to your roots?
Sikhala: There are no roots in politics. My roots are in the MDC. I’m the founder member of the MDC, you can phone Morgan Tsvangirai himself. But also I am disappointed that through the suffering that we went together with Morgan Tsvangirai. Morgan Tsvangirai is also today dining with Robert Mugabe. They are eating on the same table when you are in London. You don’t know what they are saying and talking to each other when they are dining and eating together breakfast, lunch and supper.
So I am so disappointed that the change that the people of Zimbabwe cherished and have been fighting for, for the past 10 years has come to nothing because of the people’s ego and hunger for power. If you would have read today’s Herald (23/04/09). He is on the Herald saying that there is no any stalling and Mbeki is not coming but there are a number of issues which his own ministers whom he has appointed are worried about, that things are not well in that inclusive government.
So basically I don’t think I will go back to anybody who has feasted with Mugabe. That’s why I am so bitter with Mutambara that he has turned himself into the gigot of Robert Mugabe and into Mugabe’s Trojan horse. If you see the whole majority of these leaders in the inclusive government are now singing Mugabe’s rhythm.
Morgan Tsvangirai came out of the headlines of the newspapers some few weeks ago attacking the West, Mutambara came out attacking Barack Obama, attacking the West, Robert Mugabe came out of the headlines attacking the West, so these people are now singing the same tune. But is that what we wanted as Zimbabweans for all of us to believe that Mugabe is full of political thought, I don’t believe so and I don’t accept it as an individual. So basically its not true.
Lance: That is former St Mary’s Member of Parliament Job Sikhala who was our special guest on Behind the Headlines this week. Mr. Sikhala thank you for joining us.
Sikhala: Thanks Lance.
Lance: Well next week we hope to get the Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to answer some of the allegations raised by one of his officials in the party. Until then its goodbye for now.
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