Zimbabwe’s former Deputy Justice Minister, Obert Gutu, who was also the vice president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change following the death of the party’s founding president, Morgan Tsvangirai, says he joined Zanu PF recently due to lack of vision, violence and strong western influence in government opponents.
In an exclusive interview, Gutu said he has found a home in Zanu PF, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, and, as a result, he is determined to push for the scrapping of sanctions imposed by the West on some leaders of the ruling party.
“It’s just a question of finding a political home that dovetails with my ideological benchmark, my own principles, my own beliefs. Ideological benchmark, I’m talking here about issues like nationalism, Pan Africanism, the revolutionary thrust … This is just the desire to have historically-disadvantaged people empowered holistically and obviously the thrust of resisting neo-imperialism and also resisting neocolonialism. So, I found that of course there is no political home that is perfect but I thought, taking into account my deeply held ideological convictions, Zanu PF was the home for me.”
Pressed to explain how he hid those feelings while he was in the MDC, which he joined soon after it was formed, Gutu said he was saddened by violence and other issues in the opposition MDC-T and its shift in policies.
“I had (the ideological convictions), this was why I was conflicted. Initially, the MDC was supposed to be a party that is pro-poor, a social democratic party, a party that would have spoken to the need of pushing the agenda of the majority of the people, the historically disadvantaged people who are this part of the world obviously black people, people like you and me of color and also the desire to be Pan African, to forge synergies with other countries that are political parties on the African continent fighting for the total political and economic emancipation of the African people, renouncing and denouncing neocolonialism and also neo-imperialism.
“To my surprise I found that with time the party was becoming more and more reactionary, moving more and more to the right being remote-controlled so to speak by hostile foreign forces. I thought maybe with time things were going to get better and we would get back to what I call the founding values of the MDC, the values of peace, solidarity, non-violence, social democracy and so on but I found that they were actually deviating from those founding values.”
Gutu, who became vice president of the MDC-T led by Thokozani Khupe before the Supreme Court nullified Nelson Chamisa’s leadership of the party following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai in 2018, said he realized soon after the death of Tsvangirai that he was in wrong party.
“There was a lot of intolerance, regionalism, a lot of tribalism, not to mention the violence, the corruption and just the lack of ideological clarity and I felt I was in the wrong place. I was really patient but hugely conflicted and by the time that I moved on, I realized soon after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, you know the violence that happened at his funeral, to me it just signaled, that look, I’m in the wrong place and I think two or three days after we laid to rest Dr. Tsvangirai, I had to move out of that organization. I couldn’t continue to be part and parcel of a grouping that was so violent, so intolerant of different views and not just only that … A party that flagrantly disrespected it own constitution, especially the failure to hold an extraordinary congress to choose a new leader in terms of the constitution after the passing of the president.”
Gutu says he regrets why he was part of what he calls a violent party but is happy that he has left the opposition and joined Zanu PF.
“This was like a cumulative feeling. It didn’t happen like overnight. This is cumulative. I thought I could take this in but I noticed that I was hurting myself emotionally, hurting myself mentally, hurting myself psychologically. I realized that we were now being micro managed. Each and every decision you will have to wait for what the U.S. Embassy says, what does the British Embassy say, you have these discrete meetings with embassy officials of powerful western nations. I thought we were being micromanaged, we were not of our own party, we were actually puppets and I said no way there is no way I could be a puppet because I am not and I have never been one.”
Asked to explain how the opposition allegedly became an appendage of the West, Gutu said, “The moment you have an organization that is micro managed even to go out there to say we continue lobbying both overtly and covertly for the continued imposition of sanctions and we say look, at the end of the day the ruling elite you think you want to target on these sanctions, they didn’t feel it. They have the money, if they want something, they want to buy expensive bags for their wives, you think do you think they will have problems securing one from Tokyo or even Milan or New York they will simply send someone to buy for them.
“If they want to go on holiday, there are better holiday destinations outside the western world. People these days go to Bali in Indonesia, they go to Dubai, they go to South America. They go all over. I then said why should we be pushing this sanctions agenda. That’s why you find a few weeks ago I actually had to come public and told the people of Zimbabwe that whatever role I played in the continued existence of these sanctions and the continued lobbying for these sanctions, I’m deeply sorry and I want to reiterate here and now that I’m sorry.”
He dismissed claims that he is a sellout.
“This is a Friday, don’t make me laugh. What’s the definition of selling out? Selling out from who to who? I don’t want to dignify that kind of b..s. Politics is a fluid game. It’s not cast in stone. It’s not like you wear a straight jacket. You don’t wear a straight jacket. Times change, so do people change. If you were a Roman Catholic two years ago and now you are a Seventh Day Adventist, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person, you have simply moved on.”
Gutu claimed that the opposition MDC formations led by Chamisa and Douglas Mwonzora are expected to be in disarray in the run up to the 2023 general election. But the Chamisa and Mwonzowa-led MDC formations have dismissed his allegations as wishful thinking by a man they suspect never left Zanu PF when he joined the MDC as he was a member of the ruling party when he was a university student.
Several MDC Alliance members recently defected to Zanu PF, claiming that the party has lost direction.