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Wednesday, 13 June 2007
MS JENNI WILLIAMS, MR CHENJERAI HOVE AND PROF STAN MUKASA ON SWRADIOAFRICA!!!
Broadcast on Tuesday 12 June
Violet Gonda: The discussion on the programme Hot Seat this week centres on the issue of talks and elections and whether or not there are alternatives to talks and elections. My guests on the programme are Jenni Williams, the co-ordinator of the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwean poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and Professor Stanford Mukasa, a political commentator. Welcome on the programme Hot Seat.
All: Thank you
Violet: I’m going to start with Jenni on the issue of the talks and also the elections that are scheduled for next year. What is the feeling on the ground on these two issues?
Jenni Williams: On the issue of an election, you know, as far as we’re concerned as members of WOZA and MOZA, and, just as ordinary Zimbabweans, to have an election in a climate where you are starving, where 4000 people are dying every day, is totally irrelevant. And, right now I don’t know whether anyone is even pre-occupied or thinking or even looking forward to the day of any election and even thinking they will leave their homes for that day. So an election and even the discourse about an election is pretty irrelevant. We are just looking at how to survive today. On the issue of talks we have a little bit of a slightly different reaction because the situation; the cost of living, everything is just tough and so people are just saying: “Today, how am I going to survive. Let me spend a little bit of today thinking about how we can put pressure to make this Mbeki initiative at least become something close to being genuine and, if don’t do something like that, I know what will happen. It will be a repeat of the deals before, Lancaster House and others where politicians speak at a level that is totally irrelevant and then cut political deals in our name, and then we end up with nothing. So I have got to be able to have some voice, some recognition, some acknowledgement on that table if I might find that tomorrow will be a bit easier for me.”
Violet: And you were arrested in Bulawayo last week together with 7 other women and just on Monday about 150 WOZA women were arrested after they handed themselves in at the Filabusi Police Station. Now, your group has been holding demonstrations, or trying to, for inclusion in these talks. Are any of these demonstrations having any impact on the talks?
Jenni Williams: Well, I don’t know if we actually want to be included in the talks. I think our role is more to project what should be on the agenda of the talks, and that is more what we are pre-occupied with. We do not think that sitting right directly there will be time well spent because our role is a watchdog role. We need to be on the sidelines pushing an agenda on and then making sure that those discussions and the discourse and the issues that we want addressed are addressed in the talks. If they are not addressed we then are still free and have that arms length role to be able to keep insisting and keep pushing and keep on making sure our issues are being more genuinely discussed. So I think that is our role as WOZA. We recognise that role, all our members understand it very well and that’s why we are able to mobilise them to keep active and to keep putting pressure.
Violet : And what should be on the agenda?
Jenni Williams : It should be dealing with the socio economic crisis. We have our ten steps that we have recommended and in each of those ten steps, if they are progressively done, we will be able to have a better climate and then we will be interested in talking about an election. Until we get those ten steps addressed and until we have a better climate, until all the unjust laws have been repealed and until we have done an audit of the civil servants and disbanded the Law and Order, we won’t be able to have a climate where a truly free and fair election with one man/one woman one vote can be conducted and give us a now independent and fresh start for Zimbabweans.
Violet: The continued arrests and beatings of Opposition and rights defenders have left many to question the validity of the Mbeki led negotiations and also the participation of the MDC in the talks. Now, some ask how can we allow talks to take place while Mugabe is given free reign to put his violence and rigging machinery in place. What do you say to this?
Jenni Williams : Well, again, it’s a matter of agenda and mandate. You know the MDC should actually be able to look at on what basis they will go into the talks and they should be able to envision and come up with the climate that they need for those talks to be conducted. If it’s the freedom of all their members in custody, if it’s a different environment, it’s their agenda to press for that. We are not interested in pursuing their agenda or even a ZANU agenda. We are only interested in pursuing our agenda; that we need for what will be discussed when those talks take place. And, if Mbeki is to be a fair arbitrator and also a genuine mediator, he will also be pressing from his angle that those talks should be able to engage the issues that would make Zimbabwe liveable.
Violet : And, Mr Hove, what are your views on these talks?
Chenjerai Hove: I think the talks should be all-inclusive. By that I mean that it is no longer possible for political parties to deal with the situation in Zimbabwe . It is important that all interested parties should be included in these talks so that they don’t seem to be pushing party political agendas. They have to be inclusive; everybody: WOZA, MDC, the constitutional movement, the youth, Lawyers for Human Rights, they must be included in these talks if they are going to be substantial talks.
Violet: But the Opposition has said that these other stakeholders would be included in these talks and this is just a preliminary stage.
Chenjerai Hove: Yes, yes, it’s better to include everybody in the preliminary stage because you have to draft the agenda, you have to get all the items on the table which are coming from everybody and then you go on. Otherwise you can’t take people or some other people on half way through the journey. So I think it’s important that we realise that this is a national crisis which is political, social, economic and cultural. It must include everybody who has a stake in what we want to do for our country.
Violet: Now, some Zimbabweans say that this is déjà vu and that they have seen this happen with ZANU and ZAPU, so how can the MDC ensure that they don’t suffer the same fate?
Chenjerai Hove: Yes, the MDC has to be cautious that’s why I am talking about an all inclusive discussion table, because ZAPU went in as ZAPU and it was swallowed by ZANU PF. Now, if they went on as MDC, MDC now are going in as a minor partner in the discussion because ZANU will say ‘Oh no, look, you don’t have many seats in parliament, you are a minor partner, you don’t have much negotiating power’, which was the same with ZAPU. But if you include everybody else, the Churches, all the Women’s’ organisations, Men’s organisations, Lawyers for Human Rights, Women for Human Rights, then the risk of being swallowed by ZANU PF and put on the ZANU PF train will be less; will be reduced.
Violet: And also, Mr Hove, what about the situation on the ground right now that is worsening, so while people are talking about talks, Mugabe is carrying on with what he’s always done for seven years especially, you know beating up opponents, arresting opponents. Now, shouldn’t that be a precondition to talks, you know to stop the violence, to stop the arrests?
Chenjerai Hove: The violence definitely has to stop. I think Mr Mbeki, if he wants to be seen as a serious negotiator; facilitator, he should make sure that he clearly tells President Mugabe that this has to stop. You can’t negotiate while you are killing the other negotiating partners, you are torturing them, people are being disappeared and being people are being imprisoned. So that violence has to stop and that negotiation table must include a lot of basic changes. The laws which have been made to safeguard Mugabe’s power; ZANU PF’s power; must be on the table and those have to be removed. Electoral laws, POSA; all those laws just make it impossible to have no violence in the country. So, if those are put aside and negotiations are done on that basis; a genuine basis. Because, if you look at what happened to Ian Smith, for example, it was one South African President who said ‘if you don’t negotiate with the blacks in Zimbabwe, the consequences are going to be too ghastly to contemplate and this is exactly what Mbeki must tell Mugabe.
Violet: And now, Professor Mukasa, you know there are those who believe that Mugabe is using delaying tactics and that the MDC seems to be following his agenda and that it’s becoming like a daily pilgrimage for the Opposition going to South Africa . Now, are there an alternative to talks and is the initiative becoming a waste of time?
Professor Mukasa : Yes, of course there are alternatives to talks but those alternatives are aimed at bringing pressure. Ultimately, any conflict is resolved at a conference table. The problem with the present talks is that Mugabe’s agenda is likely to prevail simply because MDC does not have any bargaining power at all. You see, if you go to a conference table and you have nothing on your side to show that you are also strong, you are going to be swallowed up by the other person’s agenda. Right now, I was talking to an MDC official the other day who said ‘well, if you can suggest alternatives to participating in elections, let us know’. You see that’s a tacit admission that we don’t have any bargaining power because going to the conference table is tantamount to power politics. You know, people who sit and face each other across the table, each must have what I may call a stick, a power base which can make their demands credible and believable from the other person’s perspective. When ZANU engaged in a dialogue with Ian Smith, it was against the background of each partner, each group, having a power base. Now, the power base for the MDC is obviously the civil society and what is needed now is to create that kind of environment that will make it clear; unequivocally clear; that he does not posses all the power. Mugabe, right now, is dependent on the military power he thinks he can wield at any time he wants to.
What MDC needs to do now is to link up with the rest of the civil society and make it clear to Mugabe that if he does not accede to the basic demands; demands like just social equities, you know, the basic necessities that Jenni talked about; the need to bring about free and fair elections, the need to bring back the Rule of Law, the need to bring back true democracy and the kinds of economic reforms that are needed to make Zimbabweans move forward and make Zimbabweans feel there is something for them in this post-colonial era. Unless MDC can marshal that power and strength; that power base, they are going as junior partners to the conference table with Mugabe. And, Mugabe can postpone the talks as much as he wants, and even if he were to come to the conference table, he is not likely to take those talks seriously because he has got so much confidence in this own power base.
And, one thing that must be recognised is that, the agenda for talks; according to Mugabe; is not to save Zimbabwe , but to save himself; to save himself from the kinds of prosecutions that could arise. Mugabe has lost interest in the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe , Mugabe has no vested interest in bringing back free and fair elections. He knows what’s going to happen to him. Free and fair elections are going to be a death knell to him politically and in terms of his career and his party. And, he knows what lies ahead for him if the Rule of Law is ever to return to Zimbabwe . So, he has a power base, namely the military, and because he does not believe that the talks as envisaged by the MDC and Mbeki and the International Community will work to his interest. He is going to hold out. He has survived for seven years now and he feels he can hold out indefinitely. So, what is needed right now, I wouldn’t talk about alternatives to talks, I would talk about developing a power base in order to become a real force at the talks or to force Mugabe to move away from his agenda of self survival to the agenda for the survival of the nation.
Violet: But how do they do that exactly because some say both the Opposition and the general civic society have failed to develop meaningful rhetoric free programmes which would deliver tangible immediate outcomes. So, what suggestions can you give?
Professor Mukasa: Well, then you have to start asking yourself
Jenni: If I can also come in here?
Violet : Yes
Jenni Williams: The one thing that we recognise, if MDC definitely thought they had to go to a table with bargaining power and a power base, they would have consulted civic society; they would have gone to the communities. They have not done that. So the first thing that needs to be done, is that anyone who calls themselves a civic or political leader needs to re-examine their agenda and ask themselves whether they are in it for the long haul or they are just in it for personal enrichment and positions and the glory. If they are please its time for them to please step aside. We need people who are going to understand they must be in this for reform and a real transitional process and not a quick fix. If we then have those kind of people then those people will be more inclined to go and develop a power base, to go and engage people, to genuinely meet with WOZA, to genuinely meet with other mass based movements and say, OK, how can we now unite, how can we come together, what memorandum of understanding can we come up with and then we will go forward. That is the kind of solution but with the current crop that you have I don’t know if those people even have the intention to respect someone enough to ask them what is it and how can we work together to have a power base and give us more bargaining power and that is the grade zero of the whole problem
Violet: Now Jenni still on that issue about consultation. Now as I said earlier, your group has been embarking on these demonstrations, but have you had any response from the MDC?
Jenni Williams : No, we don’t engage with them, they don’t engage with us, which is actually a very sad thing that I have to admit and it’s the truth and so I don’t mind. But I can tell you that the other problem here that is coming and that is not actually seen, is we who are in the communities, we understand, we hear the heartbeat of the communities, ZANU have already begun their election campaigning two months ago. MDC mustn’t be surprised if an earlier election is called so that basically ZANU will present Mbeki with a fait accompli and that will be that. Where are MDC? Pre-occupied talking about talks; amongst themselves and not in a consultative process to develop a power base. And so, do you see where this is going?
Violet : Now Mr Hove, can you give us your thoughts. We know that there is in-fighting in the MDC and many people say that this is the reason that Mugabe continues to stay in power because the Opposition forces are fighting amongst each other. And now, as Jenni has told us, even within the civic society people are not, you know, consulting or working as one. What can you say about this?
Chenjerai Hove: Yes, I think the problem, one of the big problems we have in the country, which we have had for some time, is the factionalism. Zimbabweans are specialists in creating factions out of every organisation and that fragmentation is costly. That fragmentation is going to disrupt the whole democratic programme. Why shouldn’t people and organisations be talking to each other about this, and say ‘OK, we want to get our act together, we go there together, we go there as a big power base to negotiate and we tell Thabo Mbeki that we have all these organisations, as what happened in South Africa, for example, the United Democratic Front which brought in the Churches, the different political movements, the Labour Unions, brought them together and they were a power base. They were very important for change in South Africa . Now we, in Zimbabwe , we tend to concentrate on very petty things and forget the bigger picture and that has cost us a lot at very crucial moments.
Violet: And what are your views on this Professor Mukasa? Because it seems Zimbabwe has become highly polarised and divided. How can these Opposition forces or rather pro-democracy be united? Or rather, is there a need for them to work together?
Professor Mukasa : Ok, two things first. One, some people have talked about the unity of Opposition forces into one anti Mugabe struggling mass. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the physical unity. I think it’s good for the Opposition forces to exist in their individual entities because those are the seeds for multi party democracy in future. What is needed is a common strategy. Let all the different parties in the civic society movement sort of be co-ordinated in their actions. So that when there is a ZCTU demonstration, let it not be a ZCTU demonstration, let it be a peoples’ demonstration. When there is a WOZA demonstration, let it not be a WOZA demonstration, let it be a peoples’ demonstration so that the fight for one becomes the fight for all. So, two strategies are needed here. One, and this is immediate and very important, is that the Broad Alliance which had been mooted some time in the past, it must be given an extra strength to co-ordinate the activities, so that when the ZCTU people are on strike everybody should participate. Just because the demonstration has been called by ZCTU, or by WOZA or MOZA it should not remain an exclusive activity of that particular agency. Everybody should join in. That’s very very important.
And, when anybody is arrested, when anybody is victimised, whether it’s in the ZCTU or the MDC or whatever, it should be a concern for all Zimbabweans. So it should be one fight for all. But, let the different entities exist in their own ideological enclave because that will give seeds. Those are the seeds for a multi party democracy once Mugabe is overthrown. If everybody was to unite under one party, you know, that will easily lend itself to the post Mugabe trend towards a one party type of political system.
The most important thing right now by way of developing a power base is that the Opposition movement must strategise. They must actually sit down and have a weekend seminar somewhere, it does not have to be in Zimbabwe, they can go to neighbouring Botswana, and sit down and say ‘look here are some practical steps that we must take by way of developing a power base; a source of influence on Mugabe that will push Mugabe. Mugabe right now is dilly-dallying, Mugabe is taking his time, Mugabe is not serious about the talks because he knows the Opposition is so divided that they cannot come together to consolidate their strategies, they cannot co-ordinate their work. This is where the MDC needs to review their tactics.
In 1963 after the Sharpeville massacre, Nelson Mandela stood up and said ‘look, we have tried all this non-violent and peaceful strategies and the time has come for us to ask ourselves very serious questions. Now, I’m not saying that the Opposition should engage itself in any violent activity, but they should from time to time be reviewing their strategies. One thing that amazes me and impresses me about WOZA is that they are very creative, innovative, they are always coming up with new strategies to beat Mugabe, and, they have been very successful. So let us learn from each other, you know, where ZCTU is looking at why their efforts have not been that successful, they should also learn from how the other groups has been successful.
Violet: But Professor Mukasa, why do you think these other groups have not picked up on those strategies that you’ve talked about?
Professor Mukasa : That is the question that is the challenge now for these other groups. They should not be so stuck on saying like; I think it was Welshman Ncube who said it one time who said ‘look we have no alternative but just to go on with the elections’ you know, agitating - when he was defending his decision to go to participate in the Senate elections. Now, that’s a defeatist attitude you know. The history of revolutions, if you are to study the history of revolutions, they never started successfully. The very first Chinhoyi battle that was waged by ZANU PF, all the members at Chinhoyi, they were all wiped out but they did not sit back and say ‘well we tried it and we failed’. Some of the most successful revolutions had very poor starts – the regimes were so effective in wiping them out but they didn’t sit back and say well we have tried the best thing is to talk to them. No.
Violet : Professor Mukasa, before you carry on and before I go to Jenni and Mr Hove, on the issue of elections that you have just talked about, what else can people do besides going to the elections?
Professor Mukasa: Well, what people need to do is to agitate for their rights. The elections are, in the present environment, the elections are not going to give people what they want. I mean since 2000 every single election has been rigged and we know it. You can be as sure as the sun comes from the east and sets in the west that the next elections are going to be rigged as well. So its foolishness just to keep on doing the same things and hoping you’ll get results. I think the strategy now is to develop what I call a power base to be able to make it clear to Mugabe that if you don’t accede to our demands we are prepared to go to the streets.
Some people have given up on mass action, I have not. And, I believe that the Zimbabweans will arise, and that they are able and that they are willing. And, in fact, if rumours are true, Mugabe’s Security Chiefs have reportedly told him that the people are now ready and willing to overthrow him through mass action. Whether that is true or not we don’t know, but the fact of the matter is that what is needed now is that kind of leadership that will mobilise the people; not the leadership that will just sit by the rivers of Babylon and just moan their failures and weep. But, we need leadership that are creative, that are very innovative, that are always constantly reviewing their strategies. If something did not go well in the past we have to sit down and ask ‘why did it not go well’. I believe right now that the people of Zimbabwe are ready and willing and able to be mobilised into real demonstrations. I mean WOZA is a model, is a text book case that shows that people are ready and willing. What we need now is the kind of resolute leadership that will take that extra step and say ‘look we have to show Mugabe by demonstrations, by what I call a civil disobedience campaign. It doesn’t necessarily involve mobilising thousands of people onto the streets but there are many, many strategies that can be engaged in and that is what Mugabe is fearful of. He’s afraid that there will come a day when the Opposition movement will have that kind of a leader who will mobilise people into a systematic and purposeful civil disobedience campaign.
Violet: Let me ask Jenni about this. Why isn’t this happening? You are on the ground and you mentioned the problems of the leadership, what really is the problem?
Why aren’t these organisations, including your organisation, why aren’t you all working together? Professor Mukasa talked about the MDC Opposition detainees that were in custody, and some of them spent more than 65 days in police custody and there were no demonstrations from any of the other organisations demanding their release. The WOZA women are always getting beaten or brutalised or arrested and we don’t hear other organisations issuing statements condemning the arrests. Why is it like that?
Jenni Williams: It’s the fear of the baton stick, the baton stick syndrome, and I know it because I am actually amongst people and people fear very much when that riot policeman gets off his vehicle wearing his chamber pot helmet and he lifts his baton stick people fear that very much. And we do a lot of training to ask people to overcome fear and we recognise that we still now have to take another step in our training programme, in our curriculum development to try and find a way to train people to overcome the fear of that baton stick. That is number one, for us as WOZA.
But with other organisations and other political parties, they fear that time in custody. They don’t want to be in the dirt, they don’t want to have lice in their hair like I’ve currently got, and they fear all those sorts of things. But sometimes the things that you most fear are the things that you need to do if you want to be free, and we need to come to that stage where we realise that. But then, the other thing that also comes into play, and it needs a lot more discussion; it needs analysis examination is this issue of non-violence.
With us; as a non violent organisation; we are developing a worry, a concern when we are called by other organisations to join them in the streets and it is primarily because of our commitment to non violence. WOZA people are trained, we 100% endorse non-violence as the way that we are going to remove this violent regime. But, other organisations have not developed that commitment, have not developed that ability to be as brave to say, in response to your violence, I will sit down, in response to your violence I will hand myself in, in solidarity. They haven’t got that and so it makes us very reluctant to join in with people who might respond violently and destroy a reputation that we have actually suffered five years to build.
There needs to be an understanding that non-violence is not your response to violence. It’s a sustained campaign of strengthening the psyche of a people who want to be more dignified. And if people start to recognise that and commit to non violence; I have been with Morgan Tsvangirai and I’ve asked him ‘can you commit to non-violence’ and I’ve not gotten a clear answer. I’ve seen NCA demos do they commit to non-violence? No, we don’t see that. ZCTU maybe they commit to non violence but there’s no sustained training and curriculum development that allows someone to say ‘I am a non violent human rights defender and because of that, under the United Nations as long as I maintain non violence and universality, I have that protection. And that will act like a shield to protect people so that they don’t fear the baton stick as much.
Violet Gonda: And I’m going to pause here for this week but join us next Tuesday for the last part of this discussion with Professor Stanford Mukasa, Jenni Williams and Chenjerai Hove.
SW Radio Africa transcript
HOT SEAT INTERVIEW: Jenni Williams, Chenjerai Hove and Stan Mukasa (final segment )
On the programme Hot Seat, journalist Violet Gonda talks to human rights campaigner Jenni Williams, poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and political commentator Professor Stanford Mukasa
Broadcast on 19 June, 2007
Click here to see part 1 of this interview Broadcast on 12 June 2007
Violet: And we welcome again on the programme are Jenni Williams from WOZA, Chenjerai Hove a poet and writer and Professor Stanford Mukasa, a political commentator. We continue from last week where Jenni ended by saying there is no common vision and no dialogue amongst the pro-democracy groups. She said Opposition and some of the civic groups have not shown commitment to a non violent campaign like her group. I then asked Jenni to explain this further.
Just how different are your forms of resistance as the MDC and the NCA have embarked on similar protests?
Jenni Williams: It’s committed to a sustained non violent campaign and to not mobilise for an event, a protest, but to mobilise people to a non violent struggle and there I agree precisely with Professor Mukasa. It’s to mobilise people on a daily basis, develop forms of resistance that they and their family and friends can be involved in. To help build that courage in them on a day to day basis, and, while they are building that courage you then take them out into high risk demonstrations, they then come back from that, they evaluate how did they behave, how did they overcome their fear. Take them back into other forms smaller, flyering, engaging with police officers, street dramas; many different things that help people develop their courage level and engage in a daily struggle rather than just an event. There is the difference.
Violet: Now, let me go to Mr Hove and the issue of elections. Should the MDC participate in elections next year because, as Jenni said earlier, either way elections are going to happen next year and Mugabe may even push them forward. Now the MDC has said they will not participate if their demands are not met. But, if the MDC don’t participate in elections, small parties will participate like what we have seen in Zaka East where there was a low turnout but elections still took place and these small parties participated in those elections. So is this a lose / lose situation for the Opposition?
Chenjerai Hove : Well, what Mugabe actually wants at the moment is to have an election during which the MDC itself is fragmented into two factions; the other civic organisations are also on their own on little constituencies and without any united force. He wants to have the elections in that sort of situation as quickly as possible. And of course, that is another strategy; there are so many ways of rigging elections and that’s one of the strategies. He might call an election tomorrow and fairly and squarely, without all these organisations coming together, the Opposition will lose. So, we have to realise that elections can be called but if the Opposition, all the civic organisations and politicians – this is no longer a political agenda - it’s a social movement which must come to the front and be able to present an agenda and be able to even include non political, non politician candidates. So that this regime cannot be removed by fragmented institutions and organisations. So, and Mugabe would want them to be as fragmented as possible and this is one of our problems, we tend to rely too much on our fiefdoms instead of sitting down among the Opposition and say ‘listen, let’s sit down and talk about violence, about these things, about how do we overcome this problem’. So people are shouting at each other from different windows and no orchestra happens.
Violet: And what about on the issue of strategies for civil disobedience? What about the actions that have been taken by WOZA activists? Do you think that this is a sign that there will be a kind of a vicious revolt from the grassroots movement?
Chenjerai Hove: It could be. You see, WOZA have been very creative in what they have been doing but my fear is that the whole nation now has lost patience and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an uncontrolled eruption of violence especially from young people who have no jobs, who have qualifications and who have been to school. So that could be a very, very dangerous possibility.
Violet: Because also, you have to ask, and Jenni was talking about the other groups not committing themselves to, you know, non violent strategies. But what do you do when you have a violent police force, violent soldiers who are actually the perpetrators. How do you respond in a situation like that?
Chenjerai Hove : So for me, it is very difficult for any organisation in Zimbabwe at the moment to guarantee that there will not be any violence. If a police man pops in at my house and beats me in my house, I cannot just sit down and say ‘OK, you know, I’m non violent, I sit down’ so, it’s a violent situation which breeds more violence from people who respond. So it’s a very difficult, it’s a very volatile situation and …(interrupted)
Jenni Williams : But that is why we are in this mess because people keep saying things that. It is not going to work. You cannot answer Mugabe with violence. You can expose and make it clear…(interrupted)
Chenjerai Hove: No, no, no, I’m saying…(interrupted)
Jenni Williams: …and you can ask that police officer to examine how he is living his day to day life. Do his children go to school? Does he have food in his house? And that is the most powerful lobbying tool that WOZA has and it works! We are alive today because it works and other people need to genuinely try it. I am not saying it’s the only solution, I’m saying people need to collectively and committed, genuinely try it! I don’t believe that I have still managed to get as unscathed as I am and it is a surprise to me when I made bail on Saturday because I keep on thinking that this might be the time I will come out of custody through a hospital in a critical condition. But works is the constant telling the truth and asking people to say ‘examine your personal life, examine how you are being used and what future you have. And, that is what works; tell people the truth and get them to speak about it. And I think people need to keep doing that and do it more genuinely, rather than saying ‘ah, if you come into my house with your baton sticks I will beat you back’. Violence only begets violence and it’s a cycle of destruction. We’ve tried that and Zimbabwe was born out of violence, let’s try a Zimbabwe born out of non violence and love and maybe that will bring us a future.
Violet: Mr Hove?
Chenjerai Hove: Yes, I am saying that a situation which is volatile like that is very unpredictable. That the way people respond to a violent situation, a violent police assault is unpredictable because people have been subjected to so much violence over the years. Look at what happened in South Africa . In the end there was just lawlessness in the streets; people began to say ‘I don’t have to respect any law’ because of the violence which was inflicted on people. So, what I’m saying is that even those organisations like WOZA , OK non-violence, but where is the dialogue with the other organisations? Let’s sit down seriously and share spaces; political spaces; and say ‘OK, we have our vision, this is our vision, what shall we do?’ If MDC people are arrested and WOZA people stay at home and they don’t demonstrate. WOZA arrested, MDC people or NCA people stay at home, there is no common vision and there is no common strategy. So there should be a lot of dialogue among the organisations themselves. I think we are lacking a lot of dialogue and negotiation, even among people who agree on basic principles. Dialogue is a must.
Violet : And Professor Mukasa, what are the implications, for example of the WOZA strategy of non violence if it is maintained?
Professor Stanford Mukasa: Ya, non-violence can work if it is sustained over a period of time and if it is planned. I like the idea of Martin Luther King one time once said ‘look, let us fill those jails’. Can you imagine a situation where thousands of people will go to be jailed and will then say ‘OK, arrest me’, you will overwhelm the police. There is a myth in the sense that the police are all too powerful because they carry weapons. Power really lies in the people. One thing I can tell you right now is even the police themselves are afraid of people. Can you imagine a situation where lets say 500 police are confronted by 10 000 masses you know. So power is relative to the kind of strength you bring to the table as I keep saying. So I subscribe to the idea of non violence as long as it is sustained and it is systematic and it is part of the culture in other words. There are many strategies that you can do non violently that can overwhelm the enemy, the police force. And, of course, removal of the fear factor is a very important strategy. If we go in large numbers, if we sustain our approach, at some point, at some point, even the police themselves are going to start questioning themselves, I mean, you know, their strategies.
So, you can actually disarm, you can weaken this military strength, this military power base that Mugabe has by just overwhelming them and this is what Martin Luther meant by saying ‘let’s fill those jails, let’s overwhelm them with our non violence’. Actually, non violence can actually be very overwhelming because one power that Zimbabweans have is power in numbers. You are looking at a population of about 12 million people. That’s power in itself even though none of them has got a gun or has got a weapon or so. That can be very overwhelming and I think that has not been fully exploited, the way I see it right now. If you demonstrate in drips and drabs, you know you have got a few people who do hit and run demonstrations, of course they are going to be overwhelmed by the military power. But, if you can; and I think Mugabe recognises this; that Zimbabweans are so angry at this point that they are capable of mounting a major non violent campaign and overwhelming him. Because, the police are also human beings, when they are holding those guns and they are hitting people, they are banking on people not responding in terms of overwhelming them in their non violent campaigns.
And, I was just reading with interest the WOZA women who stormed the Bulawayo Central. Now can you imagine storming a military base, because that’s what Bulawayo Central is now: a military base! Can you imagine that happening? The fact that they stormed and they were in such large numbers, I don’t know if it was 200 or 1000 but as more and more people become part of this non violent campaign, they are going to wield so much, you see there’s power in non violence. They are going to wield so much power that they are going to overwhelm, you know, the other party.
I want to comment briefly on your question that you asked, that the MDC - should the Opposition participate in the elections next year. My question is the environment for peaceful, for free and fair elections does not exist. At this point, instead of planning for participating in elections, they should be planning on developing their power structures, their campaigns, their non violent plans, that’s what they should focus on right now, organising themselves, dialoguing among themselves. And, I agree that there is not enough dialogue among the Opposition membership. They don’t necessarily have to unite into one party as such. But, at least they can form a broad alliance; a coalition; that can co-ordinate all these other activities so that any time there’s a demonstration, anytime anybody is imprisoned the whole nation must be involved.
I sometimes feel concerned that maybe a member of WOZA is imprisoned, or maybe a member of MDC imprisoned and, you know, there are no statements made by other parties; they just keep quiet. It’s almost like a ‘they and us’ attitude that exists. I think it should be ‘one for all and all for one’. That kind of coming together as one huge critical mass; that can actually overwhelm Mugabe and I think Mugabe is afraid of that. But he is banking on the fear factor. As long as he rules on basis of - you see, the fear is actually his strength, that is not the weapons that we give him, it’s the fear that Zimbabweans have and I keep going back to the same old strategy that let’s have the kind of leadership that will unite all the people. Not organically as such, but unite them in purpose and in terms of moving forward towards a sustained campaign against Mugabe. That is what will ultimately wear Mugabe down. But certainly, the environment for elections does not exist now and the Opposition movement should spend more of their resources strengthening themselves, strengthening the powerbase of the civil society, because, Mugabe has not yet got the message. You know, he is a spoilt kid and he does not take these talks seriously. Merely coming to the table will not resolve anything at all because Mugabe has got his own agenda of those talks and so just because he ultimately agreed to come to the table will not solve anything at all.
Violet: And Jenni your group, as Professor Mukasa has just said, you have started handing yourselves in, in solidarity with arrested colleagues in the police stations. 150 women handed themselves in at Filabusi police station and then another 80 handed themselves in in Bulawayo . Is this now become part of your multi faceted resistance plan?
Jenni Williams : It isn’t something that just started now. I remember last year I was given 24 hours to hand myself in or face criminalisation in the press and I went and handed myself in. This time I’m on a hit list and I go and hand myself in. This is not something we have started now, in fact the strategy and the tactics and the responding tactics have progressed further. If you look at our 2005 you will see that we had large amounts of people willing to be arrested because we had removed the fear of arrest from our membership. And then, on the other hand, we were being taken to court and faced a lot of trials. We won all those trials. So, the police, looking at the embarrassment of huge amounts of women in custody and the fact that they were losing trials, have now come up with a tactic. Their tactic is beat us in the streets and this started in November last year, if you look at the 29 th of November. That’s their tactic to respond to our strategy of arrest us and let us make the injustices visible. We now recognise that even in our - it worked in Insiza; it did not work in Bulawayo ; over 80 of us actually were outside Bulawayo Central Police Station and forcing our way in. I knocked at the door, a huge door, myself and said ‘here we are, we’ve come to hand ourselves in’, and they said ‘no ways are you doing that’, and their responding tactic was to pull me out of the queue. They told us to make three lines which we politely did; we are quite law abiding and polite you know, and they pilled me out of the queue - Magodonga (Mahlangu) happened to be in front of me so she came. That was their tactic to just arrest who they wanted and beat the rest so they went away. We now have to, in these next few days, come up with another tactic to respond, because it isn’t now a matter of filling the jails. We’ve done that, we’ve been that trip, they are beating us now to stop us filling the jails. We now need to re-strategise and that’s the challenge that is before us as the leadership right now.
Violet: I understand that in Filabusi, Insiza police got tired of writing down the names of the 150 women, that they ended up saying ‘they are tired’ and then released the women because there were too many women that handed themselves in?
Jenni Williams: Ya, and we’ve seen that scenario playing out in Bulawayo . In Insiza the programmes are running much slower than they are running in Bulawayo and the response of the police is also much slower. So, what we saw in Insiza, we had already been seeing playing out in our demonstrations here in Bulawayo since 2005 and in Harare since 2005. There, people just; the police just got tired of recording peoples’ names. So it’s just an interesting development and we have to just continue to evolve and find ways to with responding tactics to their tactics. I think maybe what I also would like to really mention, civil disobedience and resistance to Mugabe - non violent resistance to Mugabe - is not only about what you do, it’s also about what you refuse to do.
And, yes, there will be an election called. We need to consult, we need to go all around the country. We need to talk to Zimbabweans and say: “Right now, if nothing changes and there is Amendment 18 in place and MDC is still sitting in Jo’burg trying to be involved in talks, is there any reason for you to walk into the ballot box? Is there something that you will get from an election that can help you to put food in your child’s mouth?” And, we need to be able to ask those questions, we need to come up with an answer. We had a boycott of the Senate elections, a very successful campaign that we ran as WOZA, no one else ran a campaign like that except us. And so, those sorts of things also have to be looked at. There are 198 methods of resistance and you have to explore and utilise all of them simultaneously.
Violet: Professor Mukasa, what are your thoughts on this, and also, as a follow up to what Jenni said about boycotting elections. Will it really make any difference to ZANU PF if the MDC boycotted the elections? As I said before, we saw what happened in Zaka East; ZANU PF still went ahead with the by election and even small parties participated.
Professor Stanford Mukasa: As I was listening to you saying that, my question was ‘so what?’ So what if there are thousands of other small parties that participated after a national boycott of elections? So what? What will it change? I have heard this, that ‘well, if we don’t participate other small parties will participate and therefore the international community is likely to recognise the elections as legitimate.’ You know, that’s a load of bull, pardon my language here, you know, it’s not going to change anything at all. Mugabe himself knows that an election where MDC does not participate will lead to nothing; nothing at all where the Opposition Movement does not participate will not bring him the kind of result that he needs. We had the same thing with Ian Smith when he tried to organise, you know through the Internal Settlement that excluded ZAPU and ZANU PF. After those elections the situation never changed at all and Mugabe knows that. He knows that without the MDC participation his election will be a sham.
If MDC goes ahead and participates in the elections without those absolute iron clad guarantees that the elections will be free and fair, that there will be a return to the Rule of Law; without all this and if MDC participates then they will be playing into the hands of Mugabe. Because, that is what Mugabe needs; to tell the whole world that everybody participated in these elections and that is my answer. So I wouldn’t lose sleep that there are thousands of other small parties that participated. Nobody is going to recognise that because the Opposition now has gained international recognition and, they know; just like in the case of ZAPU and ZANU, that without their participation in those elections, those elections are going to be a very big sham. Right now, if MDC were to say we are not going to participate in those elections unless they are free and fair; unless certain guarantees are assured, unless there’s international supervision; if they say that today, you can be very sure that Mugabe is going to be worried about those elections.
JenniWilliams: Violet, I also just want to make a clarification there.
Jenni Williams: You cannot call what happened in Zaka East a boycott. Because a boycott without mobilisation is not a boycott. There has to be mobilisation and advocacy around certain issues and that is a campaign. Just not going into something is not necessarily a non-violent campaign and not a form of civil resistance and disobedience. You have to mobilise and advocate. We have only heard that ZANU are very busy already on their campaigning, not only in rural areas but also in urban areas. We have already confirmed in Pumula, just here in Bulawayo, they were going door to door and insisting on people taking cards; those that didn’t take cards were told ‘you won’t get food, you won’t get housing’. So, we know that campaign is already rolling out but we also know one other thing; they have already created a rigging system and an unfree playing field by extending the constituencies. Now, not only does Insiza have to contend with an Andrew Langa running for ZANU PF, but they are going to give space to Sithembiso Nyoni and Malaike Nkomo who is in Insiza. That is the sort of unfair playing field that ZANU has already in place. So, if suddenly, there are assurances without a change in the delimitation process, in the voters roll process, it’s still not going to be something that MDC should consider running for because they will still not be playing a fair game.
Violet: And finally, Mr Hove, what are your thoughts on what we’ve been discussing? People say that things don’t work if you follow the same strategies and that the two MDC’s can participate in the Mbeki led negotiations but that they should have their own cut off point. Now, what are your final thoughts on this and is there now a need for a dramatic shift in the politics of confrontation?
Chenjerai Hove: Yes, there is a need for the utilisation of a multiplicity of strategies and the negotiations are fine and good but it depends on what the MDC groupings take to the negotiations. They can’t go there empty handed. They have to go there with a multiplicity of strategies and say ‘we are prepared to negotiate if these negotiations are based on this and this and that, and this is not being met, we are prepared to be with our partners, be able to do A,B,C, D.’ So it’s really a matter of re-thinking the strategies and also re-working and re-imagining and re-shaping certain things that have happened before.
Violet: And since Mugabe is carrying on as if there are no negotiations or talks, when should the MDC say enough is enough, they are throwing in the towel and they are not going to go ahead with this charade?
Chenjerai Hove: They should just go in there and say to President Mbeki ‘listen, this man is pretending that these negotiations are not happening and continuing to torture people, continuing to imprison people, and, while this is continuing, we cannot continue to negotiate with this man and his colleagues’. I mean look at Chinamasa? What is Chinamasa’s baggage when he goes to negotiate? Chinamasa was the Attorney General and at that time the State never won any big cases which were taken against the State. He is a poor lawyer, he is a poor negotiator, he is a man who the President appoints to negotiate when he knows that he is a weak man. Listen, Mugabe’s strategy is that he appoints you to do things when you are in the weakest position. I mean, what decision can Chinamasa make in the negotiations which Mugabe will take? Chinamasa is not a big guy in ZANU PF in terms of the power politics of the country. You don’t put weak people there if you are serious. This is a farce; it’s a tragic farce actually, or a tragic comedy.
Violet Gonda: Ok and I’m afraid I have to end here. Thank you very much Jenni Williams, Chenjerai Hove and Professor Stanford Mukasa.