For those who did not see the DailyNews (DN) Interview with Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki here is the interview.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): How does the formation of Zimbabwe First (ZimFirst) impact on the National Convergence indaba given that at one time you were organising it as MDC strategist and advisor?
Dr Maxwell Shumba:
What it means is that I have had the unique opportunity to see what platform it is that the people wanted, and out of that experience I created the platform that is now ZimFirst. At first I hoped that ZimFirst could exist as a platform within MDC itself, but unfortunately that could not be the case. It also means that I have had the chance to know all the main players that will be necessary to bring a strong opposition together, and I hope to have a productive working relationship with them in the future.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): Joice Mujuru and her colleagues have hinted calling their party People First and yours if ZimFirst, what’s the idea behind this First usage?
Dr Maxwell Shumba:
As I stated above, ZimFirst was a vision created during my time in the MDC. When I later realized that this vision would have to exist outside of that party, I talked with other opposition forces in Zimbabwe, including Mai Mujuru. Unfortunately, the only thing to come out of our engagement was that she liked the name First. In our party, ZimFirst is the name, and our slogan is Country First, People First, Zimbabwe First. It stands for the idea that instead of putting personal politics out front, we have a policy of putting the interests of our nation before anything else. As for what First means to Mai Mujuru, you would have to ask her.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN):
What does ZimFirst stand for and can you explain the meaning of building Zimbabwe brick by brick?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: ZimFirst stands for equality before the law for all people, especially leaders, and the principles of Honesty, Unity, and Accountability. Only by emphasizing these three important issues first can we hope to move on to other important issues such as getting the economy going again. Brick by Brick refers to our approach of building support. We feel confident enough in our platform that we know that it will spread just by word of mouth. When people hear about our vision, they want to become a brick in our structure that will bring Zimbabwe into the future.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): You are the fifth person to leave Morgan Tsvangirai and form a rival party, what led you to abandon the man and party you were advising?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: When MDC was formed in 1999, people were sceptical about what the opposition could accomplish, but the 2008 election proved that elections in Zimbabwe could change the political landscape. By the time that I became Morgan’s advisor, hope had dimmed, but I hoped that by creating a platform for unity, instead of continuing to pursue personal politics, I could help guide Tsvangirai on a path that would bring the opposition back together under a strong democratic banner. Unfortunately that was not the case. However, given Morgan’s strong role in helping make Zimbabwean elections matter, I still hope that my former boss can come around and prioritize Zimbabwe first.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): Joice Mujuru is being touted as the potential new face of the opposition politics by groups opposed to Tsvangirai: what is your view on this considering 2018 elections are fast approaching?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: While Joice Mujuru is saying that she is reformed and will fight for democracy, the only reason why she is in this position is because she was forced out of ZANU-PF. Nobody harbours the illusion that if she had the choice, she would still be part of the corrupt governing regime. Zimbabwe needs fresh ideas and fresh legs, not people who have run the economy into the ground.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): What’s your plan and how do you intend to be relevant in the current political discourse?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: The idea is simple: we listen to the people, and take note of what their issues are, and then advocate on their behalf while bringing them in to join our cause. We have a strong following on the ground, and we will make ourselves heard to bring the real change that Zimbabwe needs. There is a crisis of legitimacy in Zimbabwean politics, as the people are tired of the same old names in politics, and crave something new.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): Who makes up ZimFirst and what policies are you offering as alternatives to those that have been unveiled by other political groups?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: ZimFirsters can be found both within and outside of Zimbabwe, with a strong ZimFirst base being found in any country with a major Zimbabwean presence. One of the big strengths of ZimFirst is that we have strong connections with the Zimbabwean diaspora, as many of our people have gone overseas to learn the skills necessary to run the country. We have many of the experts in the fields necessary to help bring the country back, such as agriculture, health, and energy. When a ZimFirst government takes over, we can start implementing our growth policies immediately.
Q8: What’s the logic behind launching your party in Murewa?
In our nation’s 35 year history, it is the people of Zimbabwe who have both made all the sacrifices and have been left behind in the current economic struggles. When the people have demanded change, they have been silenced. ZimFirst aims to provide a platform so that the people and their issues can be heard all over the world. ZimFirst will not put itself before the people, because it is the people, and this is why a launch out of the cities was the natural choice.
Guthrie Munyuki (DN): You spent time in the United States preparing yourself for the future, does your stay and exposure in the US contribute to the policies that ZimFirst would be offering as alternatives?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: Certainly. While the American system is far from perfect, I have had a chance to see how a functioning democracy and functioning economy work first-hand. Instead of feeling despair at the current predicament in Zimbabwe, I feel hopeful because I know that soon our great nation will itself be an example to other nations on proper governing and economics.
Guthrie (DN): Zanu PF favours dealing with China and pursuing its policies, in your view, what is the best way of rebuilding the economy and who should be engaged?
Dr Maxwell Shumba: While ZANU PF pursues China’s policies, we will pursue Zimbabwe’s best interests. We will do so by both re-engaging with the West, as well as rebuilding our ties with our neighbours. By de-politicizing issues such as ownership of land and foreign investment, and instead pursuing a policy that places the needs of the country before a political agenda that emphasizes personal security by bribing loyalists with special perks, we feel confident that Zimbabwe can re-emerge as the jewel of Southern Africa, and quickly turn into a grain exporter again.