Transcript of Rugare Gumbo on Question Time

ZANU PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo is the guest on Question Time and speaks to journalist Lance Guma while answering questions from SW Radio Africa listeners. He responds to speculation on Mugabe’s health; how ZANU PF will deal with the WikiLeaks saga; why they are instructing police to block MDC-T rallies; why does ZANU PF rely on political violence instead of selling its manifesto among other questions.

Rugare Gumbo
Rugare Gumbo

Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on this edition of Question Time. My guest is the ZANU PF national spokesman Rugare Gumbo who joins us to answer questions from you the people of Zimbabwe. Mr. Gumbo, thank you so much for your time.

Rugare Gumbo: It’s a pleasure.

Lance: Now like I’ve already explained the format of the programme is, we get questions from listeners and a lot of speculation in recent months has centred on the health of President Robert Mugabe, your party leader, predictably we have a lot of questions from our listeners on this subject. Mugabe has been to the Far East for more than eight times in ten months, according to speculation and the question on everyone’s lips is – is he still up for the job?

Gumbo: No look here, I never discuss my president’s health and so on. He has his physician; he has his spokesman so they are the ones that can answer that position. I deal with party issues only.

Lance: But I suppose the issue we have and most of our listeners are asking this, that some say the standard retirement age in most countries is 65 and your party leader is 87 years old, so are you not as Zanu PF guilty of keeping someone in a job who really medically and politically should be resting after 31 years in power?

Gumbo: No we don’t have to apologise for our leader’s age. If he feels he is strong, what is wrong with that? If the people of Zimbabwe said they want him as their leader, what is wrong with that?

Lance: There’s a general sense though that Zanu PF is very protective about his health, I mean he is human just like the rest of us but it seems the party cannot fathom the fact that people are calling into doubt his fitness to lead the country. Would that be something you understand as fellow human beings, that people will be bound to speculate on someone that age?

Gumbo: Well look, as a party there is a formula for selection of leadership, for choosing leaders. If the people of Zimbabwe are happy, what is wrong with that? As far as we are concerned, it is the people of Zimbabwe who decide on the leaders of the party.

The biggest problem we have is that the people who are concerned about his health are not Zimbabweans. If they are Zimbabwean they are opposed to his leadership. The people who tend to oppose, tend to talk about his health are outsiders, foreigners, who have nothing to do with what is happening in Zimbabwe.

Lance: But is it correct to assume that anyone who asks about his health and his age is necessarily in the negative camp? Cannot the people of Zimbabwe speculate about the person leading the country? Why does it have to be necessarily negative?

Gumbo: Well I don’t know why it should be negative but the point is that the man is leading and there is no harm in him leading. There are all sorts of connotations which are brought in about his health, his age. You know as far as we are concerned, as far as Zanu PF is concerned, we are quite happy with what is happening.

Lance: Manguba Njibatshiba on Face Book sent us a question for you – he says what is the purpose of the Zanu PF Congress next month when the party has already said Mugabe is the candidate?

Gumbo: No there are quite a number of issues which we are going to deal with, conference congress is not just about electing a leader. We have to discuss the forthcoming general elections, the constitution making process, all sorts of things, there are so many things that we need to do, indigenization for instance empowerment – are we doing the right thing, are we, determining what we are doing. All sorts of things that we will be discussing at the conference.

Lance: Recent revelations by the whistle-blowing web site WikiLeaks have shown that senior Zanu PF politicians were leaking confidential information about the party and its leaders to US diplomats. A case in point is Jonathan Moyo who allegedly colluded to topple Mugabe with a British tycoon. How comfortable are you as a party working with such allegedly two-faced individuals?

Gumbo: Well we have said that we are studying the documents, we are studying the WikiLeaks, we are studying, we want to see the original version in the WikiLeaks because there is a tendency for some of our journalists to exaggerate, to comment about these things, so until we conclude our study we are not going to say much about what will be done to people who have done that or not.

Lance: So do you actually have in place a formal process that is doing this?

Gumbo: Well we are looking at it, we are studying it and when we conclude our study, we will come out with a position.

Lance: Okay I suppose that answers Gerald’s question, he sent us an email from Harare wanting to know from you how is Zanu PF going to be dealing with the so-called WikiLeaks traitors?

Gumbo: Hm hm…..

Lance: Should you complete the investigations, do you see yourself expelling people from the party?

Gumbo: No no no I don’t want to cross the bridge, until I get to it.

Lance: From Bulawayo comes a question from Miriam who says in the space of two weeks, the police acting on the instructions from senior Zanu PF politicians have blocked over four rallies that were meant to be addressed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in Lupane, Victoria Falls and other areas. Her question is – “is it not a bit embarrassing for your party to be resorting to these sorts of tactics?”

Gumbo: Where on earth have you seen a party instructing police people to carry out those kind of activities. It’s a figment of the imagination of the people, we don’t control the police. There is a police spokesman, why don’t you ask him those questions?

Zanu PF is like any other political parties and we abide by the procedure, the rules and the regulations of the police when we want to hold meetings, where to hold meetings what procedure to follow when we want to have a meeting.

Lance: Well let me give you a solid example – in Matabeleland North, the Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai has made it clear he will not be tolerating any MDC activities in that province, so clearly that’s a party cadre who holds a senior position in the police force making such statements so you cannot seriously be disassociating Zanu PF from people who are openly saying things like that.

Gumbo: Look, Edmore Veterai is a policeman; talk to the Bvudzijena the police spokesman, talk to the Commissioner General on these statements. You can’t ask me those questions because I’m not a police officer, I’m only a party spokesman.

Lance: Okay let me quote for you – co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone had a rally disrupted by Zanu PF youths this time with the help of the police in Hatcliffe. Makone said she will be presenting a petition to cabinet because it seems the police are waging a war against her party. Now she will also ask them to explain why they are only disrupting MDC meetings and not Zanu PF gatherings. Are you not worried then in terms of perception, that when people see MDC rallies being disrupted, they will obviously blame Zanu PF?

Gumbo: Look the issue of Theresa Makone’s alleged disrupted rally, it’s really a fake if I may use that word. She is not being honest. They wanted to address a meeting at Hatcliffe, there were no people there, Makoni, Mwonzora, the other leaders got there, there was nobody there, there were just a few people.

They had to bus people from Chitungwiza, from other districts to come and disrupt the meeting which Zanu PF was holding in terms of auditing party structures and they were verifying party structures and they were hundreds of metres away from where the rally was supposed to be carried out but they were surprised that Theresa Makone would do that sort of thing, they know for a fact that they didn’t have enough people, they wanted to bus people from outside to go to Hatcliffe. That’s the report that we get from our people and even the pictures which we have displayed, it was clear that Zanu PF was conducting its meeting in a peaceful manner.

Lance: Now we have just spoken with Theresa Makone coincidentally and she says she left a church service and she was meant to be addressing that rally at 2pm and Zanu PF mobs were there trying to disrupt and when they tried to disrupt the MDC supporters forced them to retreat and it was only then that the police intervened because the Zanu PF people had been overpowered. That’s the other version of events.

Gumbo: Well what do you expect from Theresa Makone? She says she’s a co-Home Minister who is responsible for police. She has no control over those police. She talks of retaliation or retribution and you are a minister in government, inclusive government and you make that, those kind of ridiculous statements.

I really don’t understand what her role is. They are supposed to be the ones to come in, and the violence, the motions that are there but no, she decides she wants to retaliate to fight against Zanu PF. Incredible.

Lance: Let’s give an example – in Lupane armed riot police attempted to stop Tsvangirai’s tour of St Paul’s Hospital and later dispersed crowds who had gathered for the rally he was to address, the police barricaded the entrance to the hospital with chains to prevent the tour from taking place;

In Victoria Falls police cordoned off Chinotimba Stadium as early as 6am on Sunday morning to block another Tsvangirai rally. It does sound unbelievable though that grown-up people are actually planning such things and blocking a tour of a hospital. Are you not worried about the political consequences of the perception that you have a hand in this as a party?

Gumbo: Ah well I was not in Lupane, I was not in Victoria Falls so I really can’t comment about it. As I said before, if it is that the problem lies with the police, find out the information from the police. From what it transpired out there, from what we hear, the, Chamisa, the organizing secretary of the MDC was asked whether this thing was done by Zanu PF or by police.

He said categorically it was done by the police, Zanu PF had no input in the whole thing so the way I understand, you know what I’m saying? So as a party, my only comment is look we don’t know anything about what happened in Victoria Falls, we have not been briefed. What we have been briefed is that the police out there had reasons for, whatever reasons for doing what they did and it is up to the police so if you talk to the police I’m sure they’ll give you an answer.

Lance: But a growing number of incidents showing police bias for Zanu PF and police bias against the MDC – that’s the question – are you not worried about the perception because it’s quite clear they are taking instructions from Zanu PF.

Gumbo: What is this perception? Whose perception are you talking about? You with your Facebook, radio?

Lance: It’s probably common sense if people are seeing MDC rallies being disrupted, it will be common sense who is behind that. Why would the police be disrupting MDC rallies?

Gumbo: I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the police?

Lance: Okay we will do that, we will do that. When Zanu PF is holding rallies, do you need, because here is a question from some of our listeners, they were saying why should Tsvangirai or the MDC need police permission to address a rally, the Public Order and Security Act, POSA says nothing about requiring police permission. It clearly states that you only need to inform the police. Does Zanu PF need police permission for rallies?

Gumbo: I think usually. If you listen to me carefully I said as far as Zanu PF is concerned we try and follow the rules and regulations, the procedures of holding meetings. Those are clearly tabled in the police book so we follow that but the MDC tend to defy. They want to be their own thing. If they want to do their own thing, it’s their own fault but they should not cry to us and say Zanu PF is doing this when we are not doing it because we are following…

Lance: Okay you say you are following that. There was a High Court order allowing the rally to go ahead in Matabeleland North. That High Court order was defied by the police so if you are going by the book surely that does not suggest so?

Gumbo: Well I said I don’t know anything that is happening in Matabeleland. The court ruling, we read it in the paper, what happened I don’t know. Find out from the police.

Lance: Okay we have questions on political violence. The issue of political violence refuses to go away. As Zanu PF in the coalition, you control the police, the army and the CIO and most of our listeners are saying if you really wanted to stop political violence you could do so and the question is why are you relying on a strategy that always costs you votes during election time?

Gumbo: Well what violence, what sort of violence are you talking about? We don’t tell the police what to do. Police are under the inclusive government. Why are the people in the inclusive government not dealing with the issue of…

Lance: No we’re not talking about the police now here, we are talking about, let me give you examples – a few months ago, known Zanu PF thugs invaded parliament and beat up MPs and journalists, no-one was arrested; in Mbare the Chipangano group are a law unto themselves extorting money from market traders and beating up perceived opposition supporters – still no arrests so you would have to assume Zimbabweans are blind and cannot see all these things.

Gumbo: Look, even your language, you can tell that you are biased. You talk of Zanu thugs, you talk of, and so on.

Lance: Well I don’t know how to describe people who invade parliament and beat people up. I don’t know, should we call them gentlemen?

Gumbo: You can call them whatever, I’m just saying the use of your language…

Lance: The word thugs? You are objecting to the word thug?

Gumbo: Yah, you are biased.

Lance: No I don’t think so. I think I am just calling a spade a spade. If somebody invades parliament and beats up people, that’s…a thug

Gumbo: Look, look do you want us to have a dialogue as you asked me in the first place to be or you are here to insult me? Because when you talk of Zanu thugs and so on and so on, I mean it doesn’t make sense. There’s no point of us carrying on talking because already you are biased.

Lance: Okay let’s address the Chipangano issue in Mbare.

Gumbo: Those questions, I beg your pardon?

Lance: Chipangano, Chipangano in Mbare. Why has nothing been done about Chipangano?

Gumbo: I don’t know what happened there, it’s up to the police to deal with that kind of thing. We don’t do police crime, crimes are controlled by police. You know so don’t ask you about those kind of things, I deal with policy issues of the party and when you asked me to do this meeting I said yes I’ll do it, I’ll try and contribute but dealing with the party politics not criminal cases or anything of that matter.

Lance: Well it seems from what’s happening that it is a party policy to encourage these sort of things because it’s happening by… let me give you a solid example if you say it’s not a party policy. Jim Kunaka in Mbare who leads your youth wing has clearly been implicated in several incidents of violence. He’s someone you know and nothing has been done about what he’s been involved in so is that not a worry for you?

Gumbo: Why should it be a worry? Jim Kunaka was assaulted, injured badly. Who injured him?

Lance: Well let’s move on to another subject then. There’s still lots of questions from our listeners. Rominic Mhende wants to know how Zanu PF is responding to the case involving the suspicious death of the late retired army general Solomon Mujuru? He says much has been written about it with suggestions that it has the potential to split the party with several members not happy about the police secrecy around their investigations. I don’t know if you would like to answer his question?

Gumbo: Well the police have said that they are going or proposing to have an inquest and the police have not published a report so we can’t comment about that kind of thing. We wait until the police have published the report and as they are having an inquest we wait to hear what the inquest says.

Lance: Well I suppose that secrecy around the report, if the police have completed their investigations, the last we heard was that it had been referred to court, for a court process to carry out an inquest and people are asking all sorts of questions why is the report being kept under wraps?

Gumbo: Well it’s not being kept under wraps. It’s the police who have said that it is with the courts then it is up to the court to decide so it’s now sub judice; we can’t be commenting about something that is in the court.

Lance: A few of your members of parliament have clearly said so in parliament they are not happy with what happened. Some are giving interviews to journalists talking about how unhappy they are with the process. Is there a worry that this is an issue that could divide you?

Gumbo: No I don’t see it dividing us because we tend to follow the law of the country; the police are there to make sure that investigations are done properly, they produce a report, they refer to an inquest, if they refer to the courts for an inquest, we support that. The members of parliament of the party have their views and that’s what we call democracy isn’t it?

Lance: In four months time you are reaching almost three years of this coalition government, how has it been for you as Zanu PF? Lots has been said that you benefitted from this arrangement having lost the elections in March and it’s given you an opportunity to restrategise and regroup. What’s your take on it?

Gumbo: Well what we have always said is that the GPA or the inclusive government has done a good job, the economy has improved, there is a micro economic turnaround. There are certain issues which we obviously are concerned with because in the first place when we had the GPA, you agreed that you are going to remove sanctions and no effort has been made by the partners to the GPA.

So that is our really major concern and also when you come to the implementation of certain policies there are all sorts of delays and there reversals of government position. For instance indigenization – Tsvangirai said in Cape Town it’s a good thing, we must have this thing, then all of a sudden when he’s in London he says no I don’t agree with that.

Then there’s the issue of gays and sometime last year he spoke in Chitungwiza with the president said he does not support the gay movement, then all of a sudden he goes to London, perhaps he confers with prime minister (David) Cameron, then he changes his mind and he says now we protect gay rights.

You know that kind of thing doesn’t help the inclusive government and those are the unfortunate side effects of the inclusive government but we said right from the beginning that we believed that the elections of 2008 were inconclusive and therefore Zimbabweans should work together.

Lance: It’s an interesting word to use, to say inconclusive because you lost your majority in parliament; Tsvangirai polled more votes than Mugabe so when you say inconclusive, what does it mean?

Gumbo: Well he did get the 51% which he…

Lance: Well that is very technical, he still polled more than Mugabe.

Gumbo: No it’s not technical because it’s in the constitution. The problem is that you want to read something which is outside the constitution. The constitution of the country said anyone who wants to be leader or president must get 51%, over 50% and Tsvangirai didn’t get that.

Lance: That was a new amendment. If it had been an election in a previous year for example 2005 or 2002 rather, he (Mugabe) would have lost would he not? So it’s very technical, you had to rely on a constitutional provision to remain in power?

Gumbo: Which was done by who? Wasn’t it done by all the parties? So you pretend, you select what you want to portray to people. The reality of the matter is that someone who is going to be president of the country must get 51%; Tsvangirai did not get that.

Lance: Okay did it mean anything to you the fact that Tsvangirai polled more than Mugabe in the first round? What did that say to you? What message did you pick from that?

Gumbo: It’s true, everyone knows that the MDC got I think 80-something and we got about some other figure but it’s immaterial because he did not get the majority to run the government. Why didn’t he go to the Welshman Ncubes of this world to try and run the government? They couldn’t because they didn’t agree.

Lance: One final issue that we would like to touch during the interview before we let you go – the issue of intolerance. That seems to be a big problem, this is why we have political violence and things like that. We have a question from a listener who says why doesn’t Zanu PF rely simply on selling their policies and what they have to offer the electorate without things like Chipangano, without things like CIO abducting people, without police blocking rallies? You could win an election just by selling your policies without having to rely on all that?

Gumbo: It’s fine to say that kind of thing, the issue of tolerance. I agree there is need for tolerance but tolerance is not a one-way issue. It is a two-way issue. Everyone who is involved in Zimbabwe, every Zimbabwean must tolerate the other person who has different views so it doesn’t necessarily to be a Zanu person who has to be tolerant, everyone must be tolerant.

In any case what we, when someone says Zanu PF has to rely on its programmes, we are the only party which has a programme; MDC has no programme. We talked about the land, we have given land to the people, people may not like it but we have given land to the people. Secondly we are involved in indigenization; we are involved in empowerment of our people. So MDC have nothing, no programmes, not even…

Lance: So why don’t you rely on that? Why did we have this scenario in 2008 where people were killed in election violence, abductions and things like that?

Gumbo: It doesn’t help us just to go back.

Lance: On that note we come to the end of Question Time. Our special guest was the Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo joining us to answer questions from SW Radio Africa listeners.

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