Co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone on Behind the Headlines

theresa_makoneNew co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone (Pictured) was in the spotlight after allegedly conniving with Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa to intimidate police officers into releasing his son Martin Mutasa.

Martin was arrested alongside ZANU PF activist Temba Mliswa and George Marere after trying to seize shareholding worth US$1 million in a company owned by white businessman Paul Westwood.

SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma spoke to Makone and asked her what really happened? The programme also questions Makone about her reported close friendship with Jocelyn Chiwenga, the wife of the army general Constantine Chiwenga. Has this fuelled speculation she is too close for comfort with people in ZANU PF?

Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to Behind the Headlines. This week we look at the saga surrounding the detention of Martin Mutasa, the son of Presidential Affairs minister, Didymus Mutasa. New co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone dismissed reports accusing her of conniving with Mutasa to intimidate police officers into releasing his son Martin.

State media reported that Makone and Mutasa visited Mbare, Matapi and Stodart police stations in Harare last week to demand the release of Martin. The 47 year old was arrested alongside notorious ZANU PF activist Temba Mliswa and George Marere after trying to seize shareholding worth US$1 million from a company owned by white businessman Paul Westwood.

So of course what we decided to do on Behind the Headlines is to track down the new co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone and ask her to respond to the initial story covered by the Herald newspaper.

Theresa Makone: I havent read the Herald. I have not listened to any news because to me its not even news so I dont know what the comment has been or what the excitement has been about. If you can just put me in the picture?

Guma: OK the allegation is that you in the company of Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, went to Matapi, Stoddart and other police stations trying to intimidate junior officers into releasing Martin Mutasa, Temba Mliswa and the other gentleman George Marere.

Makone: (laughs)oh yeh, so thats what they are saying? Anyway I will tell you what happened. Didymus Mutasa did not come to ask for assistance to have his son removed from police detention. He came to ask for assistance to locate his son who had been arrested the day before and he had failed to find where he was being held.

So it was in that spirit that as co-Minister of Home Affairs, I actually went about locating the son of the minister. In MDC we have had so many people go missing some after police arrests and others after abductions and there is no way that I, as Minister of Home Affairs will sit and do nothing when a member of the public, be it ZANU, MDC, Ndonga, Dawn Kusile I dont care which one.

If they come and want to know about the location of their relatives who have been taken by the police, of which Im minister, I will make it my business to find that person and when we located his son, I left him in police custody to go through the normal motions that everybody else goes through when they have been arraigned for any criminal activity.

No-one of the police can ever say Mai Makone asked me to release Martin Mutasa. What I did was to locate him and to make sure that the father knew where his son was. What happened after that, if there were any further conversations between Mutasa and people holding his son, I cannot be answerable for that but I will do my job for any Zimbabwean who loses their relatives or their friends to the police.

Guma: Now we are hearing, especially from the interview that Minister Mutasa gave to the State-owned media that police commissioner Augustine Chihuri is heavily involved in this matter and that he is an interested party. Do you think thats part of the problem why Martin and his colleagues have been incarcerated this long?

Makone: You know what I have not even taken an interest in all the machinations and all the intricacies in the relationships of the factions in ZANU PF. That is really not my interest. If they have got personal problems, that is another issue. I really honestly am not interested, my interest stopped in locating the accused. Once we have known of their whereabouts, that is where I stop. The rest is really up to the police to follow the normal police procedure.

Guma: There is an interview with Temba Mliswa where hes saying he wrote a letter complaining about police commissioner Chihuri and that this letter was addressed to the Home Affairs Minister. Did you receive this letter?

Makone: I have not received any letters from Temba Mliswa. If I receive it I shall treat it the way that it deserves and Ill respond to him.

Guma: The other query was coming mainly from MDC supporters, who as you rightfully pointed out, a lot of MDC activists have gone through this police system where they are victimised, detained for quite some time and they are rather puzzled that you have shown this much energy to helping the son of a ZANU PF minister. Would you think they are justified in thinking this way?

Makone: Well I really dont blame them, I would have thought the same too, but when now you have the responsibility of a nation you cease to be an MDC minister, you are just a minister and when you are approached by members of the public, it does not matter what party you belong to, you just administer justice, thats all you do. If Mutasa loses his son and if you lose your son, I will treat you exactly the same.

I can understand them wanting me to sit back and enjoy when a ZANU PF person has lost their son in the system. It is not like that. I would cease to be a proper minister. But if that is the way we are going to run the country, then God help us, we cannot be like those people that we have blamed in the past for not administering justice. We should show the difference.

So really its not a question of energy, if anybody has got any complaints and things that they think that the minister should get involved in or should know, they know where to find me at Mukwati Building, 11th floor. I will act as a Zimbabwean for another Zimbabwean in my capacity as minister.

Guma: Now Im sure Mai Makone you will have read some of the publicity you have been receiving in some of the private media, particularly one Zimbabwe Independent report that quoted you in 2007 saying Jocelyn Chiwenga, the wife of the army commander Constantine Chiwenga was a close friend of yourself so probably people are trying to put two and two together and saying that she has close links to ZANU PF? Would they be justified in feeling this way?

Makone: I always find it very funny that if you do happen to be in a business like the one that I am in, and Im a beauty therapist, that is the business that I am in, if a person comes into my business and gets treated then they become my friend. If that is a definition of a friend, then Im a friend to a lot of women in Zimbabwe, ZANU, MDC, white, black, Indian because let me tell you what, I run a professional and very busy joint which is used by all women who want to look nice, so because she comes to my salon and then she is my friend, its absolutely, the definition of a friend, well thats it then.

But the truth of the matter is that I did not go to school with her, I dont know where she went to school, I dont know where she lives, I dont know her surname, her maiden surname, maybe her married surname I know it because she is Chiwengas wife and thats about it. So but I cant stop people speculating and quite honestly Im very busy, I really cannot concern myself with frivolous things like this, its a real waste of my time.

Guma: Youve been in the Home Affairs Ministry a few days now, how are you finding the job? What are most of the challenges that you are facing?

Makone: It is very, very busy and there is more to Home Affairs than police. You know weve got Immigration, weve got the Registrar Generals Office, weve got Registration of Births and Deaths and Citizenship, weve got all sorts of things including the lottery so there is a lot to learn. There are about 41 Acts that I have to familiarise myself with and get to know how the system operates. There is a lot of things that one has to do, but I guess, I will take it in my stride and deal with situations as they arise. Its not really such a big deal but it is quite involved.

Guma: You are leaving a Ministry where you were the sole minister in charge and going to a ministry where you are sharing responsibility with another co-Home Affairs Minister, Kembo Mohadi, is that a workable relationship?

Makone: It is workable. There is not much, in fact the Minister of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs is a very big ministry and I must say to be very honest it is almost four times bigger than the Public Works that I was doing. In Public Works, I was administering four Acts and now Ive got 41 Acts, so you can imagine. And the departments that we run, I mean Immigration is almost a ministry on its own.

The Registrar Generals department with all the work that it does is almost a ministry on its own, so there is no shortage of work, therefore there is no question of two ministers stepping over each other. We do consult each other on all the things that we do but I must say we are both just really knee deep in work.

Guma: Now the person that you replaced, Giles Mutsekwa, I think the week before Mr Mutsekwa left, he was complaining that police were not listening to his orders and there were complaints that there were a lot of farm invasions, farm invaders onto farms that had Court Orders protecting the farmers who were there. Is this something that you will be able to deal with Mai Makone?

Makone: You cant say that I will be able to deal with it, because on what premise do you say that? I mean all you can say is that you will do your best to engage the people that are supposed to execute orders and use your own methodology of engaging people. I dont know whether or not Ill be more successful than him but what all I can say is that I can give it my best effort because at the end of the day, what I want to see when I leave is an efficient police force, that does police work which is apolitical and implements the rule of law the way it should be. That is what Id like to see.

But you know this thing works both ways. Sometimes you also have to look at the police themselves and say to yourself why are they behaving like this? And sometimes we have also really short-changed them as a government. Look at their conditions of service, look at their remuneration, look at their welfare.

Have we really extended the human rights that we want them to extend to the citizenship? So we really have to think of the way that we treat others so that we know what to expect from them. So there is a lot of things that Id like to see happen to the police. In turn I would expect them to do those things to the people of Zimbabwe.

Guma: And my final question for you Mai Makone conditions in the holding cells many complaints coming from students, many complaints also coming from Temba Mliswa and others who are detained, sewerage system not working, the conditions are deplorable as some are saying is there anything that can be done about this?

Makone: I, that I cannot blame on the police. That really is now a problem for government as a whole. Government buildings as a whole including my own facilities at the Ministry are not working and its got nothing to do with the police. Its that we dont have money and we dont have resources and you can imagine that if we cannot extend this to government offices or people that are not under incarceration, what about those that are under incarceration and generally not respected as citizens because they have been arraigned for one thing or another?

So you will find that the conditions yes are difficult but I would like to see a situation where, when money is made available, that there is a budget for looking after prisons, for looking after people in holding cells and for looking after the police stations themselves. So really, I dont want to say that the conditions are horrible because there is an effort by anybody to make the conditions horrible.

It is because the situation in the country is that we are really stuck up for cash and that is the truth of the matter. I can talk with authority because I am coming from Public Works, that was my responsibility actually in my previous assignment, to make sure that government buildings are up to scratch, but I can tell you that where I needed a budget of ninety million to maintain government buildings throughout the country, I was lucky if I got more than two million in a year. So really, its as bad as all that.

Guma: I suppose the problem is people always say, well look at these politicians only last year they were buying cars for members of parliament and things like that so people will never be convinced by that sort of explanation.

Makone: Yah they will never be convinced by those kind of explanations because that is the nature of the beast. The truth of the matter is that there is no money. You only have to look at the economy and say to yourself from which part of the economy could the money be coming from? There is no viable agriculture, there is no viable industry, there is no viable anything.

We are practically a nation of traders who buy and sell so where is the money? We just need to get our act together, we need new investment to come into the country, we need to start looking at investment laws, we need to look at the things that affect investments, (inaudible) the indigenisation act etcetera, etcetera, so I think it is very complex and I dont think actually that can be addressed from the Home Affairs point of view.

Guma: That was the new co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone joining us on Behind the Headlines.

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