Nelson Chamisa on Question Time

Nelson Chamisa, the new MDC-T National Organising Secretary, joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma on Question Time to answer questions sent in by listeners.

Chamisa explains why he decided to put himself forward for the post. He reacts to state media reports that Elias Mudzuri, who he defeated for the new post, will be quitting the party. He responds to questions on alleged tribalism in the party and the violence seen in the run-up to the congress and how they will deal with it.

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Lance Guma: The guest on Question Time is the new MDC national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa. We asked listeners to send in their questions in advance using Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email and text messages. Mr Chamisa joins us to answer those questions. First of all thank you for joining us on the programme and congratulations on the new post.

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Nelson Chamisa: Thank you, thank you very much Mr Guma, thank you so much.

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Guma: Right our first question comes from Antoinette in Beitbridge who says, and I quote: it was a bold move to leave the more glamorous post of party spokesman to want to become the national organising secretary – why did you take this decision?

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Chamisa: Well thank you very much, two things there. First of all, the deployment of cadres to various positions is not a matter of glamour or honour, it is a matter of responsibility (inaudible) to protect our organisation.

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So I must say that it’s not a question of choosing things that attract glitter and glamour for one but things that actually would make sure that we reach our destination, that is a new Zimbabwe and that we achieve our goal and our purpose that is to realise real change in Zimbabwe.

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But more importantly, which is my second point, in MDC, leaders are not there to ask for positions, they are given positions by the people whom they lead. We get deployed, we get assigned to various stations of duty by our members, in fact people are nominated from the provinces to pick and choose from those nominations which position they are supposed to then contest.

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In fact I only accepted the nomination that came from the provinces to say I should take up the position of organising, mobilising, educating, training, conscientising and making sure that the party itself is driven in terms of membership, in terms of structures and that position is not an easy one but who am to abscond the duty when duty calls?

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Guma: Now at the congress in Bulawayo you said you were like a horn of a cow with a defunct engine and you needed to be the engine of the party. You went further to say: it’s better to have a functional engine and a dead horn than to have a functional horn and a dead engine. Do you believe party structures were or are dead?

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Chamisa: Look, MDC is such a giant organisation, it’s such a big, big organisation. The party has grown ever since the split of the party, the party has even grown stronger, bigger and the membership is so huge that we have to make sure that the leadership capacity is commensurate with the demands and dictates of the base that is growing

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As it is we need to step up to the plate in terms of making sure that we enhance our structures, we mobilise our structures, we educate our structures, we also build on discipline, we build on protocol and those issues, in my view, have not been quite good.

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A case in point is our performance during the COPAC programme. A case in point is our performance during the Congress itself. Some of the challenges that we had are as a result of a clear and naked deficit of good protocol, good communication, good camaraderie and comradeship within the party, building that cadre who is round and polished.

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That is the kind of direction we must take so that at least when we are talking of a party of excellence it’s not a party of excellence on paper but in practise. When we are talking of a party of excellence we are not talking of a party of excellence in slogans or on rally posters, it is the party of excellence in reality, in deed and in action and that is what we are trying to do.

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You may also know that we have gained so much ground as a party yet there is still yet some more ground to cover. We are on the journey to the promised land, we can see, we can point to it but we are not all yet there and the only reason we are going to give Zimbabweans a country they deserve, a better Zimbabwe and a new Zimbabwe where governance, where vision, where leadership is not in short supply is when we build a strong movement.

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And this is why it is important that we build those forces for change through our leadership, through our membership, making sure that we galvanise the entire country. Have a proper membership database, have proper structures that are functional, that are able to debate issues, that are very dynamic and robust. Have a radical youth wing, have a visible women’s assembly.

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Those are the issues that I’m supposed to deal with and I feel that the task before us is that task that is not going to surpass our capacity. We are going to be able to deal with each issue and that is why I think it’s a great moment for the party, it’s an exciting opportunity for the party to make sure that we organise and mobilise, we communicate and perform so that indeed we become a party of excellence.

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Guma: The run-up to the third MDC Congress was marred by several incidents of violence where youths aligned to rival party candidates turned on each other, several elections had to be re-done after they were disrupted. Now most of our listeners sent in questions centred on this: Trymore texting us from Murewa for instance wants to know why all these disturbances took place and what the party or you as the new national organising secretary will do about this.

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Chamisa: Well I’ll answer those questions in two parts. The first part is in three sections: first of all you must understand in terms of what caused the issues. The issues were caused by exogenous and extrinsic forces or factors and in this case, we point our finger at ZANU PF. They are the ones who were trying to disrupt and destabilise our structures from the branch level.

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Fortunately they’ve not succeeded. They try to contaminate our basket of good apples. You know that in any basket of good apples you always have those that are affected by the virus of ZANU PF. We actually are happy that those have been flushed out, those have been guarded against to the extent that we had to deal with them and we have to expose them, particularly in Bulawayo and also in some cases in Manicaland and partly in Harare.

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But I also want to emphasise the second point that there’s been over-dramatisation of the disturbances in the party. This has not been an ubiquitous phenomenon, these are issues, that is the cases of disturbance that were not quite pervasive, they were in isolated areas and the reason why they were there is because of what I have already referred to as exogenous factors, obviously ZANU PF being the point there.

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But then the third issue which is also important is the fact that we still have cultural issues to deal with, the character of our movement, the character of a people’s party of excellence should be such that you don’t have people who use violence or anarchy or chaos as a way of organising or as a way of transacting political business.

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It’s a culture alien to the MDC but it is a culture that has been imported from ZANU PF by certain elements. So this is (inaudible) within the organising department to make sure we build distinct and unique character as a party that is premised on value of peace, tranquillity, values of cross-pollination of ideas, values of not being disciples of personalities but disciples of issues. Values of looking at principles and not the principal.

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This is what we have to deal with in terms of debunking and expulsion from the people’s minds certain notions that belong to the politics of darkness, politics of deification and worshipping individuals – that is the character of ZANU PF. The character of the MDC is quite opposed to that and this is part of the reason why I feel that I have a duty, the pastoral duty to go and lecture, to go and preach that message.

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That message of making sure that we move away from just personality cult but to the cult of issues so we are just not looking at people who are soft-liners or hardliners but people who are ‘logic-liners’, people who follow the logic of the values and principles of the movement. And that is the reason why you found that most of the people who had problems they are actually victims of this old culture, of this mentality.

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These are people we are trying to deal with and we want to make sure that in all circumstances, this demon of ZANU PF is exorcised from the structures of the party and the people of the party.

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The second part of my response is that in terms of what we are going to be doing as we move forward, you must also realise that part of the reason why people were so energetic in their issues is because the party is (inaudible) the party is almost going to win the next election hands down and everybody is seeing that we have a train that is about to get to the destination so they would want to be part of either the drivers or the passengers and those who will fail to do so would do so using even uncouth mechanisms to cling onto this moving train.

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Some people will even cling onto the tail (inaudible) the table and the MDC is certainly going to win an election. It is the only dominant and existing political song in Zimbabwe and that has caused a lot of pressure; people feel that they want to be part of the winning team, they want to be part of this team that is almost succeeding.

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But what I want to emphasise Mr Guma is that in terms of resolving our issues, we have resolved as a national council, resolved as the Congress that all those people who were personally or impersonally, directly or indirectly involved in disturbances, vicariously or otherwise are going to be dealt with in very swift circumstances.

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In fact that precision of a butcher’s cleaver slicing meat and bone is what is going to be the case and the fate of whoever is going to be found to have been involved in problems. Like I said before, ZANU PF had a hand to play, there are stakeholders in MDC because they would want to destabilise our democratic train.

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They know that it’s the only hope for the people of Zimbabwe, to frustrate the hope of the people of Zimbabwe. So whoever was involved in this thing are dealt with and we have said we are going to do two things: the organising department (inaudible) the issues thoroughly, investigate what happened but we are also going to have an independent enquiry to ascertain who were the role players, the main actors in these issues within the party and also outside the party because you must also realise that there were agents that were then used or people who became willing players and willing tools to ZANU PF’s shenanigans and machinations.

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Those people we are going to flush out, not out of vindictive politics because our diktat in organising is that to add is to strengthen and to subtract is to weaken. We are not going to throw away members, we make sure that we add as many members as possible, including those in ZANU PF.

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Those who voted for us in parliament, yes those who are disgruntled by ZANU PF politics of darkness, yes those who feel that they have been let down by other smaller political parties we want to make sure that we open our arms, we open our doors, we make sure they have appropriate seats in this democratic train. So that is what we are going to do.

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The second point is also going to be an educational programme so that people are clear in terms of the new genre of politics we are trying to introduce in this country. You know it is just not politics of hatred, politics of acrimony, it has to be politics of harmony, politics of cross-pollination of ideas. You differ, there’s diversity but in magnanimity you differ but with happiness so that you have happy differences, you have convivial and jovial differences. That is the kind of direction we are taking.

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Guma: Several questions have come from people in the MDC structures in South Africa, the UK and the United States and the question is why were MDC external assemblies blocked from nominating candidates to the congress?

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Chamisa: Well they were not blocked at all. It was only because I think there was a communication breakdown, they waited until it was too late, only to see their complaints in the newspaper. We have since communicated to the structures to say that in the future we don’t take lightly communication that is done through the press.

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The party has clear communication protocol, the protocols, the party has very clear internal structures to deal with any kind of discomfort by or to any member and that was not followed. So it’s not as if they were stopped from nominating, in fact there was active and visible participation of external structures here in Bulawayo at the Congress.

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South Africa was represented, the UK represented and the external assembly in the US, quite represented. In fact there was very active through resolutions we took, through the constitutional debates we had and even the Congress itself. It was quite a happy affair so I don’t know where the continued complaints have come from because the thing has since been resolved.

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Guma: The state owned media have been running stories suggesting Elias Mudzuri, the man you replaced as national organising secretary will be making an announcement in the near future that he is quitting the MDC. Have you been told anything remotely close to this?

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Chamisa: Well look – we have just had a very successful congress; a congress that emphasised the health and richness of our internal party democracy. A congress that defined the excellence that we continue to brag about and to beat about our chests.

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We have had a congress that has defined that in MDC it is possible for brothers to contest and have a winner and also have the one who assists the winner, accepting that there is indeed a winner and that has the been the character we are also, show the character we are trying to build as a movement.

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Like I said, we belong to alternative politics, we belong to alternative approaches in politics. Ours is politics of peaceful co-existence. I have no reason to believe that my brother Engineer Mudzuri would have any reason to behave in a manner that is not consistent with the tradition of the movement.

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When people get re-deployed in positions, it’s not out of lack of confidence, it’s just out of re-arrangement of the deck in order to make sure that we strengthen our forces, we also put our ducks in a row and we are on all fours in terms of the thrust and momentum we would want to build for our struggle.

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Engineer Mudzuri is going to be very useful as a member, he’s experienced as a mayor, he’s experienced as the organising secretary. His knowledge as a graduate, he’s one of our very profound and strong intellectuals in the party whom we feel are going to be very useful to this movement.

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You know this movement is not going to be strengthened by an individual character, it’s going to be out of our collective strength, out of our collective wisdom and our collective experience that we will be able to move this party forward.

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So yes, that would be the wish of ZANU PF but I don’t feel and I don’t think that Engineer Mudzuri would want to give credit or accolades to ZANU PF for free, whatever makes ZANU PF go mad is what is good for us as a party and I know that Engineer Mudzuri understands that and would not have any reason to behave in a manner that would make ZANU PF smile.

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Guma: Funny you should talk about Mudzuri being re-deployed by the party – the next email is from a guy called Wiseman – he says are there any plans to appoint Mudzuri to any position within the party than leaving him as an ordinary card carrying member?

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Wiseman goes on to say his CV is too strong to just let him go and he cites the fact that he’s a former mayor, former Energy Minister and a former organising secretary – so what’s your answer for Wiseman there?

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Chamisa: Wiseman seems to have read my mind before I even answered. It’s quite clear that we believe in horses for courses in the MDC. We believe that there’s no human being worth throwing away. All human beings are born for a reason, this is why we are created in our millions if not billions because we have unique and distinct competencies.

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We hope that we are going to create a feeling and a chemistry of those competencies for the common good of the party. Engineer Mudzuri has so many distinct advantages that some of us may not possess or that some of us may not even carry. We want to make sure that we leverage on those advantages, we leverage on those points of strength and merit so that we move forward.

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As you may know, in MDC we believe in servant leadership, we believe in meritocratic leadership. Leadership is supposed to be on the basis of merit, leadership is on the basis of capacity and also on the basis of serving the people so this is nothing personal. It’s just like what I said in the Labour party where you had Ed and Dave competing for the leadership of the Labour party.

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That is the kind of culture we would want to cultivate in the MDC. Who knows, next time perhaps Chamisa gets there with the energy, I get too tired too quickly, I would then leave it to my brother Engineer Mudzuri to take over and complete the journey. It is all about team spirit, it is all about camaraderie, it’s all about comradeship and cadre-ship.

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As we move forward we are going to be complimenting one another in terms of the path we are taking. So nobody has been thrown out of the boat. We are not so stupid as to donate any single body to the sharks of ZANU PF. We are not so stupid as to just donate any single body to the crocodiles in ZANU PF. We are quite clear as to why we should remain united because unity is going to be the winning formula for the party.

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Guma: We have received a statement from Dr Simba Makoni’s Mavambo Kusile Dawn party claiming the MDC Congress was all about an advancement of the Shona over the Ndebele. They are claiming that the party is run along tribal lines. What’s your reaction to those accusations?

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Chamisa: Oh I feel sorry for Mr Makoni. Mr Makoni has not been focussing on issues; he’s clearly shown that he is out of depth on issues; he is out of focus in terms of the expectations of the people of Zimbabwe. He has clearly been rejected by the people of Zimbabwe because his politics is contaminated, his politics is not quite different to the politics of ZANU PF and I think he should not then try to locate his mischief or his misfortunes in the politics of the MDC.

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Our party stands above the politics of tribe; we are detribalised in our approach, we believe that leaders should be voted in on the basis of both merit and also the balance of all the four corners of Zimbabwe and this is why we have made sure that meritocratically and also geographically we are a balanced leadership.

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And I must say that this is why you find leaders like Honourable Thokozani Khupe our vice president and also Honourable (Lovemore) Moyo our national chairman who were overwhelmingly voted by our delegates.

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Probably the highest number of votes not on the basis of tribe but on the basis of their merit and also on the basis that we would want to see a leadership that has a reflection of that rainbowness of our nation. The mosaic character of our being and that has been reflected.

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You come here in Zimbabwe, you chat with each and every individual I think Mr Simba Makoni is the only person who is not comfortable with this Congress. There are celebrations on the streets, there are celebrations in the bars, in the churches celebrating the MDC Congress for the internal party democracy, for the secrecy of the ballot, for the way these elections have been managed and also the way we have managed our campaign and we would say to Mr Simba Makoni – please learn from the MDC and earn your respect rather than to try and attack the MDC without full facts.

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That would simply ensure that he is distanced further away from the wishes and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe. So these are just remarks by Mr Makoni I think as a way of trying to seek relevance but it’s unfortunate that he’s trying to raise a tribal card which he cannot obviously competently raise considering the character of his movement if there’s any movement to talk about.

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Guma: That’s the new MDC national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa joining us on Question Time to take your questions. Mr Chamisa thank you very much for joining us.

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Chamisa: Thank you.

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Feedback can be sent to lance@swradioafrica.com http://twitter.com/lanceguma or http://www.facebook.com/lance.guma

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