AS Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-UK rolls back its external provinces, his political rival Prof Welshman Ncube's MDC-UK led by Chairman Abraham Mdlongwa, is now gathering pace. Reports say that more Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom were now finding solace in the party, a development that is most likely to redefine the country's staggering politics. Below we publish Mdlongwa's interview with UK-based AfroVoice radio.
Chairman Mdlongwa speaks to AfroVoice FM’s Malaki Nkobi popularly known as Dj Lucky Star.
MDC-UK Chairman Abraham Mdlongwa
Malaki Nkobi: Good evening to you all. We take this opportunity to thank all our listeners across the globe for joining us in this programme. Today Zimbabwe is in a mess and we are moving towards another election. To talk about some of these things we have with us Abraham Mdlongwa who is the Chairperson of the MDC in the UK. Good evening Mr Mdlongwa and thank you for joining us today. We are honored to have you.
Abraham Mdlongwa: Good evening Malaki, good evening Zimbabwe. Thank you for having me in your great programme and great radio station. Given the metropolitan nature of the audience that we have, I hope you will not mind me using English as a medium of communication.
Malaki Nkobi: That is fine. Thank you once again. Mr Mdlongwa, could you tell us about MDC and why was it formed?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you Malaki. At the outset let me recognise that I cannot change the past; neither can you. We can influence the present and significantly shape the future. Therefore our memories of the past should not be stronger than our vision for the future. The MDC was launched 11 Sept 1999 against the backdrop of nearly 30 years of misrule, economic decay, regionalism, rampant corruption and a breakdown in the rule of law. It was remarkable that Zimbabwe had become one country in the world where the rule of law meant the law of the ruler.
It is also important to remind ourselves about the founding values of the MDC party. These included a commitment to democracy, fairness, solidarity, empathy and tolerance among others. We were deeply concerned about the high power distance between the people and the rulers of Zimbabwe.
In committing to democratic values we were committing to servant leadership. As an example of our commitment to fairness, there was equality of representation of the two major ethnic groups in the party’s Management Committee which was also called the Top 6.
Malaki Nkobi: Ca you refresh us about what happened during the MDC split?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you Malaki. The formal split occurred on 12 October 2005 following a National Council meeting at which the majority of party leaders present voted to participate in elections to choose a new senate introduced in 2005. The then party leader Morgan Tvsangirayi overruled the National Council and stormed out of the meeting. His action was in breach of the party constitution and triggered a revolt which as we all know has seen the emergence of two formations of the MDC as we know them today. I am the UK Chair for the MDC formation led by Professor Welshman Ncube
Malaki Nkobi: After the split of the MDC you guys went and brought a Shona, Arthur Mutambara to lead your party? Why and why is it that you now have a Ndebele as your party leader?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you Malaki. During the three decades of ZANU-PF’s misrule, politics in Zimbabwe became tribalised and polarised. We recognised this as a reality at the time and concluded it was better to bring Mutambara on board. That decision was made in 2005 and the world has moved on since then. We have seen developments in the USA where a son of a black Kenyan migrant is today the president of the USA. Today Welshman Ncube is a proper and fit person to lead our party and to lead Zimbabwe.
Malaki Nkobi: What is your party’s position on devolution of power?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you Malaki. Clause 3.3 of our party constitution cites one of our key aspirations as delivering an open government in which national government is accountable to the people through the devolution of power and decision-making to provinces and local institutions. We are the only party in the GNU that has been campaigning for extensive devolution of power to elected self governing provinces. A rhetoric question to ask is whether the current unitary state constitution allows the people of Manicaland to benefit from the diamonds mined in their backyard in Marange?
As a party we also believe there is a compelling case for introducing an affirmative action programme to accelerate economic development in previously disadvantaged regions of Matabeleland, Manicaland and Midlands.
Malaki Nkobi: I notice that the MDC led by Professor Ncube is the fastest growing political party in Zimbabwe but you are not giving us sufficient information about your plans for devolution. For example, I feel under devolution there should only be 5 provinces of Manicaland, Mashonaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland and Midlands. What will be the powers of provincial governments?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Suffice to say; in a programme of this nature we can only discuss principles. We must recognise that our party’s devolution model is not the same as the model that will emerge from on-going negotiations for devolution under the GNU. I have already mentioned that we are for elected self governing regional governments each of which will have a provincial assembly.
The provincial assembly will be able to pass by-laws that are in the interests of the local population provided such by-laws are in line with national laws. For example, a provincial assembly in Bulawayo could pass a law requiring that companies operating in that city employ more local people. It could also stipulate that a majority shareholding in companies operating in that city be in the hands of locals.
Details such as the powers of provincial and national governments are matters that will be subject to negotiation. Other than your question relating to the number of provinces we should have under devolution, I believe I have responded to your question. Yes, at a personal level, I agree we should reduce the number of provinces to what they were before independence.
Malaki Nkobi : Other than devolution of power to provinces, what else does your party offer?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you. Our party policies are included in our website whose address is www.mdczim.net. Our goal is to create a fair and just Zimbabwe. Specifically we are for a fair and equitable distribution of land. We will engage the people of Zimbabwe to agree a road map towards a people-driven land and agrarian reform programme. Secondly; we are for a mixed economy with a strong social conscience. This means that under our government there will be a fair measure of regulation to mitigate the impact of market forces where such action is deemed appropriate in the interests of the people. We are for a sustainable environment and we celebrate our cultural diversity. I can go on and on but these are some of the things we plan to do.
Malaki Nkobi: The MDC led by Ncube is said to be a party for the Ndebele. Even you Mdlongwa, you are a Ndebele. What have you to say about that?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you Malaki. Our MDC brand has the most culturally diverse leadership represented at all levels of the party. For example who is who in our national standing committee? The president Prof Ncube is from the Midlands, his deputy Edwin Mushoriwa is from Mashonaland, so is the National Chairman Goodrich Chimbaira and his deputy Frank Chamunorwa. Our Secretary General Priscilla Mushonga is from Masvingo and her deputy Moses Ndlovu is from Matabeleland. I can go on and on but the truth is we are the most culturally diverse political party in Zimbabwe today.
Malaki Nkobi: The MDC have said elections will only be held after implementation of electoral and constitutional reforms. What will you guys do if come March 2013 electoral reforms are still not in place and Mugabe calls an election under the Lancaster House Constitution?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you and that is a good question. Any government not elected on basis of a new democratic constitution will not be recognised by SADC. Mugabe has repeatedly threatened to call elections last year and this year. Why has he not done so?
Malaki Nkobi: Are you aware that at the recent ANC Conference Jonathan Moyo received a standing ovation and the ANC resolved to support sister liberation movements during election campaigns. This means the ANC will come and support Mugabe.
Abraham Mdlongwa: With or without external support ZANU-PF will lose the next election.
Malaki Nkobi : Why are you guys not forming a coalition with MDC-T to get rid of Mugabe?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you. This question should be directed at MDC-T. Before 2008 we negotiated a coalition pact with the MDC-T in terms of which Morgan Tsvangirai was going to be the sole presidential candidate for both parties. Although the agreement had other issues that we were not happy with, we decided that for the greater good of the country, we would support Morgan Tsvangirai. Our national council approved and signed the agreement. It is the MDC-T that refused and repudiated this agreement.
We invested a lot of time and put our best people into negotiations leading to that agreement. This was at the detriment of our own party work. You want us to spend another 6 months negotiating an agreement which MDC-T will eventually reject? No, we shall not do that. We are an independent and fast growing political party. This time around we are fielding our own candidates for council, parliamentary and presidential elections.
We must also recognise that going forward it is important to give the people of Zimbabwe a wider choice of credible political alternatives.
This whole thing about uniting with Tsvangirai has gone past its sell by date. What did the unity accord between ZANU and ZAPU achieve?
Malaki Nkobi : I recently attended an MDC rally in Gwanda in which Welshman Ncube was very critical of Tsvangirai. Why is it that you guys criticize Tsvangirai more than you do Mugabe?
Abraham Mdlongwa: Thank you Malaki. Morgan Tsvangirai heads a political party which is one of our competitors. Similarly Robert Mugabe of ZANU, SimbaMakoni of Mavambo , Job Sikhalaetc, they all head political parties which are our competitors. You are talking about only one rally that you attended where you heard Prof Ncube criticising Tsvangirai. If you attended more of our rallies, you would find that our criticism is extended to Mugabe, Makoni and others as well because we recognise all of them as competitors.
Malaki Nkobi: We have run out of time. In conclusion, anything else you want to say Mr Mdlongwa and in particular, what are your party’s chances of winning the next election?
Abraham Mdlongwa: We are canvassing for support throughout the country. We are visible. We are different from our competitors. We have a young, able and competent leadership bench. Our ministers in government have performed well, in fact it was our party negotiators and Welshman Ncube in particular that skilfully managed negotiations that gave rise to the GPA and the GNU. We recognise and celebrate our cultural diversity. We are principled and driven by core values of democracy, fairness, transparency and economic prosperity to all Zimbabweans regardless of age, gender, colour, tribe, and race, place of origin, political opinion or religion. That is our value proposition to the people of Zimbabwe.
Our party leader Prof Welshman Ncube is untainted. He is a visionary par excellence. We believe in him. The electorate now believe in him. He is a fit and proper person to lead Zimbabwe.
Let us remember that every Zimbabwean is an equal shareholder in the nation state of Zimbabwe. As a people we are like Machete cutters working through a thick forest. The effective leader is one who shouts out saying “STOP!, you are working on a wrong forest”
The real leader is one who is willing to make unpopular decisions. The real leader is one who is always guided by the principles and the agreed core values of the party which form a covenant or social contract with the people.
In Zimbabwe’s context today, that leader is Welshman Ncube. Welshman Nucbe is principled. He is a strategist. He is competent and distinguishes between right and wrong, between the wood and the trees. He is willing to make unpopular decisions as long as such decisions are in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe. Above all he is a democrat. He is a fit and proper person to lead Zimbabwe. He is the only man standing in the political boxing ring in defence good and principled social contract with the people of Zimbabwe. In isiNdebele we say, ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’. That is what Ncube is. He is a people’s person leading a people’s party and defending a people’s revolution.
Thank you for having me in your programme and in your great radio station as a representative of MDC in the UK, the green party that is standing for a fair and just Zimbabwe.