INTERVIEW Obey Manayiti
NEWLY-ELECTED MDC secretary-general Charlton Hwende says the Nelson Chamisa-led party will never split again as structural issues which were causing divisions have been addressed through constitutional amendments.
Hwende (CH) recently spoke to NewsDay Weekender (NDW) senior reporter, Obey Manayiti about his vision for the party and below are the excerpts:
NDW: You defied odds and clinched the secretary-general position, what can you attribute this to?
CH: I owe my victory to the collective wisdom of congress delegates and MDC members at large, who appreciated my election manifesto, nominated and voted for me to be their servant leader in the office of the SG.
NDW: As the SG, what are your immediate tasks?
CH: If you fail to plan, then plan to fail. We need to do things differently. We’ve a five-year mandate and my immediate task is to kickstart the process of developing a five-year results-based strategic plan, a blue-print which will define our path to power towards 2023 or earlier as well as articulate the technical and administrative competencies required to achieve our strategic objectives.
Nestled in the five-year strategic plan are short-term milestones. These will include a rapid assessment of the party’s administrative performance in the last five years, focusing
primarily on two questions: i) What is working and why?, and, ii) What is not working and why? Or what can we do differently?
This process will help us co-create a shared vision and plan of action for the technical arm of the party. We need to make strategic choices among competing priorities. And we can only do this if we’ve a strategy and plan in place. We are a learning movement.
NDW: What is your view of the newly-elected team? Do you think they have what it takes to deliver against Zanu PF?
CH: We’ve a winning team, under the able leadership of a turn-around strategist, Advocate Chamisa. We’re part of the solution holders to the deep-seated, multi-faceted crisis facing our motherland. Our past performance in government is a public secret.
Our president was voted best minister for his work in the ICT ministry; Honourable Tendai Biti is without doubt the best-ever Finance minister to lead the Treasury; Senator David
Coltart did exceptionally well in the Primary and Secondary Education portfolio; so did Professor Welshman Ncube in the Industry and Commerce ministry and Honourable Paurina Mpariwa as Labour minister.
NDW: Your predecessors, save for Douglas Mwonzora, caused splits in the party — what was the cause of this and how are you going to deal with it?
CH: We had a structural issue, which has its roots in the labour movement, our mother. The founding MDC constitution was heavily influenced by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions constitution, which has a very powerful office of secretary-general. This is a norm in most labour movements.
We’ve addressed this structural issue through constitutional amendments, which basically re-calibrated the balance of power to reflect the political reality, that the president is the head of our party. Conflicts are inevitable. In addition to the constitutional reforms, we are also working on developing a robust conflict management and resolution framework, a systemic tool to manage internal contradictions in the party.
NDW: Critics say you are very close to party leader Chamisa. With that closeness, would you be able to carry out your duties diligently and independently without protecting your relationship first?
CH: The office of the SG is a complex technical and administrative construct with an institutional mandate to help the president and the leadership collective to effectively turn the party’s vision and mission into a path to a power programme of action. I’ll turn my relationship with the president and the leadership collective into a partnership to help the party continue to win elections and, more importantly, transform people’s lives. Our people are suffering and they need solutions.
NDW: Are you also into any business relationship with Chamisa, as some people allege?
CH: I’m not in any business relationship with president Chamisa.
NDW: There are also claims that you are a divisive leader who uses dirty tactics, including using money to fight your opponents, how do you respond to this?
CH: The challenges we face are bigger than the smallness of our politics. This is the time to beat back the politics of fear and mudslinging, and focus on strengthening the party, articulate our alternative policy propositions, and consolidate the democratic value system which manifested itself during the just-ended elective congress.
NDW: Do you have a plan for the losing candidates?
CH: There are no losers in the MDC. In the MDC’s internal elections, it’s either you win or you learn. And, like I said before, we are a learning organisation and learning platforms are many in this great movement.
NDW: Where do you see the MDC in the next two or three years?
CH: I see a high performance party with superior technical competencies and administrative capacity to help president Chamisa and the party deliver on this founding vision of creating a modern democratic development State in Zimbabwe.
NDW: The MDC has threatened demonstrations against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, are you prepared to lead from the front?
CH: We will always stand with the citizens. We are a people’s party.