“Mugabe is doing what he is doing because no one is telling him enough to say no, no, no what you are doing is wrong. He goes everywhere and people would ululate and so he thinks he is right. I mean any leader would do that until people say no, no, what you are doing is wrong.”
FORMER Zanu PF politburo member and one time Midlands governor Cephas Msipa (84) brokered the 1987 unity accord between Zanu and PF Zapu. NewZimbabwe.com (NZ)’s Nkosana Dlamini chats with the veteran politician to hear his thoughts on national unity day and related issues. Below are excerpts of the interview.
NZ: Mr Msipa, some say the unity accord exists more on paper than in practice, how do you respond to that?
CM: The unity accord is something worth celebrating because it brought together parties which were antagonistic; it brought Nkomo (Joshua, former PF Zapu) and Mugabe together and in a way this country seemed to have been divided into Matebeleland and Mashonaland and the unity accord bridged all that. Now we can look at each other as one. So I think the unity accord can never be overtaken by events in fact it should be strengthened.
NZ: You are said to have brokered the unity accord, what exactly did you do?
CM: I wrote a book recently on freedom and justice where I have a chapter on the unity accord. I played a significant role and it’s all stated. Because of my friendship with Cde Nkomo and Cde Mugabe, I was able to make them come together. I was asked to do that and it is one thing I am proud that I did. So for that reason, I feel, in a way, unity is my baby. I want it to grow.
NZ: Some say the unity accord benefitted Zanu PF more than it did to PF Zapu, which, effectively disbanded, what is your take?
CM: Well, you know after the elections of 1980, Zanu had majority members of parliament. They could have formed a government without Zapu. But they asked Zapu to join them. In truth, really, the unity accord benefitted Zapu as much as it benefitted Zanu.
For instance, before the unity accord, Dr Nkomo was considered leader of the opposition, and after the unity accord, he became the vice president, our chairman came from Zapu. And, again, there were ministers from Zapu and under normal circumstances, Zanu could have ruled this country alone, they had enough majority to go without Zapu. Although it stipulated at that time that the president shall be R.G Mugabe, but I think as time goes on the President can be any member of the party. But I think unity in general is good, we can concentrate on development instead of fighting each other and so forth.
NZ: Some say President Mugabe only commits himself to unity when it suits him only to turn around the next moment to be a very divisive figure when his rule is threatened. A case in point is the current purges in his party, what do you think?
CM: That is why I say my book is entitled freedom and justice, which means people must speak, they must express themselves but our people in Zimbabwe, as I see them, are not speaking out. So Mugabe is doing what he is doing because no one is telling him enough to say no, no, no what you are doing is wrong. He goes everywhere and people would ululate and so he thinks he is right. I mean any leader would do that until people say no, no, what you are doing is wrong.
NZ: Itai Dzamara is one case where a Zimbabwean told President Mugabe he was wrong. Only recently, a pastor was arrested in Victoria Falls for staging a one-man demonstration telling the President he was wrong.
CM: I don’t know what happened as far as Dzamara is concerned. It is embarrassing to this country. It reminds me of the disappearance of Dr Edson Sithole and his secretary during the liberation struggle. So we cannot allow a repetition of what was happening during the liberation struggle. What we condemned then cannot be right because we are now in power.
Whoever is responsible for the disappearance of Itai Dzamara, it may be some chaps who were just overzealous. Do you think, really, Mugabe can say go and pick that chap? But what would you do if you were the President and somebody is picked? You expect the security people to look for that person. That is what we expect them to do.
The pastor who was picked up in Victoria Falls recently, again I don’t think Mugabe knew what was happening, I don’t think he even saw this pastor demonstrating so it is the police; that’s why I say our constitution allows for demonstrations and so that man was within his rights.
What I am saying really is I don’t know who is doing that but, personally, I don’t really believe the President can stoop that low to say arrest that man and let him disappear. I know him, by nature he can be very charming but like any human being he has made some mistakes.
NZ: Turning to your book titled, Pursuit of Freedom and Justice – A Memoir, we have seen those who seek to bring back memories of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres harassed by the state. I can cite one visual artist Owen Maseko who was arrested for that before, how has it been so easy for you?
CM: Personally, I believe people must be allowed to speak their minds. I see there is a peace and reconciliation commission which could start by visiting Matebeleland and Midlands to hear people’s views on what happened and how they want to be consoled. In my book, I am just expressing my own opinions I am not insulting anybody.