BROADCAST: 28 February 2013
SW Radio Africa journalist Violet Gonda’s guest on the Hot Seat Programme is co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone, with her assessment of the general state of affairs regarding security in Zimbabwe. She has in the past accused the police of being partisan towards ZANU PF – why has she not resigned from her job if she is powerless to act? Find out why the Home Affairs Minister feels the 2013 elections will be ‘bloodier” than the violent 2008 polls.
VIOLET GONDA: My guest on the programme Hot Seat is the co-Home Affairs Minister, Theresa Makone. Let me start by asking you for your thoughts on the general state of affairs in the country regarding security.
THERESA MAKONE: Until very recently we had all bought into the idea of a peaceful Zimbabwe, especially after all the pronouncements that the President has been making. Without fail we were all convinced that this was going to be an election with a difference and what has been happening of late has been a rude awakening for all of us gullible Zimbabweans. It is quite clear that the kind of violence we are going to see this time is probably going to be at an unprecedented scale. I’m saying this because this is the very chance that the two MDCs and Zanu PF were supposed to be campaigning together, preferably on the same platform for a YES vote at the referendum, but it would look like the referendum is not going to happen; that the other party has already gone into its default position which is power at all costs, never mind that we have got something that we have in common. I personally would not be surprised to hear that we won’t have a referendum after all and everybody is now being catapulted into a rushed election, which would have had to follow a referendum.
So, if you ask me what I think – I think I am in a state of hopelessness, a state of disappointment and a feeling of betrayal because I think that when people have shared a cabinet room for four years, you must be in a position to look at each other in the eye and tell each other the truth. The role that the police played is dictated by the role that Zanu PF plays in different areas. To me it looks like – yes instructions were given to teach people in the considered area that is criminal to support MDC but at the same time, I strongly believe that the Zanu PF leadership in that constituency (Headlands) would put pressure on the police not to act or react and try to downplay the death of a person as if it is nothing.
GONDA: By the death of a person, you are talking about 12 year old Christpower Maisiri who was allegedly killed in Headlands?
MAKONE: Yes. While we speak free and fair elections by day, at night we are talking win at all costs, even if it means repeating or exceeding the violence of 2008.
GONDA: How bad is the situation in the police force exactly?
MAKONE: The rank and file takes instructions from the top but how far to the top do you go because the Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri on matters of operations, he answers to the President of the country and the ministers only pronounce policy. So between the two of them I don’t know who is not doing their job because if I was the state President I would insist on knowing why we are having these parts of violence with no-one really being arrested or tried.
GONDA: As Home Affairs Minister, what have you done to find out where these instructions are coming from?
MAKONE: Well we have meetings with the police and only last week we called the Commissioner General in and we talked to him – when I say we I mean Kembo Mohadi and myself – we talked to him about the perception out there of police brutalizing civilians, possibly under political pressure and we cited Matabeleland North and Lupane in particular. This was following the arrest of people who had come to register for voting and he gave us an undertaking that this was going to be his best policing – that there would be no nonsense as happened in 2008. But within a few days we get a child being burnt to ashes because his father is an MDC official and it took the police more than eight hours to get to the scene and yet the police station is not far away.
So I think that in line with the Zanu PF position, which is that the party is bigger than the state, the instructions from the party are taken more than those from government. So if the policy is don’t arrest, they won’t arrest. As long as the person who gives the instruction is more senior and in this case the senior person of the constituency is Didymus Mutasa so obviously what he says is what goes. So all the denials and all the threats of suing to me mean nothing. They will only make sense when Zanu PF switches off its violence machinery. We have come a long way, four years later to be still doing this sort of thing.
GONDA: If this is the case, as Minister of Home Affairs can you take legal proceedings against people like the Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri or even Didymus Mutasa the Minister of State in the President’s Office – as you said he has also been accused of being a perpetrator of violence?
MAKONE: It is unprecedented; in fact there are no such procedures that a Minister will take their own ministry to court because if I sue the Commissioner General and the police, I’m literally suing myself because I am the person responsible and if anyone else in the state of Zimbabwe is suing Commissioner General, the ministers are the first and second respondents and then the Commissioner General is the third respondent -so technically it’s not even a possibility. Those people who are aggrieved can sue us, but there is no way I can go and put my case against myself.
GONDA: But isn’t that the worst kind of insult though for the victims? You have already said one of the culprits is Minister Didymus Mutasa and you are then seen working with him in government? So how do you respond to people who ask why you keep working with people you know are perpetrators of violence?
MAKONE: What would they be expecting us to do at this stage, two months before a general election?
GONDA: This has been going on for a very long time and…
MAKONE: It has, it has, I agree with you except that we cannot every day that we come out of cabinet tell you the kind of wars and battles that take place in there almost on a daily basis, it would be too tedious. Because of the secrets of cabinet, as a cabinet minister you cannot go out and start saying all the things that you say in the cabinet but I can tell you it has never been a pleasant place to be in. It’s been a war zone from day one to this day.
GONDA: So what would you say you have achieved if you are powerless and would it not have been better to step down in protest?
MAKONE: Because that is exactly what they expect me to do. I’m expected to walk away and to surrender because Zanu PF has no conscience, it won’t stop anything. If I am given the two options – stand and fight or to turn and run – I would sooner stand and fight because by running away you’re just giving them free play. There are so many things that could have happened that didn’t happen because I’d taken a stand. They are violent and everyone knows it. And if we had not stared at them in their eyes and stood our ground, things could be much worse than they are now.
GONDA: Well we’ve received quite a lot of emails from Zimbabweans who are concerned that the situation seems to be volatile right now. If I can just read to you one particular email from one of our listeners, Simudzai, and basically he says I want to check with you if Theresa Makone made any comment or condemned this incident regarding the 12 year old boy? She is said to be related to Didymus Mutasa, the alleged sponsor of violence in Headlands. Is this true?
MAKONE: Well for a start I’m in my hospital bed right now as I’m speaking to you. I had an operation done on Monday before that incident took place. It’s only today I’ve started following things because I’ve been heavily sedated and as I’m speaking to you, I’m still in my hospital bed, I only leave on Friday. So there’s only so much one woman can do but I know that my colleagues went to cabinet yesterday, did whatever needed to be done and I’m sure that now that the President is talking about having those perpetrators found and arrested, it is as a result of that fight but whatever his name is, you can tell him that the minister said I’m just a normal being like anybody else, when I’m sick I’m sick and I can’t be in two places – under the theatre table and fighting the police at the same time. What was the last part of his question?
GONDA: About being related to Didymus Mutasa.
MAKONE: I don’t know how many times I’m going to say this – I have no relationship of any kind with that man except that he was in Birmingham at the same time as Ian and I were in Birmingham, and we had our daughter at Birmingham Hospital and his wife helped me with the delivery. That’s the end of the relationship. What I did when Mutasa’s son was arrested is what I should have been able to do in all the things that followed afterwards, including the arrest of the 31 MDC activists, but I was not able to do it anymore because of this big outcry about Mutasa’s son – ‘because they are related and whatnot’ – but that was nonsensical because it’s not every day that you get a Zanu PF person being arrested. So the public made it very clear that they were agreeing with the Police Commissioner General who said that I had no business in the police station. So I stay away from now on. Now what do they want me to do?
GONDA: Obviously a lot of people want the violence to stop and… (Interrupted)
MAKONE: So do I.
GONDA: …especially as we have two major elections coming. So in terms of trying to find ways of stopping this violence as Home Affairs minister, what role does the Human Rights Commission for example, play in this kind of situation?
MAKONE: Well the aggrieved parties are expected, if the police don’t act, to go and report their case to the Human Rights Commissioner. For me it’s a very circuitous route. By the time you get redress it will be long, long after the action has been taken. What to me, in these circumstances would be better is – once something like that happens, the police immediately react, the people are apprehended and put before the courts. It’s going to take forever for Mr. Maisiri to go and find where the officers on the Human Rights Commission. Has the Human Rights Commission started work at all? Do they have offices and if so where? By that time you will just be expending yourself for a very, very little result. So I don’t know. We must think before we act sometimes and people make the ministers lives very difficult.
When the police don’t respond it’s my fault and I take that because it’s my department but when I do respond, then I’m interfering with the course of justice – so I don’t know how this is supposed to work.
GONDA: So how do you think you can force the police to respond, especially when they don’t even listen to you?
MAKONE: It’s not a question of they don’t listen to me because no minister in any government talks to people below their departmental head, it’s just not done, nowhere in the world does that happen. It’s our legislation, which was made purposefully for that purpose so that the President has got the power to act on a daily basis in direct communication with the Commissioner General – excluding the Minister of Home Affairs. This is why in the past, even before the formation of the GNU, you never heard Mohadi making a statement or talking to anybody because the legislation is such that the ministers are not even in the loop. Suddenly we have started talking because I deliberately made a point of circumventing that and making comments when I shouldn’t; making myself very unpopular with the police. But at the same time not following that procedure because you have got to make sense once in a while. You can’t just sit and watch but the legislation is made like that and it is for all the security ministers.
So all the security ministers are just ministers who pronounce policy but don’t get involved with the day-to-day process, they don’t give any direct command and you can’t say a particular ministry, minister is powerless, actually he is disempowered by the law. That is the constitution of this country as of now.
GONDA: So basically at the end of the day the buck stops with the president?
MAKONE: Exactly, exactly. That’s where the people should be getting their answers because he is the one who directs day-to-day operations according to the law.
GONDA: Well the president has called for peace – what do you make of those statements?
MAKONE: Oh well, that’s where we want a new constitution to start with. It’s one thing having a constitution and quite another following that constitution and we want people to be spared the roughness of the previous elections so that they are allowed to actually vote in peace and see which party they would rather have in a government. Under this three-headed animal, as the president calls it, it’s not going to be possible; it is not going to be possible. But we were rather naively expecting Zanu PF to be embarrassed to continue killing people that they sit with in cabinet. We thought at some stage they would examine their conscience and do the right thing and to be quite honest with you – I said it two years ago and I’ll say it again – this election is going to be bloodier than 2008. The makings of a horror election are there in front of us for all to see. The odd place is bombed, the odd place is into raping, murder, arson – this is meant to prime people to remind them of what they are capable of doing.
GONDA: If you are saying that the violence is going to be worse than the 2008 elections violence, why are you putting up with this? You can easily walk out for example, walk out of cabinet or… (Interrupted)
MAKONE: And how would that help the country?
GONDA: Or why not name and shame them then? Why don’t you name and shame the perpetrators?
MAKONE: We did all the time.
GONDA: So in government are you saying that Didymus Mutasa is the only one who is doing it? Because so far he is the only one you’ve mentioned in this interview for example.
MAKONE: Yah it’s only because this particular one happened in his constituency and happened at this particular moment but there’s so many other things that Zanu PF ministers are doing which we are confronting them with on a daily basis in cabinet…
GONDA: Can you give us an example?
MAKONE: I cannot and the reason I cannot is because it has not gone public. We are required to keep state secrets so if it has not been publicized the only other person who can reveal that is the prime minister.
GONDA: The organization Aids Free World say the South African government has opened investigations into rape allegations leveled against Zanu PF supporters – you know those people who are said to have raped during the 2008 elections, what are the implications of this from an MDC point of view?
MAKONE: We welcome it and we encourage it. This is going to tell people, the resilience of the party, what we’ve had to put up with to be where we are, nowhere in the world do people go as far as Zanu does and now that the South African government, through its courts has been forced to reveal and investigate because they are signatories to the ICC, Zimbabwe is not, and they are required to take certain actions. We are looking forward to those actions being taken because it is about time people started behaving like people not barbarians when you are going into an election. This happens because the security sector has been forced into a situation where they have to support even the unsupportable and I think this investigation should be followed to its bitter conclusion whether Zanu PF likes it or not, people should be arrested and the necessary steps should be taken.
GONDA: But I understand that in calling for peace the prime minister appealed to Zanu PF ministers – during that explosive cabinet meeting we heard about – and I understand that he actually appealed to the Zanu PF ministers to stop the violence telling them that the MDC will not have a retributive agenda. So he was basically appealing to them to stop the violence if they were thinking that they were doing it to stay in power. So with what you’re saying, isn’t there a contradiction here?
MAKONE: When I was not in cabinet yesterday I was just giving you my personal thoughts. If the prime minister doesn’t want them prosecuted then that’s his position. I was giving my personal reaction to this and I will say it again – if anyone raped, if anyone killed and the ICC require South Africa to act then they should follow the signatures to the papers that they signed as members of ICC. As far as I’m concerned because I’m a woman, if I was raped I would want justice – make no mistake about that. The only time I would think maybe let’s push this thing into the past is if this election was different, was handled differently by Zanu PF and do all the things that we have agreed should be done, then I would say well maybe there is merit for not taking this issue forward. But what we are seeing now are the tell-tale signs of even more horrors coming and in the face of that, how do we then say to people keep on murdering but we will not be taking you to court.
I mean for me it defies logic but it doesn’t mean that everybody in that party is bad, there are quite a few MPs that one can mention and in their particular constituencies, there were no deaths, nothing happened, they just won the election freely. So we know who the perpetrators of violence are. We can’t possibly say that the whole party is violent. Look at what happened in Mashonaland East and see how many people were killed in Marondera. Look what happened in Mash Central…You can literally look at the map of the country and see where, but I don’t want to be forced to start naming names right now because I don’t think that was the purpose of this interview. What I’m saying if you want to know who are the perpetrators just look at that list and it will tell you.
GONDA: So how do you respond to critics who say that there is nothing that can actually be done about violence in Zimbabwe given what we have seen in the last elections but that what you have to do is to develop strategies to combat it? Do you agree?
MAKONE: Well I don’t know what plans they have of combating. We definitely know that we have one particular agenda and ours is a non-violent method of responding to the murderers, to the arsonists, to the rapists, which is to expose their actions and hope that our neighbours in SADC and African Union in general, begin to force Zanu PF to behave like modern democracy.
GONDA: You say the African Union should force Zanu PF to stop the violence but how can they do that?
MAKONE: Well in the same way they refused to accord Robert Mugabe the presidency in 2008 after the elections. They simply refused to accept the result from Zimbabwe and that was enough to de-legitimise a stolen election forcing the three parties to come together and thrash it out at the negotiating table and for a whole year this country went without a cabinet. If the African Union had not reacted the way it did, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
GONDA: But that was a reaction after a violent election so I’m asking what can they do right now before.
MAKONE: Right now they should be talking to the president of Zanu and telling him to stick to the letter and spirit of the GPA, failing which they would have to pronounce what kind of steps they are going to take because obviously Zimbabwe cannot operate like an island; we are part of a continent, we are landlocked. All sorts of actions can be taken against this government and if need be then that is what should be done and that should be done by the Africans themselves, not waiting for people from Spain and Italy to come and fight our wars.
GONDA: But as the MDC what can you do outside what the international or regional community can do?
MAKONE: Well as MDC we can fight in court, we can fight via the public media and you know very well that there’s been issues to do with radios and phones – this is their way of stopping us from communicating with our followers in Zimbabwe and for us it was a way of countering Zanu Broadcasting Corporation and this has not worked. And then this week I think the minister in the Prime Minister’s Office did a letter scheduling all the actions of Zanu PF in the recent past, and we wait for their reaction. And quite honestly apart from talking directly to your people and telling them what they are setting themselves again by voting Zanu PF back and talking to your neighbours, the only other option is fighting and for us that is not an option. It’s not even on our agenda.
GONDA: What’s your reaction to statements that were made by vice president Joyce Mujuru saying that Zimbabwe will not allow international observers from hostile countries?
MAKONE: I personally and I know that the whole party does not subscribe to that. We have nothing to hide as MDC, there is nothing that cannot be open to scrutiny so people can come from any place on earth and observe.
GONDA: But at the end of the day isn’t it true that Zanu PF will have the final word on this whether or not the MDCs agree.
MAKONE: Well the rule in this country and the constitution in this country says that the president of the country is the one that controls the security sector and that is in black and white. It’s not meant for MDC only, it’s meant for the whole country and if the president of this country says no, then it’s a no. It doesn’t matter whether the president is Tsvangirai or Mugabe. And if the president has got a party with something to answer I do not see him allowing people to come and observe him.
GONDA: With just a few months before general elections, do you think this coalition government was worth it especially given what you have told us in this interview?
MAKONE: It was never going to be 100%. There were things that we badly needed to come out of this. Some we got, some we didn’t get. As far as I’m concerned, what we pushed for – a constitution – we got that constitution which as far as we are concerned, if implemented, will change the character of this country beyond recognition and that is if there is a government, which is constitutional in behaviour. But if we have got a government that has never been following constitutionalism then it won’t make a difference because for us fighting was never an option. The very first few days after the formation of this government, we walked out and there was a big outcry of ‘why did you walk out, go and fight, we know that it is not easy but it’s better that things are done and you are present and you are defending us than to stay outside’, and we responded and we went back into government. So towards the end of term you can’t then say I wish I had not said no. We walked out and our party told us to go back in and we are there because the people that elected us wanted us to be in that playing field and we played the ball as well as we could and we hope that the few changes that have happened – having medicine in hospital, having food in the shops, having a few doctors, specialists – I’m here because not because I can’t afford to go anywhere – as a minister of the Republic I could have gone anywhere for treatment but I opted to be treated at home because all our experts are beginning to make their way home and some are already here.
And we tried to control inflation and the economy is ticking somewhat, better than zero growth, better than negative growth so those are the things we feel we have managed to do for the country. We have stopped it going over the precipice just in time and if that was not enough for people then people should have to remember that when this thing falls apart and the government falls back into violent hands and the world shuns us, we are going to be exactly where we were in 2007 if not worse.
GONDA: Thank you very much Mai Theresa Makone for talking to us on the programme Hot Seat especially as you are in hospital. Hope you feel better soon.
MAKONE: Thank you very much Violet.
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