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'Interface' with President Chamisa: Of the Holiday Inn 'ordeal and prospects'

30 Jul 2019 at 21:14hrs | Views
As promised this is my brief instalment on my interface with the MDC President Nelson Chamisa and his team namely Professor Welshman Ncube, Hon Tendai Biti, Madam Hon Mai Kore, Organiser Hon Chibaya, Hon Sen David Coltart and others on Friday 26 July 2019 at the Holiday Inn Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Also in attendance were "stakeholders" namely, BIRA (Bulawayo Independent Resident Association), ZCTU, ZINASU and the Business Community.

This meeting which was dubbed the "Interface meeting with the MDA leadership" by stakeholders also involved nomine officio  Members of Parliament and Bulawayo Councillors. From my recollection, 25 Councillors were in attendance and about three Members of Parliament were also present.

Forgive the narrative and the background, but it's relevant.

The meeting which was scheduled for 6 PM did not kick off on time due to the MDC leadership schedule and timing relating to the Lupane Parliamentary by-elections set for the 3rd of August 2019. This was understandable.

Hundreds of people thronged the Holiday Inn upon the open invite that the MDC-A leadership, namely President Nelson Chamisa wanted to meet Bulawayo stakeholders and chart the way forward and/or understand issues. This follows the Kambarami/Christopher Dube debacle and the attendant common knowledge publicity on the obscenities, illegalities, embarrassment and political storm which needs to be addressed.

After much agonising and organising fuel, when we got to the Holiday Inn my colleagues and I were told point-blank that we needed to be "accredited" or "vetted" to access the public meeting venue. Hundreds of people including journalists, members of the civil society, other political parties' officials, security forces (PISI & Law and Order) were denied access.

Interestingly enough, high ranking members of the MDC, notably and formerly from the MDC Green Movement led by Prof Welshman Ncube were told that they were not welcome. For purposes of this piece, I don't want to mention names of the popular figures who were told openly that they were not welcome and that they could not be part of the meeting.

My friends who accompanied me to Holiday Inn gave up and left the venue.

Not to be deterred I waited for an opportune moment and sneaked into the venue and in less than 10 minutes two bouncers accosted me and demanded that I should leave. Unfazed by the man in suits with stern and serious faces I told the two "security officers" that I was not going to leave the venue for various reasons. Specifically I indicated that, it was a public meeting and as far as Bulawayo and Matabeleland is concerned I am a permanent stakeholder and if they were so mandated they must specifically call Nelson Chamisa and tell him that Mazibisa was there and he was not leaving the meeting before hearing his position on pressing and pertinent issues relating to the City of Bulawayo.

I was clear and straight forward (and I am still clear) that the MDC was and is a peoples' movement and has a duty to address the public on critical issues and it was my right and obligation to be present. I have sacrificed a lot for the movement and no gatekeeper or security guard or goon could stop me. I challenged the security guards that if they dared to touch me I was ready and willing to engage not only physically but legally.  I threatened (and I meant it) that if anyone dared touch me I was going to pursue them legally and even sell their chickens in their rural homesteads.

After much consternation and the one-sided verbal exchange the two goons gave up and a third one came after a few minutes and calmly said "Mr Mazibisa it is okay, there is no need to fight".

A few minutes later the MDC leadership led by President Chamisa, Prof Welshman Ncube, Hon Tendai Biti, Hon Madam Kore, Organiser Chibaya, Hon David Coltart and others walked in.

The ZCTU was given a chance to "interface" with the President and they stated the obvious issue of the economic meltdown and the need for the MDC to take a leading role in making things right at a national level and also dealing with the Bulawayo debacle involving Councillor Kambarami and the Town Clerk. It was the usual praise-singing with ZCTU seeking to indicate that it was the mother and incubator of the MDC.

ZINASU in its usual rabid format praised the movement that they were no fees increments but bemoaned that students were impoverished and did not have accommodation and the situation was getting out of hand in terms of ordinary subsistence for the ordinary student. They prayed that the MDC must do more to further the cause of the students and deal with the broader national issues.

Then came in BIRA (Bulawayo Independent Residents Association) an organisation was and is very new to me. They indicated that residents wanted solutions to pressing Bulawayo issues and there was no need for the Town Clerk and the MDC led council to be having an abrasive and embarrassing altercation. That was it.

In came the business community and notably a Mr Dube, Mr Mbuso Moyo and some South African "frequenting businessmen" spoke eloquently, passionately and clearly into the issues.

The urgency of the situation was emphasised that fuel shortages, the present hunger, trials and tribulations by citizens needed more than prayer and fasting as opined by President Chamisa and company. Another businessman indicated that while there is a soft spot for the MDC time was running out and there was a need to deliver outside prayer and fasting.

He added that there was a need for action and citizens were getting agitated and impatient and the MDC was ceasing to be a viable alternative to ZANU-PF. Another businessman (name withheld) was very forthright that the MDC leadership matrix was not only warped but also not working for many reasons. He specifically indicated that the Bulawayo Provincial leadership was alien and unknown in Bulawayo and could not, therefore, mobilise business to support the movement. Further, the manner in which the Deputy Mayor Kambarami conducted himself was a cause for concern, a shame and an embarrassment to the movement. The Mayor was singing from a different hymn book and the Deputy Mayor was playing a different tune with his choir and that was totally unacceptable and the movement was going to pay a heavy price for the mess. It was emphasised further that the composition of the "stakeholders" was just praise singers and the little known BIRA had taken precedence over well-known residents associations like BURA and BPRA and these organisations had been specifically excluded through the vetting and accreditation exercise executed by the shadowy security department at the Holiday Inn. What was brought into question was why key and identifiable stakeholders were excluded from the interface meeting. One of the business people was very straight forward that the vote for the MDC-A was not a Shona vote but was a party vote as most voters did not know the individuals they were voting for and are actually shocked at the nature, calibre, character, length and depth of the individuals they voted for, so they should be no illusion that Bulawayo is effectively under Shona dominance. There is an MDC aura over the city but with the happenings come 2023 this aura may evaporate and it was necessary for the party to have self-introspection and consider all views from Bulawayo citizens who are generally concerned more about voting but not about party membership.

The Pastors weighed in differently with the usual praise-singing and prayers and one audacious pastor indicated that the bible has brave characters who challenged to status quo and were men of action and did not wait for prayers only and they called upon the MDC to be action-oriented and not be given to propaganda and only prayers and fasting. Outside that nothing also turns on the contributions of the pastors.

The MDC leadership made its initial response through Vice President Hon Tendai Biti who indicated that at the legislative level they have done the best they can through defending rights of the people and attacking where it has been necessary. His thesis was that the Zimbabweans don't have a dedicated television or other channel to make Zimbabweans aware how and what degree the opposition has worked to defend the rights of the citizens and they can only do so far. In his view the opposition in parliament is doing a splendid job but the ruling party (ZANU-PF) will not publicise such positive issues and things about the parliamentary work done by the MDC.

Prof Welshman Ncube weighed in indicating that as a political party they acknowledge that the Bulawayo situation needs urgent attention. Before the Kambarami/Town Clerk debacle he confessed that citizens were asking him about the way forward for Zimbabwe in light of the collapsed economic environment but following  the debacle a lot (if not all) of the people were asking him "kanti liyenzani baba Ncube about this issue yakoBulawayo?" indicating that the city is under siege and there is a crisis and there was a need for a permanent solution.

President Chamisa then came into the fray and sought to clarify issues. In summary, he indicated that there is a crisis in Bulawayo and there is a need for a resolution of the issue.

He said the issue of the Town Clerk was not properly handled by the Deputy Mayor (and also the Mayor) because there was no congruence. Chamisa confessed that he did not condone the behaviour of the Deputy Mayor Tinashe Kambarami but that issue had to be internally handled. He further averred that he thought it was unconscionable that Kambarami be the City of Bulawayo Mayor, notwithstanding the fact that he had the numbers to make him a Mayor because of the tribal, cultural and geopolitical dynamics of the City of Bulawayo and he bemoaned the fact that there was a long-standing MDC-A political party conundrum when it came to primary elections which not only troubled the late Morgan Tsvangirai but also his own administration.

Bulawayo has a political right and obligation to second the right members and leaders to be MDC so that when primary elections are held the right characters are elected. If that is not done it is all doom and gloom for the city of Kings and Queens and President Chamisa was very clear and straight forward that there is no way we can subvert democratic principles on primary elections. Simply put, the ball is within the court of the MDC members or citizens of Bulawayo on who should best represent them at both council and member of parliament level.

Coming to the national question President Chamisa was very clear and straight forward. Following the tragic January shootings he had to personally attend 17 funerals "for accidentally shot and killed civilians" and the narrative was that it was because the MDC was part of the demonstrations which narrative was false. Going forward the MDC has to make a conscious decision whether to sacrifice more lives or to dialogue. The process of dialogue is an eventuality whether they are demonstrations or not and hence the cautious approach that the MDC-A has adopted. The first rung is the seven-day prayer and fasting, which was attacked by the "stakeholders" as a waste of time and energy.

He indicated that he was prepared or collaterally he was arrested or imprisoned but he wanted a planned way forward for the people of Zimbabwe. More specifically there was a need to caucus, consult and have consensus on how best to proceed in light of the avaricious ZANU-PF regime. The planned prayer and fasting phase was part of the process (forgive me for letting this secret out because I know outside my forced entry into the meeting by fire, thunder and power there were other people who have already reported on this). Thereafter, the people of Zimbabwe have to decide but lives are going to be lost in the process and this is a collective process because individual responsibility for the death and carnage is going to repose upon him as a leader of the opposition movement. He accepted that the situation has indeed reached another level and people would want an "immediate resolution of the issues" but this kind of resolution demands leadership and responsibility and the MDC-A leadership is ceased with the matter and it is getting the necessary, needed, urgent and relevant attention.

There was obvious agitation and impatience with the ZANU-PF regime and government but one could not escape the subliminal fear, caution and attention to the capricious and vicious nature of the ZANU-PF regime. I could not sense an obvious escape route for the people of Zimbabwe via the MDC route. The obvious and admitted lack of capacity (and want of if) by President Chamisa of leadership in local authorities and parliament is a boon for the opposition. This he said himself. This is a call for responsibility and leadership not only for the people of Bulawayo but Zimbabwe to stand up and be counted when it comes to these issues.

The future is bleak. I don't see how from the so-called stakeholders meeting in the city of Bulawayo can reinstate its position as the city of Kings and Queens. It's pathetic. Very sad. With due respect, I did not get the impression that the mighty movement is ready to lead notwithstanding the fact that it controls 28 out of 30 plus municipalities in Zimbabwe. How this happened we need divine prayers and some miracle workers to divine. Talk of power without being powerful. Talk of amajodo awela abangela mbiza (somebody may interpret this for others who don't understand my mother tongue).

In my view it was unnecessary (extremely so) to seek to fight people like me from attending a public meeting with President Chamisa having sacrificed so much personally and otherwise for the movement and I stand proud that I stopped the so-called goons from evicting me from a public meeting and I was ready physically, legally to fight and whoever told them that Sindiso Mazibisa does not take nonsense is their best friend. I have tried to be very objective here about the Holiday Inn happenings. In conclusion, I don't think that the future is bright. The future is not bright, the future is not orange, the future is not white. The future is extremely dark. We are going into the dungeons. It's back to the dark ages. Respectfully the opposition has failed us and the ruling party has ruined us.

I rest my case

Sindiso Shepherd Mazibisa
Director - Centre for Legal Research and Advocacy
Cell: +263 774 457 429

Source - Sindiso Shepherd Mazibisa
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