Transcript: ZCTU rival presidents debate on Question Time: Part 2

Following last year’s split in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma hosts Part 2 of a debate between rival Presidents Lovemore Matombo and George Nkiwane. Both explain why the ZCTU split and what it would take to unite the two factions. They also answered questions from SW Radio Africa listeners.

Rival ZCTU presidents Lovemore Matombo (pictured) and George Nkiwane go head to head on Question Time Part 2
Rival ZCTU presidents Lovemore Matombo (pictured) and George Nkiwane go head to head on Question Time Part 2

Interview broadcast 04 April 2012

Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. Tonight we have Part Two of the debate between the two rival factions of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU.

Last week on Part One we pitted the rival presidents Lovemore Matombo and George Nkiwane and tonight you’ll be hearing the continuation of that debate. Okay, quick question for you Mr Matombo – several listeners have picked this up from many press reports – it’s claimed the ZCTU’s Book of Accounts has US$720 000 deficit and people have questions on that – what happened?

Lovemore Matombo: Well on that issue really I think, Mr Nkiwane is the person who should be able to answer that because I’ll tell you the truth that from 2006, I only signed ZCTU cheques on three occasions, just three occasions were in fact cheques were signed on daily basis since 2006 and I have no knowledge whatsoever but perhaps it’s because I was so, I wouldn’t know but, there are so many things.

I said to you earlier on, that if we were to discuss deeper about this issue, it could paint other people’s faces but we don’t want to do that. We all live once and I don’t think it’s good to give a bad picture about other people and I have tried over the years to avoid any form of confrontation up until this time but the 700 and something I think, Nkiwane’s quite clear about how it was spent and so on and so forth. And of course it’s climbing so we hear but I think he’s in a better position to explain about that.

Guma: Okay Mr Nkiwane, over to you. Would you like to react to that?

George Nkiwane: (laughs) I’ll definitely attempt to respond to that but it’s not a question of me having the knowledge as to how it was used but the question is rather of having the accounting knowledge and that deficit is a result of so many or several factors but in our case, the major, major area that affected us so much was the projects which came to an end whilst the employees were employed permanently by the ZCTU.

If one was to analyse the deficit you will see that it is through the salary deal that incurred such a deficit. And the 700 remember, is not for one year, it’s a cumulative effect for several years, I think there might be two, three years that has resulted in that deficit. But the analysis that I made was it came through the salary deal, it was so huge because of the projects that we had and as the ZCTU had absorbed the majority of the projects employees who were supposed to be working on contract, they were all employed permanently, therefore it means the General Council, the major accounts of the ZCTU which has this huge deficit was to be bear now the expenses of the salary deal of those employees.

Guma: Okay, let’s quickly move onto another issue, in a recent article the Secretary General of your faction Mr Matombo, Mr Raymond Majongwe is quoted as saying the split in the ZCTU is a battle of personalities. Would you agree with that assessment?

Matombo: Yes well it could be personalities. I mean people have got different views, it could be personalities but it could also be certain issues. i.e. you know if we were to discuss about the financial position of ZCTU and how the salaries that Nkiwane is talking about, if we were to examine that clearly and put in place the necessary investigations, the outcome would not be good.

Of course even some of us who were in the leadership would not be exonerated because we were supposed to give an audit on those issues (inaudible) so ultimately, it’s clear the split itself was about personalities in that certain individuals wanted protection by certain individuals, that’s how the personality aspect comes in.

Guma: Okay, Mr Nkiwane would you agree with that assessment – battle of personalities? What’s your take?

Nkiwane: As for me really it is very difficult to subscribe to that line of thinking because I don’t know which personalities now because if it’s me and Mr Matombo, I’ve no grudge, I’ve nothing against him. I don’t know which personalities but the truth is when we have people who were supposed to attend the Congress and having noticed that they could not make it in terms of the support base.

I heard my brother Mr Matombo saying he has support of eight unions and in terms of numbers, they have the largest, I mean the most representatives, I don’t think that’s correct. I think we need to state the obvious, just the truth – the ZCTU that I lead is the largest, has the biggest number of membership and it’s known, it’s only that we are discussing through the phone;

If we were to come up with a document and say look at these numbers, these are our affiliates and this is the membership, it’s so clear, it’s so clear and anybody, anyone who is doubting what I am saying is free like I said to come to the office and view it all. The facts are there for all to see. Therefore this being a battle of personalities, for me I thought we were not supposed to have arrived at the situation that we are in as the labour movement in Zimbabwe and conscious of our class.

Because the truth was whatever the problems we had as an organization, we were supposed to sit down, discuss these issues, iron them out and then fight the struggle together as the working class, conscious of our class but because we allowed ourselves to split, this is a dent to the labour movement and it might lead to the weakening of the labour movement in Zimbabwe and is very unfortunate.

Guma: Yes, some will say the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, ZINASU, riven by factionalism for several years and last year the ZCTU joined and went into that boat so the two critical organizations in terms of mass mobilizations, ZINASU, ZCTU, riven by factionalism. You’ve been in the trenches for very long both of you – I’ll start with you Mr Matombo, how do you feel about being in this situation, given how people look up to these two organizations – ZINASU and ZCTU?

Matombo: Well in fact at our Congress I did give a report and the report was debated; the General Council gave a report and they all agreed, we all agreed that we should give unity a chance. We said our executive should not be a hindrance should the need for unity arise.

We are quite conscious of the fact that without a united ZCTU, the entire working class is sold out completely, the democratic movement is sold out completely and that if there is such a unity, why should, if these are not personality issues why can’t we have that unity between these two factions if they do exist? Why can’t we have unity?

In fact any form of unity should not be seen in light of GNU, it should be a genuine unity where people would go to Congress, conditions and standards to measure the process, the electoral process should be put in place not as members-only type of Congress, members-only type of Congress. Anyone who is not a member will not attend and that is how we are supposed to do it.

So really the issue for unity cannot be over emphasized. In fact even with the students we are trying to push, to discuss with them and encourage them to make sure that they come up with a united front because this environment requires unity and unity for all. (inaudible) as long as electoral process is free and fair, it’s just to be free and fair and not have the practice of free and fair elections, let’s avoid fraud, fraud, fraud no.

Guma: Mr Nkiwane, your reaction to that – how feasible is it to have a reunification of sorts?

Nkiwane: We have said this and I also said it in my inaugural speech and today we are still saying our doors are wide open. If there is that idea that people that we can work together we are open to that and we will accept them into our fold but the most difficult thing my brother that I foresee here is that the positions that might be put before us because our position is very, very clear that we cannot change the outcome of the Congress but we will not block those who would want to work with us.

And unity, its true; we have to be united as the labour movement. You cannot, not only the labour movement, you cannot separate the struggle of the students from the struggle of the workers because it’s like separating the children from their parents and that one, you cannot do that. We have to fight together and we have to be united; be it the ZCTU itself has to unite the workers of Zimbabwe must be united and our children the students, must be united.

Guma: Now if the allegation is that 52% of the delegates were not genuine, why not just have a fresh Congress and eliminate all those complaints Mr Nkiwane?

Nkiwane: My brother that one would require an independent auditor to come and verify that because to our understanding the dispute and the issue was based on four unions and I don’t know whether if we were to group those four unions they would constitute 52% of the delegates to that Congress – no – that’s not the true picture of what happened.

The facts are there like I said on the ground for all to see. The dispute and it was a result by the General Council because they have rules, regulations and procedures that are contained in our constitution as to how we resolve issues if we have a dispute within the General Council it was decided by the General Council by way of dividing the house in that particular meeting which was chaired by Mr Matombo, and the votes were 25 against proceeding to the Congress with the result as they were and then four against plus one abstention.

So I mean in terms of the rules and procedures of our constitution, they were followed, they were not even flawed and therefore it is our contention as the ZCTU, that of course it’s not proper and it’s a dent to the working people of Zimbabwe that we came to the situation that we are in. There is need really to unite but it is the conditions upon which we are to table before each other so as to make sure, to discuss that unity.

Guma: Mr Matombo?

Matombo: Yes I think what Mr Nkiwane is saying is that if there is any unity; the unity that anyone else who would want to join Mr Nkiwane that’s precisely what he is saying. In fact I’ve made an overture myself and I met the Japhet Moyo on three occasions telling him that what we need to do at this stage is to unite the workers of Zimbabwe.

We all know, even Mr Nkiwane is quite aware about the fraudulent activities that we’re talking about, it’s not that he doesn’t understand that, he knows that and this is why they’re saying we cannot have fresh elections. The reason they are refusing fresh elections is that they may not be sure with that they will be returned.

But I wanted to say to them for the benefit of the working people of Zimbabwe, you, some of you will be returned and of course some of you will not be returned. What is important is to have an election, not a GNU, a Congress a lets arrange a Congress and we invite either a firm of auditors, they are the ones who can determine whether the level of membership for each and every union and that’s all we want from our side, free and fair elections, that’s all we want.

We go there, whoever is elected is elected. If we feel that our unity should be unite what we can do is to negotiate and those people get into positions and they lead the ZCTU. We don’t want to live with a divided ZCTU. And for those people who want to live under a divided ZCTU perhaps they have something to benefit.

So any form of unity that we are supposed to talk about it’s a unity where the two factions have to go to a Congress. A Congress where the delegates have been verified by an independent firm of auditors or lawyers and then we will finish the whole process. Let’s not even be ambiguous, I don’t want us to be ambiguous.

Ours very clear, we have said we will not stand on the way of unity, let’s have that free and fair election and once we do that, we will have a ZCTU that is strong and whatever we are going to say on the national politics and national elections will be listened to, but at the moment I don’t think we can talk about democracy in elections when we in the ZCTU cannot even practice the very basic needs of democratic elections. That’s what we are merely saying on our side.

Guma: Mr Nkiwane, if holding a fresh Congress will help the process towards unity, why not do that?

Nkiwane: I’ve no problem with that my brother and this intimation that we are afraid to lose these positions, I mean it’s not about positions but the question of principle. There is a trend now that has developed in Zimbabwe that if people notice that they will not be elected they will maybe move away from the organization, claim to be the authentic leadership of that particular organization – look at what happened to the MDC, look at what has happened to the ZCTU, look at what happened in ZINASU.

They claim to be the real leadership, the authentic leadership of that particular organization and it’s a trend that has developed and is creeping into our organizations in our society in Zimbabwe so it’s something that we have to deal with.

Going back to the elections like in your question my brother, I mean there’s nothing, we don’t fear anything, we can go to the elections anytime provided the General Council of the ZCTU says that we have to reorganize, we discuss these issues, call for an extraordinary Congress or a Congress proper, that is all up to the policy making body of the ZCTU in between Congresses. We have no problem with that if that is the way to go.

Guma: Okay one final question for both of you – this is a recommendation from Raymond Majongwe, I’ve just been reading that in one of the newspapers, he’s suggesting a mediation process, superintended by an eminent power broker like Lovemore Madhuku or someone from the Churches. What do you make of that Mr Matombo?

Matombo: Lance, let me say once more – our position is very unambiguous. We are not complicated, neither do we want to complicate any unity process. We have understood where we came from as ZCTU, we have understood how we have lived in this country. We have lived under authoritarian systems in this country and I know what it means to be ambiguous, to be impossible, to be impractical.

This ZCTU you are talking about is not like that, we are saying we are open to anybody as long as it brings genuine unity. We need unity in the ZCTU, it has to be genuine and in fact we have to practice what we speak, that’s it we have no problem whatsoever.

Guma: Okay final word to Mr Nkiwane to close the programme – just final thoughts.

Nkiwane: Okay on the last question?

Guma: Yes.

Nkiwane: Okay we have no problem if there is this idea that we should unite, we have no problem, let’s have that and any person who might try to bring the two organizations together, we have no problem in that. We might have problems in terms of the conditions that might be laid before us but in terms of uniting, having a united labour movement in Zimbabwe, that one is the way to go.

As to the how that, those are the things that might be discussed, as we move on, as we look into this feud and so we have no qualms whatsoever in having someone trying to mediate, we welcome that, we have no problems with that.

Guma: Well Zimbabwe that has been Question Time where we had the two rival presidents from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, that’s Mr Lovemore Matombo and Mr George Nkiwane and we commend them for having a mature debate right here on SW Radio Africa. To both of you, thank you for your time.

Matombo/Nkiwane: Thank you Lance.

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