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Democracy Crusaders: Biti, Chamisa Speak on Controversial US Trip

The MDC Alliance has claimed that it holds the keys to the country’s economic revival. Currently, three MDC Alliance top officials – Nelson...

The MDC Alliance has claimed that it holds the keys to the country’s economic revival. Currently, three MDC Alliance top officials – Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T), Tendai Biti (People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Jacob Ngarivhume (Transform Zimbabwe) — are in the United States of America to engage with different government officials in the US Congress, business people and Zimbabweans in the diaspora.

The trio have said their trip has been a success and that the US government has pledged to support the country, as long as Zimbabwe walks the talk in promoting democracy. 

The following are excerpts of an interview between Voice of America’s Studio 7 reporter, Jonga Kandemiri (JK), Biti (TB) and Chamisa (NC) on different issues pertaining to their trip.

JK: What brings you to the US?

TB: We are here to discuss the problems in Zimbabwe, as well as to engage with diasporans in the US, so that we come up with solutions of how we can ensure free and fair elections in 2018.

JK: Following the discussions at Congress and issues that came out during the meeting, can (you) Chamisa tell Zimbabweans of what exactly transpired during the meetings?

NC: What brought us here are issues of trying to advocate for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and peace and to try and bring solutions to the economic hardships facing the country, so that there is an end to the long queues at banks. We are here to ensure that we work together with the international community to guarantee that the economic, political and social problems in the country come to an end.
Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti

We met different groups from the business community, and other rich individuals, and asked them to assist us to solve the problems in our country. We have been welcomed by all these people, including top government officials in the US. There is a lot of work to be done in Zimbabwe before the 2018 elections.

JK: Biti, a lot of people have accused the opposition for advocating for sanctions. You have now come before Congress, and so what have you discussed regarding sanctions.

TB: The goodwill that we have been shown on this trip as the MDC Alliance, as well as the doors that have been opened to us has been very overwhelming. We have always told people at our rallies that we have the keys to opening up Zimbabwe’s economy – and these are not mere words, it’s true. 

We have managed to even get into very high offices in the US, which people think are no-go areas, but they showed us goodwill and trust, as the opposition and promised to work with us. The message that we have been telling to all those we met is that they need to help us re-build Zimbabwe. 

But we have said Zimbabwe must first walk the talk and meet certain benchmarks of good behaviour first. There has to be incentives for good behaviour and so the ball is now in our court. We cannot keep crying out about sanctions; let us walk the talk in building democracy.

JK: Chamisa, Zimbabwe now has several coalitions (more than three) of opposition political parties, what is your comment about that?

NC: We now need to encourage everyone to work together as one, so that we get assistance from developed countries. We need to be organised, so that when assistance is poured into the country we give a good impression that we are not divided and can effectively work together to rebuild the country’s economy and industries. 

It can only happen if we work together. Being an opposition does not mean that we need to fight Zanu PF. It means that we have to bring in new ideas to re-build the country as an opposition movement. It means that we should be able to work together with the political party that wins the elections for the good of the country. 

Our aim is that when we go back to Zimbabwe, we go back with good news of good things to come if we work together.

JK: Biti, the Zimbabwe National Army is still out in the streets and some people are accusing them of contravening human rights. As the MDC Alliance, what is your view on that?

TB: I have said let us now have a roadmap to legitimacy. We should go back to our Constitution, which stipulates that the country should not be under military rule. Of course, what happened on November 14 and 15 (when there was a soft coup) was important to ensure that politics goes ahead of the gun. 

However, we hope that soldiers will understand that what happened in November has happened, but now the country needs to move forward because we need to sort out economic issues, high unemployment levels and rural underdevelopment.

If you go to the rural areas right now, you find that 37 years after independence 55% of people are still using the bush system as toilets, while 60% of Zimbabweans are drinking unsafe water, getting their water from streams, where they also share the water with livestock.

That is not good. We have a big obligation to sort out that mess and that is why it is important to have an atmosphere that is conducive for free and fair elections, so that we can transform the country. We have wasted a lot of time and now Zimbabweans want sanity. 

I want to emphasise that we have seen a lot of goodwill to work with us from very high offices in America and so we have no doubt that we will go back with a good report to our leader, Morgan Tsvangirai that the ball is now in our court to go back to Zimbabwe and win the 2018 elections because there is a lot of support. We will put God forward to achieve that.

JK: Chamisa, you have been encouraging people to go and register to vote. What message do you have for Zimbabweans in the US on the biometric voter registration (BVR) process and the resignation of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson, Rita Makarau?

NC: There are many questions that are being asked like what we need to do to ensure that elections are not rigged and are free and fair. What we are encouraging is that in this BVR exercise, those people that have not yet gone to register to vote must do so because we do not want voter apathy. We want everyone to exercise their rights to vote. — VOA Studio 7

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