Violet Gonda interviews Minister Walter Mzembi
HOT SEAT interview: SW Radio Journalist Violet Gonda interviews ZANU PF Minister of Toursim Walter Mzembi.
VIOLET GONDA : Walter Mzembi, the Zanu-PF Minister of Tourism is my guest on the programme Hot Seat. Welcome on the programme Mr. Mzembi.
WALTER MZEMBI: Thank you Violet.
GONDA Now you are part of the delegation travelling with the Prime Minister on re-engagement tour of western countries, what is your assessment of the trip so far?
MZEMBI: So far so good Violet, within the context of the parameters that have been set for us to re-engage the western bloc and the United States included. I think so far so good, it may not sound as good to other domains out there who have their own criteria on what we should achieve on this trip.
I hear a lot of news around us moving around with a begging bowl to put $8.3 billion in a kitty and that’s how other people are measuring us out there but I think so far so good within the context of the criteria we have set for ourselves and that has been set for us by government and cabinet.
GONDA: The State media, the Herald in particular, actually said that the Prime Minister was ordered to go and call for the lifting of sanctions and beg for financial assistance. Is this true?
MZEMBI: We are all sent by the President. Ultimately we are all deployed by the President, whether it’s the Prime Minister or is Mzembi or any other cabinet minister. At the end of the day we are all deployed by the Republic President and that is his Excellency, President Mugabe. On this delegation that we are embarking on and which we are part of, we are obviously headed by the Prime Minister who is incidentally is also the head of the council of ministers, he is also deployed by virtue of that deployment by his Excellency.
GONDA: And so what did the President say? Did he say go to the western countries and ask for the removal of the sanctions?
MZEMBI: I was not privy to the debrief but what I know is that this trip that we embarked on was preceded by another engagement between his Excellency and Congressman Donald Payne of the United States Congress. And in that interaction, three hour interaction between our President and Congressman Payne, a copy of which I have in terms of minutes and what was discussed there, it is very clear what the President wants us to achieve on this mission – is to begin to initiate the re-engagement process. And the President is an intellectual and a diplomat par excellence, he is obviously aware that this re-engagement process is not going to be an event, it is going to be a process. The process of revoking sanctions is not going to be an event as it is marketed in other public media in the country it is actually going to be a process. The process of repealing Acts is lengthy and can take anything up to two years and I’m sure the President is obviously very conscious of what we are up against here. It is not a political event, it is not an economic event, it is a process.
GONDA: So what has been the reception, how have you been received?
MZEMBI: Depending on which stakeholder you are meeting, it has ranged from outright scepticism to full optimism about the developments in the country. So it depends which group you are meeting. Let me just run you through the Washington power matrix as I have observed it here – you have four pillars in the Washington power matrix – the Executive itself which is anchored by Whitehouse, President Obama, you have Capitol Hill, you have Congress and Senate and other players, the State. You have the influence peddlers, your opinion makers – in them you also include two very key institutes in the United States of America – the National Democrat Institute and the International Republic Institute. These are think tanks for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party respectively and obviously policy is evolved at party level and when you win elections you take it through into state craft, into the State itself, so these think tanks are very critical in our engagements and we’ve already engaged them.
You have elements of civic society, you have a whole range of civic society in this country who inform opinion, who inform influence on Capitol Hill and on the Executive. You’ve got the fourth estate itself, the media. You can’t imagine the whole matrix of media in this country, I think there maybe up to 500 radio stations in this country and an equal number of newspapers and in the first instance before any, and television media of course, before anyone does anything in the morning they watch news, they read newspapers and that is what informs opinion including that of the Executive in Capitol Hill.
So in deciding the strategy, you’ve got to take all these four blocks into account and say how do you start your game plan and obviously we have started with the influence peddlers, the opinion makers and that was our entry point and going forward beginning to create media hype around what we are doing here into Capitol Hill itself and right through to the Executive where we expect to meet President Barack Obama. So it is not as simplistic as it is put across to the nation by our public media and private media back home or in the dreaming capacity of our people to say that everything’s possible and can be done as an event. It is going to be a process and I want to psyche Zimbabweans to a fairly lengthy process in achieving our objectives.
GONDA: Now you are from Zanu-PF which has been under isolation for several years and so what is their perception of Zanu-PF, these groups that you have been meeting?
MZEMBI: In the first instance they are really, I can see an element of surprise each time I am introduced. Of course we have been quite open about how we should approach things, we are trying to showcase the inclusive government here, it’s not just Zanu-PF here, it is also Mutambara’s party as represented by Priscilla, sister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and you’ve got Elton Mangoma there also representing the MDC-T but the head of delegation is the Prime Minister who obviously is not visiting the United States of America as an opposition leader, he is visiting the United States on this mission as a Prime Minister of a government of inclusivity and this is what we have been trying to disabuse the American nation here and the various stakeholders that we are meeting – that Prime Minister Tsvangirai is not visiting the United States as an opposition leader, he is visiting the United States as the head of the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister of the republic of Zimbabwe and therefore debate and what we discuss must take a particular path which reflects that there’s senior government employee who is visiting the United States of America.
GONDA: But how do they perceive Zanu-PF?
MZEMBI: They perceive us obviously as anti-reformers I must be very, very honest. That’s how they see us and in various engagements that I have had with various state players here and influence makers, they perceive us as anti-reformers, as people who belong to the past, people who are being dragged screaming and kicking to implement certain outstanding issues of the GPA. I’m just putting it as I’ve heard it here and obviously my position here is to correct that assertion within the context of what I think is being done by the political players and by the government of Zimbabwe and by the cabinet of Zimbabwe which is the supreme policy making body. So I’ve been very upfront with you, that is how we are perceived…
GONDA: So don’t you think that perception is justified?
MZEMBI: It is certainly not justified because if we are anti-reform, we wouldn’t have got this far. We are in an inclusive government because we are reformers; we are in an inclusive government because we have also embraced change. Change is no longer a partisan agenda and I have told right up to Secretary of State, Madam Clinton herself that change in Zimbabwe is not necessarily a partisan agenda any more as in the context of the MDC having actually come into the inclusive government on the back of the changed agenda. It is now a national agenda and to the extent that we embrace it and we begin to compete around making sure that we effect change in the various spheres. To that extent we become also relevant within the Zimbabwean political landscape. A battery of reforms that are coming into the country, including the constitutional review itself is a change programme…
GONDA: But Mr Mzembi, sorry to interrupt you there, you are trying to sell the inclusivity of the coalition government but the MDC is on record as saying that there are some unresolved issues…
GONDA: …like the issue of the governor of the Reserve Bank, the Attorney General Tomana, and governors, the swearing in of Roy Bennett – what is your position as Zanu-PF on this?
MZEMBI: Let me tell you what I have told the American society here. I have told them that we are on an irrevocable path to change, that the inclusive government itself is the only game in town. There’s no other alternative to what is taking place, to the process that is taking place in the country today. And going forward it is not going to be partisan change it is going to be generational transformation, it is going to be national change agenda items up to including the constitution itself which is our ultimate benchmark in terms of abstracting from the people of Zimbabwe how they want to be governed and going forward obviously leading to the holding of an election. These are benchmarks and beacons that we have set ourselves as all the three parties, as government and that is what we are communicating to the Americans.
They obviously are bringing up issues that are contained in old Acts, or irrelevant Acts like ZEDERA which speaks on conditions that must be fulfilled before legitimacy is restored to any government in the Republic of Zimbabwe and we are pre-empting it by citing the provisions of the GP agreement itself which is an agreement, a conclusive agreement between the three parties and it speaks on the same conditions, 90% of which have been agreed. I don’t deny that we have outstanding issues and I’ve not denied it here but I’ve also indicated that those issues are being dealt with, dealt with by the right people, the Principals to the GP agreement are the ones who should persist with the GPA issues…
GONDA: But why is it that government has done very little to meet these conditions even in areas where there is no need for international support like in areas like media reform. Why is that taking so long?
MZEMBI: Why did it take so long for example to confirm permanent secretaries – it’s because we have to bring everyone on board to understand how a permanent secretary for example is appointed. And it’s a matter of people understanding the processes and the qualifications that belie anybody who will be one day called a permanent secretary and when it was understood, you saw that it was endorsed with the amicable collusion of all parties so sometime it’s issues that are done ahead of the level of understanding of other parties on what issues are involved.
Going to the issue of the Reserve Bank and other people that you have referred to, we’ve been very clear here to the extent that we can allow debate in Zimbabwe to degenerate around personalities then we lose sight of institutional reform. So what we must target ahead of us is institutional reform and say to ourselves – a Reserve Bank of the future – how do we want to see it, how do we want to see the last bank, the bank of last resort in the future? What sort of responsibilities do we want to give it and quite clearly there’s no departure point between the Reserve Bank and finance ministry in Zimbabwe on the need to reform the Reserve Bank but if we degenerate to the extent where we begin to discuss personalities then we lose sight of institutional reforms. And they agreed with us here, that they have existed as a nation, as a democracy on the back of very solid foundations in terms of institutional frameworks and structures and in their history, in their road map to where they are today. They’ve had good leaders and bad leaders but they’ve always been crosschecked by a strong institutional framework and foundation so I’m not going to be sucked into a debate where we discuss personalities and I’ve put it up front here and in cabinet that we must focus on the institutional and scientific issues and this is institutional reform that I am alluding to.
GONDA: But on the issue of the Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono, I actually understand that cabinet has approved the establishment of the multi-donor trust fund for Zimbabwe and this is going to be within the ministry of finance
GONDA: … and I understand that’s in an effort to remove concerns by western countries that financial aid to the country could be misused. But the question that I wanted to find out is going around the RBZ, like what is happening with this trust fund, doesn’t it mean creating parallel structures and doesn’t this have the potential of breeding corruption?
MZEMBI: No, no you can’t be saying reform an institution and at the same time not creating an instrument that insures business as usual approach. The country cannot stop ticking because we are reforming the Reserve Bank – so the multi-donor trust fund is certainly a parallel process which we don’t want to last for a period longer than necessary. It is a transitional framework to accept donor funds and aid into the country. It does not in any way substitute the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank ultimately will continue to be the treasury of the country, it will continue to exercise its function on monetary policy, the governor of the Reserve Bank in the future will continue to be the ultimate authority of that institution and that’s best practice everywhere. But don’t see the personality in the institution; just see institutional reforms and what needs to be done in terms of the reforms that we are pursuing.
GONDA: But isn’t that a bit difficult not to see the personalities because the MDC in particular has said that the reason why they are targeting someone like Gideon Gono is because of the issues of bad policies and corruption. So don’t you think that is important and isn’t this the reason why the international community has been saying we want to see a change especially in this matter?
MZEMBI: Well they have repeated that call here in every meeting I can tell you that but we are very careful to separate emotive issues from scientific and institutional issues – otherwise it would derail our discussions, if we are looking for funding and we begin to create conditions for ourselves that inhibit that funding then we will be shooting ourselves in the foot. I didn’t fly ten thousand miles all the way from Zimbabwe to come and discuss a personality here in another democracy. What we are pursuing here are models of financing, models of institutional governance and they’ve understood that, you can pursue it yes, but it’s not a prime debate here at the moment. What is prime debate here is institutional reform.
GONDA: You also mentioned that what’s needed in terms of the change agenda is generational transformation, what do you mean by that?
MZEMBI: Well there’s no doubt about that the fact that every generation speaks to its own brief. There was a generation of liberators who laid a very strong foundation for that country in terms of establishing the various freedoms, all the access of freedoms in the country and it would be impertinent to continue to judge that generation on the performance of the economy. Their brief was very clear, they were bringing universal franchise – the ability for you to vote freely every five years, to speak freely as much as we are doing, you and me today, the ability to universally enfranchise every Zimbabwean in the country. Their brief was to deliver land which has been done. Don’t interrogate me on the matters and processes, but the outcome has been achieved, so that is their brief. Going forward, what is Mzembi’s brief and his generation – is to create economic prosperity for Zimbabwe , is to begin to design scientific models that ride on the back of those our natural resources and other freedoms that we are trying to consolidate for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
GONDA: But why can’t you be interrogated on the methods and processes because how do you… (interrupted)
MZEMBI: Because we agreed in the Global Political Agreement that the land reform is fait accompli, there’s collusion and convergence by all the three political parties, in fact I urge you to read the GPA document itself. It doesn’t dispute the need for land reform. What it further wants to integrate is the productivity aspect. I can engage you on that very easily to interrogate scientific methods of ensuring food security in the country – starting and commencing with the land audit, a land audit that will bare everything for everyone to see who is owning more than one farm, who is not being productive, what kind of modelling should be put in place to ensure the timeous provision of inputs, crop finance, marketing, transportation of produce and so forth. That is the stage that we are in now, the scientific stage and that is the stage that we are riding on here in the United States and where we are going to say that we are appealing for support for our capacity utilisation programmes in agriculture, for our own productivity programmes in agriculture. We can’t be sucked into the debate prior to September 15 because September 15 concludes the land aspect through a provision that alludes to the need by all Zimbabweans to recognise that this is an irrevocable process. But going forward, how do we unlock value out of that land.
GONDA: And right now though, not going back as you said to the situation prior to September 2008 but as tourism minister, how do you intend to address the things that have caused our tourism statistics to plummet, such as the violence on white commercial farms without protection from the State?
MZEMBI: I don’t condone violence, in fact I’m a, I don’t condone violence at all, I’ve zero tolerance myself to violence. And if you recall, if you go back into the past in my constituency there was no violence at all in any campaign in the past and I’ve stood publicly against violence. I don’t condone it. I don’t think it’s a means to an end. But notwithstanding that, if there’s been issues around violence in the country on farms and in the political landscape this is why we have proffered and put ahead of us a national healing organ to bring to the fore those issues and to see how they can be resolved. But we have not proscribed how the national healing organ should work – we have simply deployed three ministers whom we have said they must go and suss out from the people of Zimbabwe how we must handle this issue of national healing and restoration and forgiveness and that is a work in progress right now.
GONDA: But why is the violence continuing?
MZEMBI: I’m not aware of where the violence is continuing. The Prime Minister here who is my head of my delegation was asked by various publics here on continued violence which was quoting even one of his own Ministers, Minister Sekai Holland, and he said he wasn’t aware of any escalation in violence. He was aware that we have residue elements within our society who continuously pop up here and there to regress the process of consolidating our, what we have set ahead of us as the targets for democratisation and stabilisation. And you can’t carry everyone 100% along with you. You have here and there people clinging on to the past and if that past is violence, you have a few people but the general momentum that pertains in the country is that of peace and stability and that is what we are marketing here and everyone agrees including Congressmen who have been to the country just as recently as last week, affirming that Zimbabwe is very peaceful.
We have less crime rate in the country, in Zimbabwe than even in South Africa which is hosting 2010 just next year. But the South Africans have taken a position and a resolve to say because they have a big showcase in soccer next year there are statistics that they should begin not to play too much rhetoric on in the national interest and quite simply, even ourselves we don’t have the violence that compares to the violence that you see in Iraq or in Afghanistan. So to that extent we must begin to manage our own political rhetoric, social rhetoric, economic rhetoric for the national interest.
GONDA: Now Mr Mzembi, the Zimbabwe Independent this week has a commentary saying that while you are travelling with the Prime Minister, the Lowveld conservancies are once again facing invasions and disruptions by thugs aligned to Zanu-PF and the paper went on to say, ‘Mzembi is unable to address this crisis because he is busy helping Tsvangirai claim that Zimbabwe is on the path of recovery.’ How do you respond to that?
MZEMBI: In the first instance, my brief is very clear in the inclusive government. I am not the custodian of the environment and natural resources; it is under Minister Francis Nhema. I am responsible for the marketing of the product itself which is the wildlife on the conservancies and therefore those questions should be directed to the respectable Ministry and Minister to answer those issues because I’m away and I might not be aware of what is taking place. But I would not condone any type of disruption that will violate my product which I’m trying to market here and when I come back I will raise those issues with his Excellency and cabinet. I can’t be sweating my back here to market a product that other people are undermining and I’ve been very upfront in the past on that.
GONDA: And you know there are hardly any black rhinos in the world today, but Zimbabwe actually lost about 120 black rhinos in just one year and this was through poaching and wildlife activists have said that Zanu-PF officials and army guys are actually organising these illegal activities. Now you say you are going around marketing this product, but how do you intend to stop this greed and the poaching?
MZEMBI: The greed is not an acceptable vice in any society so if you are describing it as greed it is not a virtue, it is not a value that we embrace or that any normal Zimbabwean should embrace in the future and we don’t want greedy people amongst us. We want competitive business people who exploit natural resources on a sustainable basis irrespective of party affiliation, race or creed. If it’s happening from my side and everyone has proof that it’s happening they must report them to the police. If they cannot get joy from the police then they must seek recourse to us and ultimately the last court of appeal is cabinet and the President himself.
So these issues must be brought forward, we don’t want them to be cyber-space issues, which are not matched by concrete evidence as to the happenings down there. I’ve engaged in the past, let me be upfront with you, the European Union ambassador in Zimbabwe, Xavier Marchal, and his team who are very, very passionate about wildlife as much as all these Europeans up here, are very passionate about wildlife – and I’ve made my position very clear as tourism minister that it is my product and I don’t accept and I won’t accept anyone undermining it. So to the extent that you are actually reporting to me that there is disruption, I will be making the first effort after this telephone interview to engage my counterpart on the custodian side of our brief – Minister Nhema and team to say what is happening, if there is any substance to what you are saying.
GONDA: How do you respond to people who say why should anyone go to Zimbabwe , when hotels are the most expensive in the region and they can have a nicer time in neighbouring countries like Zambia where there are no constant power cuts and they are not falling into potholes. How do you respond to that?
MZEMBI: Well we are in a transitional phase having come out of a battery of sanctions. By the way, there have been sanctions on Zimbabwe , I am just reading now the ZEDERA, the Zimbabwe democracy Act, just refreshing my memory on it before my meeting with the respective authorities here. There have been sanctions on Zimbabwe, they’ve admitted that there’s been sanctions imposed on the country, they’ve played a very negative part in terms of sprucing up our tourism product -because our hotel operators and players were not able to access funding from multi-lateral institutions, bi-lateral institutions because of the caveat which had been put on the ability of the American executives sitting on the IMF board and other institutions to exercise discretion on lending to Zimbabwe.
So sanctions are real here, I’m telling you. I would not be forecasting a two year period to reverse everything that has been done here if there were no sanctions. So we must accept that there have been sanctions and the Global Political Agreement accepts that there’s been a scourge of sanctions on Zimbabwe and going forward, how do we resolve this and this is why we are here on this lobby mission.
GONDA: But Mr Mzembi, western countries say that the restrictive measures are there as a result of human rights abuses, corruption and electoral fraud, so don’t you think that as Zanu-PF, you are partly to blame for this?
MZEMBI: I think we as Zimbabweans have been partly to blame for this. We have collectively been party to what we find ourselves in at the moment and this is why, to secure and seek a solution to the problem, it did not take one party to resolve this matter, it took the collective effort of the three parties to agree on what is wrong in the country which has been cited in the GPA and what is needed to be done in going forward, which has also been cited in the GPA and has been given by extension, legal effect in constitution amendment number 19. So I’m not going to accept any assertion that MDC was wrong, or Zanu-PF was wrong. We have all been collectively wrong, that’s why to seek a solution, we had to collectively sit round a table to resolve this problem.
GONDA: But how can you say all Zimbabweans have been collectively wrong, even the MDC, when the MDC has said it has been brutalised as a party for the last ten years by Zanu-PF which has stolen elections year after year?
MZEMBI: There’s nothing to respond to because what I am focussing my brief on is the future. The future which acknowledges that there have been past wrongs committed by Zimbabwean against Zimbabwean, by brother against brother, by sister against sister and that is acknowledged. It is acknowledged by the inclusive government actually setting up a national healing organ. It means there is acknowledgement that there have been past misgivings and wrongs against each other. Now resolving them, going forward, that’s why we have put three ministers of state from each party to come up with a framework and formulae on how we can nationally heal ourselves. So that debate, why don’t we wait for it until we get the framework for national healing by going forward.
At a political level, we have agreed that there is a need to go out and run through all the capitals of the world to market our GPA, to market the inclusive government and to begin to appeal for assistance in a more solid way not just humanitarian plus support but sustainable support which secures our food security, which sends our children back to school, which opens public health institutions, which begins to connect city to city, rural centre to rural centre through a viable transport network and road network in the country and that’s what I am faced with here in this country, in the United States and we have been very upfront, my sister, with all these issues with the respective officials and state craft people here in this country.
GONDA: Talking about the future, what is your perception of Morgan Tsvangirai as a person and as a leader?
MZEMBI: Well he is a wonderful person, as you can imagine we have been all together since we left home. I’ve not seen anything that suggests he’s a monster. He also acknowledges that President Mugabe is a wonderful person, full of niceties and good mannerisms. We, if you recall, we retreated to the Victoria Falls for three days under a World Bank sponsored bonding retreat, three days and those three days we relocated, located each other as a working government and we have been telling the Americans here that if you walked into our cabinet with President Mugabe chairing you would not be able to tell the difference between MDC and Zanu-PF. You simply can’t tell by walking in even if you were a fly, just flying in the cabinet room, you would not be able to tell who is Zanu-PF and MDC – because we are discussing issues.
We assist with issues on recovering the economy and giving promise and hope to the people of Zimbabwe . So there’s sufficient chemistry, there’s sufficient chemistry between Head of State and his Prime Minister. There’s sufficient chemistry between Prime Minister and his Minister on this trip, there’s sufficient chemistry to move us forward as a delegation. So as a person I’ve found him very well. As Prime Minister he has done an excellent job here, defending what we have done in the GPA, defending what we are doing as an inclusive government and projecting a future for the country.
GONDA: The reason I am asking that is there are some who believe that he is being used by Zanu-PF to go on a fund raising campaign, to bail Zanu-PF out and they use examples like what happened recently when the information minister Webster Shamu said that Mr Tsvangirai is not the President and has no authority to issue directives to ministers (regarding the case of the accreditation of journalists); and that Mr Tsvangirai had actually asked for a news crew to travel with him on his overseas trip and he was denied this…
MZEMBI: Violet, you’d be the last person to say that. Whether we have a news crew here or not, it does not undermine our work. In fact most of the meetings that we have gone into are very, very closed meetings which do not require news peddlers at all. They are sensitive, intimate meetings that are discussing the future of Zimbabwe and they are conducted primarily outside the glare of the press. The flamboyant and carnival atmosphere that people hope to capture around our visit here is not what we are seeking here. We are not seeking glory; we are seeking to recover the Zimbabwe economy. But not withstanding that, you’ll be the first one to agree that there’s a much more extensive media network here in the United States than in Zimbabwe and anyone who is seeking attention can get it here if he was seeking attention he would get it here, if I was seeking attention I would get it here because we have a plethora, an oversupply of global media here.
GONDA: But granted when the President is travelling, he travels with a news crew and I understand that the ZBC chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere actually said only the President is entitled to travel with a news crew and also on the issue of Mr Shamu actually saying that Mr Tsvangirai has no authority to issue directives to ministers, what do you say about that?
MZEMBI: I’m not going to comment on what other ministers are saying about their portfolios. It is their interpretation of what is policy in their own ministries but let me say to you that if we are seeking attention of the fourth state, we are actually in the haven of the fourth estate, the United States of America . And whatever we do here can be covered at the instant of a moment and projected and sold the whole world over within an instant, within seconds. So we are not seeking glory here, we are not seeking media in this country. We are working, we are on a working trip and when you are working you don’t work by standing on top of a mountain and say come and see me I am now working. That’s not what we are seeking here.
GONDA: You are the first Zanu-PF official to travel with the Prime Minister…
GONDA: … from a different party, especially on his inaugural trip. How were you selected to go and how did a Tourism Minister wind up on this trip and not another Zanu-PF person with a more substantial ministry?
MZEMBI: I am here with cabinet authority from the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe , his Excellency Comrade Mugabe. He’s the one who approves these trips, so he is the one who has deployed me here with the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Richard Morgan Tsvangirai as the head of delegation so that debate is misplaced. It is the debate of shallow minds. I’m hearing that – through various telephone calls that I get here from kumusha and online news – it is a debate that is in the minds of very, very shallow people in my country who seek to press self-destructive buttons all the time at the expense of the national interest.
Mzembi does not deploy himself on missions. Mzembi is tourism minister as you say and he is here because the value chain on investment starts with at his station. So the value chain is in this order – just listen carefully – you first visit, then you trade, then you invest – that is a value chain. And I am a public relations officer of that government. My job is to invite people, to entice them to come, I’m the catalytic effect of any economic turnaround programme and my functions are located quite adequately, elaborately and literally in the context of the short term emergency recovery programme, that Mzembi is one of the three pillars of the economic turnaround with his sector, with the tourism sector because it’s a low hanging fruit. But we have some very shallow minds in my country there across the party divide who think that Mzembi lobbies himself onto a trip like this. I was deployed by the President of that country, Comrade Mugabe.
GONDA: Some observers actually say that this trip could be politically damaging for you, in your party because you are being viewed as one of the few progressive elements in Zanu-PF. What do you say about that?
MZEMBI: If I’m progressive, that’s a very good brand. It’s a very good brand to be called progressive at a time like this in this country. I’m making history together with the other cabinet people in President Mugabe’s cabinet, we are making history and history will record us as men and women who lost a lot of nights trying to make sure that this economy recovers – who lost a lot of family time, three weeks of family time away from my family which I love very much to pursue and push agenda and agendas on behalf of the nation state, on behalf of the national interest.
So I’m not going to stop moving because there are a few people barking and who want to stop a goods train. This programme that we are embarking on is a programme that has detractors across the party divide but it has very little critical mass in the country, maybe five per cent or so of the people you are alluding to out of the entire nation do speak like that. But they do speak like that because they are not part of this trip. If they were part of this trip they would be busy working so I’m not going to pay attention to people who have nothing else to do than to walk the streets of Harare looking and pursuing negativities.
GONDA: What message are you going to take to your party, especially to the so-called hard-liners in your party?
MZEMBI: When I go to my party, and when I’m in my party I don’t see hard-liners. I hear about them, they are like a myth, like a spirit, a bad spirit. Anything that is hard is a bad spirit so I don’t see hardliners. I see a party that is trying to adjust itself to the inclusive government. I see a party trying to revive itself and its fortunes to fight the next elections and win elections. That’s what I see so when I get back, I’ll advise them on what they need to do to be a part of the future, not of the past.
GONDA: And of course, Zanu-PF has blamed the economic crisis on the sanctions but in your view is there anything that you think as a party you are to blame for?
MZEMBI: We are a party that should move with the times. We are a party that is now 46 years old. My age, and a 46 year old party must always adapt to changes within its environment if it doesn’t it obviously will be like a dinosaur, it will perish. So we must adapt to the environment, to the changes in the environment and continue to exist. I would regret very much this party if it were to disappear with the disappearance of the liberators. It must be a party that we must ride on as a generation of the future and leave it also to our own children. The Republican Party, the Democratic Party in this country is as old as the constitution of the United States of America . I want to see a Zanu-PF that outlives its leadership into the future and becomes an institution that other future generations can ride on, ride on its ideals and its founding principles which I think are very good and that’s why I belong there.
GONDA: You talked about generational transformation, does that include when it comes to the succession battle in Zanu-PF?
MZEMBI: Of course, we want to see renewal of leadership going forward and renewal is not removing Mugabe. Renewal is bottom up. If you are not able to renew yourself bottom up, then you are finished. This is what I am talking about. It is generational transformation at cell level, at branch, at district, at province and going forward. But we want also and I’m telling you this at the bottom of my heart, that the President of the republic who is the President of my party, part of his legacy obviously should be to leave an intact party that we can ride on, all of us in the future as leaders. So that’s why we keep on insisting that he has unfinished business in the party to make sure that it survives the current turbulence and turmoil in the country and leave us a stable party that can produce its own leaders going forward and I’ll be one of them in the future. There’ll be others to come after me and others to come after those that come after me as well so that’s the generational aspect that I’m talking about.
GONDA: Mr Walter Mzembi thank you very much for participating on the programme Hot Seat.
MZEMBI: Thank you Violet.