Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on this edition of Question Time. My guest tonight is the outspoken and controversial politician Job Sikhala who joins us for Part Two of this interview. The former St Mary’s MP is now the president of the break-away MDC-99 political party. From our interview last week Mr. Sikhala I’d first of all like to say thank for joining us again for Part Two.
Job Sikhala: Thank you Mr. Guma.
Guma: Okay now last week you spoke about going on a hunger strike demanding Mugabe’s removal; we have a question from Chitungwiza, Miriam sent in an email wanting you to explain why you believe a hunger strike is the best strategy to force Mugabe out.
Sikhala: Well hunger strikes have been used substantially since time immemorial in several political developments throughout the country by those people who have been agitating for change of government in their various countries so specifically this will not be the only activity of isolation;
I think if she has been following world events recently, last year in India, there were some people who, there’s one person who went on hunger strike in protest against the government’s corrupt activities and that individual was able to raise the awareness about the corruption that has been taking place within the regime in India and it later led to thousands and thousands of Indians to join him in the streets and demand for fair and justice and also for action again by government against corruption in India.
So specifically the hunger strike strategy; it’s one peaceful means of the individual expressing disaffection over the way and how things are being done in a particular society, so like what we have said that we are not satisfied about what is happening in Zimbabwe, we are not satisfied with Mugabe’s continued rule of oppression, Mugabe’s continued rule of dealing with those people who are opposed to his regime, the rulership which causes many people to be incarcerated in jail without even commission of a crime. So specifically we will bring to the fore and also to the core the really challenges the people of Zimbabwe are facing under Mugabe’s dictatorship.
Guma: Now by your own admission, Mugabe has been responsible for the murder of over 20 000 people in Matabeleland under the Gukurahundi and from our interview with you last week; you said the MDC family alone has lost over 6 000 of its foot soldiers to Mugabe’s state security agents. Now why would somebody who has done all that, cave in to a hunger strike?
Sikhala: We cannot allow him again to continue killing more people in our country. If he will not be able to get the call that we would have done through a hunger strike, we’ll also find other strategies to make sure that both the people of Zimbabwe and the international community are given attention to what Mugabe is – a murderer of those people who are opposed to his dictatorship and I think in the initial phase, this is the best way to bring to the core Mugabe’s abuse of mankind here in Zimbabwe.
Guma: Now you spoke about this hunger strike being 66 days; what’s the significance of 66 days?
Sikhala: Sixty-six days is specifically because many people who have been engaged in a hunger strike and those people who have done scientific research around that area, is that around the 66th day the people will lose their life if they will continue on with the hunger.
So specifically among my national executive members there are those that are saying that we must take the 66 days for us to be able to express ourselves. (inaudible) to our hunger strike, then we should go back to the drawing board and find other strategies and means of how to express our disaffection on the way Zimbabwe is being governed.
Guma: Now you were recently arrested, I believe last year, over what was described as an immigration matter. Godfrey in Nyanga sent in a question wanting to know what happened.
Sikhala: Yes that has been a Zanu PF creation. I think if that listener is following up events here, the trial kicked off last week and today again I was at court where a plan has been hatched by Zanu PF for them to accuse myself of having facilitated a South African citizen to come and work for my political party in Zimbabwe without necessary papers.
But the truth of the matter is that there is nothing like that existed and it is also the creation of Zanu PF for them to find a matter where they think that they stand a chance to convict me as they have been failing in all other cases that they have been alleging against myself to find a conviction. So this is one which they think that stakes are so high that they might convict me on such a matter.
But specifically it’s nothing, it’s falsified, these are Zanu PF tactics they have been using against those people who are opposed to themselves. They create almost everything that they can create against any individual. The only thing that they have so far not accused me of is rape which we think they’d have also tried in their desperate attempt to simply fashion cases for us to answer and get a conviction.
So they think that they stand high prospects and high chances for them to convict me and send me to prison. So that you know some of these that things you are speaking today will be dead.
Guma: Now the person that you got from South Africa to come and work for your party – I’ve several questions on this, people wanting to know what was the nature of this work for your party – what were they meant to do, or what did they do?
Sikhala: No specifically you know this is an adult, 41 years old who is a publicist, a person who is in publicity work whose job it is to build up the profile of a political leaders and political individuals. The party had no right for them to know how she travelled to come to Harare and how she would do her job and so forth.
You know these are public consultancy companies and for us, we can’t say how she got in Zimbabwe because we are not immigration officers. So when immigration officers caught up with her they must have an issue with her and not with the party but they want to include the party into this thing and at the end of the day we are really shocked and surprised by the behaviour of Zanu PF.
Guma: We have a question from Owen in Beitbridge; Owen says – Lance could you please ask Mr. Sikhala if he will be running for president in the next election?
Sikhala: We are not talking about being president at the next election but obviously anybody who contests an election would really look at the prospects of him one day governing this country.
It has never happened in the history of mankind that a person would win elections at the first go but what is important is for you to give the balance of power in terms of the voices of democratization when the time to strike hard comes that’s when you would realise that you will be able to take over power.
Of course with the momentum that we are building in the country there are still many people who are living under illusions, thinking that they are still owning people with support which they enjoyed in 2008. 2008 and 2012 are now two totally different years.
There are many things that have happened between 2008 and 2012 and the groundwork that we have done in the country, the movement that we are doing throughout the country at the present moment, if anybody underestimates us – yes – they can do it at their own peril.
Guma: So are you saying you are going to be running or not?
Sikhala: What we are saying is that we are not prepared for us to get into any elections as long as Robert Mugabe is there because any call to elections in our country is a call to bloodbath. Our statement at the present moment is for us to focus on the issue to see how we are going to limit the deaths of many people who will be agitating and fighting for democracy in our country.
That is currently our preoccupation. Elections will come as a bonus after we have achieved our main objective and our main agenda. Our main agenda is for us to get into a political contest with civilized political opponents not with the murderers, not with those people who will be raping our wives, not with those people who will be jailing those people who are opposed to their rule, not with those people who go and kill our sisters and brothers on the countryside, not with those people who’ll be committing arson and also slaughtering people’s cattle and chickens in the villages.
We want to go to elections with a civilized community where the contestation will be based on ideas not on how much big and how heavy is your fist.
Guma: Well Zanu PF have already endorsed Mugabe as their candidate so what would you do if all the other parties went into an election after other reforms have been done, with Mugabe as the Zanu PF candidate, what would your position be?
Sikhala: It’s really surprising how Zanu PF is so desperate to get leadership renewal in their party. How on earth can they find a senile 88 year old man still being propounded around as their candidate? It shows definitely the desperation within Zanu PF, it has no any leader, no any person with leadership qualities who can challenge to become president of this country. There are many other people who have not noticed that Zanu PF has, do not have any other leaders except their 88 year old senile leader.
Guma: Much has been made about the constitution making exercise. Zanu PF is clearly not happy with what the drafters have come out with. What’s your position on with this whole exercise?
Sikhala: No, I think our position since this process has started has been very consistent. We have been saying that the constitution making process must not be a political parties driven process but what we have noticed is that the so-called three political parties in the inclusive government sat around and concluded among themselves that these are the only people who have got the God-given right to author the people’s constitution which with us we are in totally disagreement with it.
Those people who are not in government and who are not members of those three political parties who are interested to see a document which will govern them for the rest of their lives so specifically what you are realising at the present moment is the fight over the personal interest of political leaders.
Another (inaudible) clause where a leader of 70 years and above cannot be allowed to contest. These are personality targeted clauses which are not the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe; these are short term personality interests that we are fighting against. What we want is a document that is authored to govern the people of Zimbabwe for the coming 100 years.
We want this document to be the one that will govern the people of Zimbabwe for the coming 1000 years but we cannot have a situation where we have a short gap constitutional reform process that will not produce a document that will be everlasting.
That is what the NCA, ourselves and other political parties that are outside the inclusive government have been saying, that you are the betraying the people of Zimbabwe, these are not their goals and aspirations, even ourselves the time we formed the MDC in 1999 we have been saying that we want a people driven constitution.
The people driven constitution that will involve and include all stakeholders in the country not this exclusive process where three political parties connived to engage in a money looting spree masquerading as COPAC.
This process should have ended 18 months after the installation of the inclusive government but three years down the line the process is not yet over. So really it’s that the three political players in the so-called inclusive government are total failures, they’ve failed to produce the people’s constitution within the regulated parameters so they cannot claim to represent the interests of the people of Zimbabwe anymore. They are failures and we underline that, we support the position of the NCA.
Guma: Final question for you Mr. Sikhala – some will say it is the small parties that hold back democracy because you unnecessarily split votes instead of focusing your energies in united blocs. What would you say to that argument being the leader of one of the smaller parties?
Sikhala: There is no smallness in democracy. Democracy has never been small or big but it’s been the desire of people to have the multiplicity of views, the people who hold those views are the ones who are anti-democracy, those people who want us to install another dictatorship.
One party dominated systems (inaudible) democracy in Africa where political parties will not be answerable to the electorate so that system we will never, never allow it. We like the democracy which these people in Scandinavian countries are enjoying.
If you go to Sweden today you realize the government is made up of five political parties. Five political parties of different political persuasions but coming together on a goal to form a government. If you go to Belgium I think it has been the country which for a long time has not been able to come out with a government on the basis that there was no outright winner in that country.
Guma: But the examples that you are giving Mr. Sikhala, those people are not fighting dictatorships. Some will give examples of Kenya in the past where it took a rainbow coalition to defeat a long time dictator and say in Zimbabwe a similar approach is needed where you have the incumbent who has been in power for a very long time and only a united front is able to take someone like that down.
Sikhala: Of course you can have a united front but the issue is that at the present moment those people whom we would wish to be with them in a united front are sitting with the same dictator and they are giving unprecedented adulations to the dictator.
Some of them saying he is God-given, some of them saying that this is the man who has been created to govern Zimbabwe in a democratic manner. So those views are the ones that are throwing around, views that we don’t see the problem the same way we see it.
Ourselves we see that Mugabe has been the stumbling block towards democracy and that we prefer to define him as an enemy of democracy in our country and that we must be prepared to bring a new breath, a new fresh of air to breathe democracy to our body politic.
So specifically, those people who would think it’s easy to get a coalition others are praising Mugabe, while others are saying Mugabe remains the people’s enemy, others saying Mugabe is God-given, we have to pray for him so that he will govern you well, he’ll be given mercy and guidance by God so that he will govern the people of Zimbabwe well.
So that’s a different view that we have. It means that if we want to fight a dictatorship, we must define how that dictatorship must be toppled not that one day another side of the mouth we condemn him, on the other side we are the loudest adulators of Mugabe’s leadership.
Guma: Well Zimbabwe that’s the outspoken and controversial politician Job Sikhala joining us for Part Two of this Question Time interview. Mr. Sikhala thank you so much for your time.
Sikhala: Thank you very much Mr. Guma. Thank you very much for the good interview.
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