‘We’ve not betrayed democracy’

The ruling by the Speaker of National Assembly — Jacob Mudenda — to recall 21 MPs from the MDC renewal team on the instructions of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai has generated heated debates with varying opinions being put forward by pro and anti democracy groups.

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MWONZORA MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora (DM) spoke to Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki (GM) on the recall and MDC’s participation in the now vacant constituencies and below are the excerpts of the interview.

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GM: You have been accused of betraying democracy by recalling 21 MDC renewal MPs from parliament. Was this the best idea for the MDC?

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DM: Yes. Definitely it was the best idea for the MDC to recall these MPs. The reason is that they had ceased to belong to the Movement for Democratic Change.

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They were acting against the interests of the party that sponsored them to Parliament. They were acting in competition to the party and it is unfair to be represented in Parliament by your competitors and your opponents.

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The law is very clear; once someone has formed their own political party, they have to relinquish the seat. And in following the law we cannot be accused of betraying democracy.

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It is undemocratic to occupy a seat which is not yours, it is undemocratic to avoid elections, to avoid congresses, we did invite these people to a congress and they chose not to come and congress resolved that they be fired.

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It is them who were staying in parliament undemocratically.

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GM: Have you not given Zanu PF these seats on a silver platter?

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DM: First of all the renewal team has not been prevented from contesting those seats. What we see here is that the renewal team is conceding defeat to Zanu PF in advance and yet they tell the people that they have got support.

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Our decision not to participate in elections is based on our commitment to electoral reform. We are trying to force the government into agreeing to electoral reform.

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There are already signs of the government yielding to the pressure that we have put in. These electoral reforms don’t take time at all; they are contained in the new Constitution anyway.

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Theoretically, the electoral reforms can take even one day to put into place. So our decision to recall them cannot be a betrayal of democracy.

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Here is a bunch of MPs who were no longer coming for caucuses, who were no longer getting instructions from the party and who were bad-mouthing the leadership of the party and doing a disservice to their constituencies.

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For example, they were no longer going to their constituencies even for feedbacks, which is a requirement of the MDC. So we have not given these seats on a silver platter.

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Our national council is going to meet to review the situation in view of the successful recall but democracy is the rule by the majority. And the rule by the majority in the MDC is that these people had ceased to act in the interests of the party.

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But we didn’t just start by recalling them. We gave an amnesty in August last year, we followed up by an invitation to congress and they didn’t come.

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After congress again we sent emissaries led by Morgan Komichi to discuss with these people to come back to the party and represent the party. Recalling them was the last option but we had to do it.

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As the leadership of the party we must also instil discipline among members of Parliament especially for them to respect the ticket under which they were elected. If we don’t do that then there will be no discipline in the party.

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GM: Tendai Biti has accused the MDC for working with Zanu PF in the run up to their recall, is there any substance in this accusation?

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DM: Well, Tendai Biti is very, very confused at this point in time. I don’t think he expected that Zanu PF which had promised that they would protect him, would in fact betray him.

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We are a very intelligent party. We have got our human and material resources. We do not have to get help from Zanu PF at all. We attempted on two previous occasions to recall these people but we didn’t succeed. We then did it for the third time and we succeeded.

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Now, is he inferring that in the two times he was the one working with Zanu PF and in the third time it is us working with Zanu PF? No. We do not have to get instructions from Zanu PF to recall our MPs.

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In fact what we had said to the Speaker is that there was a question of discrimination. Zanu PF, had in its bid to instil discipline within its ranks, fired two MPs and recalled them under almost similar circumstances. And our point was that the Speaker was acting in a discriminatory way.

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We were not done any favours by Zanu PF at all. In fact when Oliver Mandipaka spoke in Parliament we had already filed our recall and he simply said it (expel MDC renewal MPs) because he was referring to Didymus Mutasa’s case and it did not benefit the MDC at all. So the thinking that we succeeded because we are working with Zanu PF is the usual underestimation that Tendai Biti and company have done on Morgan Tsvangirai and myself as a person despite the fact that I am as much a lawyer as him.

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GM: Now that the national council is meeting over the recall, are you likely to have a change of heart in participating in the by elections?

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DM: I do not think so. I can’t pre-empt the decision of the national council and the national executive but what we will do is we will give them the circumstances that exist especially the successful recall.

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We will also give them the information regarding certain developments since the last national council. One of these developments that we want to look at is the promise by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to give us the voter’s roll.

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Although Zec promised to give us the voter’s roll — both the electronic and print — up to now they have not given us. So we will give them (national council) all the facts and then they make their decision as a collective. But we are serious with reform, we are not so desperate to go to parliament or to fill those seats but we will do what is in the best interests of our people in the best interests of democracy.

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But we cannot help but muse on the helplessness of the so-called renewal team.

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Only yesterday they were claiming that they were MDC T. We are in possession of the documents they wrote when they made their application to the nomination court and we kept copies.

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Fortunately these copies are there and signed by Biti himself which say that they are MDC Tsvangirai. How they wanted to change that, God knows. We are told they are going to court and we await their court action.

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GM: There are fears that if the MDC decides not to participate in those by elections Zanu PF will grab those seats; politically will that be a wise thing to do by the MDC?

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DM: It’s one of the considerations that will exercise the mind of the national council and the national executive. I can’t again preempt them but what has to be balanced here is the need for reform against the need to guard the zones of autonomy of the MDC.

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But if it comes to the issue of the numbers in Parliament, the seats don’t add value at all because Zanu PF has two thirds anyway even with the current set up of (MDC) 91 MPs. Our technical team is busy doing a paper for the national executive and my office is also doing a paper for the president (Tsvangirai).

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After all this is said and done we will look at what is in the best interests for the people, party and the country. – This interview was first published in the Daily News