FOLLOWING the outcome of the elections in which the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) dismally lost to ZANU-PF, the party’s treasurer-general, Roy Bennett (RB) issued a statement that went viral on social networks announcing he was “stepping aside”. Bennett effectively distanced himself from his colleagues and expressed disappointment and disillusionment in his colleagues following their ascension to leadership and power after landing high posts in the inclusive government. The Financial Gazette’s Assistant Bureau Chief, Ray Ndlovu (RN), spoke to Bennett this week. Below are excerpts of the interview.
RN: Do you have any regrets about the MDC-T joining the unity government four years ago?
RB: Yes, I do have very strong regrets that the MDC-T went into the unity government. I was opposed to it at the time because the duplicity and dishonesty of ZANU-PF is on record for everyone to see. Remember for example, Gukurahundi and ZAPU which was swallowed and its leaders corrupted to become puppets and yes men to ZANU-PF. However, I was persuaded by the desperate humanitarian situation which prevailed at that time, which affected all of the people of Zimbabwe. A compromise was required. South Africans gave me assurances, purportedly from the acting president Kgalema Motlanthe, through the South African Secret Service, that South Africa would support the unfolding democratic process. They also guaranteed my personal security. Later on I was assured the facilitator would undertake that a transition to free and fair elections would be a prerequisite demanded by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with full compliance in every respect of the terms contained in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
RN: Has that decision come back to haunt the MDC-T?
RB: Yes, it most definitely has. Some of my colleagues appointed to Cabinet have tried their level best under very difficult circumstances to improve the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. This came at great sacrifice to our party. Many senior MDC-T party members had little time for party matters. The Prime Minister’s appointment as a ceremonial PM carried with it no power whatsoever. Unfortunately, our president (Tsvangirai) got sucked into a web of ZANU-PF Central Intelligence Organisation orchestrated scandals. These have tarnished the credibility of our party. They have haunted the MDC-T leadership and distracted it from the clear objective our people require, which is the removal of the ZANU-PF militarised dictatorship. Therefore the so called unity government gave President Mugabe and ZANU-PF a lifeline which they have grabbed and endeavoured to bury the MDC-T in the recent fraudulent electoral process.
RN: Is the MDC-T vanquished?
RB: No, the MDC-T is not vanquished. I remain consistently of the view that the MDC is a people’s driven institution, bigger than any individual or group of individuals. Once party events play out, I am even more confident than ever, believe it or not, that the MDC will emerge more disciplined, more democratic, and more closely aligned to the interests of our people.
RN: Are there any internal factors that you can point to and attribute them to the party’s loss to ZANU-PF?
RB: There was no loss to ZANU-PF by the MDC-T. The decision to participate in the election was internal and certainly the biggest factor however, to participate in an election without the necessary reforms to enable a fair election was suicidal. Many regard the participation as a sell-out of our members and the people of Zimbabwe. Had it been fair with the outstanding issues of the GPA implemented, ZANU-PF would have suffered a crushing defeat.
RN: Is Morgan Tsvangirai the best leader for the MDC-T after having lost for a third consecutive time? There is a feeling in some quarters that he lacks the needed political acumen to direct the MDC-T’s course.
RB: Tsvangirai has served two terms and is nearly completing a third. Deep introspection needs to be undertaken by our national collective leadership, not for purposes of looking for scapegoats, but for our party to reinvigorate itself with a leadership which reflects the will of our people. Regrettably, some within our leadership, as in the case with many political parties, do not wish the grass roots democratic will of the people to prevail.
RN: What is the future of the MDC-T now? Does it need to boycott participating in government as indicated by Tsvangirai and attempt to regroup?
RB: I believe the MDC-T needs to undertake a range of strategic options. The elections have not been endorsed as fair by any credible government other than Iran! Sanctions remain in place. The party now needs to adopt a far more assertive stance in regard to ZANU-PF. It needs to do so both internally and externally with renewed vigour and steadfast determination. ZANU-PF’s record over 30 years speaks for itself. They are utterly incompetent. Zimbabwe is a veritable basket case, a pariah state shunned by democratic governments all over the world.
RN: What of factions in the MDC-T, are we likely to see an implosion?
RB: There are no factions that I am aware of within the MDC-T. There might be differences at leadership level, as there is in most democratic political parties, but at grass roots level the MDC continues to be strong, united and supported by the overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans.
RN: Several media reports suggest that you quit the MDC-T, is that the correct position?
RB: I have not quit the MDC-T. I posted to my friends on Facebook that I would have nothing to do with a process which legitimises and in effect throws ZANU-PF yet another lifeline. How can our party on the one hand cry foul, over the unfairness of the elections, and then participate in the very illegally elected discredited government? Participation would constitute a total betrayal to the millions who endured extreme personal sacrifice to vote. What message would it send to SADC, the AU and the international community? After many fraudulent African elections, people cry foul and then simply move forward — business as usual.
RN: Do you feel South Africa played a satisfactory role in mediating in Zimbabwe?
RB: If the MDC-T had stuck to the GPA and insisted on its implementation then I believe they would have stayed the course but when the MDC-T said they were going into elections, South Africa pulled back. Their role was far from satisfactory as there was a disputed election, the whole reason for the GPA was that there would be an undisputed election after all reforms were implemented and today we have a rigged election and serious disputes.