ZIMBABWE’S main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) celebrated its first anniversary on Tuesday. With political temperatures rising ahead of the next general elections, concerns over voter apathy have heightened.
The party’s senior members are facing persecutions and arrests in what critics say are trumped up charges while its followers are being tormented in the rural areas.
The NewsHawks Digital Editor Bernard Mpofu (BM) caught up with CCC leader Nelson Chamisa (NC) as he reflected on the past year and what lies ahead. Below is an excerpt of the interview:
BM: As an icebreaker, what does this anniversary mean to you?
NC: Well, we are excited, we are gratified and we are thankful we have received a lot of support, not just from the citizens at home in Zimbabwe and across the country.
We have received support from the diaspora, and we are particularly thankful to those who are in the diaspora who have, literally on the shoulders and their hands, carried the movement.
The citizens’ movement emphasises citizenocracy, which is governance by citizens —putting citizens first and at the centre in decision making, law making and even budget making.
So all critical decisions must emphasise citizen dignity, sovereignty and citizen supremacy. So, we are just excited that we are one year old, but we have given headaches, stomachaches and backaches to the elderly in Zanu PF. So, our bigger brother is not sleeping well. Our intention is not to cause agony and nightmares, but to be a happy party in building a great nation.
BM: As we take stock of the events of last year, what do you say are some of the major challenges, prospects that you see as a party?
NC: Well, I must say that as a party, we have not even formally launched. We have just introduced ourselves, and we are so excited that we have made significant gains to occupy Parliament. We have turned Parliament yellow.
Our target is to get two-thirds majority in Parliament. Right now we have 19 members of the CCC, and we did perform better in the by-elections. We had 19 out of 28. That was fantastic on the 26th of March 2022.
We also had for the whole year by-elections in the local authorities. We had 149 and we did score 89. By any standards, that is a significant show, and we thank God for the guidance, inspiration and of course for the providence. More importantly, we are thankful to the citizens for buying into the vision for supporting us morally and financially.
We have seen a lot of challenges, but the people have supported us. They have invested in us against all odds, and we are very thankful. We have had challenges, of course. Apart from the challenges, we have managed to have a footprint in the region, on the continent. People know who we are, our values and principles that we have. You know that we have been subjected to incessant attacks — assassinations, sponsored divisions, sponsored rebellions, taking away our MPs, taking away our councillors, taking away our regalia, taking our slogans, taking away even our colours and taking away even the organisation that we had through the courts and even Parliament.
But you know what, that was good riddance. In fact, it has been a very positive move. In their attempt to fix us, they have actually launched us even bigger.
So, yes, we have grown stronger, we have grown bigger and the citizens’ movement, the yellow juggernaut, is in force and we are so excited that we have grown into this giant baobab tree and we have become this huge elephant from the rate we used to be in the past.
BM: During the past elections we have noticed that an upscale in violence has been cited as one of the factors driving voter apathy. And in recent times we have seen senior officials, MPs and party members being arrested. Are you ready for the polls?
NC: Of course, we know that the darkest hour is always there before dawn. Nothing comes cheap and nothing comes simple. It will not be a walk in the park, it is not instant coffee, that is why it is a struggle.
We will encounter a lot of struggles. I was just telling you about things that have been imposed on us. We have become the largest preoccupation for those who are in government. I think we are more of importance than the economy to them.
They have deployed more resources to destroying us. I think we have an allocation in the budget, set aside just to destroy us, but we are still standing and we are excited. We have managed to withstand all the political hailstorms, lightning and whirlwinds.
And, we continue to stand strong. Arrests will come, they will try to kill others, they will try to eliminate others, but it’s a journey worth travelling. We want change in Zimbabwe. We want to win and make Zimbabwe great and new.
We are so committed to that. We are so happy that the people themselves are committed. In the countryside and in the urban areas. No amount of violence is going to overwhelm or wither the amount of momentum or wither the commitment and the strength of the citizens to see their country being fixed.
We want change, we need change. Transformation is critical. We need to make sure that we restore confidence and dignity. We need to restore even confidence in government and state institutions.
We need to make sure that there is reconciliation as this country is tattered and torn. We do not have a nation, we have a country.
We are just a geographical constellation. We need to make sure that people themselves are an expression of Ubuntu, oneness, peace, love — showing the positives that we must show as a people.
So, that is what we are doing, transformation and major transformational tasks. Well, we are the biggest party in the country. We have a national footprint. That is why when you listen to Zanu PF, we occupy their minds rent-free, and we also occupy their hearts without even paying a cent.
We also dominate their mouths and tongues. Each time they open their mouths, they make sure that they talk about us. So, what dominates you, governs you. We are happy to have been governing them.
For the past five years, we have been the de facto government. They have been the opposition, because when you look at policies, they have copied all our policies, our pronouncements are what they have been pushing around — the SMART agenda and the SMART programmes in urban areas.
Unfortunately, they have been trying to contaminate local authorities so that they do not operate independently in terms of devolution and professionally, so they do not deliver services to the people and residents of various cities in Zimbabwe.
So, yes, delimitation has come, we contributed our bit. We would have loved it in a better way, particularly seven constituencies that were to be added to Harare constituency and other areas.
We know they have been doing what is known as malapportionment and gerrymandering, twisting figures so that they go to areas that they perceive their strongholds. But you know what, is very funny is that Zanu Pf are neither strong nor do they have a hold on anything.
That is why they are resorting to violence. So, they do not have any strongholds. But, they always have this misbegotten view that they have strongholds, so they have been trying to turn, and draw boundaries to try and get certain wards, and then they get to certain areas trying to fix things.
But look, Zimbabwe is just one constituency for the presidential election, and, of course, we would have loved things to be done in a particular way. We have made our submissions to Zec and we hope that those submissions are going to be considered. If they do not, we have our measures and mechanisms to seek recourse.
BM: What are some of the key takeaways from the proposals you made on the delimitation exercise, as well as electoral reforms?
NC: Some of the key takeaways are to say look, there has to be a voters’ role and, justifiably account for the boundaries that have been put.
You must be sure that this is the source document, and the census becomes a critical source document.
The census report becomes a critical source document as well. Those documents have not been availed to us as a stakeholder, and so, we have raised the issue. We also raised the issue of areas, for example in Harare.
We were supposed to have 36 constituencies, but we just have 30. And, of course, we do understand that Bulawayo were also going to lose some. So, those are some of the things that we would want addressed.
Even the drawing of certain constituencies where they try to then remove certain constituencies.
Even the median, in terms of that 10% threshold, their calculations is something that we did not agree on. But, of course, we have submitted and hope that the issue will be resolved.
In terms of political and electoral reforms, we have our document, PREPARE, which is Pre-Election Pact on Reforms.
That is our humble submission, the seven points that we have said have to be considered for this country to have credible elections. We must agree on the pre-election and the post-election environment. We must have a win-win situation for Zimbabwe.
There has to be political dialogue. If we can share the same roads, the same supermarkets, we breathe the same air, we have the same constitution, we have the same Parliament, and we have the same government, we have the same currency — of course we do not agree with many things, but we share those same things by the order of God, and because we have been born and bred as Zimbabweans.
So, if we share those things, why not share a trajectory, a future, so that we start building our nation on the basis of hope, peace, reconciliation, love — let us love one another. Politics is too atrocious and toxic, there is no need to be fighting.
We need to be building. Swords should be turned into plowshares and to build our great nation big and great.
BM: Zimbabwe has a history of disputed election outcomes and during the past polls this sparked a spate of post-election violence. Is your party ready to accept any election outcome this year?
NC: If there is reforms, we are duty bound to accept the results of the election, but if there are no reforms, we are going to go down the same path of contestations after contestations. But, there is one thing we have said, we are going to defeat Zanu PF at home and away. With and without their willingness.
We have said this, and are going to continue say this. This is why they are so desperate, and they have panicked, and this is why they are resorting to intimidation and terror in the countryside. We know what they are doing to the chiefs, to the villagers, sending people in the communities, terrorising people and threatening them. That is not what the liberation struggle was all about.
That is not what revolutionaries do, but, that that is what reactionaries do. That is what people who are retrogressive do. We want to make sure that elections are held in a free and fair. So, we have a bill that is before parliament, an electoral bill.
Let us agree on the things that need to be agreed upon, and to be reformed once we agree on the security of the vote, the credibility of the voters’ roll, and the diaspora vote, we are able to agree on the real time announcement of the vote, especially from the various polling stations.
If we agree on those issues like power transfer mechanisms, so that no one chooses to succeed themselves when they have lost an election, those are the things that we need to resolve.
They are in PREPARE, our document which we have put on the table, which we have given to Sadc, AU and to all who care to listen, even the United Nations, because we want an undisputed election.
In fact, the key to stability, prosperity and of course prosperity and success of our great country is the ability of Zimbabweans to converse, to dialogue and to reason together. And I have said to my brother Mnangagwa; “Come, let us reason together. Let us gather the people and not scatter them, but he has chosen to scatter the people.
BM: You spoke about dialogue, and the current president speaks about dialogue via the Polad platform. Would you be amenable to joining such a platform in the event that the results do not come out in your favour?
NC: We do not even want to consider any possibilities. The outcome can never be against us. Maybe if it is against Mnangagwa’s favour as it has been in 2018. We will win any election in this country because people support us, and you know it that people support change.
They support the citizens’ movement, and they support us under very difficult circumstances. We are going to win the elections against all odds. And, this time, we are not going to accept any tomfoolery. The people have had it. We cannot afford to have five million citizens outside the country on account of bad governance.
It is something that has become an eyesore across the whole country. We have become laughing stock in the region. We have the best human resources in the country, hardworking, peace loving, patriotic, but we do not have anything to show for it. We need to fix our country.
So, when it comes to dialogue, that is why we are saying that there is need to have something new before the elections and, of course, continuous dialogue. It must be a win-win for Zimbabwe, not this game where somebody wants to run away with the entire carcass.
We must hunt together, and celebrate together as a family — not to eat alone.
The nation belongs to all of us. Somebody wants to eat, you know, they have all the mines, all the farms, they have all the resources — but what is happening with those in the countryside and in the villages?
You want to go to them for votes. Do not abuse people. Respect people, respect citizens, respect rights and respect the dignity of the citizens. We cannot be in a country where we have to struggle for everything.
Every day is a struggle for something. We struggle for power, we struggle for energy, we struggle for water, and we struggle for communication — our networks, you know? Everything is broken down! We must fix it!
BM: We hear there is serious infighting in your party. What is your comment on this?
NC: Those are critics that are uninformed. So, you know that any great journey will always have some critics and naysayers. We appreciate that because we know that great positions have great opposition.
And, of course, we are not worried by our opposition, because we are defined by our convictions and positions that are principled.
We are everywhere. We are a universal movement, a national movement, and we are in every corner and every street and we are supported by the people. We have structures that are organic, our only difference is that ours are different from the conventional and usual ones that people are used to.
So, they want to know who this is and who that is. Those are positions according to maybe the Zanu PF template. We are going to introduce a completely new and fresh dimension of politics. That new dose of politics you will see it — new politics, radical and disruptive, novel and never seen before.
BM: We also hear that you abandoned the traditional primary election model in your party. Which model have you adopted?
NC: We are using a community approach, a citizen approach. Let us talk about community consensus candidacy — a candidate that is elected by the community.
A community-elected candidate is a candidate that has been backed by all the community and stakeholders in that particular community. So, yes, we are a different movement.
We are now one-year-old and we have been doing a lot of work. In fact, to date we have done over 945 meetings that are high profile, then of course grassroot meetings, thousands and thousands of them, at community level in the streets, and of course different towns.
Of course, our rallies have also been banned, 62 meetings have been banned, but of course we have done very well. Now, we have a national footprint, we are so excited.
We would like to thank you all Zimbabweans for supporting us, for standing with us under very difficult times.
You have been intimidated, threatened and some arrested but you have remained standing. Yes, those who have their own thoughts about candidate selection, will all be consulted. Citizens must be first.
Decision-making is done by the citizens, in particular constituencies and in particular wards. So, choose your candidates, we are looking at dignity and integrity. We do not want people who go there to Parliament to represent their stomachs, but to represent you. We do not want people who go to council to get stands, but to stand for you.
So, those are the candidates we are looking for, with integrity. People who have impeccable community representation and community dignity. So, these are the people we are looking for. Welcome to the new, and the new is about everything — decision-making. Citizens have to be at the centre of everything.
BM: Your erstwhile rival Thokozani Khupe has joined the CCC and she is actively involved in the campaign drive. Some people say this development alongside other undercurrents have sparked infighting. What is your comment on this?
NC: Well, there is no infighting in the CCC. The party is a giant movement. Nobody has positions.
So who do you fight? For what? I am just a caretaker leader, and there are those who are in caretaker responsibilities. We have tasks and assignment responsibilities. It is a movement.
So we have given tasks to people as caretaker champions, but we are going to have, of course, internal processes at the appropriate time. So, you cannot fight when you do not have a position. Who are you fighting for and for what?
This is a giant omnibus. Whoever wants to contribute as a citizen can come and contribute. They are all welcome, all welcome. This is a big home, a big omnibus, a large tent. Come and be with the entire citizenry. The citizens’ movement needs you. Come, let us reason together.
BM: What role do you expect Sadc and the international community to play in addressing the longstanding political issues in Zimbabwe?
NC: The most important thing is to be guarantors to the common people, making sure that before the elections, certain reforms are adopted.
You know, because we had international observer mission reports that recommended certain electoral reforms. We must tick all the boxes. We had the AU, we had Sadc, we had European Union — all those recommendations must be adopted.
So Sadc must emphasise the minimum reforms as per Sadc protocol. Number two, they must have a long-term observer mission to Zimbabwe. Number three, they must also vaccinate against excesses that will result in toxicities, violence and bloodshed, particularly in the countryside.
Number four, we would also ask them that the vote of the people be guaranteed, the preservation of the ballot, and of course, no entertainment to a bullet that undermines the ballot. So, those are the things we hope to get from Sadc and the AU as guarantors of the verdict and mandate that comes from the people.
Frontiers of the people must be defended, the will of the people must be defended. The vote must count and must not be rigged or manipulated. Change is coming, and change is in the air.
BM: As we wind up the interview, what message would you send to the youth at such a time as this when official figures show that most of them are reluctant to register and vote?
NC: As we turn one, we are number one, and we are the only one. And, I can tell you that we will make this nation one, and we will make our people one.
We will make sure that nation has one vision, one vision, one progress and, of course, one victory and one happiness. But more importantly, you the young people have to do it.
We count on you, because it is you the young people who are the conveyors of all victories in any great nation. Young people, you are the foundation of this great future. Please, take your position and take your role.
Take charge because you are the owners of this great nation. Robert Mugabe, the young Emmerson Mnangagwa and Constantine Chiwenga the young, when they were young and as youth, they took their positions.
Our great army generals like General Valerio Sibanda, they were young they took a stance and fought for the liberation of this country and transformed our great country.
This time, we do not need the bullet, we need the ballot. All we need is to register to vote. The vote is the new gun, and this is the gun that is going to transform, not only Zimbabwe, but Africa, and make Zimbabwe new and great.