MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe (TK) has often been accused of attempting to oust party leader Morgan Tsvangirai as well as fanning both factionalism and tribalism in her native Bulawayo province.
NewZimbabwe.com’s chief reporter Nkosana Dlamini (ND) caught up with the former deputy prime minister to hear her views on a variety of party issues, her political ambitions as well as last week’s violence among party supporters which she is accused of sponsoring.
Below is a transcript of the interview …
ND: Honourable Khupe, you are being accused of sponsoring the violence which rocked the party in Bulawayo last week apparently because you were not happy with the MDC’s decision to boycott the June by-elections. What do you say to that?
TK: What you must understand is that the MDC is a democratic party where every individual has every right to express their views. So these issues are debated and the majority rules at the end of the day. We all have to follow that route. There is no way you can go out there and start doing certain things. So this is why l am saying these stories are just fabricated, and they will not get those people anywhere because they are just wasting their time.
If they think that they will do the (Joice) Mujuru way where all stories are thrown around and something will happen to me, those people are day dreamers, they must go hang a million times. It will not happen.
ND: What is your account of the disturbances? From what we hear, everything points to a Khupe conspiracy?
TK: There are people who are fabricating stories. For what reason l don’t know. But the fact of the matter is that whoever was involved would be taken to book because, in our party, we don’t want violence; we want peace and tranquillity in the party. So those people who were involved must be brought to book.
ND: With all due respect, this is a general statement Honourable Khupe, but what exactly happened according to you?
TK: I don’t know because l was not there, unfortunately. I was not there; I don’t know. I only hear stories about what happened but l don’t know. l can’t say anything because l was not part of that meeting.
ND: Are you fanning factionalism in Bulawayo?
TK: I am the Vice President of this party. I am the Vice President of this party! How does a Vice President fan factionalism in a party? And what is factionalism anyway? How does a Vice President do that? How do I divide the people that l am leading? How do I do that? Equally how does the president have a faction? The president and the vice president are one office. We are leaders of the movement for democratic change and there is no way we can have a faction.
ND: You are being accused of being a tribalist and working hard to prevent people from regions other than Matebeleland from assuming leadership positions in Bulawayo. How do you respond to that?
TK: How do I become a tribalist? Look at my driver; look at the people that work for me. Do you know that they all come from Mashonaland? Even at my house, they come from Mashonaland. My housemaid is from Mashonaland; the guy who looks after my house is from Mashonaland. How do I say that! How do I become a tribalist? How?
Listen, what you must also understand is that representation and tribalism are two different things. This is why there is devolution of power today. Power must be devolved to those provinces so that people from those provinces are able to do things in their own way. How does that become tribalism? And besides, leaders are elected by people. If people from Bulawayo decide to elect somebody from Mashonaland, who am I to say no? Likewise, if people from Bulawayo decide to say they don’t want someone from Mashonaland, I cannot stop them.
ND: Your relationship with Morgan Tsvangirai – good or bad?
TK: It’s very good. He is my president. I don’t have any problem with my president. Not even a bit, for your own information. Not even a bit! We work together very well.
ND: You have often been accused of trying to overthrow or undermine Morgan Tsvangirai. How do you respond to that?
TK: How do I do that? We have got a leadership which was elected at congress and President Tsvangirai was elected at congress; I was elected as his deputy and l remain his deputy and there is no way I can even think about overthrowing him. That’s a pipe dream! It will never happen. I know there are people who are creating stories that I want to overthrow the president. It will never happen! They must just go hang a million times and they are wasting their time. I respect the president; I am very loyal to the party and I will remain loyal to the party and I will always respect the president. I will always work with him until we deliver real change to the people of Zimbabwe.
ND: Morgan Tsvangirai has often been accused of being weak and devoid of strategies as a leader. Do you think your party can be run in a way different?
TK: I am more than happy with the manner in which the party is being run. My president is a brilliant person; he is a brilliant strategist and no one can beat him in terms of strategies. This is why he has won elections since 2000.
ND: Do you personally have any ambitions to become President of the MDC-T?
TK: I don’t have ambitions to be president of the MDC. In our party, we have got a hierarchy and I am going to follow that hierarchy.
ND: I presume by following the hierarchy, you mean that if Tsvangirai steps down, you become president? Do you find yourself stepping in under those circumstances?
TK: Yes. If Tsvangirai steps down, yes I become President. If the president finishes his terms of office, I will vie for that position. But for now there is no vacancy. President Tsvangirai is still there, he is the president. He will serve his two terms and once he finishes his two terms, there would be a vacancy and when there is a vacancy, I will vie for that vacancy but for now there is no vacancy in the MDC and how do you want a position when there is no vacancy?
ND: There are indications that the MDC is now weaker than it has ever been. Do you agree?
TK: The MDC is not weaker at all. If anything, it is getting stronger and stronger on a day-to-day basis.
ND: Why do you hold that view when it lost a number of key members going to the Renewal Team and having lost elections in 2013?
TK: The MDC did not lose elections. In fact, the MDC has never lost any elections since 2000. People know that. We have never lost an election since 2000. All these elections have been rigged but in 2008, regardless of all their rigging, we beat them (Zanu PF) hands down.
ND: And you still maintain the split never weakened your party in any way?
TK: For me, people have every right to belong to any organisation of their choice. I don’t think that it will weaken the MDC. If a few individuals leave, how does the party become weakened? It doesn’t necessarily mean the party is now weak. Our members are still there; they are solid. Our branches are solid, our wards, our districts are solid; our provinces are solid. The people who left were in the national executive and a few in the standing committee; and that doesn’t weaken the party. The party is stronger because of its membership.
ND: Honourable Khupe, as the top MDC politician in Bulawayo which remains a party stronghold after all party strongholds have been penetrated by Zanu PF in the past elections, do you feel you must be credited somewhat for retaining all that support for your party?
TK: No. Credit goes to the party; because the MDC is one. We don’t have MDC Mashonaland and MDC Bulawayo. We have one MDC and the MDC deserves that credit, not individuals. There is no single individual who is bigger than the party?
ND: Honourable Khupe, thanks for your time.
TK: My pleasure.