Dedicated to dismantling the infrastructure of violence

Much has been written about the departure last week of veteran politician Sekai Holland from the MDC Renewal Team – and much of it is incorrect. She speaks frankly to The Zimbabwean in this wide-ranging interview.

Sekai Holland: people have demonstrated the positive quality of resilience at many levels.
Sekai Holland: people have demonstrated the positive quality of resilience at many levels.

Q: Can you explain in more detail your reasons for leaving the Renewal Team?

A: One of the April 2014 Mandel Declaration resolutions was the invitation to me as Chairperson of the Guardians' Council to take up the Curatorship of the MDC Renewal Team and for a limited timeframe to give the party the opportunity to reorganise itself and elect a new leadership at a Take Note Congress that was to be held in April 2015. The time is up for the Curatorship to end. It was not a permanent invitation.

Q: Could you also explain why you joined the renewal team in the first place

A: The Guardians' Council (GC) and its Executive Committee took its mandate seriously when it was constitutionally set up in 2011 chaired by the late Professor Gordon Chavunduka, to whom I was deputy. In retrospect it seems many in the party may have not understood the functions of the GC . Its main role was advisory. It was also the organ tasked with resolving internal party conflict. But our advice was not accepted when it was offered at the time when we felt the party was not pulling in one direction. The Mandel Declaration came as a powerful new narrative to opposition party politics in Zimbabwe.

Some of the resolutions that formed the core of the Declaration and impressed me were the move to reconnect with the liberation struggle, Pan Africanism, Social Democracy – moving away from the Big Man Syndrome politics towards collective leadership by talking to other political parties and striving to find ways to work with other democratic forces. These principles were the basis for my accepting the invitation to join the MDC Renewal Team. It seemed to me that Zimbabwe was ready for a new narrative in politics, fresh ideas were due and the Mandel Declaration contained the elements that allowed for that democratic process to grow in the right direction.

Q: You have said you want to devote your time and attention to the National Peace Trust. What is its mandate and what do you hope to achieve through it?

A: The National Peace Trust (NPT) is an outcome of the recommendations made by the principals of the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI). Its mandate was to advise the three Global Political Agreement (GPA) signatories President RG Mugabe, former Prime Minister MR Tsvangirai and Professor GA Mutambara on ways to address all transitional justice matters arising from political violence before and after independence.

ONHRI principals recommended four elements to the Infrastructure for Peace in Zimbabwe as the mechanisms to address the challenge articulated in the GPA Article 7.1.C. The recommendation was discussed and adopted by Cabinet in 2012. The fourth element for sustainability was the establishment of an institutional mechanism in academia. The ONHRI Chairperson identified Midlands State University (MSU) to host the Peace Studies Department. We were very lucky that from 2009 when our ONHRI Chairperson requested Professor Ngwabi Bhebe to host the Peace Studies degree, he put all the mechanisms in place to receive and utilise wisely Australian, USA and other academic support to prepare staff and a curriculum and launch the new degree programme in August 2014. The third sustainability mechanism is the (NPT).

This mechanism offers a five part programme through 30 civil society organisations brought together by their common interest in building on the positive outcomes of the COPAC, JOMIC and ONHRI experience – particularly at the grassroots level during the GPA (2009 – 13) process.

The vision behind it is to offer some space in our society where Zimbabweans can work together to eliminate the polarisation that divides us and to dismantle the existing Infrastructure of Violence – incorporating lessons learned from best practices in our local cultures, from the region and internationally. These are the building blocks to achieve a prosperous, safe, secure peaceful society where all Zimbabweans live full lives.

Q: What do you think is going to become of the Renewal Team now?

A: I leave it up to the MDC Renewal Team members to take the party forward as they best consider fit.

Q: What do you think is going to happen to opposition politics in Zimbabwe?

A: Currently all politics in Zimbabwe, as well as civil society, faith-based organisations and family structures, are experiencing a prolonged period of atomisation. We all – at home and abroad -continue to interrogate ourselves on how to build together the new political narrative. As in all societies, a time will come when we as a people link into our positive energy and discover innovative methods to build a democratic, prosperous, safe, secure, cohesive, harmonious and happy society.

Our people have demonstrated the positive quality of resilience at many levels. This resilience is one sure main ingredient in the recipe to get us coordinated and running to build a prosperous, happy nation once again. It is this positive quality of our unparalleled resilience that we will soon call upon as we build our country together.

Q: How do you feel about your time in opposition politics?

A: I have learned a lot in the 15 years that I have worked in a formal opposition political party. There is a lot of work to be done to bring those valuable political lessons we have all learned – at home and abroad as well as the many friends of Zimbabwe all over the world – for the growth and development of our democracy.

Q: What do you consider to be your main achievements?

A: The family is the first place of learning. We were lucky to have parents, their friends and our extended family networks which nurtured us and enveloped us with love and protection in the context of the positive traditional quality of uBuntu, that philosophy and the qualities which have guided me throughout my life. My one achievement in life is to have successfully passed those lessons and that philosophy onto my siblings, our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and all those children we have had the privilege to raise. My success in this mentoring role is due primarily to the long and enduring partnership and support of my life-long friend who is my husband. It is also due to friends I (we) have made throughout life who are part of our team, network and life support.

I have gathered life skills from the teachers and classmates at different schools, institutions where we studied, from the work places where we were employed, the experience gathered during my time in the early years of the Liberation war, from political circles and civil society organisations where we learned many life skills and lessons which we have passed on everywhere we have lived and worked. For any other achievements I may have made in life I believe history will articulate these from the different areas I have been involved with during my life.

Post published in: Gender Equality

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