By Everson Mushava
Former Cabinet minister and diplomat Ambrose Mutinhiri was arguably the biggest newsmaker last week after his abrupt resignation from Zanu PF and Parliament to lead a breakaway party now challenging President Emmerson Mnangagwa ahead of elections later this year.
Mutinhiri, who leads the National Patriotic Front (NPF), which has received an endorsement from former president Robert Mugabe, was accused of being behind deadly politically violence in Marondera, among a plethora of charges critics said made him an unsuitable political leader.
Our chief reporter Everson Mushava yesterday had a wide-ranging interview with the former Zipra commander who had unkind words for Mnangagwa’s government. He also disputed claims that Mugabe and his wife Grace are members of the NPF. Below are excerpts of the interview.
EM: You have been in the media and there are reports that you met Mugabe, are you at liberty to tell us the details of your meeting(s) with him?
AM: No, no, no. I’m not at liberty to tell you details of my meeting with president Mugabe. The meeting was long and very instructive from a guidance point of view as it covered a range of important issues about our nation many of which are not for public consumption.
EM: Former Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi was quoted yesterday saying Mugabe and Mnangagwa may work together in the forthcoming elections, what does this mean for your party?
AM: It means absolutely nothing. The founding members of NPF are tried and tested freedom fighters and disciplined cadres. We are not guided or moved by fiction or spin that is planted by mischief makers in newspapers.
Also, I’m not aware that president Mugabe has appointed Cde Mzembi or anyone else for that matter as his spokesperson. But I’m indeed aware as you are that Mnangagwa has a government and party spokesperson, none of whom has said anything even slightly resembling the claim that president Mugabe and Mnangagwa have agreed to work together in the forthcoming elections — a claim attributed to Cde Mzembi.
So I think only Cde Mzembi and the newspaper that quoted him can help you on that one.
EM: Are you aware of negotiations between Mugabe and Mnangagwa?
AM: No I’m not aware of any such negotiations. I don’t think it’s possible to be aware of something that’s not there, but which maybe in the minds of some people who are scheming this or that scenario for reasons best known to themselves.
I think it is important for people to understand that president Mugabe has nothing to negotiate for or about with anyone. His benefits and those of the former first family are constitutional as are his political and human rights.
Everyone is equal before the law and the law, therefore, does not discriminate against president Mugabe.
He and his family are fully entitled to all their constitutional benefits and their civil and political rights just like you and me are. So why would he want to negotiate his or the rights of his family that are enshrined in the constitution? Is that what the so-called new era is about? Is it about humiliating and blackmailing president Mugabe and his family into negotiating their constitutional rights? Is that what the so-called negotiators are trying do? If it is, then they have successfully planned for failure.
EM: Mzembi’s story shows that former G40 members who are supposed to form the core of NPF are divided and others are seeking accommodation from Mnangagwa’s administration. What is your comment on that?
AM: What is G40? The theory or assumption that the so-called G40 members make up the core of NPF is just a spin. The core of NPF is made up of the core that made up Zanu PF before the November 15, 2017 military coup that unconstitutionally deposed president Mugabe and illegally imposed Mnangagwa.
That core of Zanu PF as it was before the coup has joined hands with a cross-section of other Zimbabweans from across the political divide to found and establish NPF whose immediate objective is to restore constitutional order, normalcy, democracy and legitimacy in Zimbabwe. You must understand that the military coup left Zanu PF in tatters.
Beneficiaries of the coup can, of course, gather in meetings here and there claiming to be Zanu PF (but) they and everyone else who was truly Zanu PF before the military coup know that the coup destroyed Zanu PF. There’s no real Zanu PF out there. All you have are make-believe appearances of Zanu PF, which will come to historic grief at the polls when the real Zanu PF speaks through the ballot against bullets.
In the end, politics will always lead the gun and triumph over it. History is full of lessons about that.
EM: So, do you mean to say Mugabe will not endorse Mnangagwa as the Zanu PF presidential candidate in the 2018 elections?
AM: You know what, when this issue came up at my meeting with president Mugabe last Sunday he was emphatic and unequivocal about his position. Let me say what he told me about this.
He said to me: “ED thinks I am an idiot. How does he think I believe their claim that they are about upholding the legacy of the president, my legacy, when I’m down because of them and when they have been dragging me in the mud?”
People, especially in Zanu PF, want honest holders of the legacy of the president and they condemn hypocrisy, they condemn military brutality against the people.
He went on to say: “ED says he wants me to endorse him, what will I be endorsing? Hypocrisy? Brutality against the people?
“The killing and battering of children (CIO and police officers) who worked with me? No, no, no; I’m not an idiot.
“The political and illegal arrests must stop if the military regime is true to its claims that it is about upholding the legacy of the president. Why is it doing these injustices?”
EM: Now to your resignation from Zanu PF. The meeting with Mugabe has invited a backlash from your former party and state media. Zanu PF has even despatched a delegation of senior party members to create a wedge between yourself and voters in Mashonaland East province. What is your reaction to that? Can you briefly describe your first week as an opposition politician?
AM: I have nothing to tell them except to say God forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
As for my first week as NPF leader in formal terms, I have been overwhelmed and encouraged by the positive and inspiring response from across the country and across the political divide as well as from the Diaspora and well-wishers in the Sadc region and elsewhere on the African continent. The messages of support and goodwill keep pouring. What has really touched me in a particular way is the realisation that the people on the ground were waiting for this moment. They are telling me that “NPF yasimudza dust rakapenga” [NPF has raised dust]. So it has been a very good week in office.
EM: Zanu PF members have come out to attack you as a wartime deserter who caused confusion in the liberation struggle. Can you comment on your alleged links to Frolizi?
AM: I will not dignify inane views of self-styled stockholders of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle about those who disagree with them. What value would my comment on ridiculous allegations about Frolizi, 37 years after the liberation struggle, add to today’s burning bread and butter issues and the need to restore constitutional order, normalcy, democracy and legitimacy in the country? It’s a shame that this “chunhu chedu” [our thing] thing has gone too far. It needs to be stopped.
EM: One of the first accusations was that you were part of Zanu PF’s violence machinery during the bloody 2008 elections. What is your comment on allegations that you were involved in the murder of MDC-T activists and you threw their bodies into Wenimbe Dam?
AM: It is common knowledge that Wenimbe abductions you are referring to happened in Marondera East under the then area Member of Parliament, Cde Sydney Sekeramayi, who was also Minister of State for National Security. Your question would, therefore, be better answered by Cde Sekeramayi. I was MP for Marondera West and in my constituency there were no abductions of the kind you are referring to. I, therefore, want to say quite categorically that I was not part of any electoral violence in 2008.
EM: In your view, who was behind the violence that left over 300 MDC supporters dead and displaced thousands others?
AM: The violence happened across the country and did not only affect MDC supporters, whose number I don’t know, but it also affected Zanu PF supporters, especially in Mashonaland provinces, who were accused of “bhora musango” allegedly because they were linked to then vice-president Joice Mujuru under the tutelage of the late General Solomon Mujuru.
Because of the seriousness of the matter, and given Mnangagwa’s recent shocking claims published in the British Economist Magazine that there was not even one single case of electoral violence in 2008, it is important that, like that of Gukurahundi atrocities, the question of who was behind the 2008 electoral violence must be the subject of a judiciary inquiry to settle the matter once and for all in the interest of truth and justice.
EM: During that time you were among senior Zanu PF officials who never came out to condemn the violence. Does that mean you approved of what was going on?
AM: I think that people need to know that this question of the 2008 electoral violence was a hotly discussed in Zanu PF.
It was a very divisive issue because many comrades from the affected areas demanded answers and justice.
The violence was heavily condemned internally within Zanu PF structures.
The fact that people did not come out in public with their condemnations was largely because of issues and dictates of internal democracy that require open discussion inside and silence outside.
But you will recall that this is the one major issue that necessitated Sadc and AU to intervene with the result that there were interparty negotiations that gave birth to the GNU between 2009 and 2013.
So that 2008 electoral violence was not ignored at all.
EM: Do you believe Zanu PF rigged elections and used violence to retain power and who was behind such heinous strategies?
AM: The question of whether elections were rigged is not a matter of belief but a technical matter of knowledge and information.
I don’t have such knowledge and I don’t have such information because I was never involved in the technical administration of elections. If anyone has such knowledge or information, I would be happy to look at it and to act on it.
EM: In resigning as a Zanu PF member you claimed that Mugabe’s removal was illegal and that soldiers had taken over the ruling party. Did it take you four months to realise that what happed violated the Constitution?
AM: A military coup is a military coup and it is unconstitutional. It speaks for itself.
You will be aware that it is now a well know fact that internal consultations within Zanu PF to find constitutional ways of challenging the coup government started on 19 November 2017.
It was clear that the central committee, which met that day was illegal and unconstitutional because it was an extension of the coup.
That’s I did not attend it. The same goes for the ill-fated attempt at impeachment on November 21 2017, it was unconstitutional and would have failed had it been put to a secret ballot vote.
I did not attend that session. So no, it has not taken me four months to realise that what happened on November 15 2017.
I with other Comrades knew this position from day one and we took various measures to deal with it.
You are aware that as NPF will filed a petition with Sadc and AU against the coup in January 2018, not this month. We have been busy at work in a deliberate and organised way.
EM: There are allegations that you were part of the Zanu PF process that resulted in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s elevation. Can we then not say you had a hand in Mugabe’s ouster?
AM: I just told you that I did not attend the Zanu PF central committee meeting of November 19 2017 nor did I attend the Parliamentary session that attempted to impeach president Mugabe.
These are the only two processes that elevated Mnangagwa and I was not part of them.
EM: You are said to be the leader of the Zanu PF breakaway party, the NPF. Who elected you into that position and who endorsed you as the party’s presidential candidate?
AM: I’m NPF’s founder leader and presidential candidate in the forthcoming general elections by the decision of the founders of NPF as enshrined in the party’s Constitution adopted on December 7 2017. The founders of the party will be made public in due course.
EM: Who else is in the NPF structures since only your name and that of Jealousy Mawarire’s have featured in the media?
AM: We will be announcing the complete founding structure of the NPF when we determine its necessary and in the interest of NPF to do so.
We are only too aware of the wicked machinations of the coup government and we will not give hostage to fortune on a silver platter.
EM: Are exiled former Zanu PF officials linked to G40 such as Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwao and Saviour Kasukuwere linked to the party and in what way?
AM: No. They are not. But we would of course welcome their goodwill and support as we are ready to welcome the goodwill and support of all Zimbabweans in and outside the country.
EM: What role is Mugabe playing in the NPF and what is your view concerning Mnangagwa’s statements that he is not happy that the former president is associating with your party?
AM: President Mugabe has no role in NPF. We have sought his goodwill and as our iconic liberator and founding leader of our nation and we are pleased that he gave us audience.
We know that our youth are inspired by his exemplary vision for youth empowerment and generational renewal.
He has also challenged us to keep alive the dream of Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, a united and prosperous Zimbabwe.
So we find our enduring nationalist inspiration from these two founding leaders, President Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo.
As for Mnangagwa’s statement that he’s not happy with President Mugabe’s associating with NPF, I say tough luck ED. The horses have bolted.
EM: What role is former first lady Grace Mugabe playing in the party?
AM: None. We respect her and appreciate the excellent work she did to advance the empowerment of women and the youth and we are looking forward to her continuing to do and grow that work in the interest of our nation. Her courage and bravery are inspiring.
EM: Some say you only left Zanu PF because you were disappointed that you were never made VP after the coup. What is your reaction to that?
AM: The reasons I left Zanu PF are written in black and white in my resignation letter of March 2 2017. I refer you to that letter through which I fully explain my reasons in words that are now immortal.
EM:. What would be the NPF’s campaign message and what are you offering Zimbabweans as a party?
AM: Some of that we signposted in our consultation document but yes, we will be reaching out in the coming days, weeks and months with our messages and manifesto.
EM: In your view what needs to be done to ensure Zimbabwe hosts free and fair elections?
AM: Fundamentally, there must be a restoration of constitutional order, normalcy, democracy, legitimacy and demilitarisation.
The over 2 000 soldiers that are now embedded in villages and streets must be withdrawn through a credible programme.
Those who got power by force cannot be expected to run free, fair and credible elections.
It has never happened anywhere in the world. We cannot expect lunatics to run the mental asylum.
EM: Most people think there are now a lot of political parties in the country. What made you decide to form a new party as opposed to forming a new one?
AM: You cannot have too much democracy. Let the people decide in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
EM: There are talks by opposition parties of forming a broader coalition. Do you share the same view and is your party ready to form an electoral pact with other opposition parties?
AM: We are well disposed to work with others for a common purpose in the national interest.
EM What do you think are NPF’s chances against Mnangagwa and MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa? Why do you think people should vote for you and your party?
AM: Let the pundits predict, while we organise for the people to decide.