Tazzen Mandizvidza (TM): Hello and welcome to the programme, “The President@92”, this is a special programme in which we talk to the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe who turned 92 on the 21st of February and was recently in Masvingo for the 21st February Movement celebrations where he celebrated his birthday this time with the youths. My name is Tarzan Mandizvidza and my guest on this special programme is his Excellency Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
TM: Your Excellency, thank you for joining us on this special programme.
President Mugabe. Thank you.
TM: Your Excellency at 92 muri kunzwa sei panyama nepandangariro?
President: At 92 ndirikunzwa sei? Makore makumi mapfumbamwe nemaviri? Ndiri kunzwa masimba ekuti ah, ah ndaakusvika semunhu arikumhanya murace hee, avakuda kusvika. Pandavakuda kusvika unoziva kuti ndepapi? Pazana! Saka ndasarirwa nenhano ngani? Tsere chete.
TM: Are you coping as a leader, as a parent, as a President?
President: Yes, as how every man copes isn’t it? As a parent vana vakura, vachiri kuchikoro vaviri, mumwe akachata. So there are two who are still our dependants and therefore we still have that responsibility as parents to see them through their education. Bellarmine is the last born, Tinotenda is the other boy. He has turned 24 now but he is at a university in Dubai doing architecture, studying architecture that is. Bellarmine, we hope he will get through his A-Level this year and we hope he goes to university. He hasn’t quite decided what to do, sometimes he says he wants to be a lawyer and other times he wants to be an accountant or something, etc, he is yet to make up his mind.
As a leader, well, we continue to lead in the same way as before except that each phase of our leadership depending on the circumstances must take into account of course the demands of the situation. Now 2015 has been the most trying situation or year for me because of the fact that I was not just a Zimbabwean leader, I also became the leader of SADC and the leader of the African Union and I was like a table standing on three legs but I said no, I really am standing on four because the fourth leg is myself. I had to lead myself, so there I was, that triangular leadership was very challenging, I had to keep going to ensure that I did not lose my focus as a national leader. But at the same time, also realised that I had to pay attention to issues that had to do with Sadc and right at the top of course, the continental issue and, above all, these,, were the circumstances naturally that confronted us.
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We had not just meetings of the three fora, we also had visits, you see, to cope with and one of the most important visits was that of the President of China, President Xi Jinping. I met him in France at the climate conference and a visit was to take place on the same day I left France to come home and that is the first visit I am talking about, visit to Zimbabwe. And he was coming just behind me, so we had to leave Paris at midnight, we arrived about seven or eight hours before he did. We had a bit of rest, we managed to receive him at the airport and managed to meet him here in this building (his Munhumutapa offices) later on but at the same time give him a send-off to South Africa.
Now to start a visit, a one-day visit in Pretoria and behind him, I was following him, for the China-Africa meeting in Johannesburg. And so that one was quite hectic but we managed to cope with it and the meeting in South Africa was a very good one. And so there it was, and obviously we had to give our own farewell speech as the Chairman of the African Union to the last session of the AU and that was the speech which you all read about, the speech which was so welcomed, which drew so much applause from the Heads of State who were attending that session.
And I think we have managed to raise the name and profile of Zimbabwe and nobody will doubt that Zimbabwe is a country which has seasoned politicians, revolutionaries and people with a given direction. And an enlightened direction at that. But we are glad that it also gave us that leadership of the African Union, a chance to acquaint ourselves with the problems of a number of African countries including Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea- Conakry and to attend that pledging meeting with (United Nations) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, where pledges were made to assist these three countries which had been hit by that epidemic to reconstruct and start a new life again but we also were able to attend the inauguration meetings or shall I say ceremonies where some presidents were being sworn in and apart from that we also visited as Head of State in a number of African countries. So it was also educative and informative to me as indeed a source of inspiration and also an occasion which enabled me to pass on some ideas of how we in Africa, united as we are, can transform our socio-economic systems to get our countries to develop and Zim-Asset ideology you know.
We managed to get it through to Africa and through the AU and individually, bilaterally and to countries of Africa. In Africa almost everybody is now talking about adding value, beneficiation, industrialisation and that is what Zim-Asset is all about.
TM: That’s quite a hectic schedule that you had to go through, but are you, are you still doing your morning exercises?
President: Morning exercise! Yes, of course to keep alive and also to enable me to resurrect when they say I am dead. You know to come back to life when people begin saying that you are dead. It takes quite a lot and every January, I must prepare the necessary exercises for resurrection because I know I will be destined for death, every January. So now I am dead alive.
TM: Your Excellency, what has been the impact on the family of Amai Dr Grace Mugabe joining you full-time in politics, two politicians at home?
President: Yes, two politicians at home, she made up her mind. She asked me whether I approved of her to join politics and I said it was entirely up to her. If she wants to join politics, well and good, it’s rough going. I don’t want you to say, I said tomorrow. And this I had said to my own relatives, my own sisters and my own brothers earlier on, that “Ah it’s you who got us or got me into this trouble, now look what’s happening to me”.
No. Get into it and swim into it, it’s rough waters and, yes, it has proved to be rough waters but she can cope with it, she is a rough swimmer as well. And well, well she is very mature, she can take the criticism but some of the criticisms are a bit too abusive, mamwe ndeekutsvinya, mamwe ndeekunyomba which is not in keeping with our custom.
Yes, for the Internet it’s all rotten there absolutely and I don’t know what people are responsible for those abuses but kana vari vana vedu vakakudzwa mumhuri dzedu muno muZimbabwe tinoti, ah havana kukudzwa patsika dzedu dzechivanhu. Kune zvinoera kutaurwa nevana vadiki but mazwi ekutuka, akarema, anotyisa, nepachiKristu futi hazvitaurwe zvimwe zvacho zvirikuenda kuInternet.
It is an Internet of dirty and filthy language. Ini ndinotongozvinzwa ndaakudzwa nevamwe and I don’t have any perception or interest of wanting myself to be directly linked with the Internet.
TM: But Your Excellency, what has been the impact of that on the children, especially the two boys vamasarirwa navo?
President: We pretend that they don’t see or hear what is happening but we know they do. But they don’t say it to us and which shows that they are maturing now. They can take it. They have grown up sufficiently. They should be able to absorb it and know that where there are positives, there are bound to be negatives and it is not always the right things that are said or done.
Wrong things are also being said and being done. That is how the world is. There is virtue, there is vice, there is good behaviour, there is bad behaviour, good conduct and bad conduct and that is how it is. That’s life.
TM: From the family let me take you now to the economic hardships your critics are saying you are failing to come up with workable solutions to turn around the economy. How do you respond to that?
President: No, we are not failing, but there are difficulties that face us. Running an economy is not just a matter of, you know, having capital as it is and then producing products. You have to trade products and trade has got to be facilitated. It is in the facilitation of trade and the securing of investments and the necessary failings from your exports that we face a problem, a huge problem.
We don’t have our own currency, we are using American currency. When we export, sorry when we import say vehicles be it from America, South Africa, Brazil – vehicles for example and want to pay for them, it’s American dollar that we use. Questions are asked when the money gets to New York, where it is from and if it’s from Zimbabwe. No. Similarly, if payments are to be made to us if these are to Zimbabwe, America says no because all the payments must be made through their own banking system. All the payments whether these are for imports or earnings from our exports, it’s a same route and because we have sanctions, are sanctioned America says no. So you have a country or countries the European countries are better behaved than the Americans on this one.
Anyway, the American dollar is not the currency of Europe, but when we pay Europe what we have here is the American dollar. So the same story happens. So we do not print the American dollar and do not control its flow, international flow, the regulation of that flow is by America. And so your progress is inhibited. You have to find ways of circumventing, you know these impediments that face us in trading with other countries and that just slowed us tremendously.
Lending in some cases made things quite impossible but we have managed to sustain our economy nevertheless. Then, of course, we have got some in-built forms of resistance, you have in the same system some people who don’t think the way you do, and have different ideas and do not, therefore, take the same stance as yourself. They are slow or they think the policies we are pursuing are not the correct ones and they are not happy and you have also quite some level of corruption in the system, private and public.
We are looking at how we can get rid of this corruption. We have just recently established the Anti-Corruption Commission, and we hope it will help us in eradicating – if it is possible – or reducing the level of corruption taking place in the country. Economies function on the basis of inputs either way, inputs that come to you by way of investments and what become inputs by what you export to others.
Now what comes to you by way of earnings will depend on the vigour and performance of your economy; the vigorous performance of your economy. If it’s performing very well and you are able as I said to export and export freely there is free flow of goods, mobility of goods as they say then obviously you are doing well provided the costs that you are able to perform freely also. And then there is the issue of investment of course, investment by way of capital coming from other countries, countries may feel that your policies are not that encouraging to them.
Currently, countries would want to know the meaning and significance of our policy of indigenisation and empowerment amount to and we are trying to explain this that when we say indigenise, we mean total ownership, empowerment but that indigenisation is not about ownership of resources in the first place, resources that we have, but when we do business with regard to them, we are saying come if it’s mining, minerals, the resources are ours, we own them in the first place. That ownership must be recognised because we must get them out of the ground with your help and you are prepared to be partners with us in that process of getting them out of the ground.
We say your share is 49 percent as against our share of 51 percent. In other words, from our total ownership of these commodities, which is an indigenous one, we are prepared to reward you for your task to the extent of 49 percent. But we are aware that it’s your own resource that you are bringing into our environment and you are establishing a factory here, no that doesn’t apply at all.
You bring your own oil for example, we don’t have oil here, you want to process it, we don’t apply our indigenisation and empowerment law to the same extent we do where the resources are our own natural resources here then we leave it to pure negotiations that you want to go into whatever manpower you would want to employ. It’s your business but we would expect that you will be fairly employing our people then if it is okay we regard the numbers you employ in your business.
Empowerment, yes we want our people empowered, given jobs, but that is not just the task we demand of investors. It’s a task that we ourselves on our own must ensure is discharged, establish enterprises, companies ensure that our people are employed, are empowered therefore give jobs to our people and give them also jobs at various levels including the level of management, in some cases encourage our people to undertake businesses where they do that business for themselves entirely.
In that case it’s not the State employing them, or the State might be sponsoring them or just supporting them financially or technologically but the business is entirely their own. It might be a mining proposition, the gold that they are mining where the mineral might be gold is entirely their own.
They will sell it to Fidelity, to the Reserve Bank and at the end of the day smelt it and they smelt it and sell it after it has been smelted, that’s better and a better price for it but is entirely their own. So you have State enterprises, but the majority we would hope are private enterprises in a number of areas.
We have decided recently that in the mining sector, the mining of diamonds be reserved for the State, be a matter for the State alone. The State might decide to engage certain experts, perhaps because they have the necessary technology as mining engineers or metallurgists and employ them as experts or technocrats. That will not make them owners of the business. We will give them the shares, you know.
The State will now own all the diamonds in the country and cut and polish them. But in cutting and polishing them we would require also the services of others who can do the cutting and polishing because that becomes now an industrial arena where we can employ quite a number of people. However, in regard to production our consolidated diamond mining entity is going to undertake that.
TM: Your Excellency, let me stop you there, talking of diamonds just a few years back you were upbeat about the abundant reserves of diamonds in the country but up to now it looks like we have not seen much from diamonds. Then, secondly, this move now to say the State will be in charge of ownership of diamonds what has brought about this change?
President: Precisely what you have said in the first place we have not received much from the diamond industry at all. Not much by way of earnings. I don’t think we have exceeded $2 billion or so, no and yet we think that well over $15 billion or so have been earned in that area. So, where have our carats been going, the gems? There has been quite a lot of secrecy in handling them and we have been blinded ourselves, that means our people whom we expected to be our eyes and ears have not been able to hear or see what was going on.
A lot of swindling and smuggling has taken place and the companies that have been mining, virtually, I want to say robbed us of our wealth. That is why we have decided that this area should be a monopoly area and only the State should be able to do the mining in that area. You cannot trust private companies in that area, none at all. And we should have learnt from the experiences of countries like Botswana, Angola and Namibia, etc. We might go partners with leading diamond company, one which is already well established. Fine, we may be able to do that but on good terms.
Botswana was telling us their deal, that is President (Ian) Khama that they work with De Beers and they had had to demand that they get more than 70 percent of the earnings that are made by De Beers because they reckon that over years, De Beers has been having a lion’s share of their diamond wealth and this is what we are trying to do now. Start afresh. After all, the really kimberlite mining has not been done, it was all alluvial so far, just doing the sands, the loose earth and the conglomerate of course, cutting the stones through and then getting whatever carats, that is what the Chinese company Anjin was doing.
TM: Stopping them, let me focus on the Chinese company, how has this affected Zimbabwe’s relationship with China?
President: I don’t think it has affected any of the relations adversely at all, I don’t think so, I told President Xi Jinping that we were not getting much from the company and we didn’t like it anymore in this country, so we wanted it to go back, I told him that, here in this house.
TM: Talking of the Chinese, Your Excellency and the issue of investment, we have seen the efforts you have made to lure investment into Zimbabwe in line with the Zim-Asset programme talking of the Chinese and the Russians, they are ready to move in and invest. But your critics have started to say this talk of investment might just be a pie in the sky. When is this investment going to come?
President. But they have been investing, hasn’t the story been told of what they are doing? People might say the investment is not at a high pitch but you don’t start on a high pitch. No, investment does not start that way. It starts low, on a low pitch and step by step it goes up as it gains more and more confidence. We have the Russians kuMakwiro, Selous, they are doing platinum there, they were in Chimanimani, doing diamonds and gold and then diamonds but now diamonds are now a monopoly of the State.
As for the Chinese, well surely people know the companies the Chinese have established in this country, I have just been talking about Anjin which was doing diamonds in Chiadzwa, but there have been quite a number of others building here, building there and we started with the Chinese, they built our stadium, they built other smaller places and we wanted them to build a hospital, and they said they would rather finish work with doctors in Chitungwiza.
TM: Let me take you to the Zim-Asset blueprint which is being implemented, are you satisfied with the pace of its implementation, can we say we are moving towards a success story?
President: Yes, you don’t need a success story the moment you start on a project or programme and you must be given time to unroll it, unfold it, to roll it and unfold it as time goes on and it’s only after you have gone, say, halfway that you examine how far you have gone, whether the pace you have taken, the thrust you have made has given you the result that you expected and you planned for in the first place.
But let people give us a little more time, the programmes, proposals are not miracles you see, are not feats, they don’t achieve their results within just a short time period. It’s a five-year plan that we have, while, as I see midway that is three and half years or three years after the plan has started and then you may be able to assess the effectiveness, efficiency and competence of your efforts and say we are succeeding or we are not succeeding.
But the Ministry of Industry will tell you that quite a number of industries, which were folding up in Bulawayo and elsewhere are now picking up, vanaDavid Whitehead, vanaDunlop, etc – they are all on their feet. But this is not to say we are where we wanted to be. We are not yet there as I said much earlier we have sanctions to cope with and let it be understood that we are not as free to do things in this country as our neighbours are.
Only recently the Americans re-imposed their sanctions on us. Europe also imposed sanctions on us or lifted part but America didn’t lift a thing. And this is so, that must be understood. There is a negative side in our environment that we continue to fight against. To say no, give us way, allow us to pass through and constantly we have roadblocks, we are stopped on the way. But we keep ourselves going and ensuring that our community remains alive especially during a period like we have had this year where the rains were, at the beginning, were sparse and were visited by El Nino and our crops went dry in the fields, so it’s a year of hunger, but we have taken steps, effective steps of the nature that will enable us to feed our people and to get all along in the difficulties of the year in the hope that the year 2017 will not be as bad as this year.
Like just now we have good rains coming. They may not do any good to any of our crops that have withered already and it’s late to plant crops like maize, but we still welcome them because the grass grows. At least our animals will thrive, both wild and domestic, and perhaps we may at the end of it also be able to plant one of those crops like beans which don’t need a long season.
TM: Your Excellency, talking of drought, you have said Government has taken steps to ensure that the people do not die of hunger. But usually whenever there is an issue of food distribution it is always allegations that it is used as a political tool. How do you assure Zimbabweans that politics does not come into food distribution?
President: How do we ensure that politics does not come in? We never talk of any politics. When we distribute food, food is distributed to the people regardless of their affinities. In the rural areas you do not go asking people are you Zanu-PF, are you not? No, we do not mind the politics of the people. It does not matter to which party they belong. Whether it be MDC-T or MDC-Z or what? Or People First or People Second or People Third… We just give people.
TM: Still looking at this drought situation that we are facing in the region, are we likely to see maybe an adjustment in policies on land and agriculture in line with this phenomenon?
President: Sure, it is already our policy that we undertake our agriculture that is resort to irrigation system that requires water, requires dams. But when the rains fall like this. If they are heavy enough, we know that our dams will retain some water. And we have been trying to acquire the necessary equipment for our irrigation to take place, already with what we managed to get from Brazil, we have distributed this to so many cooperatives which have been lucky enough to have dams, big or small and some of them have reported very good results, excellent results. The more we do that I think, I think the more we guard ourselves against El Nino in the future.
TM: Let’s now move on to political issues. Lately there has been an escalation of infighting within Zanu-PF. Is the party still holding?
President: Very much so. The infighting has been peripheral really. Although we complain, some of us at the top who are in the leadership that some of our leaders are responsible here and there. But right at the grassroots and the middle system of the party, it’s very intact although we have these quarrels that show themselves mainly here in Harare. You don’t hear much of them except in the urban areas in Harare here, Gweru, Masvingo and sometimes just a bit in Mutare. In the rural areas where the majority people are, there is silence and quiet.
Yes we don’t like them. They are some of them personal. Some of them based on very little on regional ambitions. Some people abuse the region or the tribe. But that has been very little in our party. There’s been people wanting to be what they are not. And wanting to push others out of place so they can get there. And the system of passing these votes against persons you don’t like, sometimes persons you think are holding you back. You pass a vote of no confidence. And the person goes and you think you can take their place. Some of the things are childish.
But we have said whatever their cause, wherever they are happening they are affecting the party to some extent, but not in any substantial way but then we would want to see the party avoid them completely and get better united. And you can see the small papers which are good reading for a minute and then you throw into the bin, have been thriving on these small quarrels and sometimes creating them or wanting to create some. And even magnifying the effect of these quarrels in terms of their effects on little parties. All the ambitions of those who want to get into the (inaudible).
Anyway, they have not affected us very much, but the party, the people’s party will always have negative elements. You can’t have everyone move in a perfect direction. There will be others who will always be troublesome elements. But we are not short of members. Those we see are troublesome in the party we chuck them out of the party and we are not short of members. We don’t cry for members; they can go and form a People this, a People that or MDC this MDC that. The segmentation you get in the area of opposition parties.
Some think we are afraid of them we are not at all. Anyway let’s have that opposition. We want that opposition. It’s an opposition for nothing. They don’t oppose things that are substantial and all of them, if you look at them, the opposition parties of MDC, down to the lately formed one, what do they call it? People First or Last? They just have one target – let’s remove Zánu-PF – let’s remove Zanu-PF, did you form a party in Zimbabwe just to remove Zanu-PF, or to transform the socio-economic system and address the needs of the people.
We are there, we are the only ones who speak about the needs of the people and how we want to transform them. We are the only ones with policies, Zim-Asset and others. They only want you talking about how we can make our diamonds save our people, make our gold save our people. We talk of empowerment, indigenisation, we are not talking about how to remove MDC, or how to remove this and those little things can come. We know they will go and live in the wilderness, where little ants and other biting insects are known to live, fine.
TM: But Your Excellency, there is talk of a grand coalition of these political parties against Zanu-PF and meanwhile we are talking of infighting in Zanu-PF, is Zanu-PF ready to meet such a coalition?
President: Of course, we are. A grand coalition, it includes zero plus zero plus zero plus zero plus zero, grand zeros, what do they amount to? You are afraid of them? The naughts, no. They don’t even amount to add as if they were one plus another and another.
TM: Let me take you to another issue Your Excellency, what is the relationship between the party Zanu-FP and war veterans? I am asking this in relation to recent events?
President: What is the party and war veterans? You are putting the war veterans there and the party there. The war veterans are part of the party, the war veterans are within the party. We are the war veterans, I am a war veteran myself. So you mean the welfare of the war veterans. Yes, we have been very worried about their welfare. The welfare of some of them who are not employed, some have grown old. The party being just the sponsor of Government have been urging Government to pay the fees, whether these are school fees or health fees and look at the families of the war veterans and this has not been going well in Government and we are sorry about this one.
I was just talking to (Cde Chris) Mutsvangwa, who is minister and telling him that I will talk to Cde (Sydney) Sekeramayi tomorrow so that we have a meeting with the war veterans perhaps next week, properly called. We don’t want them just to come in this irregular manner kungozvisunda sezvavakaita musi uya uya. Aiwa. We know they are orderly people, they are well disciplined. We want to hear from them, how they are coping and what their problems are.
That’s right. They are within the party province by province. They are within the systems of the party, within the organs of the party as members of the party generally. So they don’t stand aloof but as an organisation for purposes of their welfare yes, we say, because we want to give them the treatment that they deserve and this treatment has not always been given to them and I will ensure myself that we look at their problems very positively and see what we can do.
I mean the things like fees and giving them food, giving them hospital fees that they need to pay. Those are humanitarian needs and you can’t say you don’t have money for those. No. I don’t want to hear that one. Let us hear that the message of we have no money, maybe for your money to travel to Johannesburg yes, but to say no money for food?
But we must give them jobs, but as we began our land reform programme, we stated that wherever we are apportioning land, 20 percent of it must first go to the war veterans – throughout the country. Then also naturally we ensured that we did assist them, we gave jobs to them, some qualified for the jobs, some may not have qualified because they had the least education but we also made provisions for their education and the scholarship which we ran with Minister (Chris) Mushohwe, and the Presidential Scholarship Programme and (George) Charamba we always ensured that the ones we gave preference to first were the children of war veterans.
Province by province, district by district, even where they did not have enough points to enter our universities, if they had six points, five or four (points) and we know that with those points they qualified to enter South African universities because the entrance in South Africa is matriculation which is equivalent to five years of O-Level which is below A-Level. So we still sent them and they distinguished themselves with just four points.
And then back home we still ensure that the few of them who came to us here and there with children to go to school we helped them. But we wanted them especially and what do you call it? Beam, under Beam to be treated very fairly under Beam. But Beam soon ran out of money. Now it is that story, running out of money, running out of money which I don’t like. I think it has been exaggerated. Running out of money in the meantime some of our employees in the civil service area have been treated fairly and properly.
Yes, they may have been paid late salaries but nevertheless, the salaries have been forthcoming. The allowances to the families of war veterans in some cases have been zero and I don’t like that. We only get to know when they tell us. That should not have happened at all or should never happen. Then of course we want them to be righted.
Earlier on we tried to establish co-operatives for them but you see co-operatives are a proposition that is very difficult to keep intact because if 10 people are members of a co-operative and are expected to work alike, make the same contribution in terms of their skills to the co-operative sooner or later some start not giving their skills, absenting themselves, not working as hard as others and the few who work hard and consistently start giving in then you have quarrels and there is that breakdown of the co-operative eventually. But we have tried. There is need also for the training of the war veterans. We try to give them that necessary training at various institutions, Chaminuka, etc.
We have tried our best. In some cases we have also wanted them to undertake businesses .We wanted them to be part of the Telecel organisation which (James) Makamba and his relative Mai (Jane) Mutasa monopolised. They had a niche there but they were pushed out. I am sure they will be telling us new stories so on and so forth. We would also want suggestions from them.