VIOLET GONDA: My guest on the Hot Seat programme is Tabitha Khumalo, the MDC House of assembly representative for Bulawayo East and a member of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, JOMIC. Welcome Tabitha.
TABITHA KHUMALO: Thank you Violet.
GONDA: Now Tabitha, lets start with you outlining for us your terms of reference.
KHUMALO: Our terms of reference as JOMIC are to monitor the Global Political Agreement that signed by the three parties in Zimbabwe. Our role is to make sure that the parties that signed that Agreement should implement it in letter and spirit.
GONDA: Right. So JOMIC is supposed to be the safety valve for this Global Political Agreement and as you said, to implement the provisions of the GPA, so in your understanding, has JOMIC been effective?
KHUMALO: First and foremost, when JOMIC members were appointed, we did not have an office. Nor did we have a secretariat, so what was happening was individual members that were affected, who felt that the GPA was being violated were forming up as individuals. So what would then happen is we would pick up the information, meet as JOMIC, raise those issues but we had no source of keeping that information and a way to follow up because we did not have an office and as I speak now, we have opened an office and we have recruited staff so everything is now rolling.
GONDA: Where is this office?
KHUMALO: Our office is in Harare; 136 Lomagundi, sorry George Avenue in Harare.
GONDA: So since its formation in February, how many times has JOMIC met?
KHUMALO: Since the formation in February, our last meeting was on the 29th of February and then we had another one recently this month. So weve really not been able to meet because what was required then was we were supposed to use the offices of the co-chair that would have been chairing for that month, so if it was the Minister Goche we would go to his ministerial offices.
GONDA: But what is this you saying about not having had funds, an office to hold meetings when some of your critics say you all seem to have funds to travel the world and if you have money to globetrot, why wasnt there money to rent a room and hold meetings, for such a crucial and important body? How would you respond to that?
KHUMALO: Well Im shocked if theyre talking that JOMIC members are globetrotting because I dont know what globetrotting you are talking about because none of us have been globetrotting. Those of us that have been going outside the country, we are going on business that is completely different from JOMIC business. I mean other ministers will be pushing their agendas of their ministerial desk so obviously as JOMIC members, we are not going in a capacity as JOMIC members, we are going in our capacity, in our roles on the other organisations that we represent.
GONDA: But doesnt that show where the priorities of the individual members of JOMIC lie because as ministers or MPs you are able to travel all over the world for your missions but when it comes to JOMIC, which is supposed to be the overseer, which is supposed to implement the provisions of this very important Global Political Agreement, people have not been able to meet because they say they dont have funds.
KHUMALO: Well surely for example are the people then saying, since Im also a member of parliament for Bulawayo East constituency, Im then not allowed to be in the constituency to service that constituency because that is where I was voted? Because the issue of JOMIC does not mean that we are supposed to meet on daily basis. We could not meet merely because we did not have access to offices – so you will see the issue of us keeping, collecting the data that we have storage of that data became difficult because each and everyone of us was then supposed to take this data home and every time you come back, you need to reproduce that data. Some of us dont have the latest technology where we are going to print that information, and photocopiers that we dont have in our homes. So then our homes could not be then turned into offices and secondly it does not mean that we are in JOMIC we then forego the other roles that we need to play. We have got roles where we sit on these committees of parliament; we have got roles in the institutions that we came from. For example, I came from the labour movement and that doesnt stop me representing the labour movement where Im supposed to be represented just because JOMIC is not sitting. And again does not means that JOMIC then becomes priority over all issues. JOMIC is a priority provided the process is smooth sailing so that we then have a place to start from. We should have people that are on the ground in terms of data information and collection and that information is collected and collated, it is then given to the JOMIC members for the JOMIC members to then raise an alarm in terms of the violation of the GPA.
GONDA: Is JOMIC toothless?
KHUMALO: Well the fact that we are called a monitoring organ, its as good as you and me going to monitor elections in any country. What role do we have? The only role that we have is to see whether they are following their laws, electoral laws in terms of voting, and then we then highlight the anomalies that we pick up during that process of monitoring those elections. After picking up those anomalies, you and me dont have the power to tell that State, to say you are violating a certain section of electoral laws because we dont have the powers. The only way then that we do is after the elections we then write a report to raise the issues that we saw them to be in violation of the laws of that country. So the same applies to JOMIC. What we are supposed to do is to identify the violations and then raise them with the principals and those principals should then take the corrective action.
GONDA: Im going to ask you shortly about the state of the GPA but this week we spoke to one of your party members and also a government minister, Nelson Chamisa who said and I quote; JOMIC is toothless, comatose and they have let people down. If they report back to SADC it will only be about JOMICs death and disfunctionality. What can you say about that?
KHUMALO: Well to me, its unfortunate thats the comment that he made but first and foremost there is need for him to look at this process. You dont just write this organisation, this so-called JOMIC and the GPA and no-one bothered to make sure that the process of it to move, you need offices, no-one bothered about that. The issues of how then do we go to those places, the site visits, no-one bothered about that and they expected us to be moved into JOMIC and start operating. Its as good as you telling me that I must move out of the home and I go to the bush, where do you expect me to go? No matter of how is this JOMIC going to operate, all what they knew was there must be a JOMIC. The JOMIC was then formed and people were sent into JOMIC and to move that process there was need for funding, there was need for this JOMIC to have an office and a secretariat and the secretariats role is to make sure that they gather the information in terms of the violations because weve got the other roles that we need to play. We are not in JOMIC 24/7. We are in JOMIC when need arises so how did they expect us to operate when we had nowhere to operate, we are just in a vacuum, we did not have anything to operate from so how do they expect us to operate?
GONDA: But is it really adequate Tabitha, to say that since JOMICs formation, youve only met twice, you said at the end of February and just recently. Arent there any government buildings or offices that you could have used to meet in between?
KHUMALO: We were using those offices, OK? And then, for example look at the issues of the farm invasions. You are then told farms are being invaded. What is needed now is for us to gather information in terms of those farms that are being invaded. One, we have no transport and then even if we manage to gather this information from pressure groups, there is need for us to verify that information from the ministry responsible for those farms and the people that are being accused of doing whatever they are doing, we still also need to verify at the farm, on the site, to double check that the information that we got was factual so that when we write a report in terms of those violations we have gathered enough evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a violation, and we get that information.
GONDA: But Tabitha, you say that you had no transport for example, and correct me if Im wrong, there are 12 members of JOMIC, seven of those members are ministers with government vehicles. Could you not use as JOMIC, some of their vehicles?
KHUMALO: But those vehicles are government vehicles for their ministries. They have nothing to do with JOMIC. Those cars have been allocated for them to do their ministerial roles so it means to demonstrate if were taking their cars to deal with the JOMIC issues, which means they are stopped doing in terms of their business in that ministry. So it means we are going to handicap them again by inconveniencing them in the usage of that, in the usage of their motor vehicles. So you can imagine for example, we want to go to Chegutu to go and check on the farm invasions and the minister has got a meeting somewhere else, so we dont say OK you dont go to a ministerial meeting, you give us your car and we go to Chegutu to go and double check on site what is happening. It is not going to happen.
GONDA: But Tabitha, we all know that most of the ministers have more than one car so how really is this an inconvenience to use a government car and when you hear about all these abuses that are still taking place in the country? As a monitoring group, surely it is not too much to ask one of the ministers if you could use their cars since you say you are unable to travel to some of these areas where you are receiving information that violations are continuing. Isnt this about priorities and commitment?
KHUMALO: But remember that this same minister has got deliverables that he must deliver within his ministry, including such,
KHUMALO: Let me tell you Violet, including SADC, if SADC and the principals were very clear in terms of us monitoring this agreement they should have put the mechanism on the ground for us to be able to reach these places on time and deal with these problems as soon as possible to make sure the Agreement is not violated. So basically what it means, SADC on its own also was not serious by them moving for this monitoring process whereby there are no resources for us to monitor – and we are not going to jeopardise other peoples positions in the name of priority. I agree it is priority and there is need for us to rectify these problems because they are part of the problem that is causing this MOU not to move the way it is supposed to move. But at the same time, it must be resourced. Without any resources how then are we going to inconvenience other ministries for us to resource JOMIC? Just remember these ministries dont even have budgets.
GONDA: Then perhaps the ministers and MPs in JOMIC are just too busy to be part of this monitoring group if it is to be effective.
KHUMALO: Basically when one is a minister, a minister is busier than anything else. Members of parliament who are backbenchers basically most of the time they are attending committee meetings, parliamentary committee meetings so they are not as busy as ministers. But what I am saying, its not for me to decide whether ministers should sit in JOMIC or not, its entirely up to the principals to say thats what they chose, thats what they will get but what we need to do is to put something on the ground, if that is an obstacle then there must be a decision that should be made.
GONDA: OK before we go to the issue of the GPA itself, I go back to comments made by Minister Nelson Chamisa who said there was frustration and anger within the MDC over what he calls the non-existence of JOMIC and he said that the group has done nothing to ensure the implementation of the GPA. Is this a fair comment?
KHUMALO: That is not very true because as we speak, we wrote a letter to the principals and he must bear in mind that in this country, media is for a chosen few and thats another violation of the MOU, whereby media is biased and does not want to get other issues from other people. So basically most of these things are done behind closed doors because we have no outlet to air that, to say this is what we have done. So far we have written to the principals in terms of the other violations that we have discussed as JOMIC for them to look at them and make sure they correct that. But we dont have the outlet to send that information to the populace to know that is being done. As we speak now, we are compiling data in terms of the hate speech that we need to submit to the principals to say this is what has been happening for the past four weeks and we need a change on that. So ZBC and the government media cannot challenge those issues, they dont want that – so how do we then disseminate that information if we are not, we cannot have access to that medium?
GONDA: So what is the state of the GPA?
KHUMALO: Well the state of the GPA is there have been a number of violations that after the compilation, we then take the list to the principals that they work on them and refer them to the violations that theyve made on the GPA. So the state of the GPA, we are trying to implement it, its not as easy as it sounds but thats what we are doing and we are hoping that the principals will then decide.
GONDA: Can you give us some examples because according to the MDC, your party, they say that there have been 700 breaches by Zanu-PF and its reported that the MDC actually sent a report to SADC with a list of some of these breaches. Now as JOMIC, what aspect of the Global Political Agreement have not received attention?
KHUMALO: The issue of the governors, they have violated the GPA; the issue of the ambassadors, the issue of the swearing in of Roy Bennett, the issue of the hate speech that is being perpetrated day in and day out, the issues of arrests on bogus charges of members of parliament, the issue of arrests of activists, the farm invasions that are taking place because theres an agreement that there should be no farm invasions; the issue of the governor of the Reserve Bank who was appointed after the signing of the MOU, thats another breach; the issue of Tomana as well is another breach. So there are a number of breaches, violations that are being made to the MOU so there is need for them to then put their heads together as the principals because they are the people who are supposed to make the final decisions in terms of implementing the GPA. All what we need to do is to highlight the violations only and again thats where SADC has got to come on board in terms of the decision although they did not give us the mandate to give resolution towards the violations of the GPA.
GONDA: And have you as JOMIC sent any reports or statements to SADC? I know youve mentioned the principals, but what about SADC itself, the guarantors of the deal?
KHUMALO: First and foremost we need to send the report to the principals and then the principals when they respond whether positive or negative, from then on we can then go to SADC – because it is pointless for us going to SADC without notifying the principals. So they are the people who are supposed to implement this GPA and when we fail thats when we can move then to SADC. We have not yet had any response from them and when the time comes and we give them a time limit for them to respond, if that time elapses and then we get the next course of action.
GONDA: What is the time limit?
KHUMALO: We gave them 14 days notice to respond or implement those violations as per the Agreement.
GONDA: And when was that, when is the deadline?
KHUMALO: The deadline is this weekend, this weekend, end of this week.
GONDA: The end of this week. OK and I understand the MDC had already sent a letter to SADC, so is this a separate thing?
KHUMALO: No, no it doesnt change anything – remember the guarantor of the GPA is SADC so MDC has got all the right to go to SADC, which means to say that maybe they have negotiated as the three principals and they failed. So the best way out is to go to the guarantor and say we have debated this thing, its not being implemented and as the guarantors of this GPA you have to come on board to try and rectify these problems. So they have got the right to do that. So obviously maybe they thought it was better to take all those other issues further up including the ones that we have to them raised with them as well.
GONDA: I read somewhere in some of the reports that SADC said, or South Africa rather because South Africa is the chair of SADC, had said that theyd not received any complaints because they only recognise complaints if they come from JOMIC. That is you can only complain if everyone agrees to complain together. Is this the case – by consensus?
KHUMALO: Well that means to say they need to change the Global Political Agreement because it does not say that the violations of the GPA, all the complaints must be sent to SADC. It says when we identify the violations we have to notify the principals so it means to say they then need to edit or amend the GPA to give us that latitude – to say instead of us sending those violations to the principals we must also send them to SADC. It doesnt give us that right to do that.
GONDA: And of course there are other reports claiming that most of the issues have now been resolved and that governors for example are going to be sworn in next week and that only the issues of the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and the Attorney General Johannes Tomana remain unresolved. Is there any truth to that?
KHUMALO: Well thats our understanding that the first week of this coming month governors are going to be sworn in because they want the contract of the governors to expire. But again that does not give them the right to do that because in the terms of the GPA there is a violation because these governors were supposed to have been sworn in a long time ago. But what we are saying if that is what they agreed as the principals that they would swear them in August and SADC is happy with it, there is nothing we can do as JOMIC but to follow that. But what is important is we must then be notified to say theres been a violation of the GPA in whatever section and the reason is because we have agreed that we are going to violate that because of A, B, C, D – so that we also have that information ourselves. So that understanding we have but that still does not stop us from raising that violation to say you were supposed to have sworn those governors by such and such a time as per the GPA. We were supposed to swear in Bennett by such and such time by the GPA. Where they are not agreeing there is need for them to take it further to their guarantor.
GONDA: We have received so many statements from the MDC in recent weeks saying that scores of your activists are getting brutalised especially in the rural areas and especially around this time that you formed this coalition government and theres supposed to be this unity accord. Is this really happening on the ground, that violence is still continuing on the ground?
KHUMALO: Well violence is continuing because weve got an understanding that the militia are opening base camps in the schools so which means to say first and foremost that the teachers are now going to be affected and people are being beaten up obviously, and currently Im sure what happened at the HICC (Harare International Conference Centre) is a story to be told – to say if it happened there obviously out there it is happening – whey they came and disrupted the constitutional conference. So they are forming bases, people are being beaten up, people are being intimidated, people are being victimised so thats another violation that needs to be dealt with by the principals.
GONDA: I spoke to Zanu-PFs co-Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi and he says claims by your party that activists are still being brutalised are actually a fabrication and he also claimed his co-minister Giles Mutsekwa whos from the MDC has not even brought any of these issues up to him, these cases of violence. What is your reaction to this?
KHUMALO: Such statements from our Zanu-PF colleagues should be expected. Remember Jestina Mukoko disappeared, Jestina Mukoko and others disappeared for four months and Zanu-PF denied any knowledge of where they are and four months down the line they resurfaced and it has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they were kidnapped by the State. So that is expected from them, so its one statement we should not even bother about. It confirms to say something is happening and obviously they dont want it to come into the limelight because its going to cause a stir so thats why they are saying theres nothing like that.
GONDA: So in your view, is the GPA more in breach than in compliance?
KHUMALO: It is more in breach than in compliance and the reason is very simple. There are some people within Zanu-PF who dont want this process to go ahead because they are benefiting from the chaos in Zimbabwe. So what is now important is for SADC to open its eyes and ears and decide on the way forward because this decision came from the group as SADC. And the truth of the matter is now coming on to the fold that there are more violations than anything out of the GPA. So there is a need for them to come together and come up with a decision in terms of what to do because everybody have tried their best, theres been negotiations, talks and whatever and theres no implementation, theres violations, more violations than implementation.
GONDA: You are talking about SADC opening its eyes and ears, what about the MDC itself? You now have five MDC MPs who have been convicted and statements from your party say that this is a plot to persecute MDC MPs by Zanu-PF to decimate your partys majority in parliament. If this is the case what is the MDC really doing about this?
KHUMALO: Honestly speaking, the three principals meet every Monday. They do meet. Honestly are we saying when they meet they talk about nothing and forget about all this chaos? They are obviously discussing all these issues
GONDA: But nothing has changed
KHUMALO: Somebodys not budging. How can it be said when the media does not give the coverage that it is meant to be giving? Because by right the role of the media is to disseminate the information as is. But it becomes difficult for this information to be disseminated when its coming from the side that they dont align to; they are only representing the side that they are aligning to. And obviously these principals are meeting every now and again discussing this same issues but the problem is that there is no mouthpiece for that. Obviously they are not agreeing on something and if they are not agreeing they should go back where this disagreement came from and raise those problems because obviously somebodys not doing their job.
GONDA: But Tabitha, seriously speaking, are you saying it is the fault of the media, are you really saying that it is the medias fault that Zanu-PF is violating the agreement because what you have outlined to us is Zanu-PF is still continuing to brutalise the people, to brutalise opponents and has not really moved an inch in terms of the implementation of this GPA. So surely how is it the medias fault that Zanu-PF has failed to comply?
KHUMALO: Well Im not saying the media has failed to comply. The role of the media is to disseminate, make information about the GPA, what is meant to be done by who and what has been violated by who, OK? But what I am saying is, what is very important is when these principals are meeting every now and then, obviously they are discussing the violations of the GPA but the media as the watchdog of the people of Zimbabwe, they need to highlight these issues so that people can understand. And I want to believe that they cannot just meet, the three of them and just have a cup of tea and jump into their cars and go. They sit there and discuss the violations of the GPA. But it looks like theyre not coming to a conclusion in terms of how to correct that anomaly. So the question is how do we then get this GPA implemented in letter and spirit? Theres need for them to then go back to SADC to say we have tried to implement and party A is not doing this, party B is not doing this and party C is not doing this.
GONDA: But on the issue of the media are you saying that the media is not highlighting these breaches? How do we do that? Im speaking as one of those in the media when we dont even get access to these politicians, when you have even the local media not even getting access to the heads of government but you find them getting interviewed by international media. When you have even JOMIC itself not even sending statements out. So how do we highlight these things when we are not being used?
KHUMALO: Well Violet, you have got the GPA in front of you. If you read the issue of land and the position that was taken by the principals, what is wrong with you as a media to say Article Six of the GPA states blah, blah, blah, blah but what is happening on the ground is this or there is nothing that has been done, nothing has been happening, what is wrong with that? You dont need to interview them. The GPA is certifying what needs to be done, when, by whom and by what time. And those are the violations that we are supposed to be monitoring as JOMIC to say, for example the issue of the governors, it is specific when they are supposed to be sworn in and they were not and the media can highlight that to the people. The governors of Zimbabwe are supposed to be sworn in on such and such a day and to date they have not been sworn in and weve not heard anything from the three principals that are signatories to the MOU. That is another way of putting pressure, by disseminating information.
GONDA: Yes but those issues have been covered so many times by the media but its the inside information, people are not being told whats happening. You know when you have these closed door meetings as principals or even as JOMIC or as cabinet ministers, its very difficult for journalists to actually find out what is happening because no one is talking – and when they do talk, people dont want to talk on the record and you end up being fed the wrong information. JOMIC should send out a statement regularly to say this is what is supposed to be happening and this is what hasnt happened.
KHUMALO: I think you are very aware of the current media set up in this country. They are aligned to Zanu-PF so they will not cover anything that speaks ill of Zanu-PF. So even if as JOMIC we write anything, our chances of getting that information covered by the media are zero. So we are suffering the same brunt as yourselves. So the only way that we can turn that is maybe opening a website for the JOMIC. From there we can send that information out for those that have got technology but how many of our Zimbabwean people have access to computers, to access the internet? The media in this country is partisan and there is no way information is going to be disseminated the way its supposed to be. And if at all you do send that information to them by the time we read it on the print or electronic media, its not what you wrote down. So chances of using that media is a waste of time because they will keep on trying with the hate speech and making the GPA look like a lost cause because that is what they want to happen.
GONDA: I was also going to ask you about the composition of JOMIC and based on what you have just said just now on how difficult it is to get proper coverage because the media is still biased, what about the actual composition how do you work as JOMIC when the composition of the body is such that you have hardliners, such as Zanu-PF representatives like the Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa?
KHUMALO: Well we have no problems with the composition because we are discussing things as they are. It is a question of facts here, because we are not discussing something from shooting from the dark. The information that we need to follow and if that information comes and if it is a fact, it takes the day. The composition is not a problem. The problem is trying to disseminate this information to the intended beneficiaries. There are hardliners and we can see Elton Mangoma is part of us; he was also part of the negotiating team – so all the hardliners are there. But the key is how then do we get this information out where it is supposed to be used for the benefit of the GPA?
GONDA: So what do they say really, your counterparts when you are talking about the continued harassment and victimisation of your party activists, when you are talking as a group?
KHUMALO: Well everybody always disputes. You raise the issue of farm invasions, they will say there no farm invasions, if we tell them people are being victimised they will tell you people are not being victimised. We produce the evidence and they will tell you they want to go and give it to the respective persons that need to verify and confirm whether it is true or false. So its a question of hide and seek and what is very important is we need to gather factual information that even if they follow it up they will come to a dead end because it will be fact. And they are still living in those days where they thought, they believed, that they were the government and they forget that there are other people that are in government with them now.
GONDA: The parliamentary monitoring group, Veritas, actually says that the number of vacancies in parliament has risen to ten in the past few months and that the President has not called for by-elections in clear violation of the Electoral Act and of the constitution. Is JOMIC aware of this and that by-elections are long overdue?
KHUMALO: Yes, we are very aware of that and there is need for those vacancies to be filled and those are the issues that we have highlighted to the principals, its up to them now, they need to decide and implement. If they are not implementing and they cannot agree then there is a need for them to take the issue up and I think the MDC has done that by writing to SADC and raising those violations to say, obviously they have debated and debated and debated no more. And they felt they had to take it up to SADC for them to come up with a position in terms of how then do we implement this GPA in letter and spirit as per the GPA.
GONDA: So is the Veritas position correct then about September 15 being the deadline for by-elections?
KHUMALO: It is very correct, yes. There have been so many deadlines, so many deadlines that havent been met. What is now important is there is need for people, pressure groups to exert pressure on these principals to make sure they implement and meet these deadlines that they have violated. Somebody must push them to that.
GONDA: According to Veritas, they say that Robert Mugabe is dragging his feet on calling for by-elections ,but surely there has to be an electoral commission set up first before that can happen or what should be the procedure here?
KHUMALO: Yes, even if we set up the electoral commission to run this thing, a number of issues have not yet been resolved. So what would be achieved by setting that up because these things have got timetables and these timetables are not being followed? Even if we set up that commission, it would be set up, they will not meet it and something else will come up. And again remember, we have no funding as a country. So some of these things, the obstacles are financial funding to make these things move. Because people cannot sacrifice the money from their own pockets to try and move these issues. But what is important is there must be political will for this GPA to move and that political will is not there from some of the principals that signed the GPA. So as long as theres no political will it is going to be an uphill struggle for us to fight for the implementation of the GPA but it does not mean that it cannot be done, it can be done. What is important is there is need, and Zimbabweans must stand up and exert pressure because if you leave it to these people to do it on their own they are going to take it easy because no-one is being bothered by it.
GONDA: OK, thank you very much Tabitha Khumalo for talking to us on the programme Hot Seat.
KHUMALO: OK thanks.
Feedback can be sent to [email protected]