uMR's Agenda 4 Action: Explosive interview with Dr Mguni

uMR's Agenda 4 Action: Explosive interview with Dr Mguni
Published: 21 November 2014 | by


With Thembani Dube


Agenda4Action is uMthwakazi Review's online publication's latest programme pioneered by Thembani Dube whose aim is to interact with the political and non-political movers and shakers in Mthwakazi and beyond on a regular basis. Our second guest to grace this programme is the Secretary General of Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), Dr Ralph Mguni.

The Zimbabwe African People's Union is a party with a colourful liberation history whose military armed wing; the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) fought fierce battles to dislodge the Rhodesian forces and the settler regime of Ian Smith in Southern Rhodesia until the attainment of Independence in 1980.

The Zimbabwe African People's Union was founded on the 17th of December 1961 with the late Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo being its president. Zapu eventually went into a Unity accord with Zanu PF in December 1987 after the Gukurahundi Genocide that saw over 20 000 of the Matabele murdered at the hands of the 5th Brigade of Zimbabwe in the 80's. Some argue that Zapu was formed in December 1961 and was buried by Zanu PF in December 1987. After the unity accord, Joshua Nkomo would later state that the reason why he agreed to the Unity accord with Zanu PF was to halt the Gukurahundi Genocide and save lives of the Matebele people. Zapu has been in unity with Zanu PF from December 1987 until the 16th of May 2009, where it is meant to have officially pulled out of Zanu PF due to disagreements with Zanu PF on how Zimbabwe is governed.

Thembani Dube: Dr Mguni thank you for joining uMR's Agenda 4 Action programme to share your views and that of your party about the political situation in Zimbabwe. On the 16th of May 2009, Zapu held a Congress in Bulawayo that was meant to have officially completed the pull-out of Zapu from the 1987 Unity accord with Zanu PF and the first question to Dr Mguni is whether Zapu under the leadership of Dr Dumiso Dabengwa has effectively pulled out from Zanu PF?

Dr Mguni: Thank You Thembani. I am pleased to be part of this innovative programme that is a serious platform for contestation of ideas. In response to your question, please be advised that Zapu has absolutely pulled out of the unity with Zanu PF. In the first instance, the decision to go into a Unity Accord with Zanu had been forced on ZAPU by the terrible genocide that Zanu unleashed on ZAPU and its supporters. The killings of the people of Matabeleland and Midlands by Zanu were not an act of war; this was gratuitous massacre of the innocents by a bloodthirsty regime.

The unity was doomed from the start; even those who advocated it openly stated their distaste for it, indicating it only was an expedient measure to stop the killings, hardly a basis for unity. Therefore it was a matter of time before the unholy alliance fell apart.

The decision to finally pull out was made by Congress, the supreme decision making body in ZAPU in 2008. No one person or group of individuals can reverse that decision. There was no, and never will there be any equivocation about disassociating with a party whose aims, vision and methods are diametrically opposed to those of ZAPU.

Thembani Dube: John Nkomo is the Vice President of Zimbabwe on a Zapu ticket and other Zapu leaders such as Simon Khaya, Obert Mpofu and Cain Mathema remain in Zanu PF today and they argue that Zapu remains in Zanu PF. What is the response of your party to this?

Dr Mguni: As already stated Thembani, only the Congress determines where ZAPU is and who its members are. The named individuals know this fully well. Besides, the organs of ZAPU are clearly marked out. The basic party structure is the branch, then the district, next Province. Membership is maintained by payment of the requisite subscriptions.

The individuals named belong to none of the structures indicated. They remain in ZANU PF as members of that party to safeguard their personal interests, something they are perfectly entitled to. Their claim to be in ZAPU should not be taken seriously at all; they fool no one but themselves.

Thembani Dube: Dr. Mguni are we not having two Zapu parties at present in Zimbabwe, one led by John Nkomo in Zanu PF and one led by Dr. Dabengwa?

Dr. Mguni: As already stated, John Nkomo cannot lead a party to which he does not belong. Our party is bigger than any individual. Whatever or whoever John Nkomo is, he has no authority to claim ownership of what is a people's party. Leadership in ZAPU is entrusted to a member by the people; Dr Dabengwa was elected President of ZAPU at the 2010 Congress.

John Nkomo cannot simply jump onto his soap stool and claim to be leader of ZAPU. If his claim is to confuse people and hope to cause division, there is no doubt that a time will come when he will be held to account for his actions.

Thembani Dube: Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa is the president of your party and he is in his 70's now. He has a colourful liberation war history but the world has moved on and changed a lot. Do you think he has what it takes to lead Zapu into a democratic government in Zimbabwe?

Dr. Mguni: Dr Dabengwa was unanimously elected as leader at Congress in 2010. He is there to serve the party and the people of Zimbabwe. He is part of and leads the Presidency, that functions as a team. I emphasize, as I have done before, a leadership position in ZAPU is one of service and not of dominance over others. From a very young age Dr Dabengwa dedicated his whole life to the service of people and country.

Dr Dabengwa combines wisdom and experience to ensure that our party steers a course in line with the vision of transferring power to the people of Zimbabwe. The only parties that overly concern themselves with leadership flamboyance and exposure are those besotted with hogging and centralization of power around their persona. It is not the ZAPU way.

Dr Dabengwa has that unique ability to listen, do his best to comprehend people's needs and aspirations. He shows total dedication to ensuring that all Zimbabwean, not just leaders, are empowered. He is the true leader that our country needs at this time, a leader concerned more about the greatness of every Zimbabwean and less about personal glory and dominance over others.

Thembani Dube: Matabeleland, a region in the western part of Zimbabwe has been complaining of being marginalized for the past 32 years since Mugabe came into power. How is Zapu going to address the serious grievances emanating from this region?

Dr. Mguni: The ZAPU vision is of empowering people. Let the people be masters of their own destiny. When people are aggrieved as they are, let them be at the forefront of decision making on how best to deal with their grievances.

This is not advocacy of the law of the jungle. Where people are afforded the opportunity to run their affairs, they invariably rise to the responsibility that comes with their empowerment. Only meaningful devolution of power will offer the vehicle for empowering people so that they have a voice over issues that affect them. I have no doubt that people have grown weary of the cynicism and snares of the promise-all but do nothing politicians.

Thembani Dube: Let us specifically come to the Gukurahundi issue. Gukurahundi remains an emotive issue in Zimbabwe and particularly in Matabeleland. The people of Matabeleland are demanding truth and justice for the Genocide. How is Zapu going to resolve this issue if it were to come to power?

Dr. Mguni: One thing that needs to be emphasized is that the suffering caused by the genocide continues today and the after effects will continue to haunt the whole nation for a long time. It needs to be remembered too that the genocide was aimed primarily at exterminating ZAPU and its followers.

ZAPU will insist on a Transitional Justice Commission as the minimum pre-requirement in dealing with the issue of Gukurahundi.

The more comprehensive judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms of Transitional Justice should be employed to ensure that criminal prosecutions are conducted where deemed necessary; reparations and compensation of victims made in order that victims may start to heal. This is the least that Zimbabwe can do.

By the way Truth and Justice, is only an aspect but, an integral and necessary part of the Transitional Justice process.

ZAPU will fight for Transitional Justice for the gross misdeeds perpetrated against the peoples of Matebeleland/Midlands. The current attempts by GNU parties to have those responsible for these crimes act as judge and jury in crimes that they are accused of is arrogant, condescending and obscene. It will never bring closure to the suffering caused by the genocide and marginalization suffered by the people of Matabeleland and Midlands. 


Thembani Dube: A few months ago there was a National University of Science and Technology list that was circulated in social networks and the media. This list caused an outcry from the people of Matabeleland both at home and abroad, who felt their children are being denied places at the University on the basis of their ethnic identity. The spokesperson of NUST, Mr Felix Moyo stated (as one of the reasons) that most children from this region do not have the right combination of subjects to be admitted to this university. What other reasons do you think are the cause of this problem?

Dr. Mguni: What has been happening at NUST highlights the great poverty of decisions that affect people being taken by people a long way from those affected by those decisions. I experienced this first hand when I worked at the Medical Stores in Bulawayo. Then decisions were taken to divest the people of Bulawayo of any authority to either make decisions or run their own affairs. At the time those responsible for the disempowerment of the people of Bulawayo never hid the reasons for their actions as unashamedly political to underline that there should be no other power base than Harare.

Just for the record, this is an issue that I raised previously with the authorities at NUST. It became clear to me that the authorities knew that they were riding on the back of a tiger; it was just a matter of time before they were mauled.

To be fair to them, they were attempting some remedial measures which have been mentioned elsewhere. My feelings were and still are that the measures were simply sticking plaster over festering sores. I must admit however, that they too are victims of a strategy and plan they have no control over. Any blame aimed at them would be misplaced.

Thembani Dube: What is Zapu going to do to ensure that everyone has a fair access and opportunity to be admitted to higher institutions in Zimbabwe?

Dr. Mguni: The only answer lies in devolving power to the regions so that a holistic approach can be taken to solve these problems that have grave implications for the future of these very important national institutions and the whole country.

The problems created by inequality of provision will take a long time to fix; attempts at quick fixes could prove highly destabilizing and could lead to national strife; however the rapidly worsening situation requires immediate action as to avoid reaching tipping point when people take matters into their hands, with all the chaos that could result.

Thembani Dube: The Zimbabwean parliament has just passed a Zimbabwe Human rights Bill that forbids the prosecution of those who committed crimes before the 13th February 2009. This is surely amnesty legislation for the perpetrators of the Gukurahundi Genocide. What is your party's view on this issue?

Dr. Mguni: The bill you refer to clearly illustrate the obscenity of the current legislative processes in Zimbabwe. It was indeed informative that all the MDC were concerned with was simply nudging the date back to 2008 in order that their partisan interests to have redress could be met. Where was the whole national interest approach in this?

ZAPU will not be complicit in the current shenanigans that could result in those responsible for the heinous crimes against humanity being let off. I liked a recent quote I heard: "Icala kaliboli!"

The would-be fugitives from justice must know that a time will come when they will be held to account fully for their crimes; they will never see the peace that they denied others.

Thembani Dube: Devolution of power to all the regions of Zimbabwe has been your flagship policy as a party. What motivated your party to adopt this policy?

Dr. Mguni: Thank you Mthembo. Let me start with an attempt at a definition of what devolution is: "Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level".

To us in ZAPU,Devolution is both a political and an economic empowering process. Throughout the history of fighting for democracy and political emancipation, the general experience is that what people can positively achieve is influenced by economic opportunities, political liberties, social powers, and the enabling conditions of good health, basic education, and the encouragement and cultivation of initiatives. This is normally influenced by the institutional arrangements, the exercise of people's freedoms, through the liberty to participate in social choice and in making of public decisions that impel the progress of these opportunities.

At the political level, devolution of political power to the regions or provinces in a country like Zimbabwe with citizens of diverse ethnic origins is key and an indispensable strategy for building a democratic and inclusive nation state. It is the crucial catalyst to ensuring that all Zimbabweans have equal rights and access to these rights at the local level. Contrary to ZANU PF's power-hugging counter-arguments, devolution of power will in fact provide Zimbabwe's best foundation for peace, unity and development.

Thus the devolution of power is the essential political empowering tool of the people in terms of decentralized political decision making over their human and natural resources without undue interference of central authority.

Let the truth be told, until local devolved administrations are in place with central government only providing oversight, the local resources will be plundered by unconcerned looters at the behest of the central administration in Harare. 


In conclusion, "Devolution brings development to the people and removes all bottlenecks and red tape created by the current Harare-based centralist governance system. People become masters of their own destiny by controlling and owning their natural resources. Devolution empowers the people to be self-determining."

Thembani Dube: Let us move on to the draft Constitution. COPAC has just released a draft constitution of Zimbabwe and some kind of "devolution" of power is contained in this document. I am sure you have had a chance to go through it as a party. What is your party's reaction to this kind of devolution contained in this draft?

Dr. Mguni: The whole ZAPU response to the draft constitution will be shared with the nation in the near future. However I will allude to an article I published a short while ago where I referred to the opportunism of some parties with regards to devolution, the ZAPU flagship policy.

There are parties who became aware of the appeal of devolution to the electorate and quickly inserted that word into their agendas without any understanding of its essence or even embracing its principles. I can say this with certainty because of the methods these parties currently employ in decision making, which could not be further from devolution. How could they offer to the nation a way of governance which they do not practice?

These are the same parties that went on to insert the word "devolution" in the draft constitution but then offered a narrative that could not be further from the policy.

Was this a deliberate ploy to deceive or lack of understanding of the concept? It is hard to say. The only pronouncement I can make after my initial reading of the draft constitution is that people are not empowered by that document, far from it. But of course, that at the moment is only my personal take; the collective judgment will come later.

Thembani Dube: MDC and MDC-T will argue and say that it is easy to criticize them but the situation is difficult if one is negotiating with people who have guns under their tables and when they have none. What methods would Zapu have employed to get a fair deal for devolution of power than the one that has been got by MDC and MDC-T?

Dr. Mguni: I am not so sure that the situation was as dramatic as implied in the question. When one studies what the MDC's got is deceptive title because the provisions under the heading have left the current situation completely intact. Where the demand had been and I have no doubt that the COPAC outreach returns had also indicated was for Provincial Parliaments with meaningful legislative powers, what has been offered are Councils with hardly any.

It is conceivable that the MDC's accepted this watered down version, not because of coercion but because of their limited understanding of the people's wish for empowerment. They had the opportunity to alter the centre of politics in Zimbabwe and they totally misfired.

We in ZAPU, having been in unity with Zanu for over twenty years learnt that ZANU plays really hard ball in negotiations, particularly when as now their backs are against the wall. Such negotiations are not for the faint hearted. What ZAPU would have done guns under the table or not would be to ensure that the wishes of the people were not compromised. On the principle of devolution a poor solution is worse than none, much worse. I hope that history proves me wrong.

Thembani Dube: There will be a referendum on this draft constitution soon. Will Zapu urge its supporters to reject or endorse this draft constitution?

Dr. Mguni: There will be a concerted effort in the coming two months to ensure that all party members read the draft constitution and fully understand its main thrust.

In ZAPU we believe that members can exercise a mature judgment when equipped with the facts. The final judgment will have to reflect what the members wish and not be arrogantly imposed by the leadership.

At this moment the question I will be challenging all members with is: "Does this draft really lead to a meaningful transfer of power from the few to the majority?" That is the essence of governance enshrined in the ZAPU vision for democracy. Of course a time will come when the leadership will agree a common stand, which will reflect the members' views and which will not base on only an aspect but the whole draft document.

Thembani Dube: If this draft constitution is rejected, it is most likely that the coming elections will be held under the current constitution of Zimbabwe. What is Zapu's alternative to the current draft constitution?

Dr. Mguni: Mthembo, we are now in the realm of speculation. Of course if Zimbabweans opted to hold the next election using the present constitution, imperfect as it is, then ZAPU would in all probability participate. Soon after we would do everything in our power to come up with a people based constitution.

To a large extent, people's views are already known since these were gathered as part of the COPAC select process. The problem arose because those who then were tasked to write the constitution made efforts to gerrymander the people's wishes to suit their partisan vested interests, aimed, no doubt at maximizing their parties'  electoral advantage.

There have been discussions of a possible GNU number 2, which would be more inclusive and comprise mainly of individuals who would not be eligible for election thereafter. The thinking is that such a group would come up with a constitution devoid of narrow partisan politics.

Thembani Dube: The elections are around the corner. It would appear that the party is struggling financially. Is Zapu as a party prepared for these elections taking into account the financial problems it is facing?

Dr. Mguni: ZAPU is a people's movement, arguably the only party based on people's aspirations and dependent mainly on members for its very sustenance. A time will come when the majority of Zimbabweans will fully appreciate the importance of voting in a party whose sole aim is to transfer power to the people, not just change a few faces in government.

I feel absolutely certain that the people will dig even deeper into their resources to ensure the ZAPU success. The temporary challenges you refer to must surely indicate our party's independence. We are not anyone's project but the people's.

Remember Mthembo, ZAPU as the first liberation party has faced and overcome even bigger challenges than the current ones. Have no doubt that ZAPU will overcome these hurdles and emerge even stronger and better prepared for government.

Thembani Dube: A number of people have called for an alliance between MDC led by Welshman Ncube and your party. Dr. Dabengwa in his last interview with the Sunday Mail ruled out any possibility of Zapu forming an alliance with other parties before elections. Why forming alliances after elections and not before elections?

Dr. Mguni: An alliance based on what? You see power seeking parties see only the removal of Mugabe and ZANU as the sole aim of the current struggle and thereafter to simply take the place that ZANU PF now occupies. The danger is that mere replacement of Mugabe is no guarantee that the next regime would act differently than the current hideous government that Zimbabwe has endured over the past 32 years.

Do not misunderstand the ZAPU position. The demise of the current bad governance of Zimbabwe would of course, be a noble but in our opinion presents only a limited vision. What ZAPU is about is ushering in a government of the people, for the people.

The problem we encounter with talk of pre-election alliances lies in the other parties' pre-occupation with power, positions and dominance. In ZAPU leadership carries the people's mandate; leaders are fully accountable to the people, which is not always the practice in other parties.

After elections it will be necessary to take stock of the people's decision through the process. At that point, if the situation demands it, we will talk to other parties about possible alliances. The core issue of such negotiations will be meaningful devolution of power to the majority of Zimbabweans. ZAPU will seek to adhere to its principles and continue to fly its own colours.

Thembani Dube: Robert Gabriel Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe for 32 years. What is your view of him as a leader?

Dr. Mguni: Mthembo, this is perhaps an unfair question to ask of me as I bear personal scars inflicted on my family at the hands of this man. When one loses a member of one's family, butchered like an animal, the scars do not heal. Trying to judge objectively the author of that barbarity is not easy at all, I would rather be fair to the man and leave judgment to others.

Let me however state what I could say, without too much emotion about Robert Mugabe. This is the man who will leave Zimbabwe a legacy of division and hatred that will haunt Zimbabwe for a very long time.

This is the leader who had no compunction about killing to maintain his hold on power.

This is the man who had the cunning to dupe the world into believing that he was a visionary champion of black empowerment, yet at the same time brought unimaginable suffering to a nation and the people that he purported to protect. Read what you wish what my assessment of the leadership qualities of this man are.

I am sorry to say but I feel some sense of shame that the pain I feel at the thought of that man completely obscures any positive attributes he may have as a leader. I only pray that I could in some way transcend my own pain in order to judge the man more objectively and dispassionately.

Thembani Dube: I am sorry to hear about your personal loss. This only shows that the people of Matabeleland need truth and justice but above all healing. Let us move on to other issues. The Secretary General of the Mthwakazi Liberation Front, Paul Siwela has said that the people of Matabeleland have no future in Zimbabwe due to the fact that they are largely marginalized in all sectors of life in Zimbabwe. He condemns the concept of devolution and argues that politicians who come from Matabeleland who are championing devolution of power are not serious about attending to the real grievances of the people of Matabeleland. He says that the only lasting solution to the Matabeleland Question is for it to be restored as a state. What is your take on his views?

Dr. Mguni: Thank you Thembani. There are many people who lost their loved one in that episode. I am just one in a thousand of them. Let me address your question on Siwela. I fully understand the origins of the sentiments expressed here. I too did, at some time or other and times of utter desperation, did mull championing a cause such as put forward by Secretary General Paul Siwela. It would be unfair therefore to stand in condemnation of where Siwela is at the moment.

Here however are some problems and question that the restorationist movement needs to contend with:

1. What evidence do they have that the majority of citizens in the part of the country demarcated as Mthwakazi share their wish for a separate state?

2. To simply assume that people would simply follow their lead because this path would offer advantage has not been tested, could turn out to be undemocratic and completely against the ZAPU way of respecting the people's wishes; For ZAPU the will of the people must always reign supreme, the only guide to any course of action;

3. In fact there is a possible worst case scenario that inhabitants of the area named Mthwakazi might resist separation, what then? Force them?

4. Even if the restorationist movement had support from the people what realistic mechanism would be employed to wrest Matabeleland from Zimbabwe? One can say with absolute certainty that the Zimbabwe government would resist loss of this very rich part of the country with all the means at its disposal. Any assertions to the contrary is delusion and lacks credibility;

5. Do the proponents of restoration of Mthwakazi truly believe that the international world would support them in their quest for an independent state, particularly when the will of the people had not been tested? The art of real politics is to promise people what is feasible.

Thembani Dube: Some in the restorationist movement are calling for a referendum in the region on this issue for the people of Matabeleland (Mthwakazi) to decide whether they want to be independent and be a state of their own or be part of the Republic of South Africa. This is how they want to test whether people are in favour of the idea. What is your take on this call?

Dr. Mguni: This would come some way towards the ZAPU position. Decisions that affect people must be referred to them. Unfortunately, until there is a measure of self-governance by way of devolved government there could be no way of measuring opinion as suggested here. Central government would surely not facilitate it; in fact the sure bet would be that they would frustrate the effort or even outlaw it.

A covert operation would be totally devoid of credibility and possibly discredited by all stake holders and the international community. This could lead to interminable litigations that would cripple those behind the effort, a true

"lawyers' charter".

I hope I am not being unkindly dismissive of this effort in regarding as a mere exercise in futility!

Thembani Dube: You have been the Secretary General for Zapu for a while now. What have been the challenges of holding this position?

Dr. Mguni: The greatest challenge, by far has been to re-ignite a sense of self-belief and confidence in our fellow country men and women. Dictators succeed by sapping people of resolve and self-worth; this has been amply evident among Zimbabweans; The experiences Zimbabweans have had have left them fearful and bereft of self-confidence.

Mutual suspicion pervades most communities I have been in touch with, often leading to a shunning of association with each other thus making party building quite difficult.

The challenge has been to keep focused on where the party wants to go and not allow a defeatist attitude to creep into what I do.

Thembani Dube: Do you sincerely believe that one day Zapu will assume the mantle of power in Zimbabwe?

Not of power but leadership. Power belongs to the people of Zimbabwe. Yes, the people of Zimbabwe will one day soon attain what is rightfully theirs and ZAPU will be there as their champion. The message of empowerment seems to resonate with the people. As people gain in self-belief, there is no doubt that they will get on board the ZAPU way, the people's way.

Thembani Dube: In life we all have people that we admire and look up to. Who is your most admired public figure and why?

Of course there is the towering icon, Nelson Mandela. Let me tell you however of a less known individual called Father Roger of Taize. During the Second World War he was famed for running extremely dangerous missions to shelter allied soldiers and members of the French Resistance who were hunted by the Germans. After the war he gained fame or infamy for protecting German fugitives from the wrath and certain retribution from the allies. Dangerous turncoat? No, our humanity will be marked by our preparedness to meet every individual at the point of his/ her need. For us Zimbabweans, our humanity will also be judged by our ability to give up what we may cherish for the better good, even if it means letting go of power!

Thembani Dube: That is Dr Ralph Mguni, the Secretary General of Zimbabwe People's African Union (Zapu). It was great and a pleasure to have you on uMR's Agenda 4 Action programme Dr Mguni. We look forward to engaging with you in this programme in the future. Thank you.

Dr Mguni. Thank you for having me in uMthwakazi Review's Agenda 4 Action programme Thembani. I look forward to engaging with you in this programme in the future. Many thanks once again.

Source: uMthwakazi Review

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