Transcript of Welshman Ncube on Question Time: Part 1

Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube, who leads the smaller MDC formation, joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma on Question Time. Ncube was answering questions from listeners and tackled issues around his reported acrimonious relationship with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the dispute for the party leadership with Arthur Mutambara, and why he has expelled MP’s from his party among other issues.


Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. My guest today is Industry and Commerce Minister Professor Welshman Ncube. He also leads the smaller MDC formation, one of the three parties in the coalition government. Professor Ncube, thank you for joining us.

Welshman Ncube: Thank you.

Guma: Okay before we get to the questions from our listeners, I’d like to ask for your assessment of the progress or lack of it under the coalition government over the nearly three years so far.

Ncube: Well on balance we have made some progress although we could have done a lot better. There’s of course been much greater progress on the economic front, on the economy, on business. If people have memories, are sharp enough, you will recall that three years ago when the inclusive government came into being, the country in economic terms was basically on freefall and that freefall was stopped.

The economy has generally been stabilised, business have been able to plan and just from an industry point of view for instance we were at 10% average capacity utilisation three years ago; by the end of last year we were at 57.5% which is relatively high compared to the fact that since (inaudible) started, we actually have never been above 60% capacity utilisation.

So in economic terms to be very brief on it, we have made I think tremendous progress. We could have done much, much better had we also had greater political stability, greater political certainty even the economy would have performed much better.

Guma: Quickly summarise the political issues. What do you think are the political issues that pulled down the coalition government?

Ncube: Well largely the failure to work with cohesion, the failure to implement expeditiously many of the things that we agreed upon. For instance, the question of the media reform, the introduction of independent players and electronic media – radio, television and the like.

The failure for instance to implement some of the simple things like having an inclusive approach to governorships in the country, having an inclusive approach to appointment of ambassadors generally, the question of appointment of permanent secretaries.

Then of course the implementation of such things as the Electoral Bill that was agreed, remains un-implemented; the Human Rights Commission Bill remains un-implemented; violence remains problematic, endemic virtually in the country; the partisan policing that takes place which should have stopped a long time ago – so those are the challenges where we have not succeeded.

But still overall you can say if you compare again to the violence of 2008, the arrests, the detentions, the arbitrary ones at that, if you compare to where we were, you still have some improvement but if we had been more serious, if we’d been more committed as the three parties in the inclusive government we could have done a lot more than we have done in the political front as well.

Guma: A prominent feature of the politics last year has been the growing acrimony between you and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai; many questions have come from our listeners on this. Tony Chirere on Face Book for example says and I quote: ‘Professor Ncube you are always attacking the PM and we have never heard you attacking Zanu PF or Mugabe in a similar style. Why is this?’ Close quote.

Ncube: Well firstly the foundation of that question is false. Let me start with the suggestion that we have not attacked Zanu PF or Mugabe. In each and every one of our meetings, we are actually very clear, we explain Mugabe’s responsibilities, Zanu PF’s responsibilities for the crisis in the country, their mismanagement of the country, the violence and all the ills that bedevil this country, we visit them on Zanu PF’s shoulders and Mugabe’s shoulders.

It’s just that no-one takes note of that because it is regarded as normal but we criticise Zanu PF and Mugabe. It is only when we say uncomplimentary things about the prime minister in his capacity as leader of MDC-T that antennas are raised but as a matter of fact it is not true that we devote any attention to attacking the Prime Minister at all, we actually probably spend 90% of our time at our meetings, at our rallies talking about Zanu PF failures and how they got this country into the mess that they are in.

However we certainly do comment on MDC-T and on the person of Morgan Tsvangirai in his capacity as leader of his own political party and the notion that you can have a contest where some people are sacred cows is unheard of in a democratic society. There is in fact no acrimony at all between myself and the Prime Minister, none at all. What we do is the ordinary politics.

Politics is a contact sport and everybody expects that if you are in the ring you will be criticised just as much as they criticise us day in day out, they never tire of calling us names that we are Zanu PF agents, that we are paid by the CIO.

Tsvangirai himself if you read his book, he devotes more time to attacking us and attacking my person; in one chapter he calls some of us termites and calls us all sorts of things and we grant him the right to express his opinion but his supporters must also grant us our right to respond in kind when things are said of us.

So we’ve done no more than what is expected in any robust political environment.

Guma: In 2005, the formerly united MDC split into factions. Ever since, many Zimbabweans have held out the hope the two formations can put aside their differences and unite to dislodge Zanu PF. Cuthbert Tapiwa Mashonganyika and other listeners want to know given the reported acrimony between you and Prime Minister Tsvangirai and some of the statements that have been attributed to both sides, is it safe to assume prospects for unity are slim?

Ncube: Well I will say the conclusion is probably correct to assume that it is extremely unlikely that there will be any reunification of the MDC in whatever form but I don’t think that conclusion is a result of any alleged or purported acrimony. It is essentially because as political parties we represent and stand for different things now, totally different things.

In particular on our part in 2008 we did everything that was reasonably possible to actually fight the election from the same one corner. You will know it’s a matter of public record that our national council approved the coalition pact that had been negotiated between the two parties which would have seen Morgan Tsvangirai stand as the sole candidate whom we would all support.

But you also know that the MDC-T national council rejected that agreement and going by the reasons for the rejection I really believe that it is unlikely that they could ever change their position on those issues which they rejected then on what had been negotiated.

So that is a question I think is probably better directed at the MDC-T than at myself or at the party that I lead because we did accept the agreement which had been negotiated, they rejected it and that agreement actually had extremely oppressive clauses against my party but we still swallowed our pride and accepted that agreement; they rejected an agreement which was more favourable to them than to us.

Guma: Now what we understand from the agreement was that you were demanding representation in Matabeleland which did not reflect the levels of support you had which is why the other side rejected it.

Ncube: First of all, that claim itself is a lie, a retrospective lie to justify the decision which was taken. We never demanded any seats; there were negotiators on both sides. In fact the parties were represented at the level of their presidents at that time – Mutambara and Tsvangirai and that agreement was negotiated and signed at that level.

It was when it went to the national council that it was rejected and the rejections had nothing to do with anything in Matabeleland for that matter. What had been agreed was that each of the parties would contest wherever in the country, in the seats where they already had a sitting Member of Parliament, that was what was in the agreement and there was no more demand than that and everybody accepted that as a matter of principle.

What was then rejected by the MDC-T was in fact to simply say we should not have any, any of the seats that we already held, contested by ourselves. That was what they rejected, it was not us who made any demands at all.

Guma: last year your party united with the MDC-T in re-electing Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of Parliament; many expected the two formations to build on that. Concilia in Bulawayo sent us a question wanting to know why that has not happened.

Ncube: Well firstly there’s nothing to build on. Let the record reflect that we as a party chose to vote for Lovemore Moyo, not withstanding that we were never approached by the MDC-T to support them. Instead they chose to approach the individual members of parliament rather than approach us as a party because they’ve never had any respect for us.

Even as we speak they continue to approach our elected members of parliament to entice them to defect; they continue to approach our councillors to entice them to defect and have never had any respect of us as an institution so essentially there’s nothing to build on.

That act was a magnanimous act on our part; we voted for Lovemore Moyo because it was in the national interest for us to do so not because we agreed or supported the MDC-T in anything. They virtually have never had any respect for us as a political party so the assumption of building on something is itself non-existing because there’s nothing to build on.

Guma: Since 2008, you have expelled three MPs, several rural district councillors have deserted the party, prominent officials like Job Sikhala have left to form their own factions. Currently you have five legislators who have defected including the deputy speaker of parliament Nomalanga Khumalo.

We also understand you are in the process of instituting disciplinary procedures to have them recalled from parliament. Now from Gweru, Washington sent us his question saying, and I quote:

‘Professor Ncube, you lost elections in Makokoba to Thokozani Khupe ? and so did most of your top executives in the party but the same people who lost elections and have no mandate from the people are expelling elected MPs from the party.’ Close quote. What’s your reaction to that?

Ncube: Well first of all, let me correct the factual thing. We have not expelled anybody other than the three MPs, that’s Bhebhe, Mguni and Mpofu and those were expelled from the party by the party disciplinary committee. Then on the implication of the question – political parties are constituted by their constitution and the leadership of political parties who are elected at Congress.

Members of parliament are elected, not as individuals and not to supplement the political leadership of the party – they are elected on a party ticket, you wear our jacket as a party, you are elected wearing our jacket, you cannot then, after you have been elected on our party ticket, pretend that you are a member of another party. It’s not allowed in principle, in morality, in integrity, it’s not allowed in our law.

If you are elected on a Zanu PF ticket you must remain as a Zanu PF member of parliament. If you change parties, you must honourably enough to resign the seat you were elected on the basis of the campaign, on the basis of the policies, on the basis of the resources of the party which sponsored you and therefore it is false and we reject it.

The notion that someone whom we campaign for, just like right now I speak to you, I as president of this party, I am going to every constituency, every ward, I’m canvassing for members of my party to be elected and once an individual is elected, that individual cannot then suggest that they were elected not withstanding and in spite of the party.

I will give you an example – Tsvangirai lost his seat in 2000 and we all remained loyal to him, we recognised him as our president and we respected him, we treated him as such and the entire leadership of the MDC, united MDC which lost in 2000, retained their positions, they continued to make decisions because we recognised that they are the party leaders as elected at Congress.

The notion that a general election can now supplant elected leaders is a northern notion which is not known in our political system.

Guma: Yours is the smaller of the two MDC formations and you have fewer legislators in parliament; is it wise or strategic to be expelling the few legislators that you have left?

Ncube: Lance, we, let me repeat, we have not expelled anybody. The five members of parliament you are referring to have simply said as to their loyalty, they are loyal to the fictitious leadership of Professor Mutambara which is not the leadership which was elected at the Congress.

And we have said fine, these matters are still in the courts, we will let you be, we will wait for the courts to decide and once the courts have decided we will know where you stand because it is a fiction to say you are loyal to a president who went to a Congress, who accepted the outcome of Congress publicly on national television and to then say you are loyal to that person.

And remember we have not expelled those five, we have not taken any action against them. It is they who have taken action against the party leadership elected at Congress by saying they don’t recognise that leadership. And I don’t know what else you expect, or your listeners expect of us.

Here are five members of parliament who have issued a statement, by the way they have not communicated with the party, they have issued a media statement, saying they don’t recognise the leadership elected at Congress and it is not us, we have not done anything, it is they who have issued that statement.

Guma: Your dispute with Professor Arthur Mutambara over not only the party leadership but the position of deputy prime minister is well documented. Many of our listeners sent in questions on this; Mutambara attended the Congress that saw you elevated to party leader. A lot of people are saying what went wrong?

Ncube: Look the bottom line, if we strip this of all the diplomacy, the niceties, it’s simply a question that Professor Mutambara wanted to remain deputy prime minister even though the party wanted to deploy him elsewhere.

And everything else which happened thereafter has nothing to do with the leadership of the party, has nothing to do with the Congress, it is simply an attempt to remain in the position of deputy prime minister against the wishes of the party. That’s the bottom line. Everything else is playing hide and seek.

Guma: We understand that there was, or a commitment had been expressed to Professor Mutambara that irrespective of whether he was still party leader or not, he would still remain deputy prime minister and that he felt betrayed when the party made a u-turn on this. Is this true?

Ncube: The party never made a u-turn at all. Elementary, elementary common sense will tell us that it is the prerogative of the party at any one time to decide to deploy its cadre. For instance if someone suggested that in Zanu PF someone is guaranteed a particular position, not withstanding that party’s Congress and that he will never be re-deployed regardless of the circumstances, it’s just a preposterous notion, it is a preposterous notion.

And nobody, nobody could make that undertaking; the position was always clear – whatever decisions are to be taken, they can only be taken by the national council of the party being the supreme organ of the party which will be made after Congress and Professor Mutambara was aware of this, everybody should be aware of that basic common sense, the leaders, the pre-Congress leadership could not make decisions for the post-Congress leadership.

And this is clear and this is common sense and I would think that every person with basic common sense will know that it is the prerogative of who to deploy, where to deploy them would be that of the post-Congress leadership.

Guma: From Chiredzi we received an email from Priscilla who says Professor Ncube you head-hunted Mutambara from the United States to come and lead the party. The way things have turned, do you feel betrayed?

Ncube: I don’t feel betrayed, but the premise of the question is in itself false – it has been said again and again and again that I as a person head-hunted Professor Mutambara. Nothing of the sort ever happened.

First he was not in the United States, again contrary to popular belief, he was already working for Standard Bank in South Africa. So he was already based in South Africa, he was not based in the United States at all. That’s one; two – the decision to invite Professor Mutambara to come and be president was first a decision, a collective decision of the national council of the party at that time.

And the proposal was not made by myself, the proposal was made by honourable minister Mushonga, by Job Sikhala and by Gabriel Chaibva. Those were the three who put that proposal to the leadership of the party at that time. And we as the leadership accepted the recommendation and I as the then secretary general of the party was then assigned with the responsibility of talking to Professor Mutambara to say this is what the collective view of the leadership is.

In fact one of his pre-conditions was to say no, no, no, he wants to make sure that this is in fact a decision of the leadership and he asked to address the leadership of the party for confirmation of this decision and which was allowed and which happened. So let us accept that, that was a collective decision which I supported although it wasn’t my proposal, I did support it.

Whether we feel betrayed or not, I would not say that that is the core issue. The issue is that as democrats, as democrats, if you accept election to a position which is for a certain term, in this case for five years, you must equally accept the right of the organisation to elect someone else when your term of office expires.

This is the area in which I personally feel disappointment; disappointed in that it is a betrayal of our values that once elected you must be willing to be un-elected when your term of office expires.

Guma: So finally, we have so many questions and I think some of them we’ll have to ask next week because there are so many that have been sent in for you but do you see, just finally for this week, the dispute over the deputy premiership being resolved?

Ncube: No it’s, we as a party accepted that as long as Professor Mutambara is protected by president Mugabe there is no way this matter will be resolved, it will have to simply fall by the wayside.

Guma: Why would Mugabe protect Mutambara? Why would Mugabe protect Mutambara? What’s in it for him?

Ncube: Well I presume that it’s in the interest of his party to destabilise our party; for instance the time we are spending in court right now, the resources we are spending in the courts of law even the attempt to dismiss the leadership elected at Congress which has been made.

We happen to know that security structures of the government are closely involved in this whole thing so and obviously Zanu PF saw an opportunity to destabilise us, they took it and on our part we realise this which is why we are not focussing on the Mutambara issue, which is why we are focussing on our party, on our structures, on the campaign.

Which is why you saw us, the whole of last year, we spent it moving from community to community, district to district, ward to ward and we didn’t waste time on something which we know is intended to distract us from keeping our eyes on the ball.

Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that is the Industry and Commerce Minister, Professor Welshman Ncube joining us on part one of this Question Time interview. Professor Ncube, than you so much for your time.

Ncube: Thank you.

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