Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Roy Bennet claims the MDC has created the economic crisis in Zimbabwe in order to fight Mugabe.

Roy Bennett, a controversial former MP and treasurer of the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai was a guest on SW Radio Africa's Hot Seat programme broadcast last Friday. Journalist Violet Gonda asked the questions::
Broadcast February 22, 2008
Last updated: 02/25/2008 12:11:33
Violet Gonda: My guest on the programme Hot Seat is Roy Bennett, the Treasurer General of the Tsvangirai MDC. Thank you for joining us Mr Bennett.

Roy Bennett: My pleasure Violet.

Violet: Crucial elections for the President, Parliament, Senate and Council representatives are going to be held countrywide next month. Do you think these elections are going to be free and fair?

Bennett: Most definitely not. Already they are not free and fair. Already the outcome is contested. When the ruling party goes ahead, fails to implement paper agreements that they have agreed in the Talks, goes ahead putting in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that is partisan, goes and does delimitations without the participation of the opposition, you’ve already set the grounds for a rigged election.

There are still incidents of violence, there are still incidents where the police are not respecting their own law and allowing peaceful demonstrations.

We still have no access to media, we still have no access to public gatherings, so the whole playing field is already skewed in favour of the ruling party to keep their defend power project and to keep the people of Zimbabwe repressed and without the norms and freedoms of the SADC declaration.

Violet: So this is not new for the opposition and after all this rigging of elections and the unequal playing field that you have mentioned. Why is the opposition participating?

Bennett: Very simple Violet, very, very simple. We are involved in a process, we are involved in a process of evolving into a democracy in Zimbabwe through the people of Zimbabwe. We just have to go back to the formation of the MDC which came from the people led by Morgan Tsvangirai from the labour movement. It was a people driven project. It came from the people, the people put their representatives in place to represent them, I am very proud to say that those who stayed the course with President Tsvangirai at our helm have never let those people down. We have remained loyal; we have remained honest to those people. That is why there is a crisis in Zimbabwe today, that is why the whole issue has come to the proportion that it has come at.

The people of Zimbabwe have refused to accept Zanu PF as their leaders, they have refused the defend power project that Mugabe and his cronies have forced upon the people. They have been beaten, have been raped, they have had their homes destroyed, they have had absolutely no access to information, they have had every single norm taken away from them and yet they have remained resolute which is why the crisis is there today.

And for us, we continue with this process. We are going to elections. Sure the elections will be rigged but this time they will have to steal those elections and very visibly steal those elections. And those that wish to endorse a rigged election, we have on record President Mbeki, we have on record SADC directing President Mbeki that a process will be laid on the ground - that these elections, and that was what the whole talks were about, that these elections will be uncontested and that the people of Zimbabwe would have an election that will follow the norms and standards of the SADC elections. That has not happened. So therefore if those people endorse a stolen election or endorse something that is undemocratic, I don’t see the forces of good and the forces in the world that can help Zimbabwe out of the mess they are in come to the party and endorse a fraud or a stolen election.

Violet: But Mugabe told SADC that he will not accept an MDC victory. What is your response to that?

Bennett: Very simple again. If SADC wants to go ahead listening and being dictated to by a man who is totally discredited and through his actions is totally discredited within his country and within SADC and Africa and allow a man like that to manipulate and steal and force his will upon people then so be it. Let the world see and let everybody see it for what it is.

Violet: But still Mr Bennett your critics say the MDC’s responses to the rigged elections have been somewhat sterile in the past. In the event that elections are rigged this time around, what is going to happen the day that Mugabe is declared winner?

Bennett: Violet we don’t believe in violence. We certainly don’t believe in violence in any form whatsoever. We don’t believe in subjecting the people to a popular uprising that will see thousands slaughtered as has happened in Kenya . We will be resolute to continue with our process of evolution in democratising what has happened in Zimbabwe . We will make sure that it is very, very visible that those elections have been stolen. We are part of the global village, we are part of Africa , and we are part of SADC and the International community.

If they allow an election to be stolen, and they stand by and watch the people of Zimbabwe subjected to further theft of elections so be it. We will continue as we have done quietly and silently, resolute in our course to have free and fair elections and a democratic Zimbabwe . We will not resort to violence, we will not mobilise people to get on the streets and be shot. We have completely different circumstances to Kenya or anywhere else in the world where we have had to deal with a dictatorship in the manner that we are having to deal with this one with absolutely no assistance from anybody other than the people of Zimbabwe .

We are facing 85% unemployment, we are facing hundreds of percent of inflation, we are facing starvation and you expect those people to get out of the street and be shot furthermore and add to all the problems that they’ve got, it’s not going to happen Violet. We are going to continue in our quest by the people coming out in large numbers and voting and exposing the things that take place and stand back and watch what the reaction is to the norms and standards of the international community, the regional community and SADC.

Violet: It would appear as some would say that your strategies have failed because Mugabe is still in power. Are your strategies working and in your opinion are they effective?

Bennett: Absolutely Violet. What is the situation in Zimbabwe today and how it has come about, has it just happened? Has it just been plucked out of air that the type of crisis that is in Zimbabwe today? Or is it the type of crisis because the people have remained resolute in their quest to support Morgan Tsvangirai and the opposition movement to bring about complete change that Zimbabwe is the crisis it is in today. How can you say it has failed? How can you say that about Zimbabwe today? We are on the verge of change- what’s brought that about?

Violet: But Mugabe is still in power so how do you measure your effectiveness?

Bennett: Surely he is in power because elections are lost by the incumbent they are never won by the opposition and he is going to lose these elections. If not this time, within six months, within a year there has to be fresh elections. If he steals which he is visibly doing this election how long will he continue doing so, Violet? We are patient people, we are doing this democratically. We are doing this in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe and for the future of Zimbabwe. We don’t want violence. Africa is dotted with it. We are a new beginning and a new Zimbabwe ; we will bring about the first, first world state in Africa , starting in Zimbabwe and the people have suffered for it. They have suffered for it by being silent and patient and allowing the bully and all his cohorts to fall by the wayside through the failure of all their policies and the total collapse of the country.

Violet: Now let’s talk about the issue of the Unity Talks between the two MDC formations. There were talks between the MDC factions and the objective as I understand it was to bring the two camps together to contest the elections. Now why didn’t that happen? What went wrong?

Bennett: Very simple the whole split that occurred in the MDC was a Matebeleland split. We had the leadership of Matebeleland splitting away from the MDC without the knowledge or endorsement of the grassroots of Zimbabwe - including the grassroots of Matebeleland. When that split took place you had a vacuum within the Matebeleland region. That vacuum then pushed people to elect new leadership to replace the leadership that had left their party and so a new leadership was elected in Matebeleland. We now have, if you look at: apart from one or two the major leadership of the splinter faction was in Matebeleland.

So when it came to the Talks and when it came to finalizing this and we were 100% committed to reuniting the two factions. It broke down over the battle for the heart and soul of Matebeleland and we were saying that you cannot reward those that have splinted away by giving them more seats than those who have remained behind. At the same time you cannot reward those who have remained behind by giving them more seats than those that have splinted away.

The fairest way to do would be to share the Matebeleland seats on a 50/50 basis. Well of course neither leadership accepted this and the whole thing broke down. Again its not an issue Violet, lets go back to 1980 and the birth of Zimbabwe there were three political parties then. There was ZAPU, there was ZANU and there was ZANU NDONGA. The International Community, the chattering class, the diplomatic community, were saying you have to stand together to win this election. And no matter how much pressure they put on them and no matter how much they tried to force them together, they entered into that election as three separate entities.

Ndabaningi Sithole went on under ZANU NDONGA, Mugabe went on under Zanu PF and Joshua Nkomo went under ZAPU. The emblem of the Jongwe - for Zanu PF - was brought about two months before those elections. So it’s nothing new. People split away, you have different views we now have two political parties, we no longer have two MDC’s. We have two different political formations heading in their own directions and good luck and let it happen it is what the people want. You can’t force something together that’s not there.

We’ve tried, we’ve given it our biggest effort, we’ve suffered severe criticism from all quarters but at the end of the day, as leaders you can’t demand on people what they must do. We are a democratic movement. We come from the people we listen to the people and those talks broke down because the people themselves from Matebeleland would not accept each other, and that’s were we are today, so they go ahead, we go ahead. Good luck.

Violet: When you say there are no two MDCs, is this really the case on the ground because when you look at the … (interrupted)

Bennett: Absolutely. We are entering into a Presidential election and that’s what counts Violet. There is a MDC President and there is two Zanu PF Presidents, so we haven’t got a problem.

Violet: What about the other elections for the parliament, the senate and the council because even on the ballot box it will have MDC Tsvangirai and MDC Mutambara, isn’t that an issue?

Bennett: That’s not an issue. It’s two different political parties, everybody knows that and everyone will vote for the political party they want. It’s not going to confuse anyone.

Violet: Just a last thing on the issue of the Unity Talks. The Tsvangirai MDC has said no to the senate elections but now you are participating this time what has changed since 2005?

Bennett: I have just explained to you Violet that we are in a process. If we don’t participate in these things we become irrelevant. Then we were talking about senatorial elections. We weren’t talking about total parliament and presidential elections. Here we are talking about presidential, parliamentary, council and the senate elections. We can overlook the senator in favour of the president, parliamentary and the council elections and deal with the senatorial issue once we are in power which is in April next month. I guarantee you and I am sitting here telling you that by the first of April Morgan Tsvangirai will be President of Zimbabwe and he is going to shock the world, shock the chattering class, shock the Diplomatic Community that all try to impose people of their choice rather than listening to the grassroots of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe.

Violet: In your view who is the Diplomatic Community trying to impose?

Bennett: They are trying to impose Simba Makoni right now.

Violet: Can you talk a bit more about that? What is your assessment on the emergence of Simba Makoni, and what makes you say that the Diplomatic Community is supporting him?

Bennett: Well basically all you have to do is to look at the chattering class, look at the internet that is not available to the average people and listen to the Diplomats and pick up on their communications between each other that’s very, very easy to see. What people don’t realize Violet is that everybody wants a solution to Zimbabwe and they want a quick solution and they want a solution that they believe will happen and that Zanu PF will have to be part of that solution. It’s not going to happen. The people of Zimbabwe want change, they want rid and gone of Zanu PF and they will settle for nothing else.

Again it was the same with the entrance of Arthur Mutambara into the whole issue of the President of the MDC. How and where in the world does someone parachute into a Presidential position never having addressed a branch meeting in the rural areas? And right now as we watch Simba Makoni, we see Simba Makoni walking with three people from his house into a room and making press statements. He tells us he is not alone, we’ve seen nobody else come up and stand next to him. There are rumours of that person and this person but at this stage how can we take him seriously? Have we seen him standing in front of a gathering of people, have we seen him addressing a branch? He throws a manifesto and puts out a manifesto without a political party.

Just say by some fluke chance he gets elected into government and you’ve got the MDC with so many seats and Zanu PF have so many seats, one obviously being in the majority of the other, we have got a Westminster system of government, so how now do you form a government? He has to go back to that party and ask them to form a government. What does this manifesto stand for if he is going to either go to one of them to form a government? Surely it’s their manifesto that is going to count. We have to look a lot deeper into this to understand the dynamics of what is happening. And will not settle for a stooge to be pushed forward to be given a soft landing for the very people who have committed atrocities right across the lengths and breadths of Zimbabwe

Violet: So what do you think are the implications of Makoni’s candidature?

Bennett: Well I think when I give it some deep thought and look into the whole issue, I can only think of one thing, Violet. I can think that having no party, standing as an independent President, he is going to have to form a government. Should, and he is only banking on Zanu PF because he is a Zanu PF man he’s banking that Zanu PF will win the highest number of seats within parliament. Mugabe will be very, very embarrassed because they have won the highest number of seats and he will have been defeated as President. So he will have to stand down or they will have to have a vote of no confidence and remove him, in which case they will call a congress and then appoint Simba Makoni as the President and therefore he can take off as President of Zimbabwe.

Violet: What I also don’t understand and maybe you can give us your thoughts on this. Many people say that Makoni is just an extension of Zanu PF and that if the goal is to keep the regime in power, so why not just have Makoni stand as the Zanu PF candidate instead of him becoming and independent candidate?

Bennett: Well for exactly the same reasons as what happened in our split. A minority decides that they want to be President and it’s not being endorsed by the majority. So they connive and make plans to defeat the majority in order to achieve their goals. He was defeated at the presidency of Zanu PF, but now he has come in, and he said that he has people behind him and he is hoping to pick up votes across the board because he is an opportunist and right now it’s ripe for the picking in Zimbabwe because as I said to you earlier an incumbent loses an election and an opposition never wins an election.

An incumbent loses the election by his policies. Every man and his dog today in Zimbabwe want change. Why do they want change, they want change because of their life and difficulties that they face on a day-today basis. There is not a single person who cannot see the failure of Zanu PF and they have lived under the violence and distraction for the last 28 years so they want change. Simba Makoni through his cohorts realized this so they have like opportunists tried to jump in to take advantage of that change in order to then go back to Zanu PF when he is the President and install himself as the President of Zanu PF, and for those that are with him to protect the ill gotten gains, to protect the human rights abuses and not to face the people of Zimbabwe. That’s the way I see it and that’s the way I believe it Violet.

Violet: What about the fact that Mutambara MDC is waiting to throw its support behind Simba Makoni?

Bennett: I think that clearly explains that the split in our MDC and that is the way it always has been. They are going home, they are joining Zanu PF were they belong.

Violet: But wasn’t the ethos of the Mutambara camp - wasn’t it to destroy Zanu PF from within and that included working with reformers within Zanu PF. There are some who believe that Makoni is a moderate and that he could help weaken the Mugabe regime. So if the Tsvangirai MDC is calling for all progressive forces to fight Robert Mugabe, why not form an alliance with him to do so, if that is the case?

Bennett: We understand, that’s why I said, we haven’t seen it yet but we believe from the press and the chattering class and what is thrown at us that Solomon Majuro is backing Simba Makoni. Now, the properties that Solomon Majuro has stolen, the wealth that he has stolen through corrupt practices, do you really think that after the suffering we’ve had in the last eight, nine years by standing up for democracy and challenging the system of Zanu PF of corruption, of murder, of rape and of blunder; do you really think that we could get into bed with him now and call that an alliance of all democracies or an alliance of all democratic forces to defeat the dictators? Why don’t we just join up with Mugabe and say we are all one and let’s just go ahead.

Violet: Your critics say this issue of people coming from Zanu PF should not really be a factor because a lot of MDC leaders were members of Zanu PF. They say that Mr Tsvangirai was a member of Zanu PF until the late 80s and said nothing during Gukurahundi and that you almost stood as a Zanu PF candidate in 2000. How would you answer them?

Bennett: Very, very simply, Violet. We listen to the call of the people and they told us that Zanu PF was rotten and the policies of Zanu PF were wrong so we formed the opposition. We have welcomed and continued to welcome with absolute open arms anybody who rejects Zanu PF and joins change. We will never accept a lukewarm change within inside Zanu PF and Simba Makoni has come out categorically and said on many, many occasions, he is Zanu PF, he believes in Zanu PF and Zanu PF is his party. So therefore it’s not a case of Zanu PF people leaving Zanu PF coming to join the opposition and fight against everything that’s destroyed our country.

They are saying to us that Morgan Tsvangirai should stand down and we should come under Zanu PF to form this wonderful new country of democracy. Where they have sat on the Politburo, they have sat and stood by very silently and watched every act that has been perpetrated against our country and against the people of our country. So I don’t know Violet whether people think the people of Zimbabwe are fools, whether they think because they are rural devastated populations through the policies of the government, 85% unemployed, can’t get any medical help, can’t eat, whether they think that has affected their brains, I don’t know.

The people of Zimbabwe know what they want. They have stood up for change they have stood behind our President Morgan Tsvangirai a man they can trust, its all about trust. Can I trust Simba Makoni? I very much doubt it. I can trust Morgan Tsvangirai, he’s never ever backtracked on what he stood for, and he has never changed on his quest to stand for the people of Zimbabwe to bring them a better life and a new beginning. That’s where we are Violet, nothing and nobody is going to change us and we are going to get there even if not this time, next time we will keep going, we will keep trying, and we will get there.

Violet: But what about someone like Professor Jonathan Moyo who was in the Cabinet, he was the Information Minister. What about this trust issue, can you trust Jonathan Moyo because I understand that you had a gentlemen’s agreement with Professor Moyo in Tsholotsho and agreed as the MDC’s not to file a candidate in his constituency? So in your opinion how different is Professor Jonathan Moyo from Dr Simba Makoni?
Bennett: Very different because he has completely disassociated himself with Zanu PF. But then again, don’t get me wrong Violet, and let’s not twist issues. Anyone associated with Jonathan Moyo would be a kiss of death. He is the person that destroyed the media in Zimbabwe , he is the person that advised Mugabe at the time that he was in Mugabe’s Cabinet to carry out most of the acts that took place because it was his scheming and conniving that brought it all about. There is a big difference between him and Dr Simba Makoni. You know there is something about these people with degrees. They come in from the top and think that they can thrust leadership down to the grassroots because they have got a degree.

Let me tell you something Violet, Morgan Tsvangirai, myself, Nelson Chamisa, we might not have degrees, but we’ve got degrees in people. We are honest, we stand for people, we deliver what they want not what we want, and we listen to them. So the issue of Jonathan Moyo, he was fighting Robert Mugabe. He had a seat, that seat was secure. When we made the deal with the splinter group, we had said that as there was a short time to go, we would not challenge seating MPs and he fell into that category. It’s not because we have made an alliance with him. We let him stand because he is in opposition to Mugabe and Zanu PF. And that is why he is there and we haven’t been against him. It’s not the same with Simba Makoni, Simba Makoni is still telling us he is with Zanu PF and that he is changing Zanu PF from within and that we must come and join him. It’s not possible Violet, its not going to happen.

Violet: If I were to say to you that Dr Simba Makoni is an MDC sympathiser for the following reasons: Firstly, it is rumoured that he has had an MDC party card since 2000; Secondly, we understand that he has held talks with President Tsvangirai before; Thirdly, that he visited President Morgan Tsvangirai, Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh in SA when they were receiving treatment after their assaults by government agents; Fourthly, his strategy is to appeal to disgruntled MDC supporters; and Fifthly, the almighty Herald has characterized him as an MDC sympathizer – what would your response be to these five points?

Bennett: Firstly, he couldn’t have visited Morgan Tsvangirai in the hospital in South Africa because he never came here to hospital after his beating. But never mind that. I would say to you… (interrupted)

Violet: But what about Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh?

Bennett: I don’t know! But he is a decent human being if he did that. But let’s get back to the issue Violet and the issue is; if he is genuine in wanting change and he is genuine in bringing a new dispensation to Zimbabwe he would understand the politics within Zimbabwe . And if he has genuine backers within Zanu PF who want change they would know who has the popular support of the people of Zimbabwe . They would know who has fiercely and honestly - a man that we can trust - led the people of Zimbabwe in their quest for change for the last nine years.

Ndodakumbotaura neShona zvishoma shoma Violet. (I would like to speak in Shona for a bit Violet).

Violet: Taurayi zvenyu (go ahead).

Bennett: Ndirikuda kumuudzayi kuti muchivanhu – ndinobva kuManyika – chandakadzidziswa kubvira ndiri mwana mudiki inyaya yetsika. Munoziya nyaya yetsika? In English we say manners. Saka kana zvese izvi zvine chokwadi, iye Dr Makoni achida kuita President yeZimbabwe ari munhu kwaye asina zvaari kuwiga kuseriuko chakamutadza – and what stopped him from going to President Tsvangirai quietly and say ‘Morgan I have come to see you. There is a call from inside Zanu PF for change. We are anti everything that has happened. We have to recognise you for your fight and everything you have done for this democratic movement. But we believe we can bring the military on board, we believe we can bring the securocrats on board and deliver change. But it would mean that I would have to stand for President and you come under me. What do you say?’

Let me tell you Violet, Morgan Tsvangirai would have jumped at that if it was genuine and it was going to deliver the sort of change that is needed to bring about a complete change in culture, and bury the culture, the patronage, the corruption that has killed this country, he would have been the first person to accept that, but that’s not what happened. How arrogant and how lack of manners to send somebody and say; ‘Iwe chimbo swederuka ndakumira sePresident. Unogona kumira pasi pangu!’ (Hey you, stand aside I am going to stand as President. You can come under me!) Where does that happen Violet? What kind of manners are those? For me personally that’s where I lost my respect and I realized that this thing is nothing more than a sham.

Violet: What about the rumour that he had an MDC party card since 2000, including the wife - that Chipo Makoni also had a card? Would that persuade you that he would sympathise with the MDC if these reports were true?

Bennett: (Laughs) Zvikadaro ka, ndizvo zvetaitaura kuti matsotsi muchamhanya. He is not the only one achabuda kuti tanga tinemaCard eMDC. Wese warikuona mamirire ezvinhu kumba muchaona maparty cards eMDC echibuda kwese kwese. Hazvimbo ndinyadza kuti Tyson Kasukuwere achabuditsa card reMDC. ( This is what we were saying to all those crooked that their time would be up.) He is not the only one who will confess that he had an MDC card. All those who are observing the situation in Zimbabwe will see MDC party cards emerge from all directions . I would not be surprised that even Tyson Kasukuwere has an MDC card.)

Violet: Are you saying that Dr Makoni had an MDC party card?

Bennett: I have no idea. Since I have been Treasurer it has never been brought to my attention that he bought a party card so I have no idea. I am sure it’s his decision and it’s his privacy whether he has got one or not. It’s not for me to comment Violet.

Violet: NowI would like to talk about the Thabo Mbeki negotiations. Certain sections of civil society have characterized the talks as failure, for the reason that they never yielded any substantive change or reform. Did they fail in your view?

Bennett: Absolutely,they are deadlocked. Nothing has come out of those talks whatsoever.

Violet: Did the talks fail by default or by design?

Bennett: I think by default. I honestly believe that SADC were very, very genuine and that they wanted a free and fair election contest in Zimbabwe and I believe that President Mbeki; I wouldn’t say that he failed, failed is the wrong word Violet. I would say that they didn’t succeed. That’s the way I would put it. It was not because of the efforts of President Mbeki that these Talks never succeeded. It was because of the duplicity and the nature of the beast of Robert Mugabe. He led them on a long, and still continues to lead them on. And I think it is still difficult for President Mbeki to say something bad about Mugabe. But let the truth be known that SADC should be informed, Africa should be informed and the world should be informed that you cannot talk to Robert Mugabe. He will not accept anything other than his will and he will do what he wants. And that is exactly what happened, and that is the short and long of it Violet.

Violet: There are many who believe that the prospects for progress at the talks caused the MDC to put all its eggs in one basket and the opposition’s desperation to reach a resolution to the crisis caused it to ignore a fundamental fact that Mugabe was incapable of change. How would you respond to that statement?

Bennett: No I would say that is totally wrong and I will give my due here to both Welshman Ncube (Mutambara-MDC) and Tendai Biti (Tsvangirai –MDC) because I was privy to the amount of work and effort they put to those Talks. And I think nobody is more devastated and embarrassed than they are as to how those talks have turned out because we were genuine. We were genuine because SADC initiated the mediator, and in all contact with the mediation team led by Sydney Mufamadi it was genuine and our guys were genuine. I think they were devastated when at the end of the road, where they thought they had made huge progress Robert Mugabe turned out to (inaudible)… but we all knew he is and remained true to form and just scuppered everything that had been hard worked on, undone.

Violet: Did the MDC blindly pursue the talks out of desperation?

Bennett: No definitely not. You know you can’t tell me someone like Tendai Biti or Welshman Ncube would blindly do anything. I honestly think they are both brilliant men. I think they worked very, very hard together to try and bring about a resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe not through desperation but through genuineness and through sincere effort. I honestly believe that, it’s so sad Violet because they get the flack for this whole thing but let me tell you as far as the talks are concerned and their efforts to change things through those talks, I hold them both in very high esteem.

Violet: But still, Mr Bennett if you know that Mugabe is incapable of change, why did you honestly think he would change at the negotiating table?

Bennett: I just explained to you Violet, and you know a child should know, when SADC – which is the Southern African Development Community, which is the states that are all our neighbours, comes up with an initiative and appoints a mediator it would be highly disrespectful and absolutely arrogant of us to tell them that they don’t know what they are talking about and for us to snub that effort before it’s even begun.

So therefore as far as the Talks are concerned, to all those concerned I can only give 100% praise on their effort, 100% praise on their content but again what it has done is to show the nature of the beast of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF with their duplicity, their lack of genuineness and their total, total commitment to defend power by even duping SADC and duping the mediator. So what it has done is show them up. I still believe we had to do it, we had to go into it, and we had to give it our best shot. I believe that those who went into it gave it their best shot and I believe Mugabe acted true to form but nevertheless, we had to go down that road.

Violet: What about those who have criticized Thabo Mbeki for the way he has dealt with the negotiations with the political parties. Do you think the influence of the regional and international community exacerbated the tensions with the political groups?

Bennett: I don’t think so at all Violet. Again I go back and say they all totally and blindly thought that something would come out of Robert Mugabe. Again it’s nobody’s fault and you can’t put fault at anyone’s door. It’s a process, it’s not an event. You have to give an honest account from the bottom of your heart in what you are doing and you try your best and I believe that is what happened. As you go through the process so the people are exposed and so the process is exposed and that is exactly what happened with the Talks.

Violet: What about on the issue of the Makoni formation, do you think the region is propping Makoni up?

Bennett: I imagine they probably would like to support someone like Simba Makoni because it gives an out to Mugabe and brings in a reformed Zanu PF and it brings in change where a nationalist movement, a liberation movement is not changed by a non nationalist movement and a non-liberation movement. I honestly believe that is one of the issues that caused us problems in Zimbabwe . Is that we the MDC are not a nationalist movement, we are not a liberation movement and because of that fact alone we have taken the flack from the African continent and SADC and they don’t want to face up to the fact that one of their own has failed the people and completely destroyed the country. So therefore they would like that to continue and then rebuild it from there, so you can never say that area was a failure.

Violet: Turning away from the other issues you have raised. Let’s look at the state of the MDC. Many people believe that the party has been wrecked by infighting and indiscipline, and critics of the party have said that Mr Tsvangirai is now incapable of running the country. What is your comment?

Bennett: (laughs). It’s very easy for someone to sit outside and throw stones. I think President Tsvangirai, who I got to know very well and is a personal friend of mine and I honestly believe he has done the best he can under very difficult circumstances. And in an issue around what we are facing where all sorts of factors can create problems. I think he is the glue that has held the whole thing together. And all I can say to you Violet is that we have the launch of our campaign on Saturday and I think that launch is going to shock the world. It’s going to shock all the people who have had all these things to say about Morgan Tsvangirai when they see the people that will turn up to that launch and see the success of how that launch is planned and handled. And then we will hear them say that he is not fit to form a government.

Violet: And has the structure of the MDC worked against the objectives of the party? For example it is widely believed that some MPS are no longer engaged in these objectives because people are jostling for positions and power while some are trying to eke out a living during these harsh economic times? What can you say about that?

Bennett: I would say of course they are. In every instance you have individuals who have those sort of agendas and are for self-serving interest, but I don’t think we can generalize and at the same time we have to take cognisance of the state of affairs in the country. We have a country that has absolutely no rule of law, we have a securocratic government that dishes out masses of violence on anybody that dares to stand up. Of course you are going to get all sorts of people that are going to stand up in that environment. But it is the step of the process of democratizing our country and for those who do stand up for whatever reasons they do – they are there. They are bringing about change. As soon as there is change we can then move on to the next phase which is dealing with the caliber and the delivery of those who are coming into those positions.

Violet: With the way that that these elections have been structured where a voter is going to be voting in four different kinds of elections in one day - for a President, MP, Senator and Councilor. Has there been adequate voter education?

Bennett: I think in the last 10 years we have had massive voter education. All we have done is vote, vote, vote. I think people are very aware and I think they would easily make their distinctions and make their mark. They know what they want Violet, you are not going to pull the wool over their eyes and they will pull it off.

Violet: There is extensive media coverage during elections around the world but this is not the case in Zimbabwe. What do you think about the media coverage in Zimbabwe so far?

Bennett: As I have said to you there has been no reform to the laws that were agreed on – that Tendai and Welshman fought hard for. And I suspect that at the 11 th hour the press freedom will be turned on, journalists will be allowed into the country and the international communities but it will be at the 11 th hour Violet. But whatever they do they are not going to hide the fact that if they steal these elections it is going to be very, very visible. The fact that the press are or aren’t there it’s not going to be able to hide that fact.

Every election we have suffered under the same conditions – those elections have been stolen – but this time it’s completely different because the very machinery, the very apparatus, the securocrats, the military, the police that have all been used against the people by politicians are hurting the same as anybody else. You know they realize that they are mere tools and that the people accountable for the mess are politicians. They also want change right across the length and breath of Zimbabwe everybody is sick and tired of living like animals foraging for a living, lining up at banks. Everybody is sick of it. So the very machinery that has been used in the past is not as energized and committed to stealing anything at this stage. I think it’s more for change than anything else.

Violet: And you are there is South Africa, what about the way the media has been covering the crisis in Zimbabwe?

Bennett: Unfortunately what has happened is that there are certain journalists who got emotionally involved in the issues of Zimbabwe and have taken sides and therefore they have used their reporting in their newspapers to report very unprofessionally and favorably in whatever they believe in. I know of one newspaper that has been advocating a Third Way for sometime now – as the only way you are going to sort things out in Zimbabwe and as soon as Dr Simba Makoni comes in throws their full weight to Makoni.

The very newspapers have been denigrating the opposition under Morgan Tsvangirai. I have, in my capacity of the Treasurer General of the Standing Committee on the National Executive, responded to those articles with letters but never once have any of my letters been published. And it’s very, very sad when journalists becomes emotionally involved and take sides. And use their journalistic abilities and newspapers to punt their point of view rather than a balanced point of view representative of the circumstances on the ground.

Violet: I agree that we should remain impartial as journalists but in Zimbabwe isn’t it very had now to distance yourself emotionally from what is happening and very hard to be impartial?

Bennett: You are either a journalist or not a journalist. And you either report the facts on the ground or you don’t report the facts on the ground. When you start skewing articles and skewing information in favour of what you believe in you shouldn’t be a journalist. When you feel that you have been sucked into something and you are now not reporting objectively but you are genuinely reporting because you firmly believe in a particular issue you should – if you have the ethics and if you are an honorable person - remove yourself from journalistic printing and get involved in politics. Join the political party concerned. Stick your head out, say whatever you have to say and be a man! Have some cajons and say ‘I am so and so, I am standing for so and so’ and don’t hide behind the press. Don’t hide behind some little articles showing where you stand and claiming you can’t be impartial because of the circumstances. If you are an ethical person, if you are an honest person, if you are a decent person and you realize that you have been sucked into the emotions of the politics of Zimbabwe recuse yourself!

Violet: But do you agree also that the situation in Zimbabwe is so difficult to get the facts and perhaps journalists are forced to write what they write because there is little information coming from the political parties and that nobody is free and open with information from all the political parties – whether it’s Zanu PF or MDC?

Bennett: Not at all Violet. Not at all. I am giving you particular examples and everybody knows who those journalists are. You ask anybody in Zimbabwe; even if a stranger in the world was to pick up the articles from those journalists concerned they will be able to tell you immediately that those people have an agenda. There have been many, many, many balanced articles to come out of Zimbabwe. Fortunately there are only one or two, maybe two journalists that do this. And they remain unnamed, they know who they are and the people of Zimbabwe know who they are. The rest have been very objective, have been very balanced and we have seen very objective and balanced reporting come out of Zimbabwe.

Violet: And before we go a final word?

Bennett: A final word? Heh heh heh (laughs). Itai basa vanhu vekumusha ikoko. Takutonga (laughs). Rwendo runo harikone, tapinda basa nderedu. We are in power already Violet I can feel the vibe in my communications with people and there is a buzz and I tell you the biggest shock will be in the rural areas. Within the rural areas every single one of them wants changes and anybody who has followed the politics of Zimbabwe and understands the politics of Zimbabwe will understand Zimbabweans vote in block. It’s going to be a landslide in April and I will stick my head to it. If it’s stolen? It will be visibly seen that a landslide victory has been stolen.

Violet Gonda: Thank you very much Mr Roy Bennett.

Roy Bennett: Pleasure Violet thank you.

Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa’s Hot Seat programme. Comments and feedback can be emailed to violet@swradioafrica.com

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