Dumiso Dabengwa on Question Time
The President of the revived ZAPU, Dumiso Dabengwa, is the guest on Question Time. Journalist Lance Guma poses questions, including; whether Dabengwa will form an alliance with Tsvangirai; does he feel he deserved to be on the EU and US targeted sanctions lists; why should people trust him; what was his role as Home Affairs Minister after the murder of MDC polling agent Patrick Nabanyama?
Interview broadcast 26 January 2011
Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to Question Time, the programme where you the listener get to ask the questions. Joining us today is the ZAPU president Dr Dumiso Dabengwa. Dr Dabengwa thank you for joining us.
Dumiso Dabengwa: Thank you.
Guma: Now last week, you and your secretary general Dr Ralph Mguni were in the United Kingdom on a four day tour – let’s start off with that – what were the objectives of the trip and did you successfully achieve any of them?
Dabengwa: Yes thank you, the objective of the trip was to appeal to our members in the Diaspora to assist in raising resources for the party.
Guma: This time last year you would not have been able to travel to the UK because of European Union and United States targeted sanctions against yourself. Now these restrictions were removed last year. Wilbert Mukori a regular contributor to the station wants to know whether you believe you deserved to be on those sanctions alongside your daughter and what is your general attitude to the remaining sanctions on the Mugabe regime?
Dabengwa: Well as I said even during my talk in the UK that I really did not even take issue with the sanctions. All they did was probably prevent me from travelling to these places which was not absolutely important for me, but I said that I have been, I am concerned and have always been concerned about our self-imposed sanctions, that is the sanctions which we have imposed ourselves as Zimbabweans because of our unattractive investment policies and mostly because of the contradictions that come about even in our economic policies.
We said last time that we were going to look east and we did not care about the west and what has been happening is that we’ve not really had much coming from the east and the east is not investing, not because of sanctions but because our investment policies are not good enough, they are not attractive, even for the east.
Guma: Now moving on to another slightly different subject matter Dr Dabengwa, in 1982, you alongside Lookout Masuku and four others were charged with treason by Mugabe’s regime. You were acquitted for lack of evidence in 1983 I believe.
On release you were re-detained under emergency regulations and this time, the Gukurahundi massacres had begun. You were then released four years later. Nomatter Khumalo in Bulawayo wants to know how you were then able to work with Mugabe after all this victimisation. She says was it easy for you?
Dabengwa: I was able to work with him because I don’t carry and I don’t want to carry a burden of grudges. The minute somebody hurts you and you begrudge that person, each time you see that person you carry on your shoulders already a burden and I don’t overburden myself with those
things and therefore as I said, I’ve forgiven but I’ll never forget.
Guma: But in terms of trust, trust issues – is it easy to trust people that have made you go through that in the past? How did you handle that?
Dabengwa: It’s not really a question, well it’s a question of trust to some extent but you watch it as you work and you are able to gauge as to whether that person is being genuine in what they are saying and what they are doing towards you and if you think they’re not, you walk out.
Guma: Edward Madamombe sent a text from Mutare saying you were Home Affairs minister for donkey years under the ZANU PF regime and one of the root causes of Zimbabwe becoming a lawless country is the politicisation of Zimbabwe’s police force. Now his question is what did you do as Home Affairs minister to stop this?
Dabengwa: Well I don’t know whether he was born at that time or he was old enough but those who were able to notice the transformation of the police during the ten years I was minister of Home Affairs will remember that one of the things that I fought against was the politicisation of the police and I would not allow any policeman to interfere, any politicians to interfere with the police to the extent that some of my colleagues who tried to do so, and I was informed by the police, I just told them you should ignore them. As well as to the extent that if any politician did something wrong, the police did not choose, they gave them a ticket for it like traffic and so on.
Guma: How is it that we’ve got to the place we are right now where the police force has clearly been politicised? How has this happened?
Dabengwa: After I left the police I realised this actually happened and the police started getting instructions from the politicians which is wrong. They went back to exactly what had been happening before my time and I would never tolerate it.
If a politician came to a police station and demanded the release of somebody who had been arrested by the police I would tell my police they should never ever entertain them at all because the policeman has a right to carry out, he has a constitutional right to carry out his duty and if he arrests he is doing his duty. If he is doing it wrongly, it should be seen that he is going to answer in a court of law.
Guma: Do you think the current Home Affairs ministers have power to control the police or it’s basically the police commissioner now calling the shots?
Dabengwa: Well as I said, there’s been deterioration since I left and I think the politicians do what they like. You get policemen being told you go and arrest so-and-so, just lock them up and he’s kept there in the cells for a day or two days and released after that and they know nothing is going to happen. So there’s been deterioration and the police have really been politicised.
Guma: You lost parliamentary elections in the Nkulumane constituency to the late Gibson Sibanda from the then united MDC in 2000 and 2005. You were then quoted as saying the MDC would have won even if its candidate was a donkey. Sihle Moyo emailing from that same Nkulumane constituency wants to know if you still believe the same now that ZAPU has been reactivated.
Dabengwa: I did say that because everybody who was disgruntled with ZANU PF then and did not want to cast a vote for ZANU PF, they found themselves with no choice but to vote MDC but the situation has changed. The emergence of ZAPU into the scene gives people a choice to decide exactly which party would be able to serve their interests better and I think so far it has been very clear that most of those people who had no choice, now have a better choice to make their decision.
Guma: When Vice President Joseph Msika passed away in August 2009 there was intense speculation that Robert Mugabe offered you the vice presidency. Simbarashe Mutambirwa from Bindura wants to ask you if this was true and if you said no, what was the reason for saying no.
Dabengwa: I only read it or saw it in the media, no-one ever approached me about it and I would never have accepted it.
Guma: Now several media articles have speculated on the likelihood of you forming an alliance with Morgan Tsvangirai. Several listeners like Cousin Jorge Mike have sent in this question too and what is the likelihood of an alliance with either Tsvangirai or Welshman Ncube or even Simba Makoni from Mavambo?
Dabengwa: The decision of forming an alliance will depend entirely upon the people in ZAPU. They are the ones who decide but I think so far, as I understand them, they are not interested in going into any alliances until after the elections.
Guma: Would you think it strategic to take that position – not to form an alliance?
Dabengwa: Its only after the elections where they can decide if they want to have an alliance or a coalition arrangement with somebody, when they are doing so in their own master, the experience they have had in the alliance with ZANU PF makes them shudder at going into alliances that are not properly planned.
Guma: Honest Sibanda from Bulawayo says ZAPU suffers from the
perception that it is a regional or tribal party. The only ZAPU leader able to develop a national appeal was the late Joshua Nkomo up to date. Now his question is do you think ZAPU will be able to overcome this stereotype and make the party national in appeal?
Dabengwa: Well ZAPU has never been a regional party, right from the beginning and we don’t intend to make it a regional party. We said right from the beginning that we were going to follow the policies of ZAPU and that of being a national party is one of the foremost important policies that ZAPU has followed even when we held our first convention we had representatives coming from all over the country, from all the ten provinces and just now structures have been formed in all the provinces so how does it become regional?
Guma: I suppose there’s always a difference between perception and the reality. I’m sure you are aware that that is the perception?
Dabengwa: Yah the people have stuck to the colonial perception of dividing people into two ethnic groups, the Shona and the Ndebele and ZAPU is saying there is nothing like that, there’s no tribe called Shona, there’s a language called Shona. In the area which is so-called Mashonaland you get many tribes, you get the Korekore, you get the Zezuru, you get the Ndau, you get the Manyikas and you get the (inaudible) and so on.
So and similarly you get the so-called Matabeleland, you get the Kalanga, you get the Tonga, you getting the Namibians, you’re getting the Venda and so on. So we’ve many cultures in Zimbabwe, we’re not Shona and Ndebele.
Guma: Now Professor Stanford Mukasa from the United States sends an email saying from 1982 to 1985 Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade massacred over 20000 people in Matabeleland. During the general elections of 1985 and notwithstanding the brutality they suffered, the people of Matabeleland voted overwhelmingly for ZAPU which won all the seats in Matabeleland.
Now he then talks about the 1987 Unity Accord and the subsequent debate over whether ZAPU did the right thing or sold out. His question is once the ZAPU officials had got government positions under the Unity Accord; they abandoned the victims of the genocide and never fought for their rights. Why would or why should the people of Matabeleland now trust a revived ZAPU? That is his question.
Dabengwa: I suppose that was a sad era for Zimbabwe, an era where ZAPU found itself being forced to go into a marriage of convenience and speaking as one person who also participated in that unity arrangement, I mean at government, I did not participate in the negotiations. I came out of detention and they were almost through.
But having participated in the unity government that was formed thereafter I would say that efforts were made but these are some of the things that made people say – no, enough is enough, we think we have seen your efforts and that you are actually trying to milk a stone. The best thing is to get out of it and let’s go back to being what we were, to being ZAPU.
Guma: Now Chris Jarrett who is the chairman of the Southern African Commercial Farmers Alliance sent in this question. He says on the pretext that they were concealing arms of war on their properties, government in the early 1980s confiscated without compensation all of ZAPU’s farms, smallholdings and buildings.
One of these buildings is being used by government to this day. He then makes a comparison saying much later on in the early 2000s, we farmers had all our property seized by the same government also without compensation. He’s saying as far as they are aware, ZAPU at present is not taking any steps to recover these properties. What’s the issue on the seized ZAPU property? Any moves to recover them?
Dabengwa: Well it was a Congress resolution that the party should make an effort to recover all the assets that were confiscated by government at the time and a list of them I think has now been combined and I am sure that when we do have the resources and our lawyers look at how best this can be tackled. We’ll be able to make a move on that.
Guma: Still on the issue of land, what is your view on ZANU PF’s land redistribution policy? Various people have taken different positions on it challenging the methodology and things like that. In your view as ZAPU leader, what’s your attitude towards it?
Dabengwa: We’ve always said that the land distribution was chaotic and these are issues that will certainly need to be revisited when we review the issue of land. It cannot be left as it is, that’s something that will have to be gone into.
Guma: Sanderson Makombe sends in an email with a question on the death of David Coltart’s election agent, Patrick Nabanyama in 2000. Now the four people accused of kidnapping him say they took him to the home of Cain Nkala and was never seen since.
Now Nkala, also a war veteran unfortunately was also later murdered. Now all two gentlemen are former ZIPRA cadres and Sanderson’s question to you is what’s your understanding of what happened during that period?
Dabengwa: As much as I would like to find a solution to the disappearance of Nabanyama it happened in actual fact when I was minister of Home Affairs and I think I did everything possible to try and find out what actually had happened. I was not able; the police were not able to come up with any solution. It’s an issue that still worries me and I think those that are responsible were smart enough to ensure that they did not leave any marks, they could not be traced.
Guma: But what’s the main problem though because the four gentlemen who abducted him were caught, they were taken to court but because no body was found, they couldn’t be charged with murder, they were charged with kidnapping. Is it the Presidential Amnesty that was proclaimed in 2001 that’s the main stumbling block?
Dabengwa: No, it was a case of kidnapping and then he disappeared and as Coltart says, he is presumed dead by now, presumed dead, murdered but that’s a possibility yes and I want to believe that Coltart is right but the people that were arrested I think police investigations later on although the people had been arrested, police investigated so but they did not leave a clue as to what happened and they denied involvement.
There are people I’ve actually since met one of them out there and asked him what really happened; they say I can’t say what happened. I saw him yes at a certain place but as to what happened I don’t know. That’s why I’m saying that the case still worries me to this day in as much as the case involving Cain Nkala is concerned or the people who are supposed to have murdered him also later on set free and to this day they’ve not been charged.
Guma: Do you think maybe it was an inside job which is why it was difficult to catch anyone?
Dabengwa: It’s possible. It’s possible and one would be led to conclude that.
Guma: My final question for you Dr Dabengwa comes from Millicent Dube in Masvingo. She says the war vets leader Jabulani Sibanda has been on a tour of Manicaland and Masvingo provinces, essentially conducting a tour of terror, intimidating people to vote for ZANU PF. She just wants to get your reaction to what Sibanda is doing as a fellow war veteran. What do you make of that?
Dabengwa: All I know is that the ZIPRA War Veterans Trust who have been going on a campaign to try and stop particularly their former colleagues the war veterans to allow themselves to be used by political parties in meting out violence on the people.
I think if they’ve not gone, they will be going to Masvingo to try and address the issue of Jabulani’s campaign in Masvingo and I’m sure that they’ll be able to come out with a result. They’ve done that in the other districts and have managed to persuade the war veterans not to allow themselves to be used by political parties, to be used by political parties to mete out violence or intimidate people that they are supposed to be lobbying to vote for their party.
Guma: It’s interesting – Jabulani Sibanda is targeting Manicaland and Masvingo, he has not once had this campaign in Matabeleland and a lot of people are asking questions, why, why, why that?
Dabengwa: Ah well somebody is directing them for reasons best known to themselves. Those are the provinces that are being targeted and those are the provinces that ZAPU have also been quite active, probably to prevent ZAPU getting support in those provinces.
Guma: Well Dr Dabengwa it has been a pleasure having you on the programme. That Zimbabwe was the president of ZAPU, Dr Dabengwa joining us on Question Time. Thank you so much for your time.
Dabengwa: You’re welcome. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org http://twitter.com/lanceguma or http://www.facebook.com/lance.guma