Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lindiwe Zulu Reflects on President Mugabe
Hon Lindiwe Zulu

South African President Jacob Zuma’s then international relations advisor and Sadc facilitation team member, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, was not widely known in Zimbabwe before 2013. That all changed in the heated run-up to the 2013 elections. Last week, Morris Mkwate, for the Zimpapers’ television project, spoke to Ms Zulu – now South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development – in Johannesburg on a wide range of issues, among them her fallout and reconciliation with President Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s import controls, and other issues. We publish excerpts.

We must always understand that every country wants to create jobs (for its people). Even South Africa wants to do that.

But, as we’ve said before, there’s no point in South Africa living in a better space in a sea of poverty.

I remember former President Thabo Mbeki said that quite a while back, and even President Jacob Zuma says the same thing – that it’s important for us to grow our economies collectively.

For South Africa to grow its economy when, for instance, the Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe economies are not growing, is not helpful to us.

At the same time, there are Sadc protocols and agreements signed by these countries. South Africa and Zimbabwe need to engage each other long before a decision is made.

Continued discussion is required so that we don’t end up with what we saw at the Beitbridge (Border Post) – the burning and destruction.

The rest of Africa cannot afford that, neither can South Africa and Zimbabwe.

My view, therefore, is that let there be engagement at all times.

Let us not engage because there seems to be a crisis somewhere. Let us engage because consistently, continuously we want each other to grow. The growth of Zimbabwe and its manufacturing sector is of interest to South Africa.

And it should also be of interest to Zimbabwe where South Africa can produce things that can be sold in Zimbabwe.

I’m also conscious of the fact that many people, especially in the region, complain that there is unfairness as trade is tilted in South Africa’s favour.

Zimbabwe needs to also see its product trade flow to South Africa and the rest of the region. Ultimately, (there is need to) engage, engage, engage. I’m aware that a delegation went to Zimbabwe for a conversation, and very soon there will be a delegation that comes this side to have another conversation. We always have to work towards a win-win situation as regional economic growth depends on us all.

South Africa has always wanted engagement; what we need to do, on both sides, is not to sign agreements and put them aside and only wake up when the two principals are supposed to meet. These documents must be alive, living with us on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s follow up on the things that we agreed upon because what then happens is when you sign agreements and put them aside, you only wake up because there is a problem. This is what, for me, is a continental challenge.

I think we are good at putting these policies and agreements together, but lack a little bit on making sure there is sustainable action around those signed documents.

(South Africa has similar restrictions). You know why? I go back to what I said earlier. Every country wants to create jobs.

At the end of the day, it is about ensuring job-creation and economic development, and that we don’t end up with a whole lot of cheap products from different places that make it difficult for our own manufacturing sector to grow.

Zimbabwe needs its manufacturing sector to grow, too, so does every other country. We are inter-dependent.

South Africa cannot say we are closing our borders and forget about everything because it’s not going to happen.

Zimbabwe, too, cannot close its borders without engagement because of the linkages and the interdependency of our economies.

Even our politics are interdependent. What happens in Zimbabwe has an impact politically on what happens in South Africa and vice-versa.

Restrictions are necessary, in my view.

Look; we have Chinese imports flooding South Africa. Where are the jobs being created? We should ask ourselves that question.

The jobs are created somewhere else.

As a country, we cannot afford to be consumers only, neither can Zimbabwe – for the rest of its life – just consume without ensuring jobs are being created at home. At the level of our bilateral relations, what do we agree upon? What pushes us into agreements?

Of course, the South African economy is much bigger, and most people would complain that it is big and, therefore, South Africa must also enable others to grow. But we can’t also afford not to grow our economy because who are we going to be feeding? Our people are knocking on our door on a day-to-day basis.

They want jobs, housing, education, and those things cannot be served if our economy is not growing.

Fallout with President Mugabe

Well, it was quite a difficult situation because to be in any negotiation is not very easy. You have parties that are in disagreement with each other.

I think, though, that what was important for us as the team was the fact that we had a mandate, a specific mandate as to what we were expected to do.

We were supposed to help Zimbabwe come out of violence and conflict and to finally have elections. One of the things that we were supposed to assist Zimbabwe with was the lifting of sanctions.

All parties were agreed, but unfortunately, to date, those sanctions have not been lifted despite the fact that Zimbabwe has gone through the elections and everything. The sanctions have not been lifted and I think that on its own has a negative impact on the economy of Zimbabwe. Our team worked very well, doing what we were expected to do until the end. And, of course, in between the process of facilitating, there will be understandings and misunderstandings.

What was good was that we fulfilled the mandate that had been given to us by President Jacob Zuma and the country, and I think Zimbabwe has come out of that; to a very large extent.

There are still challenges here and there, and when the economy is not growing, when there seem to be political dynamics and challenges putting Zimbabwe in a bad spot, we get worried as South Africa.

But, of course, we know they have the capacity to deal with those challenges. We did what we needed to do, and we completed our mission.

I did indicate even then at the time that my understanding was that in any negotiation, especially at a political level, if there is a misunderstanding, there will be things that will be said that might be hurtful.

It was quite painful for me to hear that being said (by President Mugabe when he called me an idiotic street woman). It was quite painful, especially because I’m an African. I come from a culture of respect; where elderly people are respected.

I still hold that even today.

Elderly people need to be respected. Even when you don’t agree (with them), there is always a way of dealing with the disagreement. That’s why I never wanted it to be (like) I’m (being) pushed into a platform of tit-for-tat as I didn’t think that that was going to help the situation.

I also had to ask myself the question: Where is it that I might have fallen short and said something that might have ended up upsetting the President? Or some people misunderstood what I might have said and that ended up with him saying the things that he said?

Remember, we used to meet with the President, and not even once at those meetings had the President ever expressed displeasure with what we were doing.

So, I needed to take a step back and look at where I had gone wrong. I understood where things might have been misunderstood.

When you speak because you have a mandate and you point out the wrongs of both parties, there might be a misunderstanding. No. I never had a mandate of supporting anybody. Our mandate was bringing the parties together to have a conversation about taking the country to the next level. And that’s all we did.

What was very important was that at the end, it was President Robert Mugabe himself who did manage to speak to me.

I was with (President Zuma) and President Mugabe did indicate to me that in the heat of the moment and when people are campaigning, things like that happen.

For me, that was an experience; it was a pain when those things were being said.

Somewhere down the line and even then, I felt there would be a moment when the truth was going to be put on the table.

There was never an intention on my side to go outside of the mandate that was given to us. I wasn’t alone, by the way.

I was with other very respected members of the African National Congress (like) Mac Maharaj and Charles Nqakula, and these are people I also have respect for. They are older than me and I always look for guidance from them.

I knew that somewhere along the line the truth will be put on the table and this will be laid to rest. Now, I guarantee you that that has been laid to rest.

There were lessons learnt also from my side inasfar as managing certain situations. Also remember that we were in the midst of media and communication, and you got chased around, with some asking: “Why did you say this? Why are you not saying this?” So, I consider that as part of my growth and the lessons that I learnt.

I still stand firm on the fact that what I did in Zimbabwe, we all did it in accordance with the mandate that had been given to us and I never got out of that mandate.

(Smiling) Oh, President Mugabe gave me a good hug and said, “You are young, you are growing up; you will grow up in the politics. These are things that will happen from time to time.”

I was comfortable with that, especially also considering that the attitude of my own President was very positive.

When we were in an African Union meeting where I had to go and talk to the President, my President walked with me towards President Robert Mugabe. I think whatever ill-feeling that might have been is gone. What happened is a lesson into the future: Negotiations are unending.

Views on President

To be honest, I’m just amazed at a person who has such capacity, knowledge and memory.

Because you go to a space and the media says, “Ah, no, what are you talking about? The man is forgetting and the man is this.”

What I experienced of President Robert Mugabe – the first time in his office – when he was taking us through the history of the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe and where we were was quite amazing.

There were a lot of lessons for me to learn. And, of course, I was with the older generation of people who had known him better, who had engaged him better than I had in the past. I came out really feeling (that) there is a wealth of knowledge that sits in there.

I still think that post that time, if one can have the opportunity of sitting with President Robert Mugabe and engaging much deeper outside of being there to facilitate; just as a person, I think there is a lot, a wealth of information that needs to come out. I also feel there is something we are not doing very well as Africans: We are not writing so much of our history, and President Robert Mugabe is one of the elder statesmen we have.

I don’t know how much books are out there that can be read by the younger generation. Also it’s about the younger generation looking at history as it is told by our own; not just history as it is being told by others. I also learnt a lot from the history of Zimbabwe itself and the country’s liberation struggle.

I’m a member of the African National Congress ultimately, and most of the time when I was doing my military training, the history that I learnt more about was the history of Zapu, your Joshua Nkomo, and the relationship between the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe and Zapu at the time.

We need to celebrate things that Zimbabwe did in its history of growth.

There are lessons that can also be learnt from the things that led to that conflict of 2008 and onwards.

Having a conversation with President Robert Mugabe could give some of us a much better insight.

I was there with just a narrow mandate, but I think a lot can be dug up as lessons for the future, and I think young people do not need to be diverted by other people who’ve got other interests in what our leaders do and the decisions they make.

I’m not saying decisions made by our leaders are always correct – there will be good decisions and others not so great.

So, I will, hopefully, get an opportunity to sit with President Robert Mugabe outside of the (facilitation) mandate and begin to go just deeper into discussions about how to take this continent to the next level.

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