Makumbe urges MDC-T to appoint an independent agent to investigate corruption

HOT SEAT INTERVIEW: Violet Gonda presents this week’s Hot Seat where the guest is political scientist Professor John Makumbe with an analysis of the year ahead for Zimbabwe.

Despite what some observers feel is evidence to the contrary, Makumbe believes Zimbabwe has passed the crossroads and is well on the path for the transition to democracy

He urges the MDC-T to lead by example and appoint an independent agent to investigate allegations of corruption in the party, saying; “You don’t do the Chihuri style of ‘the police will set up a committee to investigate how the people were tortured by the police’.”

Broadcast: 08 January 2010

VIOLET GONDA:My guest on the programme Hot Seat is political analyst and Professor of Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe, that’s Professor John Makumbe with his analysis of the current situation in Zimbabwe. Can we get your views first on where Zimbabwe is at present?

MAKUMBE: I think we have passed the crossroads; I think we are well on the way to the transition to democracy. I say that because at least we have had a very wonderful Christmas and New Year or shall I say Festive Season where people, almost for the first time in ten years, were able to go into the shops and find them brimful of goods and to buy and purchase and then they celebrate in a very jovial and festive mood.

It is really a wonderful mood in Zimbabwe at the moment. There are still problems here and there Violet, but the feeling is good, the feeling is expectant, it is hopeful that the year 2010 holds good things for this country.

GONDA: Well it’s good to hear this Professor Makumbe but some would ask that isn’t it true that nearly all the positive things that have happened like having food in the shops as you have just said, are a result of the Zimbabwe dollar crashing and the US dollar taking over and that at least people had some form of currency with value and that it had nothing to do with the Unity government and anybody’s policies – and this is basically why things have changed to some extent.

MAKUMBE: No, no, no you see, all those things are linked. It would be unfortunate to see the dollarisation of the Zimbabwe economy as something which just happened, it didn’t just happen. It was forced because of the circumstances in which the country found itself as a result of the bad governance of the Zanu-PF political party.

They had wrecked the economy so badly that the local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar became worthless, even though they printed – in fact they printed it until they ran out of ink and even ran out of paper. And so they wrecked that so the only solution was to dollarise the economy.

And so that bad management by the Zanu-PF regime resulted in the dollarisation of the economy which essentially brought back the goods and services that had gone, that had vanished from the scene and so these things are all closely linked and they are really sides of a coin.

GONDA: I’m sure we all want to be positive but is it not a fact that currently Zanu-PF has been running rings around the MDC and that the MDC really has no power?

MAKUMBE: It is partly true, it is partly untrue. The MDC is doing a marvellous job in the inclusive government, it has stabilised the government, it has stabilised the economy, it has resulted in the reopening of schools and the reopening of health institutions such as hospitals and clinics.

It facilitated very strongly the return to Zimbabwe of some of Zimbabwe’s skilled people who went back into teaching and some are coming back into the health sector as well. But yes, the MDC is being harassed and harangued by Zanu-PF but that comes with the job.

That comes with the job and the MDC are fully aware that when they went into this marriage of convenience there was going to be a cost and they are paying the price of that arrangement. But they are prepared to do that and continue with it for the sake of the country because the alternative is to go back to 2002, 2005 and even 2008 and that’s really not acceptable.

GONDA: But Professor Makumbe, even though the Unity government has been in existence for a year, we still have things like farm attacks that are still continuing and recently there has been a renewed push to get the remaining white commercial farmers off the land. Now the CFU says it is waiting for some kind of assistance from the MDC, so what can the MDC do about the disputes and lawlessness in the farming areas for example?

MAKUMBE: The MDC for example Violet should pressurise Zanu-PF very strongly to resolve the so-called outstanding issues, one of which is the existence of violence. Violence still exists Violet, and not only in the farming areas but also in the communal areas such as in the border districts like Muzarabani and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe and so forth.

There are still some bases which were used in 2008 which are being revived even as we talk, and so the MDC, to help the commercial farmers who are being kicked out and also their workers, they should insist that the provisions of the Global Political Agreement be fully implemented. And to do that, they need to work closely with the Jacob Zuma team of facilitators or mediators, who are apparently very good on insisting on the implementation of the provisions of the Global Political Agreement and that’s a good start.

If they fail to win in that area they will need to really give Zanu-PF an ultimatum. You must not forget that the MDC are the majority party in the House of Assembly here in Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF are effectively the minority and so MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai need to call the shots more often than they are doing now.

GONDA: If the MDC is in the majority, why aren’t they calling the shots? You have got government ministers from Zanu-PF, like Didymus Mutasa, who are accused of spearheading the lawlessness especially on the farms, so why is the MDC failing to control the situation?

MAKUMBE: I think part of it is really lack of experience in the political game. For example there are powers in the Global Political Agreement that are supposed to be exercised by Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of this country which he is sometimes not actually exercising – such as giving orders to cabinet ministers, portfolio ministers, portfolio ministries on how they should be managing the affairs of the nation.

And part of it is also the vagueness of some of the provisions of the Global Political Agreement. Executive powers are given to both Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai and the same executive powers are again given to the Cabinet and so when it comes to actually exercising them, the guy who has been doing it all along, albeit doing it badly – Robert Mugabe has overstepped his mark and he has used his powers sometimes without even referring to either Morgan Tsvangirai or Arthur Mutambara and so there is a lot of learning that must go on within the MDC before they can effectively say – hey they are running the show.

GONDA: But you see, we go back to the same point – you expressed optimism at the beginning of this programme but some will say nothing will work if there is no functioning government, that’s why you find lawlessness is still continuing, the disruptions on the farms are still continuing.

So isn’t this optimism in Zimbabwe, and the optimism that you are portraying right now a fact of the human mind that cannot bear the reality – that the human mind cannot live with a defeatist attitude so we have to be positive?

MAKUMBE: No it is really a product of the experience. It is experiential Violet, it is the experience of where we have been as a country. We have been in 2000 when the farm invasions began – 200 people, blacks, lost their lives. We have been in 2005 Operation Murambatsvina where 700 000 people were displaced from their homes under the Mugabe regime. We have been in 2008 nearly 200 people died, blacks, members and supporters of MDC.

Those are the things you look at, you remember and you actually know can recur. And the fact that they are being curtailed, they have been abated; they have been reduced to a reasonable – if not an insignificant proportion – gives one hope. It’s not a mindset thing, it is experiential. We know, I know where Zimbabwe has been.

I know how people have struggled, how unemployment has shot up to 94% but I can see now industry creeping up from 15% capacity production to the current 30 to 40% and I say this is something to write home about. This is something to be optimistic about and so it is really not a mindset, it is really comparing yesterday with today and hoping for an even better tomorrow.

GONDA: And of course there is this latest issue where the MDC is investigating corruption especially in its external assemblies. Now we all know that corruption has been like a cancer to Zimbabwe, slowly eating away at its institutions and the social fabric. Now that the MDC has been mired a bit in corruption scandals in the Diaspora, some are wondering if the MDC is any different from Zanu-PF. What are your thoughts on this?

MAKUMBE: Oh this is a brilliant question and I’m glad you asked that. Many people again fail to realise that all of us in Zimbabwe are a product of a very corrupt regime called the Rhodesia Front. The Ian Smith regime was corrupt to the core; it was succeeded by the Robert Mugabe regime, the Zanu-PF regime which is corrupt to the core.

The corruption in the MDC is a fraction of the corruption in Zanu-PF, but we are all victims of these regimes so corruption has almost become a culture. It would be naivety on anyone’s part to think that the MDC comprises only saints who are not touched by these things.

They are the same product of the same corrupt culture so it will take a long time for the MDC to actually clean its act, to clean up the corruption in its own structures.

By the way, the corruption in the UK, in South Africa is part of the corruption in the MDC as a whole. In Zimbabwe itself, a town council called Chitungwiza has been virtually dismissed because of corruption.

The first thing the councillors did when they met after the elections was to allocate each other free stands on which to build houses, factory shops and so forth, so we are all in need of a cathartic agent to cleanse us because we are all victims of the corruption of Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe.

GONDA: I’ve been talking to some of the members of the MDC Provincial executives in the Diaspora, especially the UK and some are denying that they are corrupt and they say that, they are alleging that what’s been happening is as a result of factionalism in the MDC and they say the Party is divided along two main groups – one allegedly led by the (MDC-T) President Morgan Tsvangirai, the other led by Secretary General Tendai Biti.

They claim it’s a power struggle, a battle for control and that the group that is allegedly led by Tendai Biti is trying to dismantle some of these external assemblies that are perceived to be supporting the Tsvangirai-led group. Have you heard anything about this? What are your thoughts on this?

MAKUMBE: (laughs) I have heard lots of that. You know one thing Violet you will find in political parlance is that they say if you leave two Zimbabweans on the moon overnight, when you get back to the moon the following day you will find that they will have formed three political parties! Zimbabweans are very good at drawing lines, drawing factions here and there.

I’ve heard of a Mudzuri faction in the MDC; there’s another faction led by Ian Makoni; there is a faction led by Tendai Biti; there is also a faction led by, you know, what’s his name – Morgan Tsvangirai and so forth. It is all fiction. It is all fiction. A lot of it is imagined rather than real.

But here is the politics. The politics is that there will be groupings everywhere. Wherever there is a political party there will be preferences of groupings, people meeting together and criticising their leaders, criticising each other but these things do not necessarily need to translate into £57000 disappearing from the scene, from the British province of the MDC. Why does it translate into money? But a lot of it is also engineered to try and do each other down so that new people can come in and so forth.

Here again, we are products of a regime, a Zanu-PF regime which is riddled with factionalism. There is a Mujuru faction, there is a Mnangagwa faction, now there is even a Robert Mugabe faction and this is carried on into the MDC as well.

The truth of the matter is that it is all just politics but when there is corruption, it is corruption it has the same colour whether it is practised by Zanu-PF or by MDC or by a faction of any of the above two, this is where there is a real problem – that is where there is need for cleansing and scrutinising the leadership, scrutinising the management processes and dealing with issues as they come. In fact I’m very glad that the MDC has not hidden the corruption, it has gone public with it and it has criticised those of its members who have been caught with their fingers in the pot.

GONDA: So far we hear the investigations are targeting those groups that are in the Diaspora, but just talking to some members of the MDC, they say that some of the people who were receiving the money for example from some of the groups in the Diaspora are members of parliament and ministers, so would they also be investigated? What are your thoughts on that?

MAKUMBE: Yes they must all be investigated, everything must be above board, everything must be transparent, if names are not exposed then there will be no real exposure of corruption and they will all have to be investigated according to Morgan Tsvangirai himself, nobody is sacred. Even if it is his own son Edwin who took the money, it must be exposed, that’s what he has said and I believe him. I believe that is the way things will go.

The question is really – who will hang the cat? Who is going to do the investigation? Will the investigator not be bribed again and do the same thing? Here is a case where the MDC should demonstrate to Zanu-PF how you investigate corruption within a Party – you bring in an external agent, you bring in people who are not MDC, who are also not Zanu-PF, who are not CIO.

You don’t do the Chihuri-style of ‘the police will set up a committee to investigate how the people were tortured by police’ – you know it is ridiculous. And so I think this is a classic example which as the MDC can set. Get an independent auditor to audit their books, investigate the matter forensically and expose everything by name, by date, by situation.

GONDA: You know it is interesting that you have said that there should be an independent investigator that should look into these allegations but I understand that the MDC is actually sending the National Chairman Lovemore Moyo and the Deputy Treasurer General Elton Mangoma to the UK to investigate these allegations in the UK and so what can you say about that?

MAKUMBE: I think that is unfortunate because there will be people on Mangoma’s side and they will be also be accused of being, on fighting against Tendai Biti or vice versa, or on Morgan Tsvangirai’s side, or on Mudzuri’s side and so forth. It is crucial that an independent investigator be appointed.

This culture of self-investigation is really a Zanu-PF culture and it is destructive, it is really slanderous because it is hypocrisy, it doesn’t result in the exposure of the real corruption that’s going on. It is very easy to get an independent investigator.

Take any of these auditing companies – De Loitte and Touche and any other international auditors and ask them to do the job. Pay them and let them bring the report, and publish the report as it comes – that’s the way to go.

GONDA: Right, and moving on Professor Makumbe you know the constitutional process is now in progress, is there a very good feeling right now on the ground that this will produce real results?

MAKUMBE: There are two ways of looking at it Violet. One way is really very similar to the 2000 draft which ended up being rejected by the people. The people say one thing and what comes out of the constitution is another – that is a very likely situation under the current conditions because the constitutional process is being led by parliament.

Now in parliament you have two major political parties who are also in bed as the inclusive government, who are also anxious that the arrangement of the inclusive government goes on until 2013 – in other words, they are not very keen on new elections any time soon.

And so how are they going to write this constitution? Are they going to include what the people will say or are they going to include only some of what the people will say and include more of what they would like to see? That is the test.

Now there is inclusion of civil society including the churches and there is expectation that these civil society bodies and the churches will be major watchdogs to prevent any cheating of the people by excluding what the people will have said and including what the politicians will have wanted.

The training of the members of parliament has begun here in Harare and the sessions have gone very well and there is a good feeling about writing the constitution. There are no hang-ups anymore about the Kariba draft, about the NCA draft, about the MDC draft and so forth. They are now fully agreed that they are going to the people to get what the people want included in the constitution.

The bottom line Violet is who are going to be the drafters of the constitution? The people will say something, the people who will determine what is going to be in the constitution are the drafters and we haven’t reached that stage yet. At the moment the feeling is very good that the work is going to be done, the money is now available and the nation is ready to write a new constitution and it is a positive, perhaps an optimistic outlook – I think it is worth holding.

GONDA: And what about the fact the National Constitutional Assembly has said it will not support this process because it is not people driven?

MAKUMBE: Well the NCA is a teeny weeny minute little body of individuals and it’s not worth worrying about. It’s like having the whole education sector really rejoicing about something in the education and a primary school in Chirambahuyo – rural back of beyond – says we are not happy about this so we are not going to participate. Nobody will miss them.

GONDA: But what has really changed Professor Makumbe because in 2000 would you have described the NCA as a teeny weeny little group?

MAKUMBE: No, no Violet I wouldn’t have. I was part of it and we were completely right, we were right in saying you need to write a constitution which is people driven. Mugabe said we are going to write the constitution and we will drive it and we will change it even at the drafting stage and he did. He changed it at the drafting stage.

I will tell you something which happened again in 1999 or in 2000 just before the constitution was taken to Mugabe, the provisions, the terms of reference for the Chidyausiku Commission, clearly stated that at the end of the exercise the new draft constitution will be adopted through a secret ballot. And knowing what they had done – Chidyausiku and the top guys in Zanu-PF – they wouldn’t conduct a secret ballot.

They said we will adopt the draft constitution by acclamation. Those in favour, those against and that was deception. And then they took the constitution to Mugabe and Mugabe adopted it and it went to the referendum and that’s why the NCA then said ‘no way – this is deception, clause such and such was not what the people said, was not stated by the people or by the thematic committees or so forth’.

And so the NCA had the moral high ground then. Today it doesn’t. Today the NCA is saying basically, stay with the Lancaster House constitution rather than write a new constitution, reject it simply because parliamentarians are involved. No way. We know where this country has come from.

GONDA: And a final word.

MAKUMBE: The final word is that there are huge outstanding issues which have not been resolved. It is very easy to focus on those and say we are doomed, 2010 is going to be a disaster year. It is very easy to be negative about Zimbabwe in 2010. It is important to look at the resolved issues and say, compared to 2008, 2009 was miles ahead. 2010 can only be better.

GONDA: OK, so before we go, is it possible to just summarise some of the things that you would say are a definite positive, you know like what evidence would you point to show things are getting better, in a nutshell?

MAKUMBE: Yes I think very quickly I can say we, the cholera has ended because sanitation has improved, health centres are now operational, there are drugs now in the country – thanks to the donor communities. But also our local drug, medical drug manufacturers are already on the ball again, industry is reviving and I would say education, the schools are virtually all open, universities and colleges are now all open and there is rain outside, it is promising to be a reasonable season.

The throwing of outputs to Zanu-PF hoodlums which was happening under Gideon Gono and Robert Mugabe has not happened this year and people who are serious about farming are having to go to banks to borrow money and to get that money they have to show collateral. Banks have money, they were given 210 million dollars to distribute.

They were given 210 million dollars from the National Treasury but it’s going to be distributed strictly on the basis of do you have collateral, is the farm yours and do you have any means of paying back and so forth, the usual bank requirements.

And so those who had been damaged through handouts, through corruption and so forth are not going to get the handouts, are not going to get the money, are not going to get the loans and these are the people who are screaming and saying the agricultural season is damaged because Tendai Biti refused to release IMF money, but Tendai Biti has demonstrated he has teeth and he also can bark!

GONDA: And what about other fundamental reforms like media reforms, the repeal of draconian laws like AIPPA, POSA, the Public Order and Security Act?

MAKUMBE: Those are all irons in the fire Violet and I personally am disappointed that the MDC has not been pushing hard on those. But we can see the beginnings of the reforms, the Media Commission is now in place, the Human Rights Commission is now in place and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is now in place.

There are lots of constituencies which are not represented in parliament, they deserve to be represented if we are going to be meaningfully democratic and the reforms have to move, have to take place, have to take place quickly. The beginning of the writing of a new constitution is a major reform activity and so those things are not as fast as you and I would like them to be but they are beginning to work.

GONDA: You know some may say just listening to you today that you seem to have changed your views on what is happening in the country right now. What has changed? You are seen as having been radical before, what has brought about this sudden change?

MAKUMBE: No it’s not a sudden change. This is myself, this is me. I have always been very severe on Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe because these people really ruined this country, they damaged it. In fact people ask me a question, will Morgan Tsvangirai do a good job if he took over from Mugabe and I tell them, the way Robert Mugabe has ruined this country, any idiot can run it better. But the truth of the matter Violet is that I am not a radical person for nothing, for the sake of radicalism.

I give credit where credit is due. I’ve been working with the World Bank in various ministries through out government and I have met many civil servants who have pleaded with me and said ‘listen, tell Morgan and MDC to stick in government. They must not go out because if they go out, Zanu-PF will wreck this nation completely’.

You know and that gives me good vibes. That says to me I must give credit where it is due and I will tell you there are Zanu-PF people who are positive about the changes. There are Zanu-PF people who are sick and tired of Robert Mugabe. And there are MDC people who are raring to go, who want to do the best for this country. I will be the first person to encourage them.

GONDA: Professor John Makumbe, thank you very much for talking to us on the programme Hot Seat.

MAKUMBE: My pleasure Violet.

Feedback can be sent to violet@swradioafrica.com