Violet Gonda interviews Gandhi Mudzingwa

HOT SEAT INTERVIEW: Journalist Violet Gonda interviews political detainee Gandhi Mudzingwa from his hospital bed.

VIOLET GONDA: In the Hot Seat is political detainee Gandhi Mudzingwa, a former personal aide to MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai. Despite being freed on bail, he and the MDC’s Director of Security Chris Dhlamini are still under police guard at the Avenues Clinic where they are having treatment for injuries received from torture during their five months in detention. The MDC officials are among a group of political and civic activists facing charges linked to alleged plots to overthrow the former Zanu-PF government. They deny all the charges. In a telephone interview from his hospital bed Gandhi Mudzingwa talks about the abuse he continues to suffer at the hands of the police and expresses his disappointment in the MDC’s Home Affairs co-minister, Giles Mutsekwa. I first asked him to explain his present situation.

GANDHI MUDZINGWA: Thank you very much Violet. Yes I’ve gone through a long ordeal starting from the 8th of December last year and this abuse seems to be not ending. Last week on Friday we were granted bail by the Supreme Court, in fact by the High Court, on the basis that the State had not filed an appeal in time. And the Registrar of the Supreme Court issued a Warrant of Liberation and as I’m speaking I am supposed to be a free man.

However, the freedom was not to be long lived, the prison officers packed their things about half past four on Friday last week, so Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, Sunday and the whole of Monday during the day we were free persons. I and my two colleagues were free persons and then these guys from prison just reappeared to come and re-detain us – without any papers from the Court. All they can say is that they have orders from above. Well who exactly this person or this above person is, I’ve no idea Violet. So we talked to them, it went on and on and on from Monday right up to Wednesday and on Wednesday the prison officials just packed up their things and left. I understand now that the Commissioner has admitted that it was a wrongful detention but for us it never rains really but instead it pours.

We thought ah now, these guys are now gone, that was Monday. Then Monday evening, between half past four and 6 o’clock, we see these people sitting outside during visiting hours, sitting outside our room. Apparently they are from Law and Order – one of these fellows is Detective Sergeant Musademba from the Law and Order and the other fellow I can’t remember the name. We asked them what their business was, at first they didn’t want to divulge but later on they said they’d come to guard us. I remember asking the question; are we under arrest? Nobody has been able to answer that question up to now.

The long and short of it is that we are still under guard; even as I speak there are two policemen outside. Even though the duties have now been assumed by uniformed police branch, it does not change anything we are still under guard and we don’t know what our status is because nobody has pronounced what this guard is all about. But we sense that it’s an arrest or rather an abduction because of the restriction in movement. We are not able to leave the room and we are not able to really do anything here. So yah, it’s some kind of a – if you want to call it – a ward arrest instead of house arrest, that’s what it is.

GONDA: Why do you think you are being picked on because not only were you released on bail on the 17th April, they’ve come back and as you’ve described it seems like you are now under ward arrest. But also most of the people you are accused with were actually released a long time ago on bail, except for yourself, Chris Dhlamini and Shadreck Manyere. So why do you think you are being picked on in particular?

MUDZINGWA: That question could be best answered by the Minister of Home Affairs, the co-ministers of Home Affairs that is Mr Giles Mutsekwa and Mr Kembo Mohadi. Those are the people who could answer that question best, why they’ve placed us under police, under house arrest. But I suspect though that there are other forces behind this apart from these two ministers, because really, honestly speaking I can go on a witch-hunt but the buck stops with Mr Mutsekwa and Mr Kembo Mohadi. Those are the two ministers that are actually responsible for the Ministry of Home Affairs. So they ought to explain what is happening.

But none the less, we believe that Zimbabwe is currently under siege from a cabal, a civil military cabal which has been profiting out of creating a situation which resembles something like war or instability. And they use that to line their pockets, through the usual things like you know misinformation and then which require special operation, which require expenditures and things like that. I think this is what is happening. And this civil military cabal I don’t believe it’s very big, I believe it’s just the top brass of the army, the police, the CIO, and a few politicians. But it would appear they are desperate, desperate that the inclusive government is coming in and bringing in accountability. They think if they hold on to us, they could blackmail this government either to give up or to give them amnesty.

GONDA: If I could just go back to something that you said earlier on where you said I should ask the Home Affairs ministers about why they actually arrested you …

MUDZINGWA: Correct.

GONDA: …and why the police continue to harass you, but how do you feel though that you have actually put one of your own officials, your colleague, Giles Mutsekwa in that bracket?

MUDZINGWA: Look Violet, he is Minister of Home Affairs, he’s not my colleague, his colleague is Mr Kembo Mohadi, his co-minister, so I think it’s a misnomer for you to say that Mr Mutsekwa is my colleague. He is not my colleague.

GONDA: I meant from the MDC, that he’s one of your members of the party…

MUDZINGWA: Oh there is always a separation of a political party from the government. I am a private citizen, yes I’m a member of the party as well. I don’t know about Mr Giles, if he’s still a member of the party because if he were, then surely one of the things that you would want to address would be the issue of this unwarranted arrest, wanton arrest which is an issue that was charted by the All Peoples’ Convention in February 1999 – where it was actually resolved that the problem in Zimbabwe, that was bedevilling Zimbabwe is misgovernance and one of the manifestations of that misgovernance is this lack of rule of law. And if you have somebody now who purports to support, to come from the MDC and is not following the basic and fundamental tenets of the party then he becomes a stranger to me.

GONDA: He becomes a?

MUDZINGWA: He becomes a stranger to me. He is no longer, I don’t know him, I don’t know him, and maybe all this time I never took time to know him, to know him well. Maybe he believes in something else. Isusu in the party we are very clear that the issue is about governance. I hear some people saying let the law take its course. We resolved in 1999 at the All Working Peoples’ Convention that Zimbabwe does not have the rule of law – so how does the rule of law actually take its course when there is an absence of the rule of law? It becomes a paradox.

GONDA: So in your view, who do you think was behind your release finally because you’ve spent over four months in police custody? Do you think it was because of the inclusive government or just the Courts?

MUDZINGWA: Look, when I was abducted there was no inclusive government. I’m very grateful to my Prime Minister for the efforts he put in for us actually to be finally brought to a police cell and then later on to the Courts because without his efforts really I don’t know what was going to happen, we could be talking something else, I could be dead by now. I and my colleagues could be dead by now. So I’m very grateful to him. I’m also very grateful to a number of other people within the party for what they have actually done in relation to our case.

So the issue of the Minister of Home Affairs should not be misconstrued to mean that I am talking about those people in the party who still remember and still stick to the fundamentals of the party. And so it would be unfair Violet for me to think that the Prime Minister could change things, all things in the space of two months. I know he’s been trying very hard but he’s had two tragedies in his family – first his wife and then his grandson. All those things have slowed him down but in spite of that he has been here to hospital to visit us, it’s now four times. The last time he was here, is just yesterday. So you see there’s a lot of effort there in as far as the Prime Minister is concerned. The Secretary General too and Mr Chamisa, yah there is a lot of effort there and a few minutes ago we just had Mr Komichi who was also here, and he’s a frequent visitor to enquire after our health….

GONDA: Has Mr Mutsekwa visited you?

MUDZINGWA: Yah, he came once but surely, he professed ignorance of our situation, of what was happening at his ministry. I think he was simply trying to say look I’m disinterested. By his actions, one could read it kuti this fellow is saying I’m disinterested. My only interest is that I’m Minister of Home Affairs and I can move in a Mercedes Benz.

GONDA: That is really worrying what you are saying Mr Mudzingwa and if I could go back to the issue of why you are still in the situation that you are in, I understand that the… (interrupted)

MUDZINGWA: Violet, we have phoned the fellow so many times over the past few days – please come in and see for yourself, bring your co-minister. You know they move together all the time like twins, I don’t know if twins move together, but whatever. I say please come and see for yourself what is happening here. We are being abused. All this just falls on deaf ears. So I’m just led to that conclusion that perhaps we are no longer together. Of course party and government are different things and one has got to accept his own circumstances and the reality that’s around him.

GONDA: Have you tried talking to other leaders like Mr Tsvangirai, you’ve said he has visited you at least four times now, have you tried to tell him about this problem?

MUDZINGWA: Yes, he’s doing something about it, just today I’m sure he took the issue up with Mr Mugabe who’s the President of the country in terms of the new constitutional amendment number 19, though of course he’s just been sworn in. But yah, the Prime Minister actually took that issue up with the relevant authority, with Mr Mugabe. I’m still to get feedback on what is happening.

GONDA: You know Mr Mudzingwa, the Attorney General’s office has been trying very hard to deny you bail and I understand that they’re still in the process of trying to appeal to the Supreme Court. Now their argument is that you were found in possession of dangerous weapons and that you were found with, was it a grenade in your pocket at the time that you were abducted? Can you tell us about this, what is your take on that?

MUDZINGWA: Its all lies. On the first day we appeared in court, the indictment papers, there was nothing like that. In fact when I was given the ‘warn and caution statement’ the issue of the grenades never came up and I don’t know anything about grenades, I never had one. It only surfaced in the courts, not on the first day but only at a later stage. It’s a usual thing with Zanu-PF when they see that they want to get somebody you know punished unduly, then they will say something – he was carrying a grenade, he did a bomb or whatever, whatever. Of course they know they’re going to lose the case because there’s no evidence. I never carried a grenade when they abducted me. They kept me for 15 days and things like that. I don’t even know how to use a grenade. I don’t have a military background. I have nothing!

GONDA: Right, so can you briefly tell our listeners what happened to you on the day that you were captured and do you remember who was behind your abduction?

MUDZINGWA: Look all I can tell you is I can only guess who was behind the abduction. It’s a civil military junta and acting on their behalf will be the CIO, ZRP, the army, some members of the army which are the MID – the Military Intelligence Department – and maybe some other organs which I’m not aware of. That’s as I said I suspect because some of my colleagues were actually abducted by people who are known, certain members of the ZRP and the Minister of Intelligence wrote a letter in which he does not deny the involvement of his people but actually refuses to divulge their names.

GONDA: Is this Minister Didymus Mutasa?

MUDZINGWA: Ya, former minister if you want to call it because there was no government then at that time. He was the caretaker.

GONDA: OK

MUDZINGWA: If you want me to talk about the actual thing, the beatings and things like that, Violet, there’s nothing new about them. It’s been happening. Water-boarding, not what you see on television about America. You know you are drowned in a bucket, or you are drowned in a laundry sink, with your arms tied behind your back and your legs are in leg irons then you are put your head down into that sink of water until you have drunk your fill through the nose and through the mouth. They bring you out. And when they think you have rested a little, you are back again and it goes on, on and on and on like that. I won’t talk about the slaps, the beatings and the falanga type of thing – all those things have been happening – they’ve happened to thousands of people in Zimbabwe. So it’s nothing new it’s just a continuation of things, of a system. I don’t think it even means worse anymore.

GONDA: As you say it’s nothing new and many people in Zimbabwe have been tortured especially political opponents but the strange thing is people just carry on, nothing ever gets done about this. So my question to you is; should Zimbabweans just accept that torture is a reality of political life in the country now?

MUDZINGWA: Look, the very formation of institutions that have fought or have struggled peacefully against the system is evidence that Zimbabweans will not condone torture and lawlessness. Yah I don’t know, there are some of course who voted with their feet and left but those who stayed have been in the trenches trying to change the system. We value the support that we have got from our partners and we value the support that we are getting from you guys who are always publicising the cause. We value the support that we are getting from all directions for that cause to succeed. I dare say we are nearly there because 10 years ago nobody would have thought Mugabe would capitulate. Today it’s a different situation altogether. He actually said independence is for all parties – so that’s a very, very major climb down from the person who used to say independence means Zanu-PF. So it’s a major climb down and it’s a big victory for us.

GONDA: What do you think Zanu-PF hoped to achieve by torturing you?

MUDZINGWA: Look, I’ve tried to go into the mind of a dictator. You see two things: One – desperation especially at this moment, really not knowing what to do and thinking that you know if they destroy me, then they would destroy the Movement – which in my opinion is totally misplaced. This Movement has got its own momentum and doesn’t depend on individuals. The second driving force could be just that the people in Zanu-PF are naturally barbarians. Naturally that’s it – barbarians.

GONDA: You’ve been in hospital for several weeks now; can you tell us what sort of treatment you are receiving and what sort of injuries you sustained after you were tortured?

MUDZINGWA: I’ve been in hospital now for two months, I’m a hypertensive. Yah that’s what it is. They are trying to stabilise me but the condition is that you get this arrest, re-arrest, you get this frustration that the court ignore the rule of law – you know remands after remands and you see you are getting nowhere so maybe that’s what affected me, I don’t know. Look Violet when a person is beaten, water boarded, you get trauma, you get all kinds of things but I went into this struggle well knowing that these are the hazards of the trade.

It’s a struggle for justice, you don’t expect to come out of it. I’m lucky to be alive, my colleagues Chiminya and the late Better and others, several others lost their lives. Others have lost their limbs, others have had their property actually destroyed you know those kind of things. So ah, what about a clap on the head or on the hand? It’s all about justice, Violet.

GONDA: So are you going to take any action against the people who did this to you?

MUDZINGWA: I’m not a bitter person. For me I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe, I avidly believe in justice. Where I have to pursue justice, I’ll go on, I’ll persist, I’ll be patient, I’ll go on, I’ll soldier on. Yah, I’m not bitter, I don’t keep any grudges. I’m prepared, even after going through all these things, to put up any support for any efforts that will make this inclusive government actually work and give Zimbabweans a new life that they actually deserve. You know this generation has lost a lot of opportunities, that’s what we want to focus on, you can’t focus on vengeance, and you can’t focus on retribution. It’s worthless it has no process. I believe what is possible is to give opportunity to build a better Zimbabwe, to build a new beginning, a new Zimbabwe.

GONDA: What about on the issue of this illegal ward arrest, what action has been taken by your lawyers?

MUDZINGWA: Yah they have now done our papers, and served papers on various institutions reminding them that their actions are illegal and demand that they stop doing it by 1600 hours today or else be held in contempt of court, in breach of the law. But well, you can see the policemen are still here and our chances of getting justice at the court still remain very, very remote – because it’s either the setting down of the case will either be delayed or some spanners of some kind will be thrown in the way so that you are not able to really enforce anything.

Even if you’ve got a court order you don’t control the police, you don’t control the army, and you don’t control the prison service. So yah it may be a fantastic piece of paper to obtain but it may be meaningless. Here I am with a ‘warrant of liberation’ but I’ve now been re-detained, without papers this time. No warrant of committal, no arrest warrant, nothing. I’m just having this detention actually going on.

GONDA: And a final word

MUDZINGWA: Yah look, I want to thank people who supported me during the struggle as a whole, and especially so during this last ordeal that started on the 8th of December last year. I want to mention some by name, others that haven’t been mentioned by name, I’m still grateful to everybody who made an effort but the people that I want to mention by name are; the Prime Minister, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, the Minister of Finance, Mr Tendai Biti, Chamisa, my wife, my family, my two daughters and then my niece Ottilia Svova and her sister. I believe they did a sterling job during that period.

I also don’t know how to say it because every time I try to say it, tears come to my eyes. The late Susan Tsvangirai, the wife of the Prime Minister, she was very supportive, more than supportive, she came just after I’d just come to hospital, released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison to go to hospital. She came and visited me and whilst I was in Chikurubi she sent food everyday and many other goodies. I can’t remember a person so kind, a person so committed to other people that I’ve come across in my life. It is unfortunate she is now gone and by the designs of people like Mr Mugabe and his cabal I was not able to go and pay my last respects to such a gracious woman.

GONDA: Well on that note Mr Gandhi Mudzingwa, thank you very much for talking to us and you are speaking from a hospital bed at the Avenues Clinic and we wish you a speedy recovery.

MUDZINGWA: Thank you Violet.

Feedback can be sent to violet@swradioafrica.com