Government spokesman, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo (JM), on Monday appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s HARDtalk programme where he was interviewed by anchor, Stephen Sackur (SS). We publish the full transcript of the interview . . .
SS: Jonathan Moyo, welcome to HARD Talk
JM: Thank you.
SS: Would you agree with the proposition that Zimbabwe is in desperate need of change?
JM: Well, it depends on what you mean by change. We are a country which is a product of revolutionary change and therefore revolution has always been part of our project, and we are still implementing the agenda of our revolution.
SS: Hard to embrace the notion of Zimbabwe changing very much when you have a President who has ruled this country for three-and-a-half decades and who is now aged 91.
JM: He is the one who led the Independence struggle; led the revolution and, as I just said, the agenda of the revolution is still with us. We are better off as a country with the leadership that understands our revolution and its objectives than with a leadership which may be in fact at odds with the objectives of that revolution.
SS: But I come back to the inevitability of ageing and succession. I mean the fact is that Robert Mugabe, an immense figure in this country and across Africa, is 91 years old and it is quite clear that in the politics of Zimbabwe today there is a real focus on what next, the succession, and it seems to me it is beginning to destabilise politics in this country.
JM: Well, that proposition would make sense if you were not looking at it against the background of a very recent election. Hardly 20 or so months ago, we had a general election and it was up to the people of Zimbabwe to address precisely that question. And it is common cause that in overwhelming numbers they addressed that question in favour of President Mugabe. Which means that as far as the Zimbabwean people are concerned, it is about having a leader who has the wisdom to understand precisely the sort of challenges that our country faces today rather than having a leader who may be young but foolish.
SS: Barely, you know it is barely what, five of six months since one of the vice presidents of this country Joice Mujuru was unceremoniously removed from office with the wife of the President saying that she (Mujuru) was plotting to kill both the President and herself, Grace Mugabe and that, to quote Grace Mugabe, “dogs and fleas would not disturb her carcass”. That is instability, is it not?
JM: No that is political banter . . .
JM: …and Zimbabweans as human beings who engage in politics…
SS: But when you accuse the Vice President of trying to kill the President that’s not banter?
JM: Well, the fact of the matter is this is a statement coming from the run-up to our congress and it is a fact that there were quite some serious allegations which were not created by the First Lady but there were all over the place in the body politic. And it was very important to have a courageous person in the form of the First Lady Dr Mugabe to speak to that issue.
SS: With respect, and this is Joice Mujuru’s view on this, not one shred of evidence was produced to back the claims made by Grace Mugabe. Joice Mujuru said “a vociferous attempt has been made to portray me as a traitor, a murderer and a sellout and there is not one iota of evidence to give any credibility to these allegations”. What we see is vicious infighting now inside Zanu-PF, the ruling party.
JM: No, you saw a very spirited run- up to the congress which the ruling party holds every five years and it was very important that all the issues play out in the open and when that happens it is more evidence of a democracy at work rather than the allegation of instability.
SS: Let us talk a little bit about Emmerson Mnangagwa. He is now the heir-apparent after the Joice…
JM: That’s your view. Don’t state it as a fact.
SS: Well, he is the Vice President of the country, that’s not my view.
JM: He is a Vice President of the country, one of the two appointed by the President to assist him to implement the President’s agenda related to his pledges to the electorate…
SS: After Joice Mujuru was fired,
JM: No, no , no, I want to explain this . . .
SS: . . . was politically obliterated, Emmerson Mnangagwa by all accounts across this country is seen as the man who will be the next President.
JM: You can ask those who see him that way . . .
SS: Do you not see him that way?
JM: He is an appointed Vice President. The President did not appoint him so that he could succeed him. He appointed him so that he could assist him to implement the policy programme of the Government.
SS: Do you think that a man, and this is Mr Mnangagwa, who will always be associated with the massive abuse of human rights in the military campaign in the early 1980s which saw between 10 and 20 000 Ndebele people killed in Matabeleland, do you think he is the right man to take Zimbabwe forward in the 21st century?
JM: Look, it’s a strawman you are setting up and you are making a lot of assumptions without any evidence to support them. I repeat he has been appointed to assist the President. As for these associations you are alleging this is the stuff that you find in the newspapers. He is …
SS: It’s not just in the newspapers, it’s in the US State Department, it’s in a whole series of human rights reports from international organisations. We know for example that during this campaign, Mr Mnangagwa, he said, that he would shorten the stay on earth of any cockroaches who opposed Mr Mugabe. This now the man who is talked of as Zimbabwe’s next President. I just wonder if that is healthy.
JM: I want to repeat, this reference to him as the next President is yours and it is a burden that you should unravel for yourself and not state as a fact. However, it is also a fact we know as Zimbabweans that between 1980 and 1987 we went through a very dark period and a lot of things were done and said by elements of the political leadership including Emmerson Mnangagwa which are totally unacceptable…
SS: Forgive me for getting personal, but I believe you lost family members in that military campaign?
JM: Yes I did.
SS: And I just wonder whether you, personally, given your history, could countenance a man so closely associated with the mass killings becoming the next President of your country?
JM: What I can tell you is that before he departed, the late former Vice President Joshua Nkomo, who was much more involved with these issues that you are raising than yourself or anyone else who makes reference to them, entered into a Unity Accord which addressed those issues and we have learnt from that Unity Accord that it is far better to build bridges than to harbour grudges. It is not wise in politics to carry grudges with you.
SS: Just a final point on the leadership issue and then I want to move on to substantive policy areas, but on the leadership issue, late last year, I have already mentioned her but she became very significant in political terms that is the wife of the President: Grace Mugabe. She became the leader of the women’s movement inside Zanu-PF, many people began to see her as a potential future leader of the country and yet in recent weeks and months she’s played a very low profile. Is Grace Mugabe in your view as one of the most senior figures in Zanu-PF a future potential leader of this country?
JM: First of all it is a fact that she is a leader today not in future. The position of Secretary for Women’s League or Affairs is a leadership position in the ruling party and senior position at that. But if you are asking me is she a future President or some such thing, then of course you must know that it is always the people who decide that.
SS: Let’s talk about different challenging policy areas for this Government. One is human rights, you know because you have been Information Minister at various points over the last 14, 15 years that this Government, Zanu-PF Government, has been accused consistently of abusing human rights. Now in recent years there appears to have been some recognition in the international community that the record has improved somewhat but only in recent days we have seen another prominent anti-Government activist and campaigner, Itai Dzamara disappear . . . He was walking close to his home (and) he was abducted. He has not been seen for more than 50 days.
JM: Yes that’s very …
SS: Who took him?
JM: … that’s very sad and whoever took him, and we don’t know who took him, perhaps only those who took him and God know where he is. But the fact that one person disappears is obviously of concern to the Government and we have made our position as Government very clear. However, people disappear every day. You are mentioning one person but in fact we have quite some porous borders. A lot of people cross the border without our knowledge.
SS: This is the man who was staging a sit-in strike against the Mugabe government …
SS: …who demanded that the President resign…
JM: Indeed, indeed.
SS: …and you are telling me that it’s just coincidental he’s disappeared and that he may have run off across the border?
JM: Indeed, I mean we know only too well here in Zimbabwe for example that in the UK people are disappearing every day; some who would have been making public statements against the government there. They disappear, cross the borders, many borders and end up in Syria with the British government not know- ing.
SS: This now represents, this case of Mr Dzamara, it represents another dark cloud hanging over your relationship with those countries including the United States and the European Union who currently impose sanctions upon your Government because of your long record of abusing human rights. This is another problem you’ve got.
JM: Well, we do not hold the American government accountable to the very worrying loss of black lives in the United States at the hands of the police. Just right now there is a case going on in Baltimore involving a Mr Grey in some city …
SS: And the US authorities are held to account for that just as I am trying to hold you to account.
JM: …just like we are doing that and we don’t do it in a manner that spoils normal diplomatic relations. We do it in a manner that recognises the mutual responsibilities that states have under international law.
SS: All right, let’s talk about a different aspect of accountability then. Would you accept that your Government must accept responsibility for 15 years of disastrous economic mismanagement?
JM: You know what? It is common cause to everyone around the world that the period you are talking about saw an unprecedented onslaught against this country. And the British government and its allies imposed sanctions seeking to damage the economy in the hope of causing mass disaffection against the government … they wanted a failed state in Zimbabwe but as we see it today against the background of that 15-year period, Zimbabwe is not a failed state. They wanted the President to fail; the President is not a failed leader.
SS: It’s an economically failed state …
JM: No, it’s not.
SS: Seventy-two percent of Zimbabweans living below the poverty line according to the World Food Programme. Eighty percent of people without regular employment. More than 80 percent of people destined to work only in the informal sector. Let me show you this newspaper (brandishing The Daily News). This is today’s newspaper: “Zimbabwe reduced to a nation of vendors”. This is what your Government is delivering.
JM: Well you have picked a well-known opposition newspaper. I can do that in Britain, in America; anywhere in the world there is no shortage of lunatic fringe press in those countries. But let me tell me you one thing…
SS: I don’t need to read the newspapers to see that the economy in Harare …
JM: Well, that’s what you have just done.
SS: I know but it simply confirms what I see with my own eyes …
SS: You go outside this posh hotel…and you see that people in Harare are making a living subsisting in the illegitimate informal economy. It is the only way to survive.
JM: Two points, two points. You have just picked a newspaper and not an economic report. Secondly, you have just been here 24 hours and you are posing as an expert on our economy. Which is the problem with people like you. You do not respect that a country has structures, a country has history. You have been here and you seen vendors but we have farmers here, you have not seen them who are doing wonderful…
SS: With respect I don’t pose as an economist but I read the data that economists produce. Agricultural production today compared with 30 years ago in Zimbabwe is drastically down. Other data…
JM: It is the opposite. The people who…
SS: Let me just finish my point.
SS: One more piece of data, more than 80 percent of Government revenues in this country today go on paying public sector wages. That is not sustainable.
JM: No, you know what Stephen, the data, the last one that you are pointing out, the fact that 82 percent of the Budget goes to the wage bill, is our data. This is the data we as Government through our Ministry of Finance have put on the table to say we need to do something about the public service and in general we need to do something about a budget that is a consumer budget in order to be able to fund infrastructural projects. But we are doing this against the background of a sanctions regime that was imposed by the British government and its allies and cost this country, this economy $50 billion.
SS: How do you work that out?
JM: This is data. $50 billion Stephen.
SS: I mean Zimbabweans it seems to me are being asked to believe by your Government that the economic disaster they are living through is all the fault of sanctions when today the reality is the EU sanctions are simply targeted against two individuals Robert and Grace Mugabe. How can they be destroying the entire economy?
JM: This is a reality which is hardly 12 months out of a period of 15 years within which your, the British government, and its allies systematically sought regime change here in ways that have no example anywhere on our continent.
SS: You rejected my proposition that you, your Government has had a disastrous economic record over the last 15 years, rejected that. So why do you think in recent years up to one and a half million Zimbabweans have voted with their feet and left this country most of them to go and try and find work in South Africa? Why do you think they have done that?
JM: We do not deny that the last 15 or so years bar one or two of the last years have seen quite some structural dislocation in our country and…
SS: You’ve lost more than 10 percent of your population.
JM: Yes, but you know what? That is the bad news. The good news is that many of them are coming back. Many of those are coming back. They are beginning to find opportunities here and some of them are experiencing horrible conditions in some countries most recently in South Africa where they were subjected to xenophobic attacks.
SS: I’ve just been in South Africa for a number of days and I’ve actually spoken to a lot of Zimbabweans and despite the xenophobic attacks that you refer to, they say to a man and woman to me, they want to stay in South Africa because in South Africa they can get work, they can make some money, they can send some money to their families in a way that is absolutely impossible for them in today’s Zimbabwe.
JM: It is their right to be wherever they are. We have millions of Britons outside the United Kingdom and you will not have Zimbabwe becoming the first country that will keep all its citizens. There are reasons why people want to be where they are.
SS: But President Zuma – it is interesting, after the violence, the violence we saw in and around Durban and Johannesburg directed at African migrant workers some of whom were Zimbabwean – he said, “Look we condemn this, this is terrible this is not the South Africa we want to be”, but he also said, our neighbouring countries have their own responsibility to deliver economic and political conditions which will mean their people will not need or want to leave home. Our brothers and sisters, he said, in neighbouring countries, must be in a situation where they no longer need to leave their countries in search of a better life. That means there is a responsibility on you.
JM: Look, the primary responsibility for any government, ours included, is the protection of its citizens and the livelihood of its citizens. But you cannot in one and the same breath say there have been these horrible attacks but you don’t condone them, however why are people here and not in their countries? That is precisely what xenophobia is. If we were talking about South Africans…
SS: No it’s not. That’s not what xenophobia is.
JM: That’s what it is. That’s the…
SS: Why is that xenophobia?
JM: Because you are actually saying “don’t come here, stay in your country”.
SS: No. He is just saying to countries like yours that there is a great need for reform, for change so that Zimbabweans can live in peace and prosperity in their own country.
JM: You know we are exporting a lot of jobs to South Africa. The South African economy is what it is first historically because of cheap labour from countries such as ours.
SS: You have used some extraordinary inflammatory language about the South Africans. You have said, “Xenophobia today in South Africa can easily mutate into genocide tomorrow”. You have accused South Africa of Afrophobia. What is your problem with South Africa?
JM: No, I have, actually we, don’t have any problems with South Africans. In fact, we also don’t have any …
SS: Well to use the word genocide…
JM: You asked to the question isn’t it? I want to repeat, we have no problems with South Africa or South Africans. They are our comrades, our brothers and our sisters. We were in the trenches together. But we have serious problems with those lynch mobs doing what they did in full view of television cameras …
SS: So does Jacob Zuma.
JM: …if you allow that to happen without condemning it outright, without condemning it unconditionally you sow seeds of genocide, this is a fact. If you have a king who is very influential saying that foreigners must pack their bags and go, and likening them to lice and ants, that is what happened. It is similar to what happened in…
SS: Do you think anybody in South Africa is prepared to take lectures from a representative of the Mugabe Government when it comes to allegations of violence, of extraordinary repression of people including people of a different ethnicity inside their own country? Is Zimbabwe in any position at all to take moral high ground on this sort of issue?
JM: It is not about taking moral high ground, it is about defending our people. I myself as Jonathan Moyo come from a constituency in Tsholotsho that was profoundly affected by what was happening in South Africa. I have a responsibility to represent that constituency and I do so without fear or favour and without owing anyone an apology.
SS: Final thought, we have talked a lot about the political situation here, we have talked about the economic situation and we have talked about the fact that there is going to be before too long a transition. Are you confident in the circumstances of today’s Zimbabwe that the transition when it comes is going to be peaceful and stable?
JM: Well, look I don’t know what transition you are talking about…
SS: Well, of course you do!
JM: No, I don’t.
SS: This country has been dominated by one man for 35 years…
JM: But that one man…
SS: … that will soon come to an end it is just nature.
JM: Look, it’s not like we are a monarchy like you. Getting into power here is not by inheritance it is by election, it’s the people. We would be feeling some pressure if we did not have the constitutional means for acquiring power in this country. Power in this country is acquired through a democratic election and when we have those means in place, honestly it boggles the mind as to why anyone would suggest that there is something we somehow should worry about facing us in the near future.
SS: Jonathan Moyo we have to end there but thank you for being on HARDtalk.
JM: You’re most welcome, pleasure.