President Robert Gabriel Mugabe (RGM) turns 93 years old today. The following is Part One of the interview the President had with Tazzen Mandizvidza (TM) of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corportion ZBC.
TM: Thank you very much Mr President for affording us this time to talk to you. We know you have a busy schedule. Let me start by saying congratulations, makorokoto on turning 93.
RGM: Thank you.
TM: Your Excellency, during the Harare Agricultural Show some years back, a palmist once read your palm and predicted that you will live up to 100 years, makore zana. But almost every year we come across the so-called prophets proclaiming that President Mugabe is going to die on this date and that date but you are here, you are alive. What would you want to say to these so-called prophets as you celebrate 93 years?
RGM: So-called prophets. Why don’t you say prophets of doom? Uhhm? They are prophets of doom who prophesy what really are their wishes, so they turn their wishes into prophecies or dreams perhaps, but hardly any dreams. I would want to think. It’s just wishes, that this man must go. This man must go and the man is not going. So year in year out, it’s the same wish. And the same prophesy.
Why do you care about them? I don’t care about them anymore. We have had even some pastors praying for my death. And even a bishop in my church, wekuMatabeleland uya watakazobata anemudzimai akazviregera. So we get such people in society. They won’t see some of them. In fact, the numbers may tend to increase sometimes. Ndakanzwawo chimwe chichiti President arikufa muna October, asi kana asingade kufa ngaataure, nhai? (laughs) So there it is. I don’t pay much attention to them at all.
TM: Meanwhile, Your Excellency, there have been calls for you to step down on account of your age and how do you answer such calls including from non-Zimbabweans like Julius Malema?
RGM: Do you listen anything from Malema? Who is Malema? The call to step down must come from my party; my party Congress, my party Central Committee. I will step down. But then what do you see, get? It’s the opposite. They want me to stand for elections, they want me to stand for elections everywhere in the party. And it’s their voice I heed and the voice of no one else.
Of course, if I feel like I can’t do it anymore, I will say so to my party so that they relieve me. But for now I think I can’t say so and even if I might feel I wanted to rest but with, you know, that volume of wishes for the President to stand, the number of people who will be disappointed is galore and I don’t want to disappoint. More so, that the majority of the people feel that there is no replacement actually nor successor who to them is as acceptable as I am.
But the people, you know, would want to judge everyone else on the basis of President Mugabe as the criterion, but I have been at it for a longer period than anyone else. Leaders will have to be, you know, as it were given time to develop and to have that ability to meet with the people and to be judged by the people.
Silently in the majority of the cases, the people must see and be convinced that yes so and so can be a good successor. Others think because they have been this long in the party or they are this in the party they are capable of succeeding the President. It’s not that easy.
TM: But Your Excellency, are you now changing your mind? You are on record as saying you will not groom a successor, but now you sound like you are saying maybe somebody needs to be given time. Are you now thinking of grooming a successor?
RGM: No, no, no. that doesn’t suggest grooming a successor. A successor is groomed by the people actually. You see. Those around you can get the confidence of the people as they operate around you and gain the confidence of the people. When the people see their leaders, they can trust their leaders beyond corruption, their leader’s knowledgeable, sure, that’s grooming I mean.
TM: Thank you Mr President. Now allow me to move on to the First Lady. When Dr Grace Mugabe was requested to lead the Women’s League, I remember you pointed out that you advised her on what to expect in the political arena. But now, today with so many stories about her, the family and yourself, how do you console her against all that? And don’t you regret maybe you could have advised her not to get into this?
RGM: Against all the what?
TM: The stories that are coming out about her, about you, the criticism and all that.
RGM: The criticism. Well the criticisms, I get are criticisms from the opposition. From the party, well there have been a few criticisms from vananaMutsvangwa and so on and so forth who, you know, I then saw something quite different in her. They thought she was an ambitious woman who would want to work herself into a position of power. But I had my first wife Sally, she organised the women.
We did not have the Women’s League here, the Ghana’s style, the (Kwame) Nkrumah style of the Women’s League which gained acceptance in our region was introduced by my wife and others in Zimbabwe, my late wife I mean. But in fact people were saying aaah the leaders must not disallow their wives from participating in politics, we want their wives to lead us, but what you get nowadays from some quotas is that the leader’s wife should not participate in politics. Why not? Why not? I don’t know what criticism you are referring to? She is very acceptable, very much accepted by the people. I thought you saw her on television today (Friday).
TM: Yes, I did Your Execellency.
RGM: It’s fireworks isn’t it? (laughs)
TM: Yes, it indeed (laughter all round)
TM: Sometimes the media tends to write so many stories and when she is facing all that, how do you comfort her as a seasoned politician?
RGM: I donot know what do you mean? She is well seasoned now, she is a very strong character.
TZ: Let’s move on from the family to look at economic issues. My first question is on the land reform. I remember you once said on his deathbed the late Father Zimbabwe Cde Joshua Nkomo told you to ensure the land is given to the people.
RGM: Two things, land to the people, unity.
TM: Yes, two things but let me focus on the land first. If you were to talk to him what would you say about the land reform?
RGM: Yes, I would say we have continued to give land to the people and most of the land, which used to be in the hands of the settlers is now in the hands of our own people and what there is now for us is to ensure there won’t be any retrogression. That those we have given the land will keep it, use it, cultivate it properly and ensure that its made productive.
So I would say what you wanted me to do I think I have done and done well. And I think our objective earlier on which constituted our first grievance as we fought the struggle, that the people, land that is possessed by settlers must be repossessed by we the indigenous and not just that, but that it should also be defended, protected and never be allowed once again to fall into the hands of the settlers. I think we have done that well.
TM: The issue of unity we will talk about it later on. Still on the economy, Zimbabwe’s economy is still on a recovery path, but Your Excellency, what else would you want to see done in order to speed up the process and also to ensure that those jobs that were promised by Zanu-PF towards the last election are made available?
RGM: Well the process, you know, it’s a gradual one as we improve the economy sector by sector and bring about employment alongside that improvement. Naturally, we shall also be transforming the overall economic sectors in accordance with our Zim-Asset and transforming means, adding value to the raw materials that might come out of agriculture, mining et cetera.
So we ensure that upon the exportation of goods from these sectors, we shall receive, perhaps, double or even more than double what we might have got if we did not transform them all and add value to the particular goods. That whole process its an economic process. As you transform the economy, you are actually ensuring greater employment sector by sector. It’s the creation of industry, by the way and industry is created in mining, in agriculture and in commerce by that transformative process, which ensures that we can now talk of our country having transformed and a greater part of our people having been employed.
By the way employment, getting a job is not the only thing that we need to look forward to, we would want to see our people turned into entrepreneurs such thats what I was talking about this morning kuma researchers. Is it just the production of tobacco, or production of tobacco and turning tobacco into cigarettes but in the process, if our producers were dependent on foreigners for the production, are we now the main producers.
Have we really become the producers of our own goods? Have we become the masters of our own economy, or are we still, you know, thinking of whites as the best entrepreneurs and Africans as the labourers for these entrepreneurs ? I have my worry in that regard, great worry indeed. Because even where we have said to our people get together form companies, partnerships, collectives as African, Zimbabwean entrepreneurs , you know they would want to see investments made by whites, where they are able themselves to get together and invest in the particular area. They want to see a European invest and then they go and work for that European as director, as managers, the CEOs, yes.
Of course the whites would be happy to see us to continue to work for them. If yesterday they did not, as they held the economy, did not want Africans to be at the management level, today in order to secure their positions no and ofcourse also because they recognised Africans are well educated and well skilled, they would be very happy to stay in the country, run various enterprises with Africans, African young people from universities at the top as accountants, managers CEOS etc be there in the background, after all they are not that many.
They are in the background and they play their game. They have a company here, they like Zimbabwe a lot and they want to stay here and they have something also in South Africa so they are not foolish at all. One leg here and one leg in South Africa but those who were here, I think it’s better here than in South Africa. We are seeing in the agricultural sector quite a number of these surreptious operations where they come and say “you don’t have to worry if you have a farm, we can cultivate for you. Stay where you are, live in town, we will do the work for you”.
At the end of the day of course they cultivate, they have the machines and you are in town and you say, “ah yes, I am using him he is a worker in my farm”. He is a worker on your farm yes, and he will say yes I am just a worker, a manager here. Year in, year out and what happens after five years, he is in the same position. Stupid, stupid we, as indeed we are doing that. Ndozvatirikuita hameno kuti chiiko? Kutadza here basa, kana?
Those who are doing it I know there are some who are really genuine about farming and they are doing farming. Even though they are in town they have some jobs to do at the weekend, Fridays like today they go and ensure that their managers are doing the right thing at the farms and stay on for some time and correct a number of things at the farms and have their own children in some cases. But there are others who really have gone to sleep and the whites have taken over once again, its sad isn’t it? Yataiti tinoda nyika, maida kuti muzope varungu zvakare? Aah!
TM: Your Excellency, you mentioned the concept of weekend farmers vari kumabasa kumatown during the week then voenda kufarm paweekend, are you therefore suggesting a model where if one is farming they should be farming, kana watsvaka basa watsvaka basa kutown? Somebody has argued that Zimbabweans are doing two jobs, one as a farmer and then a banker somewhere else, so should we be moving towards that where we are seriously on the land?
RGM. I think for now that double dealing is necessary because it is those in the banks, those in management areas, those working in town, those employed in the civil service, where we have given them farms, they are the ones with the capacity, financial capacity, with money, you know, really to do something on the farms. Then there are others without that capacity and I would like to believe that those who have financial capacity by and large have been ensured that the farms belong to them and they will become like managers.
Some have their own children who have been to university and done agriculture and it’s not that bad everywhere. But it is bad in some cases. Kozoti vasingagone zvavo including some of our chiefs. Eeh kozoti mamwe maheadman vanofunga kuti if they have an area of control vanokwanisa kusettler wo vanhu, aah nzvimbo iyi ndakaipihwa ndeyangu. So persons coming from elsewhere can be resettled, provided they pay something. That has been happening.
Fanika nyaya yemachiefs, yeah, I know machiefs vanorimirwa nevarungu and who say aah oh today ah oh murungu akanaka uyu, akanaka anotirimira. So especially vamwe vakasaririra varungu vatanga tisati tabvisa, vari juxtaposed to the farms dzema chiefs, nemaheadman and ivavo who are neighbours, you know, the trickery of doing something for their neighbours who are chiefs and headmen yah and then the chiefs say ah, regai kubisa uyu wakanaka.
Nharo chaidzo idzo. Musatibisire uyu and we have had missions, paid to us to ask kuti ah the ministry would want this European who is next to us and who has been doing quite a lot for us yah yah yah, he is also a member of the party. Anoita zvakati, zvakati, zvakati aah tinomuda.
TM: Your Excellency, from that let me take you to the issue of investments. You have signed a lot of investment agreements including mega investment deals with China and recently you met the Chinese President while you were on your annual vacation. From that meeting, Your Excellency we just want to know, what did you focus on?
RGM: We just focused on programmes that we have with them and the programmes which they themselves have offered us so that they can be accelerated and where I think one or two areas like defence. They felt I should raise the issue ye claim yavo yeplatinum yavakapa ku a Chinese company kuti iitwe exploit so the money therefrom can be used to secure and pay the debt which they have rema arms avakatenga kuChina.
I think that was the only fresh one. The rest were just, you know, pushing, pushing. Trying to push so that there is speed in executing and ensuring that the programmes are done. But some are underway actually. They are underway but others have stalled because Finance has not been able to pay mainterest on the funding. They have delayed paying but they been paying but slowly anyway.
The programmes with the Chinese are very good programmes. It was really to ensure that we are strongly together nanaXi Jinping on the programmes they promised us and that the others that come from the $60 billion and we have those which are bilateral, the others in these multilateral grouping and we have so many African beneficiaries mu $60 billion. Isu I think we have gone for about three or four programmes to be funded from mari ye $60 billion. So hushamwarika, kana taendako hamungarege kutaura zvamurikuita.
TM: Asi muchitarisa shamwari dzedu muchiita compare nedzimwe nyika dzirimuAfrica varikutipawo here zvakawanda. In comparison with others in terms of investments?
RGM: I think so. I don’t know what they are giving other countries but it depends on our capacity not only to absorb the funding but to ensure also that we repay what we should repay by way of the refunds. Mamwe mafunds are not gratuitous, they are not grants. They are debts, loans that are being extended to us and we should be able to repay or start repaying them. When then we fail to do so then our friends say ah, but whats happening? And this has been the situation in some cases regarding the Chinese loans.
TM: Let me bring you back home. There were calls made for the establishment of a Women’s Bank I think as far back as 2013, what has been stalling or delaying the launch of such a bank. I know you are championing the empowerment of women
RGM: I push, I just push from the back but I think it’s oncoming. You don’t just establish a bank by word of mouth. It must have funds. It must have depositors. And not just initial little amounts. It must attract on regular basis deposits. I think we have been going through bad times. No liquidity flowing cash was vanishing and I don’t think it has returned yet but we hope it will return.
So unless we can say there is now the possibility of having the bank resourced financially and then you will be paying lip service to it. And I think this is what we have tended to be doing. it’s still the talk on the lips of the women. Mai SME, Nyoni, I call her Mai SME, yah she has been very very very interested in having a bank, a women’s bank and we back her in that, but ka interest yake, yemadzimai ndokunge vaine mafunds to be deposited.
But if they say we have a bank and at the same time from their earnings and there is the informal sector and they carry what they carry those earnings into their pillows and briefcases back home and hold the funds back home and become reluctant to release them, then the bank will not have any resource and will continue to talk of illiquid banks, illiquidity in the system. Thats what has happened. Dzimba idzi dzizere nemari. Tikati kumapurisa nemasoja go yee house by house and dig for the funds that are being hidden there.
Don’t take them as yours but dig them up and tell us who and who have them. You will be guilty, I will be guilty, I don’t know who will not be guilty here nekuti tinotya . . . (laughs) . . . dzimwe (laughs) ukaona tumari twako wotya (claps) kuti aah ndikanoisa uko kuti ndizonoitora mangwana hapana. So you tend to keep it. it’s not your fault, its not his fault. It’s the fault of a system that has not yielded enough cash. Mind you the dollar is not our currency we are actually using it.
MaAmericans vari kuti aah we will not impose sanctions on that one we want them to use our dollar and make it more popular but then they will say aah that is as far as we can go but we can’t issue them fresh piles of dollars when they need them. Ndopouya masanctions ipapo and that’s how we have been restricted, that’s the cause of most of the liquidity that we have, illiquidity that we have because we have not been able to replenish the dollars.
If you look at some of the dollars that have gone round tsvina (laughs) ine mari yacho, goodness me! Kana ari madollars, one dollar I think they are the dirtiest of all, the smaller ones, one dollar, two dollar.
TM: Your Excellency, talking of the dollars, we have the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries they are calling for the adoption of the rand as the official currency and I know right now we also have the bond notes they are also in circulation but does it appear like Zimbabweans are not confident of having their own currency, what is the solution to having our own currency in Zimbabwe?
RGM: (Laughs) . . . My you don’t seem to know the history we had with our own currency, that galloping inflation and we thought of giving it up and adopting the dollar. That’s how it all happened, the rand, we are a multi-currency country.
Well, I don’t know why the Ministry of Finance together with the Reserve Bank have not wanted to use other currencies. I have asked actually again and again kuti why not have euros, why not have yen, why not have rand alongside with the dollar? Ah tichazviita, tichazviita. At least if we had the euro, I don’t think we have sanctions on the euro but the euro is slightly more expensive than the dollar but the difference is minimum.
TM: That’s okay Your Excellency, last year you lamented over how diamond mining has not benefited the nation, you even spoke about how Zimbabwe had been prejudiced of up to $15 billion but now we have the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company in place but why is it that the benefits are not yet apparent?
RGM: Oh! Oh! Oh! These various companies which operated alongside the ZMDC operated for quite a long period. We don’t know how the earnings, you know, from their operations were accounted for and they just regarded them as their own earnings and nothing seems to have come to the ZMDC, which was partner. In turn nothing seems to have come to Government as revenue.
Then we decided, after studying how the diamond sector was controlled in two countries, perhaps three, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, and there just one company. It may have two operations or so, the system in Botswana, system in Namibia those two, I looked at they were satisfied that there was need for consolidation, they don’t allow anyone else, no small company, hakuna makorokoza so the diamond industry is in the hands of the state and maybe the State and the private company together in this case and I was told by Khama how they are very strict about the earnings dzemadiamonds because that the resource they depend upon in the main for their survival.
So anyway we offered the other companies, the Chinese one, the Lebanese one and neyanaMhlanga all the three, the choice do you want to join Government in a consolidated company or do you want to stay out and go? Make your choice, the Chinese said they wanted to go, the Lebanese said they wanted to go, the South Africans said they wanted to go, Mbada ndeyema South Africans yana Mhlanga they wanted to go. Aaah, we said think again. They didn’t want consolidation hmmmm, so we said why would you resent consolidation it’s a get together, working together and then you share a product.
Because they used to pocket everything they got ivo anaMbada ivava. Alright your question is why has there been no change, well ah it’s because it’s much more recent, getting you know this new company together, the consolidated company together has taken time yet it had to have the machinery and in a number of cases also it has been taken to court and it tended to delay the process of its operations. It affected the speed with which it could begin its operations.
TZ: Thank you very much Your Excellency for being with us on this special programme. That brings us to the end of part one of the programme President Robert Mugabe at 93. Viewers note that we shall be bringing you Part Two where we will continue with this discussion.