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Transcript of Job Sikhala on Question Time: Part 1

28 Feb 2012 at 11:39hrs | Views
Outspoken and controversial politician Job Sikhala is the guest on Question Time and joins Lance Guma to answer questions sent in by SW Radio Africa listeners using Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email and text messages. Sikhala is asked to explain why he called his party MDC-99. Why despite calling for Mugabe to be toppled he has not been targeted in the same way as other activists.

Interview broadcast 08 February 2012

Lance Guma: Outspoken and controversial politician Job Sikhala is my next guest on Question Time. The former St Mary's MP is now the president of the break-away MDC-99 party and has had his fair share of arrests and torture by state security agents. Mr Sikhala thank you for joining us today.

Job Sikhala: Good evening Lance, how are you?

Guma: We are okay here. Several questions from our listeners; obviously you are aware of the format of the programme â€" they send us questions via Facebook, Twitter, email, Skype and many other platforms. Just to start off, when the MDC split in 2005, you chose to side with the faction led by Welshman Ncube and company; in 2009 you broke away to form your own party. Let's revisit what prompted you to make this decision?

Sikhala: These decisions were all prompted and inspired by the founding principles and values of MDC. When we formed MDC in 1999 the major inspiration to that was that we wanted to build a new culture that is different from the culture that has been created by Zanu PF from 1980; the culture of constitutionalism, the culture of bringing new governance, the culture of non-violence and also the culture to see that human rights are observed both from within the party and outside it.

Guma: So what sort of problems did you encounter then that made you decide â€" I've had enough of this, let me form my own party?

Sikhala: The first thing is that there was now total disregard of the public decision by the supreme decision organ of the party especially the national executive at the national council. The party was then infiltrated by individuals who were not founders of the MDC but who wanted to take advantage of the growth of the party and for them to have total and absolute control of the party.

And these people are very clear and they are on the public domain, they are called the 'kitchen cabinet'. These are people who constituted that group that divided the leadership of the party and they wanted the total and absolute control of the decision making in the party. These people are still alive today and also still causing a lot of problems.

These are Ian Makone, Dennis Murira, Ghandi Mudzingwa and Ian Makone's wife Theresa. What you have to understand is these people are not even founders of the MDC; I happened to know Ian Makone in 2002 when he wanted to contest as a candidate for the mayoral election in Harare and the moment he entered the party, the party started to have its power being usurped in terms of decision making by some of the things that he has been partaking in the party.

Guma: Now that would explain the split in 2005 but then you were part of what is now referred to as the smaller MDC led by Welshman Ncube, then led by Mutambara. Why did you quit from that faction?

Sikhala: The problem is that we had had a very serious problem again in terms of us having to admire the values that we started the MDC in 1999, when Arthur Mutambara came and did not understand the MDC politics. He started to talk about issues that were not in resonate with the people.

Issues to do about the liberation struggle when the people have said that the liberation struggle is a process that has come and gone and secondly that the people are no longer interested to talk about the past but are interested to talk about the future.

Secondly Mutambara started to see no any reason and problems why we have been fighting Robert Mugabe for all one decade long when he started to praise Robert Mugabe. Robert Mugabe whom the people of Zimbabwe know that he has been a murderer, he has killed quite a number of people both during the periods of elections and also Mugabe has butchered thousands and thousands of Zimbabweans.

And also secondly that Zimbabwe is the only country in the world where it has lost nearly 60000 people directly or indirectly through the actions of Mugabe since 1980. Every time when we are going into elections, Zimbabwe is the only country outside the war zone which has had more than five million of its citizens moving out of the country to go and seek refugee on the basis of the political situation in this country.

Mutambara saw no reason why Mugabe should go; he started to be Mugabe's number one praise singer and we said basically in the MDC we know that Mugabe remains public enemy number one, for you to try and convince the whole country and all of us that we have been engaging in a futile programme for us to overthrow Robert Mugabe, then I think you have lost the founding principles and ideals of the MDC.

Guma: But as things stand, Mutambara is no longer the president of the party; Welshman Ncube leads the party, why would you not go back?

Sikhala: You have to understand that Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara at that material time when I was openly challenging Mutambara to withdraw his obnoxious and irritating statements, started to talk that they are the leadership of the party, they can hire and fire people and at the material time you have to understand that it was myself, Abedinico Bhebhe and others who Mutambara and Welshman Ncube supported to have expelled from the party which however they had no constitutional right for them to have taken that action and for you to say that â€" why didn't I go back? â€" is on the basis that these people started to violate the principles of the MDC by unilaterally hiring and firing the founder members of the MDC.

They wanted to hijack the MDC project and they wanted to make it their own personal property. That's why you realise that it has not been possible for me to reconcile with Welshman Ncube who supported at that material time who fired me from the MDC which I founded.

Guma: The name of your party, the new one, is MDC-99; most of our listeners like Kudakwashe Chikwiramakomo on Facebook want to know why you adopted such a name. Kudakwashe for example says and I quote â€" How do you expect to lead the country if you cannot come up with a name of your own for the party? â€" close quote.

Sikhala: The name of the MDC, I am the one who contributed to the foundation of the name MDC; I am the founder member of the MDC; I was representative of the constituency of the students' movement. Myself and Tsvangirai and others, we are the original founders of the party.

There is no way at all when you will be able to leave your home, for you to leave it to people who have never been founders of the MDC, for you to find your own way, we have already found the name in 1999, MDC, and I am just appealing to my colleagues and others who are currently within the inclusive government set-up, that our original agenda was to bring up a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning that entailed the issues of the rule of law, the respect for human rights, issues of good governance and also the respect for democratic outcomes when we are associated outside with makers of violence.

So specifically nobody can ever tell me to find my own name, why should I? I have already found this name. I was in the committee which decided the name of the Movement for Democratic Change when it was still an idea it was myself, Grace Kwinjeh, Tafadzwa Musikewa and Muzhuzha we have been in that committee. That's why we realise that some of us, we are quiet when others are fighting on who originated the name MDC but I was a member of that committee who suggested and also came out with that resolution as a full member.

Guma: But not everyone who was not part of that committee could lay claim to the MDC name because you could then mean if Grace Kwinjeh wants to form her own party she will use the MDC name, if Tafadzwa Musikewa wants to form his own party he'll use that name â€" is that not problematic?

Sikhala: It's not problematic because basically what we are doing is that in terms of interpreting our founding values and principles, we differ in the way how we founded them. That's why you realize that Zanu PF and Zanu Ndonga in 1979 had a serious clash for them to have distinct political formations but they said â€" no, we are all founders of Zanu.

We have been together when we have been starting this idea in Gweru and we attended our Congress together in Gweru and when we were together at Enos Nkala's house in Highfields, so for you Ndabaningi Sithole to say that you are the sole appropriator of the name Zanu, it doesn't work so the same applies also to the founders of Zanu PF at that time, Enos Nkala and others to say no, Sithole does not have sole proprietor's rights to the name Zanu.

That's why we said when we went to the 1980 elections, when we had two Zanus. So specifically it's not a unique trend in our country; it has been there since time immemorial, since Zimbabwe obtained independence in 1980 so it should not surprise anyone.

Guma: In the context of the fact that we already have the MDC-T, we have the so-called MDC-N and then to add an MDC-99, is that not confusing for people?

Sikhala: Thank you very much. You have said that there's already MDC-T which means MDC-Tsvangirai; there's MDC-N which is MDC-Ncube; when we founded the MDC in 1999 at no point did we ever agree on the personification of the institution called the MDC. The people started to build around the issue of personality cults by naming the MDC after their totems, their girlfriends and their surnames which was in total disagreement with all of us.

That's why we realize that to go to our 1999 original agenda where we will say that we are the MDC which still aspires to the 1999 resolution and also the 1999 founding principles and ideas. Why do we celebrate people who name political institutions after their surnames and their totems? And also naming political organisation after their girlfriends and their mothers.

That is why I am in total agreement with the other political parties that you said there is another MDC-T which is MDC-Tsvangirai and MDC-N which is MDC-Ncube. We believe in the supremacy of ideas, we believe in the supremacy of the founding ideas and principles of the organization, not to worship individual totems and also surnames.

Guma: Some will say the MDC-T distinction was necessary to separate from the other MDC and that was just done for electoral purposes to avoid confusion of having two MDCs. Now the question would be for you, why not just come up with another name and avoid the confusion and be able to build your own brand rather than be in the shadow of the other two MDCs?

Sikhala: Why didn't they find another distinction outside another individual's totem and surname? That would have been more plausible. You cannot tell us that it is justified when they have named it after personalities. That is intolerable to some of us who are the founders of the MDC.

It now appears as if it is the private property of Morgan Tsvangirai, that's why it is called the MDC-T and for anybody to try and accuse me, why am I not finding the brand, why should I be forced out of my own family and my party is not named after Job Sikhala â€" it is the MDC that we had ideas of in '99 and that's why we are calling it MDC-99.

Why don't they remove the personalities around the name of political organizations? We have been allowing these things to take place for the past 30 years, when Zanu PF claim that Zanu PF is close to Mugabe, those are things that we have been fighting against.

Guma: Okay let's quickly move on to the next question, last year in December you were arrested after leading a protest march calling on Zimbabweans to stage Egyptian or Tunisian style revolutions against Mugabe, let's explore the reasoning behind your calls. Several listeners like Lillian in Harare want you to explain your strategy for achieving democracy in Zimbabwe.

Sikhala: Thank you very much Lance Guma - why we embarked on that demonstration was clearly to tell the world that any call to elections in our country is a call to bloodbath. We have statistically produced and gave everyone our own views as to the political situation in Zimbabwe since 1980; that from 1980 to 1990, Robert Mugabe killed more than 20000 people who had been opposed to his political party during the period of Gukurahundi.

And also he massacred, raped and tortured lots of supporters who were supporting the opposition ZAPU party led by Joshua Nkomo and in 1990 Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement lost 165 supporters during the period of elections and also in 1995 Robert Mugabe repeatedly did the same when Ndabaningi Sithole's, Zanu Ndonga and Abel Muzorewa's United African National Congress UANC came together to form the United Party.

They wanted to contest against Robert Mugabe. Mugabe immediately alleged that Sithole of having planted a claymore mine bomb along the road to the National Sports Stadium. That led to the retribution of more than 13 supporters of Ndabaningi Sithole being killed in 1995.

From 2000 to present, in all elections in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 the MDC family has lost more than 6000 people directly, who have been killed by Robert Mugabe because of elections. So we are saying that Robert Mugabe has never appreciated elections as a contestation of ideas but he has taken it as how many people are you able to kill and how much bloodbath are you able to spill for you to be able to govern in this country.

We are no longer interested to see Robert Mugabe being a contestant in our elections, he has to be overthrown first before any elections because if any elections are called again in our country it will lead us to lose more lives. Zimbabwe is the only country outside a warzone where more than 60000 people have been killed from 1980 to present on the basis of elections.

Zimbabwe is the only country outside a warzone that has had more than five million people who have gone outside the country in search of refugee on the basis of Robert Mugabe. So Mugabe causes more casualties of people who have been killed in a whole military confrontation in Libya against the people who have been opposed to him.

So we are saying Mugabe has to be overthrown first before any elections are held in Zimbabwe. Our strategy which Lillian wants to know how are we going to be able to achieve change in Zimbabwe â€" we are going to approach it in a two pronged way; the first one is for us to continuously embark on our principled demonstrations and march in the streets until Mugabe is overthrown.

In early March, that's for your own information, we're going to engage as the MDC-99 leadership â€" there are 70 of us, we are going to gather in Africa Unity Square on a hunger strike. We are not going to talk to anybody, we will not throw stones or axes or what but we are going to embark on a 66 day hunger strike in Africa Unity Square until Mugabe is gone.

We will eat only the time when Mugabe is gone, we are going to engage in peaceful means to deliver our change at this moment. If it fails and the dictator continues we will go also into the overdrive for us to clearly demonstrate and show the dictator that we are tired of his arm-twisting tactics every time we go to elections.

Guma: Now Munyaradzi Gwisai and others were arrested for watching video footage of protests in Egypt and Tunisia and they spent weeks in custody; you have not watched any videos but have actually called for Egypt and Tunisia style protests and yet, as one listener points out, you spent a few hours, if not a weekend or so in custody. He is querying this disproportionate reaction by the regime towards you saying how come you in the context of this, have been treated much better than Gwisai and his colleagues?

Sikhala: What you have to understand is that it differed because my lawyer asked me to go and confront the police why they have gone to ransack my family and they've attacked my family. The truth of the matter is that the matter is still pending before the courts, the time hasn't yet kicked out but I did not go only for hours in prison. I was taken during the day, on the first day until early hours of the next morning when the lawyers got from human rights organization ZLHR strongly protested against my arrest.

There was a lot of vigilance and a lot of action the moment I was arrested. And I want to thank those lawyers for the job well done. They have been there and have even volunteered to sleep with me in prison and that has caused the regime to quickly write the warned and cautioned statement for me to appear in court and that matter is still pending before the courts. The date of trial haven't yet been reached.

Guma: Are you saying it's down to reaction of the lawyers because Gwisai and his colleagues also had quite a strong team behind them? Are you saying it's down to the lawyers how long you are held?

Sikhala: Well I was held for almost a day, overnight in prison of which people cannot say it's not enough. Secondly there was no proof or evidence, the police which they heard that I might be in Harare. We quote the manner where like what has happened during the recent demonstration by MDC-T youths in Masvingo, where they demonstrated and quote the enemies of the people unaware.

The moment they heard this it was too late, so they were not sure whether the demonstration took place or not, they were only hearing through hearsay but as soon as they reacted already the message was throughout the world.

Guma: Several times Mr Sikhala you have openly said Mugabe needs to be toppled and a lot of people feel you get away with saying these statements whereas other individuals in civil society, in opposition could never get away with saying exactly the sort of things you say so I have close to five questions from listeners on this particular subject. They want you to tell them why it is that you are able to get away with saying what you say.

Sikhala: No I never get away with what I am saying; I am the most incarcerated and the most arrested political player in our country and Zanu PF have noticed that for more than 60 arrests that they have effected to me, since the time I have been in active politics in the late 1990s, there's no single matter that they've won in court.

So by calling Mugabe to be overthrown and toppled is within the parameters of my constitutional rights and for them to challenge my right to my personal opinion will really need a Herculean task for me to get a conviction in court. So they have been trying to find evidence on even unique and minor matters which they think they will get conviction on myself. So specifically I am within the parameters of my own constitutional right for me to call for Mugabe's overthrow because Mugabe is not a god.

Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that's the former St Mary's member of parliament, Job Sikhala, he's now the president of the MDC-99 political party. We have so many questions to ask Mr Sikhala so we'll invite him over for Part Two next week Wednesday so keep sending in your questions if you didn't get the chance to do so but certainly those whose questions I have not asked, we will ask Mr Sikhala next week on Wednesday he will join us once again. Mr Sikhala thank you so much for your time.

Sikhala: Thank you very much Lance Guma and thank you very much for the good programme.

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