Prime Minister Tsvangirai says "Let's not lose the focus!"

FULL TEXT of PM's Question and Answer Session – The Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (PM) answers your questions about the year ahead and other key issues.

Q:  What are we going to see this year that is different compared to last year?

PM: I think if you make an evaluation of 2009, you find that it was an extraordinary year. It was the first year of the formation of the inclusive Government. In 2010, it is no longer about experimenting, 2010 is about delivery to the people. It is about consolidating the issues around the transition. It is about ensuring that we build a momentum to increase the re-construction of the country, in building confidence nationally and internationally, in removing any doubts that the process of inclusive Government is an irreversible process.

Q:  Everyone is looking at the constitution-making process. But there are some challenges, which the constitution making process is facing. We hear that some parties wanted to sneak in some people for accreditation who were not supposed to be part of the outreach team. What is happening?

PM: There are enough mechanisms in place to ensure that there are checks and balances to make sure that everyone who participates in the process is supposed to participate. The process itself is now gearing to go to the public consultation phase which would give even further momentum to the process. During activities of this nature there are attempts by political operatives at various levels to try to take advantage of the process in order to advance their own political agenda.

This is a national project which is about defining the destiny of the country, about defining the values of our Government – it is not about ZANU PF, it’s not about MDC, it’s about defining how we shall be governed in future so I appeal to everyone to be national in your thinking and to promote what is best for our entire nation.

Q:  The stance of national healing is not that popular in some quarters. Will there be truth and reconciliation public hearings? What will be done to those members of the army, intelligence who persecuted Zimbabweans before the transitional government was formed?

PM: What we have to appreciate is that the National Healing programme is being spearheaded by the three Ministers of the Organ on National Healing and Integration. It is a process of dealing with the concerns of the victims as well as the fears of the perpetrators. It is a very difficult process. As we enter 2010 and conclude some of the elements of our implementation of the GPA we should be seeing better activity around reconciliation by this organ and that’s how we should be looking at it.

Q:  Coming to the issue of the civil servants salaries, they have given two weeks notice to go on industrial action, as Head of Government what would be your reaction?

PM: First of all what we must appreciate is that they are speaking to the converted. We know the state of our civil servant’s salaries; we know it is not adequate. Government is doing everything within its capacity to respond without even the pressure of a strike to respond to the plight of the civil servants because we value the human resource that the civil servants provide to our ability to govern. It’s not as if Government has got some money somewhere it is hiding so constantly review the state of our civil servant salaries as our economy improves.

Q:  But do you foresee an increment this January?

PM: I can assure civil servants that the Minister of Public Service is on that issue as a matter of  priority. He is dealing with the National Joint Council. They will make an announcement when there are new developments.

Q: Farm invasions are still going on with some senior Government ministers leading the onslaught on farmers, what is your office doing to ensure this stops?

PM: Well in this Agreement we have always budgeted for resistance elements that will do something that is not within the core values of the inclusive Government and this is one of the examples. It must be condemned. The land reform programme has been agreed to, that an audit has to take place, that a commission will be set, that above all even the remaining white farmers should be protected within the law, including those covered by the BIPPA agreement with South Africa, so they should not actually be interfered with.

Above all, unless you are motivated by theft, how do you go in the middle of the season to start replacing farmers, disrupting their operations, at the end of the day you may be thinking you are disrupting the farmer but you are actually disrupting the capacity of the country to earn the much required income. Any right-thinking person must condemn this action as totally out of sync with the thrust of Government, with the thrust of the land reform programme, and with the thrust of the BIPPA with South Africa. Q:  …and South Africa has formally complained to your Government about the farm, disturbances?

PM: They (South African Government) should (be concerned) because it’s against what we have signed as a country. We are undermining our own credibility within our own friends and how can do that and expect to be taken seriously as a nation in Africa and the world.

Q:  But have you spoken to the ministries concerned?

PM: I have just returned to the office but I have been briefed by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe about what has happened and what they have done. I want to appreciate the efforts that have been done concerning this kind of wild behaviour because it can only be described as wild; it is not within the mandate of any individual to act in this manner.

Q:  At the ZANU PF congress, still on the land issue, they passed a resolution that there will not be a reversal of what ever is there, never mind whether the person is using the farm or not, and there are concerns from those who have lost farms covered by BIPPA and there are concerns from invaders, it is also a slap in the face on property rights…

PM: No, I think one has to appreciate that a ZANU PF congress cannot constitute an agreement, the GPA is very clear about how to proceed on the land reform, we all accepted the irreversibility of it but within a certain framework, that we need an audit, we need a commission to rectify the practices. Even ZANU-PF has accepted that there were malpractices, there were irregularities, and so the real issue around land is to regularize and rationalize, so that we normalize the property rights and to formalize those property rights as defined by the land commission. So I think the resolutions have nothing to do with the GPA – I am guided by the GPA.

Q:  South African President Jacob Zuma is quoted as pushing for an election next year?

PM: Again, there is a misrepresentation. President Zuma is very supportive of Zimbabwe but the elections in Zimbabwe will be defined by the GPA. And the GPA says after the referendum the President and Prime Minister will set the date for the election. The referendum has not been held; we are still in the process of constitutional discussion and participation.

Once the constitutional draft is there, it is going to the referendum and once the referendum has endorsed it then we will sit down and discuss the date of election. So I think that people should not preempt a process which is already there and which is understood by all parties to be the law.

Q:  So you are saying no election until the law?

PM: No, the election will follow the referendum. After the referendum a date for election will be set after the President and Prime Minister discuss the date, it says so in the law, that is what Constitutional Amendment No. 19 says.

Q:  Governments of national unity rather than democracy seem to become more common in Africa, for instance in Zimbabwe, in Kenya and now they are talking about it in Madagascar. Would you say this is a good precedent for Africa?

PM: You know this is not a good precedent. I think that by the latest assessment the people want to have their mandate respected. So I don’t think it is a permanent feature. I think it’s a transitory feature, I think it’s a way of accommodating all political forces in the country to play a part.

Q:  And then there is the trump card that ZANU PF continue to use restrictive measures as a scapegoat. What is your opinion?

PM: We have discussed this as Principals, we have a way of dealing with it. People must understand that there has to be a reward for progress so far made, it may not be 100 percent but there has to be recognition of the progress so far made. At the same time we all have to agree that the pace of implementation of the GPA has been frustrating but not insurmountable. We as Principals would like to see a situation where in terms of the GPA all these restrictions are lifted. But now it depends on the benchmarks that those countries have set and we must not be at the forefront of undermining those benchmarks that we ourselves as Principals have agreed on.

Q:  You undertook an international tour last year, you met President Barack Obama, who many African states believe is more of a saviour to the African continent, have you still been in touch and has it been helpful?

PM: I am quite sure that the Zimbabwean issue cannot be taken in isolation. I am sure everyone wants to re-engage Zimbabwe. That’s what we have to focus on re-engaging the world, including the Americans, the Europeans, and normalise our relations, it is one of the key objectives of the inclusive Government Work Programme. How we are going to achieve this of course is dependent on the process of re-engagement which we have already started.

Q:  You were saying that the pace of the implementation of the GPA has been rather frustrating and there have been complaints and concerns from different quarters; business, local and international investors and donors saying that President Mugabe and ZANU PF are not sincere?

PM: It is eleven months after the formation of the transitional Government and about 16 months after the signing of the GPA. I am sure that it is a fact that it was not anticipated that we go into 2010 still talking about the implementation of the Agreement. I think that’s where the frustrating part is.

But of course you must understand there are daily negotiations on various issues on governance, these are three parties in a coalition. There are problems that we face on a daily basis, on top of the GPA. Yes, it is maybe frustrating, but what we are saying is that in 2010 our negotiators must clear these issues and give a final report which we can then deal with as the Principals and then invite President Zuma to come and adjudicate on those disputed areas so that we put a finality to the issues of the implementation of the Global  
Political Agreement.

Q:  They have failed to meet twice now?

PM: I am sure they will eventually and hopefully soon, because we are waiting for their report.

Q:  People feel that President Mugabe and ZANU PF treated MDC and you, Mr. Tsvangirai as a junior partner in the transitional Government.

PM: Let’s not lose the focus. We entered this Government not as junior partners. We entered this Government as part of the shared compromise. But this is not a permanent arrangement. It is just a temporary, transitional arrangement. Let’s look at creating a future, which is an election, and a government of the people. And let’s not try to focus on the transition in which various political games can be played. It is a perception which has no foundation whatsoever, but I want to say: Let’s not lose the focus!

Q:  What would be your message to the people of Zimbabwe for 2010?

PM: My message is: We are in this transitional process. The confidence that we have bestowed on the inclusive Government is an indication of better things to come. As far as we are concerned, we want to put all efforts in ensuring that we deliver real change to the people. And real change will be in social, economic and political terms. That means stability, progress, and development for everyone. That’s what we want to achieve in 2010. And if we begin in those areas, that should be an indication of real change to come.