HARARE – As the country hurtles towards potentially bruising elections next year, former Industry and International Trade minister Nkosana Moyo has given the first clearest hint that he would take on President Robert Mugabe at the polls although he remained cryptic on whether he will become part of coalition efforts meant to decongest the presidential race to just one opposition candidate to face the Zanu PF leader.
The former African Development Bank (AfDB) vice president had a short stint in Mugabe’s administration, as his industry and trade minister between 2000 and 2001, before suddenly resigning to retrace his footsteps in business, disenchanted with his leadership style.
His entry into the presidential race, though not yet confirmed, could be another case of a former Mugabe-ally-turned rival just like Edgar Tekere, Simba Makoni and Joice Mujuru before him; although unlike the others, Moyo has never been a card-carrying member of Zanu PF.
But unless efforts to form a coalition against the ageing Zanu PF leader bear fruit, Moyo’s sojourn into politics could overpopulate the presidential race in a country with over 40 opposition parties seeking to outdo the ruling party at the polls.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main MDC, has already been authorised by his party to stand as its presidential candidate, and will be facing Mugabe for the fifth time since the formation of his party in 1999. Mugabe secured another mandate in December 2014 to extend his leadership of the party and government.
Also likely to throw their hats into the ring are the likes of Mujuru under the National People’s Party, Makoni as leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and Dabengwa, through his revived Zapu.
This week, Moyo gave the first clearest hint that he will offer himself to stand for election should the people say so.
Since he came back home from active technocratic service abroad, his name has been popping up as one of the potential presidential candidates in next year’s elections, whose outcome is likely to be influenced by the youth vote.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Moyo said he will announce his decision in due course on whether to participate in the elections as an independent candidate or not.
“As the country approaches the elections in 2018, it has been my honour to be included in the different conversations that people are having about who might potentially lead the country going forward. When the question has been put to me in the past about whether, and if so how, I might run, I have promised the people of Zimbabwe that at the right time, I will announce my decision. That time has not yet arrived,” he said.
“It would be inopportune to pre-empt that announcement at this stage, as I am is still listening very, very hard to the different views about the solutions to the country’s problems and how the people themselves feel about their democracy and the place that leaders (not rulers) occupy in it,” he added.
Those close to Moyo intimated to the Daily News that the former industry and trade minister was almost close to letting the cat out of the bag to avoid leaving it until too late like what happened to Makoni in 2008 when the former finance minister announced his candidature with only less than two months to go before the crunch polls.
Makoni received eight percent of the vote in an election that had to be decided by a run-off after Tsvangirai won the first round but fell short of the threshold required to be declared the winner. The MDC leader had to pull out of the run-off after his supporters and officials became the targets of violence, thus presenting Mugabe with victory on a silver platter.
Moyo has already excited a number of fringe opposition political parties that have been eager to entice him to lead them. It has been said and not denied that elders in the troubled Zimbabwe People First once approached Moyo to lead the party following their fallout with Mujuru early this year.
Moyo has confirmed being approached by some political parties, without naming them.
About prospects of becoming part of a grand coalition that would confront Zanu PF at the next polls, he appeared keen on the idea but his views on how the alliance should operate are at variance with the current thinking among its proponents.
“What I propose is something different. That while a presidential candidate should stand on a platform using the framework of a movement comprising different people coming together to form an alliance, once in office the alliance must accept that his first role is to carry out the people’s agenda. A president must not also be a party president. That is just wrong. One cannot serve two masters,” he said.
“That is why, when I started this journey and various parties asked me to come and lead them I said no. Because those parties are not organised in a way that would allow me, once elected, to be free of the party and be a national president, not a party president. So if I was to run, it would not be as an ‘independent candidate’ but to become an ‘independent president’. That would require for there to be a movement governed by a constitution, which says that once elected, the presidential candidate is released from leadership of the movement and seconded to government. Someone else leads the movement in the time being. The movement then exercises no control over the president, who is left free to choose a government of talent from anyone who is Zimbabwean, including people from other parties. That president is truly independent of party politics. If I ran, it would be only on those terms,” he said.
It has been suggested that Moyo could be contemplating forging a working relationship with some in Zanu PF, capitalising on the internal discontent in the ruling party against Mugabe’s continued leadership.
The veteran nationalist has led his party since 1975, following the assassination of Herbert Chitepo in March of that same year.
Moyo, however, said he has no desire to work with Zanu PF and has never been part of the party.
“That question is so wrong in every respect it’s hard not to laugh. Going back implies ever having been somewhere. I was never in Zanu PF. Many times I have been referred to as a technocrat. That means I was appointed into Cabinet based upon a recognition by the president that I had particular skills that could be put to use for the nation. There is no party qualification to being a technocrat. So there is simply nothing to get back to,” he said.
Asked what he would do differently if elected to serve, he was once again cryptic.
“Again, it would be very presumptuous to answer such a question without having said one is running, and assuming that the people will choose me if I did. But, in a hypothetical situation, given that the first thing a President does upon winning is to appoint a cabinet, I would think that the first thing I might do is to bring unity to the nation through assembling a cabinet of skills not of personalities.,” he said.
“That means that in the putative selection of ministers, I would look at the skills that someone can bring to the table, before looking at who and what party the person belongs to. So that if the best possible Tourism Minister was to be found in Zanu PF and the best possible Minister for Education was in MDC-N for example, I would pick such a person. There is no better way to set oneself up for failure than to assemble unqualified people around a Cabinet and giving them tasks that require skills they don’t have. And, in a country as endowed with talent as ours is, there is no reason to ever do that,” said Moyo.
Moyo is the founder and executive chairman of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies.
He served as the chief operating officer and vice president at AfDB from March 2009 to August 2011.
He was the managing partner and served as senior advisor of Africa at Actis Capital LLP (now Actis LLP), having joined Actis in January 2004.
He sits on various board of leading company and is an entrepreneur in his own right.
After the contentious 2000 elections won by Zanu PF, he was invited to join Mugabe’s administration as Industry and International Trade minister, resigning from his position unceremoniously in 2001.
Following his sudden resignation, Mugabe had not kind words for him to the extent of calling him a “coward”.
This week, Moyo told the Daily News that he would not be drawn into a slanging match with the Zanu PF leader.
“ . . . Zimbabweans deserve better than have those in the public arena hurl insults at one another and calling each other names like coward or what have you.
“And when someone is in a position where they find themselves victim to such insults, it is important that one looks at it as a sign that there is something about you that threatens the one doing the insulting. Ultimately, Zimbabweans must have a final say on who is what in their public space,” Moyo said.