President Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe at a 87th birthday reception on Feb. 21, 2011. Mugabe has been the leader of the southern African state since national independence in 1980. He will stand for re-election this year., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
President speaks on Sadc summit
Thursday, 19 May 2011 22:30
Southern Times Editor Mabasa Sasa (MS) spoke to President Mugabe about Sadc, Zimbabwe and the continent at large ahead of the Sadc summit underway in Windhoek, Namibia.
MS: Your Excellency, perhaps we could start with developments across the African continent. It's been a momentous few months for Africa, North Africa in particular, and this past week, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was saying he has indicted the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for crimes against humanity. In your view, Your Excellency, what is the role of the African Union, what should it be in this whole issue? And what is your take on the manner in which the ICC has been engaging Africa over the years?
President Mugabe: The situation in North Africa is of course of very, very grave concern to us; very grave on two main points.
One, the fact that the happenings there - they call them protests. If they are true protests how then do they involve Europe?
How does Europe get into protests that are in Africa?
They are not pure protests. They are not as pure as they would want us to think. And it's just false, a façade, that they present to us. In fact behind these revolts - I call them revolts, rebellions against the systems in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya.
Whatever the systems, they are legitimate governments, and these legitimate governments led their countries in the context of the African Union and earlier on in the context of the OAU.
And these governments, at the same time, naturally were aware of the need for constitutional processes based on the principles of democracy and there's hardly a country in Africa that was not aware of the changes that had come. Some countries in Africa have attained democratic status, if you want, much earlier than others. Others were still on the way to democracy but all of them were legitimate members of the African Union.
And so, when these protests turned into rebellions, they in turn invited acts of aggression from Europe.
The second aspect of our African countries rejecting interference then comes to the fore - the principle of non-intervention, non-interference in the domestic affairs of others, which is accepted at international law and also is contained in the Charter of the United Nations, that has been flouted by Europe.
And so, Africa has suffered. It's now the reversal of the freedoms that we attained through various struggles, in some cases political but in others armed struggles.
Struggles waged for the liberation of Africa and we are seeing that achievement, that status of liberating Africa now being reversed by the same people who colonised us yesterday, our erstwhile colonisers. They are coming back now using our own people and presenting to the world that it is we the Africans ourselves who would want to see change, when in fact they are using that pretence as a way of paving entry back into Africa, perhaps entry in search of resources - oil or other forms of wealth.
Or, in order to control us neo-colonially. So what has happened to Egypt, to Tunisia is of great concern to us. And what's now happening, even in a more aggressive and brutal manner in Libya, is even much more dismaying, the devastation taking place. And well it's pretended that it's the authority derived from Chapter 7 of the United Nation (as resolved) by the Security Council.
Our African countries were naïve, absolutely naïve, to vote with the West when the West had its interests, you know, its own motives - ulterior motives. And these motives are (inaudible) wanting to re-occupy our countries. They are in search of our resources, in search of political control.
And, we should by now have been very much aware that these aggressors and colonisers of yesterday had not repented, relented on their past ways of relating to us, and that they were still enemies. And once an enemy, once an imperialist, always an imperialist. Is it not Nkrumah who said an imperialist is never a good friend? He's only good when he is dead - the only good imperialist is a dead one.
MS: So Your Excellency, what do you feel the African Union should be doing in light of what has taken place?
President Mugabe: It should have at least protested by now, protested vigorously and caused the United Nations to have an emergency session, beginning with an emergency session of our own.
But, I understand that the exercise to get countries to meet has not succeeded. Our African countries don't seem to want to meet and discuss this vital issue on the absolutely devastating events that are happening to the north of us, and which require our immediate attention. Not all of us seem to be moved by them; or perhaps some of us support them.
And, if we are in this state of silence, naturally the world will say we are expressing happiness with what is taking place.
MS: And further to that, the issue of the International Criminal Court?
President Mugabe: Well this court seems to have been established maybe for Africans. And though we have seen Europeans commit crimes of far greater magnitude than you can ever imagine . . . but it's just the African leaders they are going for, or should I say leaders from the Third World, since they have also been trying leaders from lesser Europe, lesser European countries and so on.
And these belong to the Third World and so, it's just people of the Third World they are going for. But we have seen greater offences committed by the likes of Bush and Blair when they attacked Iraq illegally and they used false reasons for that attack.
They accused Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction . . . after attacking him and for that matter sucking oil and putting it into their own systems and oil containers, they then said, oh well we were wrong, there are no weapons of mass destruction.
And they knew that the excuse they were proffering was meant to use their troops as a way of entering Iraq and committing aggression, and Saddam is gone, and with him the oil too is gone.
They are still at it; they said they were doing it to bring peace, to bring democracy. Where is the democracy? There is still lots of fighting going on in Iraq up to today. But anyway, the issue is who will ever try Blair and Bush? They are scot-free after committing that very serious act of aggression - a criminal act of aggression.
They will skirt around them and say nothing and then, come to us. They say they want Gaddafi. What has Gaddafi done? He was running his country. Sure, it was not democratic, the system that was there, but we all recognised it.
But, we recognised also that given time there would be change in Libya as there has been change in other African countries. And that's why his country was a legit member of the African Union.
But there they are, again using false pretences to attack. And, who are in the forefront? It's France, led by Sarkozy; Italy led by Berlusconi; and, Cameron of Britain. The three: and Sarkozy is the leader of the Three Musketeers.
They are supposed, according to the Security Council resolution based on Chapter 7, to police the Libyan air zone and ensure that Libya does not use its aircraft (inaudible) to cause deaths of civilians.
But what we are seeing now is that in fact through their bombings, more civilians are dying than those who would have died if Libya had been left to defend itself against the rebellion, the rebellious group that had risen around Benghazi.
We know now, it is very clear that the motive is to overthrow the Libyan government, overthrow Gaddafi and have a free opportunity to enter Libya and of course, share the resources that they so direly need in Europe.
MS: Zimbabwe has been quite a solid member of Sadc from 1980, from the time of the Front Line States, to the former SADCC right up to the present. As a Pan African and a proponent of broad-based empowerment of indigenous peoples, would you say the trajectory the bloc has taken since 1980 bodes well for your vision of a sovereign Africa?
President Mugabe: Yes, sure. We started with SADCC as you mention, but as an organisation, that enabled us to co-op and link our programmes in a developmental sense that would enable whatever aid would be forthcoming to areas jointly established as prerequisites to development. So, we had agriculture, infrastructure, transport etc . . .
That was at the start. It was not the sort of community that now exists.
We then focused on trading as freely as possible, to create a common market in Sadc and Comesa. And, end up reducing areas of restraint or constraint, duties and bringing about a situation in which there is trade between and amongst us. But of course, free trade is borne out of development.
You develop your sectors, your agric, industries your mining etc . . . so there must be focus also on these productive sectors. But, we are focused and, focused in a manner which carries with it the history of our countries. The fact of the political systems that were borne out of the struggle that we waged and in various other countries.
The idea of security, defence of our territories underpins naturally all these programmes that we are trying to run.
We continue to discuss matters of security, matters of defence, political issues . . . We also want to see democracy on the basis of which our systems of governance are run. Elections are part of democracy and there are vital electoral guidelines which Sadc has put together.
We have already included those into our law, into our system. They are domesticated as it were, and we hope that all countries will do the same.
We look at the elections that occur in each other's countries, and ensure that they are proper. If they are not proper, as ours were deemed not to have been proper in June (2008) because they were preceded by violence - the voting itself was proper, but because there had been inter-party violence - it was felt that the violence could have affected the results and it was said, go back and have another election.
So, we said fine. We will go back and have another election and it was said that to do that we must establish a vehicle that could chart the way to elections and that vehicle is the GPA, and we are all driving towards an election date.
At the same time, we must ensure that the process towards that election is democratic, and, that's why we have been working on the need for a new constitution and carrying out the outreach programme.
We are busy putting the views of the people together so we can use those views . . . that's the basis of the new constitution; a Sadc programme for Zimbabwe but driven by the Zimbabweans themselves.
And of course we are also opposed to revolts in Sadc. Revolts are not democratic and they must be opposed. Any rebellious movement or system that is counter to the democratic objectives and principles of Sadc, where this occurs we must try to correct it.
We of Zimbabwe have gone to offer assistance to quite a number of countries: Mozambique, the DRC, and we have received also assistance. This is h e tried to get organisation, achieve peace and calm.
If there is a war situation or crisis you then have to attend to that crisi s and try to overcome it. And this means resources, national resources, are diverted towards that crisis when these resources could very well go towards the upliftment of the people for the development of the country and its population.
So yes we are together, we are very happy and we are looking forward to another meeting... This meeting takes place to discuss Zimbabwe and we might be able to discuss Madagascar as well whatever other issues are on the agenda.
MS: Related to that, there are claims in some sections of the media that there is a fallout between your ZANU-PF party and some members of SADC following the Livingstone
Extraordinary Summit. Is there any deterioration in ties?
President Mugabe: No. No. Even Livingstone was not a situation of conflict. It's only that the meeting was done without our getting informed about the agenda and the report that the facilitator had, we had not had sight of it. But we discussed the matter and it's not a serious one, there was no division. We don't want to be divided anyway.
Even in our GPA, we are together, yes we differ in our politics but in so far as the desire and need for us to ensure that the constitutional process is driven to the end we are together.
With South Africa we share views with them. We point out of course the areas where we feel things could be better, our relations could be better, but there is no real difference between them and us.
MS: Talking of elections Your Excellency, are you confident that the timeline this year will be met?
President Mugabe: We have been to the people; the people have given us their views.
We are now in possession of the views of the people in regard of the themes that should constitute the basis of a new constitution and we are working on this. We should be having the constitution in draft form very soon.
If in July/August we have that draft constitution, then it can be put to a referendum. Once you have gone to the people and asked them their views, and if they support that constitution, why should we wait any further in establishing it as the law of the country? What we need then is to ensure that we have it as the law of the country and then proceed to hold elections; because that is the mission of the GPA (Global Political Agreement that created the coalition government). We are on this mission and we must accomplish it.
This is our third year on the mission. In fact as we started, the view of other parties was that, no we don't have to have this creature (coalition) with us for more than two years.
Within that period we should have gotten rid of it. But we lengthened the life of the GPA by rejecting the draft constitution that we had, the Kariba Draft, and that was what was to be the basis of the constitution as agreed in the GPA earlier on.
As we discussed the GPA we never had a new constitution of the nature that we are now working on. This was a new development after the GPA but we accepted it; but we should not delay the process any further than is necessary.
We will have timelines. We have said to ourselves let's establish timelines and see how far we can go. The timelines must be properly gauged, proper times given and right up to the election and then we see whether the timelines cannot all be fitted in 2011. If they can be fitted in 2011 we go ahead (with an election this year).
MS: One of the justifications that your partners in the coalition government have given for not wanting elections to be held this year is that security arms of the state are perpetrating violence against the civilian populace. Some parties have also called for what they call security sector reform. Would you respond Mr President to the allegations of state-sponsored violence, and secondly is there a case for security sector reform?
President Mugabe: Those allegations against the security forces have been made without any proof, no evidence, no substance attached to them. They are without substance. We've asked for evidence to be given of the violence that has been meted out by our security forces.
And which security forces? Is it the army, is it the police force? And where has this happened?
Sometimes a party would want to sell its own image, and it overreaches itself and by picking on matters that do not exist and want them to be believed as matters that actually exist. You want to present your party as a victim; a victim that should be pitied by the international community.
And they go and say there is no democracy in my country, there is no freedom, we cannot hold meetings, there is violence everywhere, in every village. Come to our assistance please, we just cannot move, we are un-free in our country. If it's going to attract anybody it must be substantiated with facts.
How are you un-free? If you can move to and fro from province to province, area to area, you can hold meetings - and you held so many meetings - you can travel throughout the world and come back, and the people see you do that, how then is your freedom restricted?
Where are the constraints on your freedom?
You've got to prove that. In the meantime you have made these false allegations in order to attract attention to yourself. And that is what has happened, it's just politicking by a party that would want to present itself as the victim of even the government of which it is a part of.
And on the second one: who wants to reform the security sector? Security reforms are well-established. There is a format that establishes them; there is a law that creates them. What reform is required? They are a force that has a history, a political history. They have fought colonialism in this country and brought about the independence that we have, the freedom that we have, the multiparty system that we have that never existed before. And it is these forces now which have given you the complainant the right to say, ah they must be reformed you could never have said it before in colonial times.
So, I don't know - it's nonsense. Our security forces are well-established, they are reputed. Right now as we speak the police force is in countries like Liberia and several other countries under the United Nations (peacekeeping)...
If it's that reputed, the United Nations would then not insist on sending our people. Almost every year we are asked to give some members who join others from other countries in peacekeeping.
And then of course, our defence forces - I made reference earlier to them having taken part in bringing about peace in other countries suffering from serious attacks, some of them caused by apartheid South Africa. RENAMO was fighting in Mozambique. We assisted there... Not only did we send troops, but we also mediated, President Masire and I worked with President Chissano and the president of RENAMO, Dhlakama until ... November 1992 we were in Rome and an agreement was reached ensuring that the two came together. President Moi also played a part.
So it's these forces that backed us and they don't need any reform. They need to be equipped. Equip them as they are and they will prove to be upholders of our freedom and supporters of freedom and security of the nation. They protect the people, they defend the country and they interact with other security forces around them. I don't have to tell you that even within SADC we are giving assistance right now to quite a number of countries.
We are training pilots; the air force is helping those of other countries.
Who then would want to reform these forces?
If it's our MDC, they possibly don't understand how the forces operate and how this type of establishment is organized. I'm Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces; I know how they are organised. We worked with them when they were still guerillas. And we put them together, the Rhodesian side plus Zanla and Zipra of the two parties that engaged in the armed struggle. So this is the same aspect we used in developing the police force.
Some moved from the army to the new police force that we were establishing. But we kept a good many members of the force that we found. We didn't destroy that police force. It was called the BSAP - the British South Africa Police. And it's the British South Africa Company that colonized us.
If there is any need it is in fact to equip the forces, to look after them well. To make sure they have equipment and uniforms and of course that they have good salaries.
MS: Another contentious issue in Zimbabwe right now on both the political front and the economic front is that of economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West. There was a commitment in the GPA that the parties should come together on this issue. Further, Sadc has also made a commitment to lobby against sanctions. Are you pleased with the efforts by the GPA parties and Sadc to date?
President Mugabe: Well not much progress has been made. True there have been some efforts at the regional level to try and get the European Union members to heed our call for sanctions to go. On that they have refused to co-operate. So far attempts have been made at the ministerial level but Europe has not reciprocated. No response has been made except in a negative way to say no we will not remove the sanctions. We happen to know that individual attempts have been made to engage them. President Zuma has told me of the talks he has had with leaders in Europe on the need to remove sanctions.
Within the GPA it's a one-sided affair. It's just the Zanu-PF side that is making forceful demands on sanctions. We have this (anti-sanctions petition) campaign; we have tried to make it national. It encompassed political parties and business etc. the other parties as parties have not been part of it. You get a lone voice expressed perhaps as response to some pressure that will have been exerted on the person to say something about sanctions.
They then say, ah no they are restrictive measures or some other name. But when are those restrictive measures, or whatever name you want to call the, going? Ask for them to go. When will the restrictions be lifted? They are hurting the people.
Anyway, we have this campaign. We hope the campaign - which has exceeded the number of two million that we wanted - to be the basis of further action that we are trying to put together.
It has three dimensions - political that we continue to demand for them to go; to demonstrate impatience with the slow pace with which Europe is taking in deciding on `this matter of sanctions.
And then of course you have the economic dimension. We have already said that fine, we have allowed businesses of countries that have imposed sanctions on us to continue unperturbed here but we also can reciprocate their economic sanctions. We can have our own economic ways of hitting at their businesses.
Then of course, we have never challenged these sanctions legally and we might also contrive ways of challenging their maintenance, taking legal action against them.
So there are those three ways. I don't know if you can think of a fourth. It can be prayer (laughing). The Almighty is not an operator when it comes to things like this, where man offends against man. He would want to know what the offended man does by way of defending himself; and the offender - whether he will persist in his evil way while knowing what awaits him in the hereafter.
MS: I want to take you back to the issue of Libya and the UN resolution. Do you feel vindicated because there were similar attempts to get a UN resolution on Zimbabwe (in 2008)...
President Mugabe: Sure. And we were fortunate enough to have countries like China and Russia standing by us and casting their veto against the resolution that Blair wanted passed under Chapter 7. And Zimbabwe would have been brought under Chapter 7 and we know the British would have been very happy to take stern action against us. Fortunately those two countries cast their veto.
What is not known is that at the Security Council we also had South Africa playing a very great part and appealing to Russia and China and others. President Mbeki told me that they worked closely with China and Russia.
And so we also thank the South Africans for that role.
MS: Notwithstanding that differences that are there between you and the other two parties in the coalition government, in an interview earlier this year with the Financial Times of London, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai spoke very glowingly about his relationship with you. How do you describe the relationship you have with your partners?
President Mugabe: We are working together well. Yes, we differ but we know we have three people on a mission and if there is antipathy or antagonism between us, then obviously you couldn't take this and drive it towards the target of the election. Even as we are moving, albeit, we should ensure that governance is well and properly managed. So we have a government and that government must deliver.
All three parties have contributed towards that government through cabinet ministers... The implementation side of cabinet decisions; that is what Prime Minister Tsvangirai is in charge of. I chair the cabinet and ensure that there are programmes in various ministerial sectors that will make our country run.
And so for the three of us we have to ensure that we recognize that although our politics may differ, there is the oneness that derives from our being - not just in the GPA - but much more from our being Zimbabweans and that we have no other home but Zimbabwe. This is where we shall live and where we shall die and be here forever hereafter...
But we have been working together well. Yes, there are complaints here and there but the complaints have not been of the nature that would have caused us to abandon the ship that we are sailing in.
We have understood each other; we know each other now quite well. We know the dos and don'ts of each and everyone of us. We know also the political strictures of the parties that we come from and ... there are decisions of a party that cannot be violated in this forum, in this threesome. If the party says this is it, that's it, we don't want that - I cannot say no I love it.
It has been quite an experience. We started by being suspicious of each other and some were afraid of drinking tea served by another. But now nobody is afraid. You would ask for more now, before that would say thanks I've had enough already.
MS: Your Excellency, still on the GPA relations and the government. Professor Arthur Mutambara has more or less been disowned by his own party. However, he remains as a Deputy Prime Minister. How would you respond to your critics who say you are needlessly protecting Professor Mutambara?
President Mugabe: This is what Minister Welshman Ncube was saying yesterday. We had quite a long session. He said we are not dealing with this in a legitimate way. (inaudible) change at their last congress and Welshman was voted president and Mutambara dropped, and why should we not recognise that.
We have not refused to recognize Welshman Ncube as president of the party. We are a forum of governors, three principal governors together; established legally and there is a legal bond. And legally it was Mutambara and he himself says firstly, that there was an agreement between him and Welshman Ncube that should there be a change at the congress, that change would not affect the principals and he would continue (as deputy prime minister).
Two, he says well, he does not accept, which is maybe a contradiction, that he has been demoted as president of the party. So according to him, what happened at the congress was not valid and he continues to be president.
But we have said, well, those arguments they can make against each other. But since the matter is with the courts and the decision is pending... we will abide by what the courts say. So we have not protected anyone in any way.
We also feel that the change is unfortunate in that he is the man they gave to us, with whom we have signed signatures, we have sown seeds, and the fathering of the GPA was with him. So, to unravel that is an unfortunate thing. But if they succeed in their quest to have him dropped, we cannot contest the decision of the court.
MS: Turning to Zanu-PF. In an interview with the New African magazine in 2002, you intimated that if your party found a suitable successor to fill your shoes as party president, you would gladly step aside and leave national politics to devote your time to writing of your memoirs. What is the situation now? Has that successor been found?
President Mugabe: Well, well, well. The party will find someone but you don't leave the party amidst problems and in a situation of crisis such as we have. You've got to get the party out of the crisis and then you can retire. We have got to ensure that we are out of the crisis first before we can think of that. And also, the party needs me and we should not create weak points, points of weakness within the party. We must remain solid and in full gear.
Once you have change, and if we had it now for example, the new man, or new woman - that is an act that might destroy the party for a while as it goes through transition. Any new leader needs time to consolidate, so we don't want to take risks at all. No risks at this time because there are people who have regime change as their objective. Blair has been calling for it. His successors, we haven't heard the voice of Cameron yet. But there's that other man with a round (head); what's his name? Hague, William Hague - the one with the round head. He seems very critical of us and seems to be onto regime change.
Cameron seems to be quiet for now. I have been listening to what he says. They may talk about Zimbabwe in general terms but I haven't heard him making really critical remarks about me. The British have their own plan for us.
They are the father of MDC, they fathered the MDC through, the Westminster Foundation.
And they are proud of it, very proud. I don't know whether the child is that proud of his father, I don't know. Or is it a question of the child saying no, I'm going to reject the father, the legitimate father? I'm fathered elsewhere.
Well, politics in Africa is about origins and these political parties, fathered by Britain and others . . . France fathered so many of them, and nurtures them too. And also, in some cases, it's like the lion. The lion fathers little ones and then it dares not see any of them.
The little male ones it will want to kill - they say by instinct, biology says animals don't think. But I don't know about that...So the French, when they see that the child is starting to (assert) itself and no longer recognises its origins, they kill it, they destroy it. They look after their former colonies better than the British . . . They are not like the French, the French are overt; they do it in an open way.
They say these are their cultural associates.
But the British say you are on your own and then covertly they would want to influence your system. This is where we all take issue with them . . .
MS: Still on Zanu-PF, it appeared that in 2008 there were some elements in the party who were prepared to get out of power because of divisions within the party. How far has the party gone in dealing with this?
President Mugabe: Well, 2008 was our worst year of division. You had Simba Makoni with his, what did he call it? He didn't have a party, he had Mavambo. And he created history. For the first time in the country, he is the only one to stand as a presidential election without a party. He was the party. He thought the people would be attracted to him because he was Simba Makoni. In East Africa "simba" means lion ... So he thought he was that magnetic and if he stood there he would actually get elected and then choose people from the population for his cabinet. But he did get some votes. He caused some division, especially in the east, Manicaland. Then there was (inaudible) Dumiso Dabengwa (former Home Affairs Minister) was party to this.
The strategy that was used was that you don't have to vote for the President into power.
What you need is to vote for Members of Parliament. In some areas they were told don't vote for the President.
And so we lost quite some votes in Manicaland and also in Masvingo. After March (first round of voting), we went and told the people that did you know that in a presidential system, the Presidential candidate must come first and if you don't come first and you lose the Presidency but you win Parliamentary elections, you will have lost an election overall.
Your party will not be the one ruling even though you have a majority in Parliament. And you would get people saying they didn't know.
And (laughing) I could see that some of those saying they didn't know are the ones who were telling the people not to vote for the President.
Some were of that view, who wanted the President to retire. (They thought) they could then negotiate with the MDC . . .
Anyway, we have done our post-mortem.
Every party has got its ambitions and these ambitions can cost you. But when do you want your ambition to assert itself? At what stage? We have a crisis of an election. An election is always a crisis. You must go through the crisis and you must field your best performers. It's like football and cricket and all games. You don't field just anyone just to give them a chance. You don't. You field the best.