Be our Guest (01-03-07

This week on 'Be Our Guest,' Gift Phiri (GP) talks to Welshman Ncube (WN), constitutional law expert and secretary general of the Arthur Mutambara-led wing of the MDC.
GP: The police forcefully broke up your rally in Bulawayo last week and also outlawed political gatherings by imposi

ng a three-month blanket ban. What is the way forward for your MDC?
WN: For us the ban is inconsequential and irrelevant because we have resolved to engage in a defiance campaign. By its nature, the defiance campaign does not require the consent of the authority you are seeking to defy. Consequently, with or without the blanket ban, the campaign will continue.
GP: Is this ban legal under the Zimbabwe constitution?
WN: Its legality is questionable. Remember we are dealing with the provisions of POSA (Public Order and Security Act), which are in any event so broadly formulated that they are a direct contradiction of our liberties. As far as we are concerned, any attempts to ban meetings is clearly inconsistent with democratic principles and is against the freedoms and liberties for which this country went to war against the settler regime.
GP: Police claim there is a real threat of an outbreak of violence during these gatherings and say they are duty-bound to protect life and property.
WN: The cause of violence is not political gatherings. The cause of violence is the repression to which the people of Zimbabwe are subjected by the Mugabe regime. In any country where people are governed through coercion and force rather than by consent, the first perpetrator of violence is the State through repression. And any other violence is reactive to the State violence. So our meetings will remain peaceful and non-violent.
GP: Can we call this state-of-affairs, where we have an unofficial curfew, and a massive crackdown on the opposition, a state of emergency?
WN: We clearly have an unofficial state of emergency. What Zanu (PF) has done over the years is to assume, through ordinary legislation such as POSA, AIPPA, Amendment No. 17, emergency powers without in fact declaring a state of emergency. When those pieces of legislation have been inadequate for their dictatorial purposes they have not hesitated to act extra-legally.
GP: Your MDC wing announced a mass resistance programme last month to the press. At what stage is this now?
WN: The first meeting was held last week, which police banned. Another is planned 10 and 11 March in Gweru and then in Mutare. Every week there will be meetings across Zimbabwe.
GP: There are widespread calls that the two MDCs should reunite. Are there any efforts to broker a unity pact?
WN: The most important thing is not to unify contradictory and antagonistic ideological and political persuasion. When you unify individuals under a single political entity, when those individuals are unable to share the same core values and principles, it does more harm to the opposition than to work in cooperation under different formations.
GP: Despite these personality differences you allude to, don’t you agree the MDC would be more effective as a united front?
WN: The MDC of 2005 before the split was an MDC which was in a state of paralysis, unable to effectively challenge Zanu (PF) because more time and energy was spent on endless internal contradiction. We are in favour of unity but it cannot be unprincipled unity. It must be unity that will enable the opposition to grow to be cohesive and effective.
GP: But are there any talks currently underway to break this logjam?
WN: Yes we are talking to our colleagues; we have been talking to them for some time exploring possibilities of a broad front and of peaceful co-existence. What will determine whether or not we succeed is whether we are able to overcome the very things that divided us, which paralysed the united MDC of 2005.
GP: Political analysts claim Mugabe plans to make himself a ceremonial President after March 2008 and then appoint a Prime Minister to run a unity government. Are you willing to be part of this transitional arrangement?
WN: I do not believe in that fiction. Mugabe loves power. That is why he is prepared to push the country to the brink and to destroy every Zimbabwean’s future.
GP: Zanu (PF) looks set to bulldoze through Parliament, constitutional changes giving Mugabe an illegal two-year extension of his mandate. Do you think the MDC should continue attending Parliament?
WN: The proponents of the Parliamentary boycott are, with respect, incapable of understanding the role of the opposition in Parliament, which is not to stop the ruling party with a majority from doing whatever it desires to do. Our view about participating in Parliament is not informed by our ability to stop the ruling party from implementing its programs but is informed by our obligation to demonstrate through Parliamentary processes to the people of Zimbabwe that they short-changed themselves by voting Zanu (PF) into power.
GP: People say the greatest threat to Mugabe’s rule is the economy, not the opposition. What do you think?
WN: Again this is quite uninformed. There is a false notion that the economic collapse in Zimbabwe will in itself result in the fall of the Mugabe regime. The economy itself cannot topple Mugabe. This government will not fall until such a time that people have organized themselves sufficiently well to confront and negate the dictatorship. That is what will bring an end to the Mugabe dictatorship.

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