Siwela answers questions about how they intend to achieve their objectives to breakaway; infighting in the MLF and allegations that one of their members, John Gazi, is a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Interview broadcast 30 November 2011
Lance Guma: The new Secretary General of the Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) Paul Siwela, joins me for Part Two of this Question Time interview. MLF is a separatist group seeking an independent state of Mthwakazi, separate from Zimbabwe.
We asked SW Radio Africa listeners to send in their questions in advance of the interview using Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email and text messages. Thank you for joining us once again Mr. Siwela to answer these questions.
Paul Siwela: Thank you very much for affording us that opportunity.
Guma: Now last week you outlined your vision and solutions for the many grievances you articulated. Most of our questions this week are centred on the Mthwakazi Liberation Front group itself.
You and two other men, John Gazi and Charles Thomas were accused of printing and distributing fliers agitating for north African-style uprisings against Mugabe’s government. Several of our listeners want to find out from you what happened on the 3rd of March, the day you were arrested?
Siwela: I suppose you are referring to a matter which is before the courts so for that reason it would be sub judice for me to make any comment to you to that question. And whilst I’m still there, I also want to assist your listeners – we are not separatists, we are restorationists so you must make a distinction. We are restoring what was there before.
Guma: Well okay without going into the merits then of what you are being charged with, but in terms of actual incidents on the day you were arrested, would you mind just narrating how you were picked up?
Siwela: No, I’m proscribed from making any statements to do with that matter so I’m sure your listeners will have to bear with me, I cannot make any statement with regard to that subject.
Guma: Okay. You were granted bail and several times this bail was suspended using controversial legislation. Meanwhile you were hospitalized at a medical facility within the walls of Khami Maximum Prison with high blood pressure. Are you also allowed then to just explain to us what was happening during that time?
Siwela: Well naturally people have to appreciate that staying in prison is not a good place and as such even if you are in good health you are bound to be affected one or the other, so yes, I was admitted at Khami Maximum Prison hospital and I was hospitalized for high blood pressure and thereafter when I was granted bail I’ve been attended to by my doctors here in Bulawayo and I’ve been recuperating very well.
Guma: In April this year, there were accusations that MLF activist John Gazi is a member of the Law and Order department in the police while others even suggested he was a member of the CIO. Mildred in Beit Bridge sent us a text message asking if you could comment on this particular accusation?
Siwela: Certainly not. I will not make a comment about any individual or other individuals. We are MLF, a political organization with an agenda to restore Mthwakazi Republic so we don’t discuss individuals. If John Gazi is a member of the state security, that’s his business, I’ve nothing to do with it and MLF has nothing to do with it and so I’ll not commit myself to any statement in that regard.
Guma: Would it not be something though that would harm the reputation of the organization if it seemed to be…
Siwela: Why would it harm the organisation? John Gazi resigned from MLF, he is not a member of us so why would that harm us? Whether he’s working for them, he’s not working for them, that’s none of our business. That’s his private life, we don’t intrude on people’s private life.
Guma: Sikhulu Masuku from Bulawayo emailed to ask and I quote from the question – ‘How does MLF intend to liberate Mthwakazi from Zimbabwe without resorting to democratic means like participating in elections?’ The second part of his question is – ‘Isn’t the recent electoral victory of the separatist Scottish National Party of Scotland not an inspiration to the MLF?’
Siwela: Well I suppose people who are not politicians are limited to what they are usually exposed to – that is the electoral process but there are several means which could be employed from time to time, they’ve been employed elsewhere to achieve perhaps what is similar to what we’re demanding.
Let me put it for the record – MLF is not a violent organization and MLF is not going to use violence to achieve its goals but at the same time we are mindful that we are in a country, or rather we are joined in a country, which is violent. Everybody knows it; Zanu PF government from 1980 has always been violent.
Apart from what we experienced ourselves where we lost over 40000 of our people who were dastardly killed by Mugabe’s government, a million of them being displaced, the majority of them in Botswana, South Africa, hundred thousands of our women being raped here and as I speak to you now, we are witnessing another form of violence which is being subjected to our people where our young people are being shot at point blank range by the police under the guise that they are armed robbers.
So that’s another form of violence which we see being perpetrated against our people. And the other one which we are seeing also is the psychological one where people are being denied employment, people are being abused in the streets because they cannot speak Shona language here, which is not a crime for that matter and we are also aware that all the resources here, they’ve being taken, they are being taken from the white community and given to people from Zimbabwe.
And we are saying that’s also violence on and inciting violence but as MLF we want to negotiate with the government of Zimbabwe, we have made overtures to that effect, we have sent correspondence to president Mugabe and we expect him to respond so that we can go into a round table negotiation with the Zimbabwe government.
Guma: Now the second part of Masuku’s question is – you often talk of negotiating for secession with the Zimbabwean government, what course of action will you follow if they snub your request to negotiate?
Siwela: I think I’ve made it very clear that the prerogative, sorry the issue of violence is the prerogative of Zanu PF and the Zimbabwe government, we have no intention to initiate violence ourselves and we are not going to initiate violence ourselves.
However if they were to engage in such nefarious activities of continuing to arrest us, continuing to kill our people, we are saying continuing to do whatever, surely no-one would blame us if we were to defend ourselves? It will be within our right to do so? But as a party, as a nation of Mthwakazi we have no agenda whatsoever to go into violence, to go into war with the Zimbabwe government.
We have seen, you know, so much suffering from 1893 when our forefathers were being killed, dastardly also by the British when they took our country here and beside killing our people, they took our resources, they took a lot of artifacts from here, they took a lot of gold from the king’s palace, they looted our cattle, they took a lot of thing from us.
And when we fought, we contributed to the liberation of Zimbabwe, we thought we were also going to be one family with the people of Zimbabwe but the people of Zimbabwe through the government of Robert Mugabe clearly demonstrated to us they are not interested in us, they are not going to do anything to help us to be integrated as one family this is why we are being discriminated.
As a clear example you can see the Fifth brigade when it was being trained in Nyanga, after they graduated they were deployed starting from where we have our Jameson line which divides Zimbabwe from Mthwakazi, that’s where they were told you start killing people from there, meaning Mugabe knew very well he was not killing the people of Zimbabwe, he was killing the people from Mthwakazi.
Guma: The MLF was recently hit by several resignations, we are told from several emails including that of Sabelo SiloSika Mthwakazi Ngwenya who reportedly left MLF after his political rivals within the organisation – allegedly I must stress – threatened him with death. Could you clarify the position on this particular matter? I received close to three emails on this particular issue.
Siwela: Well that should be a very regrettable incident that took place within the party but let me hasten to say to you and to your listeners and those who are going to view this on internet and elsewhere, that well it’s normal at some point in time that people may take different positions, have policy differences and perhaps others may decide to leave the organization.
But I don’t think there’s any acrimony between Sabelo Ngwenya and MLF. He is a son of Mthwakazi, we communicate with him, he supports the agenda of MLF, he supports wholeheartedly the agenda of the restoration of the sovereignty of Mthwakazi so there’s no difference at all.
I’m sure after a certain time when he has cooled down and the others within the party will have cooled down, I’m sure I will not be surprised to see these people coming back within the party working harmonious within the party because we know we need to work as a team, we know we have to work as a community, we need to work together to achieve this common objective of the restoration of Mthwakazi independence and sovereignty.
Guma: Now from South Africa is another question and let me quote the email – ‘ There’s a rumour that you are the only remaining MLF member in Zimbabwe. Is that true? Does MLF exist beyond the Diaspora, Facebook and the media?’ and the third part of his question is – ‘Most people mistake you for the president of MLF because you are the face of the party. Doesn’t that create friction between you and General Nandinandi.
Siwela: You have raised too many questions so it will be difficult for me maybe to grasp all of them at once, but first of all I know that as a political party, more so and very specifically if we are a party that has a bearing on the lives of the people. There are certain indices which one may to look for to tell that the party is genuine, the party is alive, the party is considered by not only the people in government but the ordinary citizens as a viable organisation.
Those indices include amongst others, one, the attention that the state will give to that organisation; two the way the leadership of that party will be treated by the state and normally we would see in African countries, the arrest being carried out against its leadership on spurious allegations and obviously negative publicity that the state media and of course those who are also competing with a similar party, that they would spew into the public so that people may not join that party.
So yes, MLF yes indeed a viable organisation, it is a party that has won the attention of everybody else in this country specifically because we are selling something which is different from the rest of the other people who are opposed to the Zanu PF government.
Guma: Okay because of time constraints I’ll have to get to the second part of the question. He says ‘There is a rumour you are the only remaining MLF member in Zimbabwe and then the other parties, most people mistake you for the president of MLF because you are the face of the party so doesn’t that create friction between you and General Nandinadi.
Siwela: No certainly not. I’m sure people will be very much aware in UK there, you have the Queen Elizabeth II she is the head of state and head of state and commander in chief of defence forces in the United Kingdom and you have the prime minister, currently it’s David Cameron who is the head of government, so does that create confusion in the minds of the people?
Guma: Okay let me quickly move on to the next question seeing we are running out of time. One of your members has written into us claiming that you and General Nandinandi are not in good books because he caused you to be arrested and charged with treason by printing so-called treasonous fliers in Botswana and sending them to Bulawayo without your knowledge. Is that true? Did the MLF NEC or the information department authorize the printing of the fliers that got you arrested?
Siwela: First of all I find it very strange that a member of our party would go and write to you and ask such a question instead of coming to talk to us so it clearly it demonstrates he is not a member of our party, he is somebody who is trying to sow some division within the party leadership which we are not going to entertain at all.
We are united as the MLF leadership, I speak to the General from time to time, he calls me from time to time, he supports me on anything that I want, so I don’t think there is anything which is untoward or anything that is a cause for concern between myself and the General.
Guma: So basically you are just saying these are false allegations isn’t it?
Siwela: Those are just unfounded allegations, we will not dignify them. There’s no reason to waste time on them.
Guma: Let’s move on to Gwanda – Nkululeko Ndlovu sent us a text message. He says ‘Mr. Siwela, if issues of mis-governance and under-development of Matabeleland were to be fully addressed by the Zimbabwean government today, will MLF continue with its secession agenda and if so why?’
Siwela: Okay first of all perhaps that person does not understand why we are advocating for the restoration of the Mthwakazi Republic. We are not doing solely because of the discrimination we have gone through. It is still our right, whether discriminated or not discriminated to break away from Zimbabwe if we feel we are not happy.
I’ll give an illustration – it is very clear that from 1980 the people of Zimbabwe will not vote for a citizen of Mthwakazi as their leader. It has been demonstrated all the years, they will never vote for a leader who comes from Mthwakazi.
A clear demonstration. If these elections which we are going to, if we are going to have the outcome of results with Mugabe coming as frontrunner, followed by Welshman Ncube and Tsvangirai coming as a third runner and then they go for a run-off, in that run-off we have Robert Mugabe and Welshman Ncube, who do you think the people of Zimbabwe are going to vote for?
It is obvious they will not vote for Welshman Ncube despite that they don’t like Mugabe, despite that they don’t like Zanu PF, despite that they are calling for regime change, they will not go and vote for Welshman Ncube. So for that reason we would also find it necessary that it is not necessarily what we have gone through alone but also that it is within our rights to choose where we want to stay, who should govern us as it is enshrined within the UN constitution and the other statutes.
Guma: The use of the word “we” is a very powerful one and often misused by politicians. When you say ‘we’ are you confident you have people behind you?
Siwela: It surprises me that you don’t believe that the people of Mthwakazi are very unhappy with the way the Zimbabwe government has treated them over the years…
Guma: But I’m sure it’s a separate thing – not being happy with a set of circumstances does not necessarily translate into an organisation saying it has support from people.
Siwela: No, no, no, people who have called for the formation of MLF. It is the people of Mthwakazi who are calling and asking for this break away from Zimbabwe.
Guma: Interesting question from Chris, Mr. Siwela. On Facebook, Chris has sent in an interesting question and I think it might be worth your answering. He is saying – ‘The struggle for a separate state is long and arduous and might fail. Is not devolution a better option?’ This is Chris Nyamandi on Facebook.
Siwela: Look some years back, I was the president of Zapu from around 2000 to 2010 and during that time we were advocating for federalism and in 2002 I stood as a presidential candidate in Zimbabwe. Clearly what we saw is that the people of Zimbabwe do not want further federalism they do not want devolution.
If at all there is anything at all called devolution that they want it is what we have in the current arrangement which Mugabe has, for instance here we do have Cain Mathema as the governor of Bulawayo, Thokozile Mathuthu as the governor of Matabeleland North, Angeline Masuku governor of Matabeleland South, Jason Machaya in Gwelo there, as the governor of so-called Midlands, so…
Guma: Are those not sons and daughters of Mthwakazi who should be doing something for the region within Zanu PF?
Siwela: Yah but there have no power. They were merely given offices, there’s no authority, there’s no power. What is key in life is power, do we have power? This is why we have got people like John Nkomo there in Zanu PF, Simon Khaya Moyo there and all the other people there. They have no power there, inasmuch as those in MDC-T have got Thokozani Khupe, you’ve got Lovemore Moyo – we have no power in the MDC-T.
If Tsvangirai were to resign now for whatever reason from being the president of MDC-T Thokozani Khupe will not succeed Tsvangirai there. That’s like the same way if Mugabe were to resign from Zanu PF, the leader of that party, John Nkomo will not succeed Robert Mugabe.
Guma: Okay, let me squeeze in one more question – we’ve got one minute…
Siwela: …there’s no stake in any party being led by people from Zimbabwe.
Guma: Okay, sorry to interrupt, we’ve only got one minute to go. Let me end with a question from Butholezwe Nyathi who sent a message from his Blackberry and says – ‘My question to Mr. Siwela is – why do they regard people who belong to other organizations like MDC-T as enemies and say they are sell-outs? Are they deliberately infringing on the rights of other Matabeleland people to choose whom to associate with?’ Close quote.
Siwela: Well I’m sure you’ll be very much aware that when Zimbabwe attained her independence in 1980, I’m not aware of any time where Joshua Nkomo as the leader of Zapu, Ndabaningi Sithole later on being succeeded by Robert Mugabe. Where they went for a referendum and said to the people – do you want us to do what we are doing, so they did not get that mandate but they went on to cause a war in the country, people fought, people died, people lost their properties.
In other words, people were denied their rights so that they could achieve the independence of Zimbabwe. So if we allow people to have and enjoy their individual rights, it means then we will be joking, we will not be able to achieve what we want to do. Even America, you know a great country, when they impose sanctions against their enemies, immediately they impose legislation in their statute there and say no American organisation, no American individual will be allowed to transact any commercial business, or anything…
Guma: Sorry, let me stop you there. Are you then deliberately, are you admitting Mr. Siwela that you are infringing, you will be deliberately infringing on other people’s rights to achieve your objectives?
Siwela: Ah there’s nothing called absolute right in this world. Where have you heard about that sort of right in this world? That’s why I’ve given the reference of America. They deny their own citizens rights in countries where they’ve targeted sanctions to have business dealings or anything with those countries. So it means there’s nothing called absolute right, what would be wrong if it is now Mthwakazi who also achieve something which is good for the greater community of Mthwakazi.
Guma: Okay I’ve run out of time, sorry to interrupt you Mr. Siwela but thank you so much for the time you have spent on the programme answering questions from SW Radio Africa listeners. That’s the new Secretary General of the Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF), Mr. Paul Siwela joining us for Part Two of Question Time. Mr. Siwela, thank you so much.
Siwela: Thank you very much.
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