ONE of Zimbabwe’s veteran politicians, Didymus Mutasa (DM) took some time this week to chat, in his personal capacity, with the Financial Gazette News Editor, Nelson Chenga (NC) over many issues, including the recent fallout in the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party. Below are excerpts from the interview.
NC: Nyathi (Mutasa’s totem) it’s good to see you. How are you?
DM: Oh I am great, how are you yourself?
NC: I am very well Nyathi. I notice that you have a very interesting ringing tone these days on your cell phone. You have the gospel tune Mhepo inoperekedza. What inspired you to choose that particular song as your ringing tone?
DM: (laughs) I set it (ringtone) by mere mistake. Someone wanted to share with me that song and in the process of getting it, it ended up where it is now and people have been asking about it. And honestly, I don’t know how to remove it (more laughs).
NC: You have had quite an illustrious career and you have written a book called Rhodesian Black Man Behind Bars. Do you have any plans to write another sequel of your life journey since independence in 1980?
DM: Definitely, but I seem not to be finding the time as you can see that instead of resting at my age, I am still running around doing exactly the same things that I have been doing the whole of my life. I hate, let me repeat, I hate injustice and I will fight it wherever I might find it. I found it as regards the Tangwena people and we fought it successfully to the extent that the late Chief Tangwena became a very important person in this country. Before independence, we were fighting against the white people’s government in this country which was not just. I started fighting for justice in 1946 when I was 11 years old by trying to let our people see that there was something wrong in this country. I got that revelation from the treatment of my father by the native commissioner. The whites were very arrogant and they were oppressors. When I later worked for the white government during the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, I realised even more injustices as regards the differences in salaries. Blacks used to get half of what whites were earning in nursing, for instance, and we fought it successfully… At one time I was detained in solitary confinement because of my activism. And during that time I learnt a lot about human beings. I got to understand what a human being is and I realised that our people are afraid, they are very, very afraid of challenging injustice. Right up to today people are still living under situations that are totally undesirable. They could free themselves if they free themselves from that fear.
NC: You sacrificed quite a lot for this country, have you enjoyed any fruits of that sacrifice?
DM: No! No! I am still fighting because there is no justice and it is a lie that any educated person who is not a member of ZANU-PF is happy. No one is happy because the situation is just bad. No one should ever lie to themselves that we are in a free country. There is no freedom in this country. And I doubt if there is anyone, even in ZANU-PF, who is enjoying the situation we are currently experiencing.
NC: You are slowly being stripped of all your assets through debts. How much do you owe and what effect is this having on your net worth?
DM: I don’t owe anyone anything. They are taking me to court fraudulently and I have asked from this lawyer (Nyakutombwa Mugabe Legal Counsel) an itemised bill of the things they claim they did, but they haven’t given me. Unfortunately, the justice system in this country is complicated in that to be in court you have to have a lawyer and the process of affidavits and all is just something else. We have very good judges who are very straight forward, but the system is just too complicated. To appear in court you need a lawyer, and the lawyer needs money. And I had a lawyer who now wanted money for work he had not done. The work I know, was done by (Tendai) Biti and the rest of the work was done by (Mbizvo) Muchadehama (Makoni Legal Practitioners) and not this Nyakutombwa Mugabe Legal Counsel; no! And they are demanding US$26 000 and I am asking them, US$26 000 for what? I am demanding an itemised bill which they are not giving me.
NC: Can there be some politics at play here?
DM: I don’t know whether its politics or not, but I am only telling you what is happening. They even went as far as to lie that I locked the Sheriff of the High Court out of my house. I was not even there and when they later came back when I was at home I let them in and they took whatever they wanted and I never fought them. I answered every question they asked me…And for goodness sake that is happening in Zimbabwe today; in a country where a lot of blood was shed for our freedom… This is shameful. But I am glad that it happened to me because I am able to tell you what happened and to complain. But it is happening to a lot of other people, who can’t complain; who cannot be visited by reporters like you and tell them why their properties are being taken away. This is terrible, terrible, very terrible! And when I say lets fight against this, I don’t mean physically. I am a non-violent person and I have always advocated for non-violence.
NC: You must have helped a lot of people make it through in life during your lengthy tenure in government, with some of them now owning big businesses in Zimbabwe today. Have they abandoned you seeing how creditors are descending on your assets without them chipping in to assist you?
DM: They are scared to help me. I have a case of a businessman who approached me wanting to assist me till my farm and he begged me to never ever tell anyone that he had assisted me. Two of them, three of them have approached me and that is the fear I have been describing. It’s very serious. They are very scared. What is happening now is happening in exactly the same manner as it happened when I got arrested in the 1970s by the (Ian) Smith regime. The fear I was talking to you about exists… But as we fought, many in ZANU-PF had hoped that the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) would win (the forthcoming poll) and then they would have come later and reap where they didn’t sow.
NC: Being a war veteran yourself, why is there so much bad blood between the war veterans?
DM: I really don’t know, but what I think is what I would describe as corruptive leadership; corruptive political leadership. Why should anyone have all these people(bodyguards) behind them to protect them, from what? All leaders, even those in the opposition have selfish interests and always seek protection. Protection from what in your own country? I move around unprotected and if I get killed by Zimbabweans, fine, I don’t care.
NC: What is your comment on how war veterans have been treated so far?
DM: They have been treated very badly and they don’t have the correct leadership. Their leaders should come out in the open and demand an audience with President Mugabe and all the political leaders in the country because they fought for the freedom of this country… but unfortunately if they do that they will be tear-gassed after being provoked. I have been telling my fellow war veterans that we should approach the President and assure him that we don’t want to harm him, all we want is a better Zimbabwe. We just want to assist him.
NC: Is this why you phoned him last year?
DM: That is very true. I used to talk to him almost every day and so why should I not talk to him now? I merely wanted to talk to him about these issues. He probably mistook it as if I was seeking to come back to ZANU-PF. But no, there is no ZANU-PF to return to, it’s in pieces.
NC: In 2014, you were at the forefront of a cabal that stood by Joice Mujuru when she came under attack in ZANU-PF, which eventually led to your dismissal. Do you still feel you were right in your decision to support her given the bad blood that now exists between you?
DM: There is no bad blood between me and Amai Mujuru although I don’t know why she expelled me. Did she expel me because she alleges I wanted to sleep with her? Did she expel me because I wanted to steal her money? Otherwise there is no bad blood between us. Similarly there is no bad blood between me and President Mugabe nothwithstanding the fact that he has not explained to me why he expelled me.
NC: Was Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who benefited the most from the purge, involved in your persecution? Who else was behind it?
DM: The truth is I don’t know and I don’t want to lie. The person who expelled me from ZANU-PF was President Mugabe. I have nothing to do with all the others who might have played a part in my expulsion.
NC: Professor Jonathan Moyo once remarked that it’s cold outside ZANU-PF; are you feeling the cold?
DM: (laughs) That’s a very wrong assumption. It’s actually the opposite. If I was still in ZANU-PF I would currently be very ashamed to be associated with that party. In other words, he (Moyo) was saying there is nothing to be ashamed of being associated with the rot that ZANU-PF has brought about. Can anyone be proud to be associated with ZANU-PF in its current state?
NC: You are one of those people who went out of their way to lure Professor Moyo back into ZANU-PF in what became his second coming. What did you see in him that led you to beg him to return to the revolutionary party? Do you regret it?
DM: The man is very hard working. He is the one who, in 2012 or there about, wrote the manifesto that gave birth to Zim-Asset. He is such an intelligent man. If we can have such brains like Jonathan Moyo and we use them properly, this country would be one of the best. But if then you misuse them, how can you be better as a country when you misuse brains like Jonathan Moyo and many others. They are there free of charge for you to use, but you misuse them.
NC: So you don’t regret to have helped bring back Moyo back into ZANU-PF?
DM: Nooo! No! No because he is a brain to reckon with; and a brain to use and not to misuse. And if you use him properly, that would be good. There are others, but don’t misuse them.
NC: In very few words, what led to the fallout in the Zimbabwe People First?
DM: There were some decisions that were made by the National Committee that we wanted implemented. One of those things was the removal of Dzikamai Mavhaire from organising party activities because there had been many complaints about him from the structures. We then advised Mai Mujuru to find him another job instead. And we agreed. Mai Mujuru did not act immediately and we asked her the reason and she said she would act on it. Then she called me the other day from her house saying Mavhaire was at her house so should she tell him the National Committee’s decision to reassign him to another post, and I said of course yes tell him. Then soon after that conversation I heard that she had actually called for a press conference at her house to fire us.
NC: Will the current problems in ZPF end soon enough for the party to prepare for the 2018 elections?
DM: Yes, our side of the party is preparing and we will be ready.
NC: But you are currently fighting over the name of the party?
DM: It’s ours. The name is ours and we are taking the issue to court because we are the ones who started this organisation.
NC: But Mujuru is already active on the ground; she is all over the place using the ZPF name.
DM: She is all over destroying herself and if she had taken our advice she would not be doing that. We told her that “old woman you don’t know anything so can you step aside and let those who know do the job, and you just relax like a queen bee”. But she refused to listen to us.
NC: What did you actually mean by referring to her as queen bee?
DM: (Laughs) That was just figurative speech to implore her to just step aside and rest while the party takes care of things. We indicated that this job was very different from what she used to do in government and so that is why we had asked her to step aside.
NC: So are you saying she took that out of context?
DM: Certainly! Certainly, yes!
NC: Has ZPF approached Mliswa or anyone else for that matter regarding leadership of the party?
NC: No, that’s not true. We never ever approached him. I mean, why should we approach a leader of another political group to come and lead our political group? He was in it before and went away complaining.
NC: Are there any particular individuals you have approached to lead the party?
DM: Yes of course there are.
NC: Who in particular?
DM: No I can’t tell you that.
NC: Are these individuals from within or outside the country?
DM: Some are within and some from outside, but these names will only be announced at a later date when we are ready.
NC: But does Mliswa qualify?
DM: (laughs) No I don’t know; the committee will have to decide that. We are scanning as a group.
NC: When you were asked in 2015 on your 80th birthday whether it was not high time you retired you said it was actually time for you to take up more responsibilities because you were now wiser. Do you still feel the same?
DM: If there weren’t these injustices happening today I should have retired long back to my home in Rusape. I have never seen such a beautiful place like Rusape. Our leadership, our political leadership is not serving the interests of the people. There is too much corruption… and many of the leaders don’t even understand that they are in leadership to serve the people.
NC: What chances do you and the opposition in general have against ZANU-PF and President Mugabe come 2018?
DM: Can’t you see the corruption that is going on there (in ZANU-PF)?
NC: So are you saying corruption in ZANU-PF is good enough reason for people to vote for the opposition?
DM: Corruption is sitting right in the midst of ZANU-PF. For instance, what happened to the US$15 billion diamond money? Should we accept that the money simply vanished and that is it? Is it not this money that they are now using for their campaigns?
NC: You have also been accused of looting of the diamonds. What is your comment?
DM: How can you go to fight for freedom and then come back to steal from the very thing that you were fighting for?
NC: You have claimed before that ZANU-PF has been cheating during past elections. Is ZPF or any party for that matter capable of stopping the ruling party from the alleged cheating?
DM: That is why NERA (National Electoral Reform Agenda) is engaging the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections.
NC: But government has already sidelined the UNDP is procuring the biometric voter registration kit.
DM: Then the regional and international community should come to our assistance.
NC: When they have never come to the country’s assistance over past electoral disputes?
DM: (Mockingly) Now that there is Donald Trump in America things could be different.
NC: So you reckon Trump may get involved in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs?
DM: No I don’t know, but he is a straight forward man.
NC: Zimbabweans are wary of the security forces’ involvement in the country’s politics. You have been a state security minister yourself before. In the event that the opposition outrightly wins next year’s elections, how is the security establishment likely to react?
DM: I am sure if they have their country at heart they will act in the best interest of our country.
NC: You have indicated before that President Mugabe is now powerless and some “vultures” around him have usurped his power. Who are those “vultures”?
DM: I will respond by giving an example. People had to demonstrate against Vice President (Phelekezela) Mphoko for staying at a hotel. Was that demonstration wrong? We have leadership in this country that is selfish and is serving own interests.
NC: Did you ever actually get to know President Mugabe in person? If so, what sort of person is he?
DM: He was a very good man.
NC: He was; what do you mean he was?
DM: He was a good man until some people came along. I will end it at that.
NC: President Mugabe says there appears to be no one capable of leading this country in both ZANU-PF and the opposition. What is your comment?
DM: Well, our dear old man should not say that. There are many in this country who are capable of leading. We have very capable leaders. (laughs) He says there are no capable people when he has stayed for 37 years in power; why didn’t he train someone to be a capable leader?
NC: In the event that President Mugabe suddenly decides to leave office today, what do you think will happen in ZANU-PF?
DM: Ah there would be fights. There would be real physical ones, not these ones you are seeing. They will fight each other because nobody has trained them to be good leaders, as such they have no time for others.
NC: You and the opposition and many others seem to have a common enemy. Why are you all failing to work together?
DM: We are actually working together as NERA and there are others working as CODE (Coalition of Democrats) and we should be able to finally come up with a single (presidential) candidate whom we will all support for 2018. We should be able to bring all opposition parties together. The situation that pertained in the 1960s persists up to today. As I have been working among the opposition I have been asking people: ‘Why do we keep fighting each other because what we want is exactly the same so let’s get together and fight together’; and I am glad that is what is going on right now. But what pains me is to fight against who? To fight against ZANU-PF; ZANU-PF which was fighting for the freedom of this country and is now the very same party that is denying others freedom. And the opposition have got to organise themselves to fight against them; an African government for that matter. It doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t. But I support those who are fighting for justice because I am for justice. If it were possible the government should come from a grouping like NERA because it represents the people’s aspirations.
NC: In the past, you have described MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai as a sellout. Do you still hold this view?
DM: No I don’t speak like that of other people. In fact, I like Morgan Tsvangirai very much because he is very courageous. I like him as well because he has done as much as he can do under very difficult conditions and anybody who calls him a sellout, I don’t think they know what they would be talking about.
NC: Are you willing to work with him in a coalition to dislodge ZANU-PF and President Mugabe from power?
DM: Yes I will work with him in a coalition. I am working with him now and I used work with him in the Government of National Unity and I used to speak very frankly each time he was being unfairly criticised.
NC: How would you want to be remembered?
DM: As Didymus Mutasa (chuckles).
NC: Thank you very much for your time Nyati.
DM: Thank you too.
Law firm responds to Mutasa
TAFADZWA Mugabe of Nyakutombwa Mugabe Legal Counsel responded to Mutasa’s allegation as follows:
“We have no comment on his current lawyers save to state that his High Court challenge against (his) expulsion from ZANU-PF was filed by our law firm in 2015. His Constitutional Court challenge against (his) expulsion from Parliament was (also) filed by our law firm; it was set down as an urgent application by the Chief Justice pursuant to an application by our law firm. We challenged on his behalf in the Electoral Court the refusal to accept his nomination papers when his seat was declared vacant. All these matters received wide media coverage and anyone who cares to check can confirm our involvement through court records at the Constitutional Court, High Court and the Electoral Court. The allegations of fraud are denied. Mr Mutasa is advised that our rights in this regard remain fully reserved. The long and short of it is that we are not taking the law into our own hands. We will not relent in our quest to recover what is owed to us.