Godfrey Tsenengamu

INTERVIEW: Tsenengamu speaks on POLAD and his party’s road to 2023 elections

By Nancy Samuriwo

GODFREY Tsenengamu this Tuesday launched Zimbabwe’s newest political party, the Front for Economic Emancipation in Zimbabwe (FEEZ).

HourlyHits reporter Nancy Samuriwo (NS) sat down with Tsenengamu (GT) to understand more about this latest development as well as the new party’s stance on issues such as POLAD, electoral reforms and how FEEZ plans to navigate the political terrain in Zimbabwe.

NS: You have joined the political landscape with a new party, FEEZ. Are you contesting the 2023 elections as a stand-alone party or under a coalition or alliance?

GT: We are going to contest in upcoming elections, particularly the 2023 elections, as FEEZ.  We’re going to field local ward candidates, Parliamentary candidates as well as a Presidential candidate.

By 2023, we will have mobilized enough membership to ensure that as a party, we contest at every level. We are also going to field our proportional representation candidates for the women’s quota and for the Senate.

So yes, we’re going to contest at every level.

NS: So you’re not going to contest as part of a coalition or alliance with other parties?

GT: We’ll see about that as we go, but for now we’re very clear and confident that we shall be contesting as as FEEZ. If we are to decide otherwise, then we will let Zimbabweans kmow.

NS: When news broke out that you had formed a party, sentiment on social media was that you were angling for a seat at the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) to reap the benefits. Are you going to join the POLAD?

GT: As FEEZ, we think there is no problem in engaging in internal dialogue as Zimbabwean cirizens. We view POLAD a good initiative as a starting point to enable dialogue among political players that participated in the 2018 elections.

As a party, inasmuch as we think that POLAD was a good initiative, we see POLAD as a platform that has been abused by its participants to distribute freebies among themselves at the expense of addressing pressing issues facing Zimbabweans.

POLAD has turned itself into a circus where nothing meaningful is being discussed. If other players like MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa had joined POLAD, maybe they would have managed to influence the platform and stop it being hijacked as has happened now.

So as FEEZ, we are not going to apply to join the POLAD. We however feel there must be creation of amother platform where every political player can contribute towards electoral reforms ahead of the 2023 elections.

On that note, we want to say we have no problem engaging with anyone who wants to do so with us. We can engage with any progressive players and look at areas of common interest for the betterment of the welfare of Zimbabweans.

NS: In the 2018 elections, you were a Zanu-PF youth league national commissar. You had an inside view of the way the elections were handled, at least as a youth leader of the ruling party. Did Zanu-PF win the 2018 elections freely and fairly?

GT: It is true that I campaigned vigorously for Zanu-PF and also for the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa. I also voted for Zanu-PF and its candidates, and also influenced my close friends, their friends and my own family to vote Zanu-PF in 2018.

I believe that Zanu-PF won the 2018 elections won freely and fairly.

I didn’t witness any cases of figure manipulation, ballot stuffing or any untoward activity during the 2018 elections. I saw votes being cast and tallied at the polling stations. So I believe Zanu-PF won fairly even though the opposition MDC Alliance alleged vote rigging.

NS: The main opposition MDC Alliance alleged vote rigging…

GT: The MDC Alliance was presented with an opportunity to prove their case before the Constitutional Court where they were supposed to bring in evidence and substantiate their case. They failed to provide substantial evidence in full glare of the whole world.

So it is also on that basis that I believe Zanu-PF won the elections fairly. It is only that the MDC Alliance had high expectations and could not win es expected.

One thing you must note is that MDC Alliance chief election agent Jameson Timba never uttered a single word to substantiate vote rigging claims. Why? Because he had all the V11s with him, which had been verified more than once at the election command centres in the presence of his party agents.

The cries of vote rigging firstly came from Tendai Biti, Morgen Komichi and Chamisa’s lawyers. But people who were involved in the vote tallying process such as Timba know that the results of the 2018 elections as announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) represent the expression of the will of the Zimbabwean voters at that time.

But if the MDC Alliance is refer to the processes leading to the 2018 elections as being unfair and say that is tantamount to rigging, then yes I would agree. The MDC Alliance was denied full access to State-owned media such as TV, print media and other public media such as radio stations. That media was exclusively available to Zanu-PF and its candidates.

The MDC Alliance could also not penetrate certain Zanu strongholds, even though we did not hear of significant cases of intimidation.

I will also agree with the MDC Alliance if they allege that food distribution by Zanu-PF to its members is a form of rigging. Yes, it happened.

However, I do not agree with the sentiment that the 2018 elections were rigged against the MDC Alliance by way of tempering with figures.  That did not happen and so far no-one has produced evidence of that type of rigging.

NS: Zanu-PF won the 2018 elections under the current electoral laws. Are you happy challenging Zanu-PF under these same laws or you want some electoral reforms ahead of 2023? If yes, what electoral reforms do you want to see going forward?

GT: We want all political players to be granted access to the State-owned media, not the current situation where Zanu-PF has exclusive rights.

We also want ZEC to take full charge of all electoral process away from the influence of the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. ZEC must act independently and not consult anyone in that Ministry. ZEC must as a constitutional body have the full mandate to run and manage elections.

We also want only those officials employed or contacted by ZEC to run the elections.  We do not want State institutions such as police and securiy forces taking part in the running of elections, carrying voting materials, and so forth.

As FEEZ, we believe also that traditional chiefs and all other traditional leaders must not be unduly influenced to induce or force their subjects to vote for certain parties or candidates.

Another change we seek to see is that ZEC must not hire only civil sevants to help with the running of the elections. Traditionally, teachers have been given the roles but we believe any competent Zimbabwean must be afforded the opportunity to take part in the running of the elections.

We want stringent laws that protect election agents so that they are not intimated or end up running away when representing their candidates in areas where certain parties are strongholds.

ZEC must also ban the use of State resources to campaign, such as using food resources to buy votes. That creates an unfair competition leading to results that are unfair.

NS: Any last words that as FEEZ leader you want to send to the people of Zimbabwe?

GT: FEEZ is an opportunity for us as Zimbabweans to work together and realize our dream of a corrupt-free Zimbabwe. We want to get Zimbabwe running again. It is very possible to achieve that in our lifetime.  We are the change that we so much seek. □

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