Sunday, February 22, 2009

Zimbabwean Minister Sekai Holland speaks from Harare



ELIZABETH JACKSON: Our Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan has just returned from Zimbabwe where he witnessed the swearing in of the country's new government of national unity.

He caught up with Senator Sekai Holland who's become the Minister for Reconciliation and National Healing.

Sekai Holland is a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change and has spent much of her time in Australia raising awareness of her country's plight.

She was severely beaten by the Mugabe regime two years ago, but is now hopeful that Zimbabwe can begin a healing process.

SEKAI HOLLAND: By going into the inclusive government, and MDC has gone in whole heartedly, we must make things work. The new struggle, the new process, is to set up the very structures of conflict resolution of making Zimbabweans understand that there is no going back, there is no other route except to get Zimbabweans working together.

That is what the challenge right now is and MDC is determined that we're going to stay inside the agreement and actually wage our opening up of democratic space from within that united front.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: But Sekai Holland, you've been telling me about the MDC youth who are fed up with what's going on and they're disappointed that the MDC has gone into government with Zanu-PF.

SEKAI HOLLAND: Yes, but the challenge for the youths is to find a viable, peaceful alternative to what we have done, because if we don't go inside there is no other viable, peaceful method of moving Zimbabwe forward.

And MDC was founded on the principal of non-violence.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Do you think though the MDC is in danger of falling into a trap set by Robert Mugabe, that the party will eventually be swallowed by Zanu-PF, that MDC members may be corrupted by Robert Mugabe?

SEKAI HOLLAND: You know, when we went through the debates within the party, international executives and international council, it's really sad that we Africans don't right things, because there is an understanding that it's betrayal if you talk about it.

But those two last meetings were the most beautiful, most profound, most challenging meetings I've attended in my life. The issue of being swallowed up took most of the time; 10 provinces out of 12 dismissed that we could be swallowed up because MDC is a people's project. We're not in 1983, we're now in 2009 and that is Zanu-PF culture and thinking has really died a natural death.

What's going to happen, this is what the country's arrived at, some people who come into the decision making structures that have been set up may become seduced and fall in the trap of a corruption culture.

But it's individuals who fall by the wayside, but not MDC, MDC's a people's project. It will always be there.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Yet it strikes me that your cause for a democratic and free Zimbabwe still has a very long way to go.

SEKAI HOLLAND: Very long way because we've lost a lot. I mean... the...

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Does it also mean you have to get rid of Robert Mugabe?

SEKAI HOLLAND: We've got in an agreement where he is the President of the country, but I think that also, for me, it's very interesting that the whole debate keeps going back to one person who is mortal.

And immortality, when you get a certain age you do have to retire, whether you want it or not because you become dysfunctional and I think, for me, that gives me a lot of comfort, that that's the natural course that things will take.

But the more important thing is that already by going into the deal we go with our policies, we go with our programmes, we go with our people who, for 10 years, have been working to infuse this into the new Zimbabwe.

What we're dealing with is not an individual, Robert Mugabe, it is the Zanu-PF culture - of violence, of corruption, of really never accepting an agreement, of impunity - those are the cultural traits that MDC is having to work against every day and which Zimbabwean society, in voting on March 29, totally rejected.

So I have no problem with Mugabe being there in a life. What I have a problem with is whether we understand the depth of what we have to change and really prepare for ourselves for that really difficult task.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: And it is early days, but nothing has changed yet. You made it aware to me that even you do not know the cholera epidemic, for instance, because you're saying the Government is keeping Zimbabwe in the dark about that.

SEKAI HOLLAND: Excuse me, the culture of keeping people in the dark is what we have lived with for 30 years! I mean... from day to day...

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: So even...

SEKAI HOLLAND: No, no I'm saying from day to day you have to find out what's happening in the country from your own contacts, and you have to then adjust with what you have been told at the official level. That has been the reality for 30 years, so nothing has changed there except that as the epidemics spreads...

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: But with the MDC part of the Government, shouldn't the party be insisting that there be openness in this country?

SEKAI HOLLAND: We are in charge of health, we are in change of some ministries which are actually going to allow us to do that and I think those will be actually much more upfront with information and data because we believe that information is power and if people are informed they know exactly how to protect themselves.

ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Okay, so the fight goes on but still a long way to go.

SEKAI HOLLAND: Well, it's a very long way to go because where we started in 1980 and where Mugabe has left us 30 years down the road is a long distance from the goals.

But we've been able to fight non-violently and get back on course and together as a country we are moving forward, and we can feel the movement forward because it's not the same Zimbabwe last week as it is today.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Zimbabwean Senator Sekai Holland speaking to Andrew Geoghegan in Harare.


Some pics of when she was beaten up by  ''mugabe,em and the generals'' and all this happened once she had been arrested.......2007








Injured Zimbabwean opposition activist Sekai Holland is transferred to a Johannesburg hospital after being flown from Harare.


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