By Mutsa Makuvaza
ZIMBABWEAN democracy struggle icon and MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai died three years ago, on 14 February 2018. Since then, the party architecture he left has been torn by bitter infighting, splits and intermittent calls for unity and dialogue.
In this interview, Zimbabwe Voice’s political writer Mutsa Makuvaza sat down with MDC-T national chairperson Senator Morgen Komichi to discuss the Tsvangirai legacy, national dialogue and recent recall of elected officials, among other gripping issues. Read on…
Zimbabwe Voice: This coming Sunday, 14 February, marks three years since MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai passed on in 2018. Would he be happy with the present state of affairs in the MDC-T in particular and the Zimbabwe opposition in general?
Komichi: President Morgan Tsvangirai would be very unhappy with the kind of politics in the opposition. Before his death, President Tsvangirai had brought the factions in opposition together. There was PDP led by Tendai Biti and MDC led by Welshman Ncube, and he brought them together under the MDC umbrella.
Now, we have an MDC-T under Douglas Mwonzora, and Chamisa is with the MDC Alliance. Morgan Tsvangirai would want unity among all opposition forces. So, I want to see unity among all opposition family members, especially the original MDC members. Opposition politics in Zimbabwe is at its weakest point since 1999. Opposition parties across the board must rethink their politics and come together for an indaba and re-strategize towards unity.
As we commemorate President Tsvangirai’s third memorial this Sunday, I urge my fellow leaders to think along those lines. Unity is key and I want to see that achieved.
Zimbabwe Voice: Are you working with Mr Tsvangirai’s widow and family to ensure his legacy, politically or otherwise, is protected?
Komichi: The MDC-T is working very well with the entire Tsvangirai family. All the Morgan Tsvangirai brothers are with us in the MDC-T, and we are also working together with the Tsvangirai sons and we have also been in touch with the widow about this Sunday’s memorial.
We are planning to convene a virtual memorial service as we commemorate three years since the passing on of President Tsvangirai, and all his family members are working well with us in regards to that issue and other matters. So, yes, we have very cordial relationships with the entire Tsvangirai family.
Zimbabwe Voice: How close was your personal working relationship with Mr. Tsvangirai?
Komichi: My relationship with President Tsvangirai was far more than him being just my party President. For most of the party programmes and strategies we came up as a party during his leadership, we worked together very well. I remember we started sitting down in 2005, strategizing around the democratic resistance campaign. I also remember how we strategized in 2013, then again in 2015 as we pushed the opposition alliance project.
I also had a personal and friendly relationship with President Tsvangirai. I was so loyal, faithful and allured to him. I would go out of my way to challenge Zanu-PF from all corners. When I got arrested multiple times, he would encourage me to toughen up and keep pushing Zanu-PF to respect our rights as the MDC.
I would actually go down to have personal discussions with President Tsvangirai. He would even assign me tasks beyond my official party duties, and many people can attest to that I was very close with President Tsvangirai. We had a very good personal and working relationship together.
Zimbabwe Voice: As a party, how are you going to remember the three years since Mr Tsvangirai died? Any events, physical or virtual, lined up for the day?
Komichi: On Sunday 14 February 2021, we are going to hold virtually with our members and the Tsvangirai family. It is virtual because we have to respect the COVID-19 regulations. We shall have Professor Lovemore Madhuku deliver a lecture while President Mwonzora will deliver a keynote speech, Members of the Tsvangirai family will also speak at the commemoration.
Zimbabwe Voice: You recently warned that unless the opposition forces unite, it will be hard to win the 2023 elections. What have you done as the MDC-T to reach out to other parties, and what have been the results so far since the extraordinary Congress?
Komichi: No one political party must fool itself that it can singly resolve the challenges facing Zimbabwe. It is unfortunate that at this stage there is a lot of tension among opposition leaders. They are still seized with personal interests. I challenge all opposition leaders to put the interests of Zimbabweans at heart. If leaders put the interests of the people at heart, there won’t be any fighting each other, pulling each other down, insulting each other or undermining each other.
If you look at social media at the moment, opposition is fighting each other while Zanu-PF is going scot-free. It’s very sad. I urge opposition parties to come together and go into the 2023 elections as a united front. That way we will have a much better chance of victory.
Zimbabwe Voice: You are in your second month as the MDC-T chairperson Are you happy in your new role, and how is your working relationship with Madame Khupe and Senator Mwonzora?
Komichi: My relationship with my party leaders and fellow cadres is marvelous. I am a happy person who does not keep personal grudges. I am enjoying my role at the MDC-T as national chairperson and am working very closely with all my leaders and fellow party officials.
Zimbabwe Voice: Your party seems to be pushing for dialogue more with Zanu-PF than with MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa. Why is that so?
Komichi: As MDC-T we have a national agenda. Our first objective is national unity which does not discriminate against any political party. That will help us push for the much-wanted political reforms.
One reality we face as Zimbabweans is that if we want to resolve the Zimbabwean problems, we have to dialogue with Zanu-PF. Regarding the MDC Alliance, if you remember at the funeral of Senator Java, President Mwonzora reached out to Mr. Chamisa and said let’s close our ranks and work together and stop trying to undercut each other.
So I believe we are calling for dialogue with every political stakeholder in Zimbabwe. We want dialogue with Chamisa as much as we want it with every other political player. We as the MDC-T are alive to the reality is that once you leave out one political player, you cannot afford the results you seek the dialogue to achieve. So it is untrue that we seek to dialogue with Zanu-PF at the exclusion of Mr. Chamisa or anyone else.
Zimbabwe Voice: There are opposition MDC Alliance MPs who have openly aligned with Mr. Chamisa and you have not recalled them, but others have been recalled. An example is Hon. Joana Mamombe and Hon. Shakespear Hamauswa. They write openly on social media attacking your party. Are you afraid of recalling too many MPs and remaining with few? Why the selective recalls?
Komichi: It’s not like we have a programme to recall elected officials. Yes, some have been recalled but that is very unfortunate. We believe that engagement is a better way forward than recalling. So as a result of the engagement we have been carrying out, a lot of the MPs, Senators and Councilors now want to work with us. Some have seen that they actually misunderstood us right from the beginning.
We do not have a programme to recall members from the Senate, Councils or Parliament; rather we believe in engaging them. And as a result of the engagement, many are now comfortable working with us because they now understand us much better following the engagement I have talked about.
Zimbabwe Voice: What can residents in local authorities, particularly urban where your party has the majority of representation, expect to see done differently and for the better going forward?
Komichi: This year, we have made fighting corruption in local authorities part of our main agenda. Our secretary for local government, Mr. Blessing Chebundo, is going around the country meeting with our Mayors and Council leaders to appreciate the challenges they face and to impress upon them the party’s position regards service delivery and the fight against corruption.
Yes, we have had challenges especially in Harare where council officials have been arrested and many are unable to come to work due to pending court cases. We believe there is chaos in Harare, with the suspension of Mayors and town clerk. The chaos has seen delivery becoming very poor and it is unfair to the residents and ratepayers. We are looking into all these challenges with a view to deliver service to the residents across the country and we are on track to achieve results in that area.
Zimbabwe Voice: Opposition MPs have previously boycotted President Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation addresses. Are we going to see a continuation of the boycotts?
Komichi: We are going to make sure that we debate in Parliament. The idea of boycott to us is an old-fashioned strategy that does not work. When you boycott, you are not doing a service to the people who voted you, and you are not doing yourself any favour at all. During Chamisa’s leadership, legislators were ordered not to listen to the President of the country, President Mnangagwa, and were instructed or whipped to boycott his SONA and public speeches.
But under President Mwonzora, we are pushing for robust debate in Parliament, challenging Government and Zanu-PF instead of running away from them. That is a more modern and effective strategy than boycott. You get a better understanding of your opponent if you debate them than when you run away from them. So, no more boycotts in Parliament. We engage at every opportunity.
Zimbabwe Voice: In parting, any other message you would like your members and the people of Zimbabwe to know?
Komichi: We are going to focus on the interests of the people of Zimbabwe, push for the interests of the people and not our personal interest as leaders. We are going to push for service delivery in local authorities. We want hospitals to serve people better with resources and medicines available and healthcare workers well remunerated.
We are going to push for a lower cost of living. In short, we are urging for general improvement of the livelihoods of the people of Zimbabwe. This position we have taken is unique and unlike that of many opposition parties which are pushing the interests of their leaders first. – Zimbabwe Voice