via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Robert Mugabe’s lost interview found by Itai Gwatidzo Mushekwe 31 January 2014
The Telescope News retrieves a full transcript of Mugabe’s television interview, with Canadian broadcaster, OMNI Television. The interview took place in Harare, in December 2006 but was barred from being broadcast on national television. Many thanks to Jonathan Roth, the Canadian media executive who did the interview back then. We hope, the transcript can help fellow Zimbabweans to decipher Mugabe’s thoughts and real political feelings.
Robert Mugabe: The Interview
V/O: Zimbabwe is blessed with some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. Home to one of teh seven wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe had long been considered on og the most prosperous and well run nations on the continent. That was until year 200 when white-owned farms were seized by the government, plunging the country into social and economic chaos. Ever since what was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa is wracked by food and fuel shortages.. Inflation thats now the worst in the world at nearly 11 hundred percent per month…. A life expectancy that’s only in the mid 30s… and above all – massive political turmoil led by the country’s President – Robert Mugabe.
President Robert Mugabe is in his early 80s. Considered by many to be one of the worst dictators in the world – with Zimbabwe all but cut-off from the west – He’s been in power since Independence and the start of black majority rule in 1980. However he never thought he’d be leading Zimbabwe.
Mugabe: One doesn’t foresee the events that usually take place after the main event has been achieved which was our independence….the rest of the things, of course, become the effect of the greater event.
Mugabe: ….but as we fought this struggle, we were not thinking of positions at all, we were thinking of the target that is the objective, main objective, getting our independence, getting our freedom, and that was it.
Roth: I think a big question that’s been in the minds of a lot of people, are you planning on retiring?
Mugabe: (laughs) I’ll retire of course, someday, but it all depends on the circumstances, and I can’t retire if my party is going to be in shambles. But, any day we feel we are ready for that retirement, we – the party that is, feel we are ready for it, sure.
Roth: Are you concerned that if you do retire someone like the International Criminal Court might chase you or on the other hand that you might have a situation similar to what’s happened it Zambia where your political successor tries to go after you to, you know, make political points in a way.
Mugabe: No, I have no fear of any kind, none at all. I don’t see any outsider come here to arrest us, what for? It would amount to interference in our domestic affairs, and this is what we have resisted all long.
Mugabe: And why should Canada of all countries, you know, be that irregular. We have taken Canada, in spite of all that’s happened in the Commonwealth, its conduct of affairs, its behavior towards us has been proper.
Roth: You have good relations with the government of Canada at this point?
Mugabe: Well, I wouldn’t call them good relations, but they’re not bad either.
V/O: The biggest complaint Mr. Mugabe faces is that he’s guilty of Human Rights abuses. Organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – along with Western governments and the United Nations have all accused Zimbabwe of heinous human rights abuses. But Mr. Mugabe doesn’t quite see it that way.
Mugabe: The West is subjective in its definition, and we feel they should be objective about it. If they don’t like a particular leader, the best way of getting at him is to find him guilty of violating human rights. And, this is what is happening. Once you have that kind of psych, that kind of mentality, then there is no objectivity about it in the final analysis, no justice along the way. And so we do not accept the way they interpret, the West interprets the whole system of, or philosophy of human rights.
Roth: A person like Saddam Hussein who’s now in prison and quite possibly facing execution, you know did a lot of bad things, and I don’t think there’s much debate about that.
Mugabe: sure, sure…. (nods)
Roth: But you have other leaders who are still in power that have good relations with America and the U.K….
Mugabe: Well this is it….
Roth: But it seems to be there’s a relationship between human rights and…..
Mugabe: (interrupts) Why get at Saddam Hussein alone? And now that Bush has behaved worse than Saddam Hussein, what’s going to happen to him?
Roth: Do you believe that Mr. Bush should stand for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court?
Mugabe: Yes, yes. All these thousands who have died in Iraq who need not have died at all, because at the end of the day we ask the question, you told the world that Saddam Hussein was guilty of amassing weapons of mass destruction, but later you say no, he hadn’t done so. And yet in the process, so many people have died. You must be arrested for it, arraigned for it, and tried.
Roth: There seems to be, at least developing, this, I would call it almost an alignment of nations that seems to be aligning against the Western powers and Zimbabwe being, you know, quite possible one of them. What’s happening there, and what do you think the end game is in this, realignment of power in a way?
Mugabe: I think the issue is a very simple one. The Western countries were, only yesterday, our colonizers. They suppressed us, they suppressed our systems, denied us majority rule, denied us what they call democracy now. And we fought for it, died for it, suffered for it, and won it. So after we got our freedom, in relating to us, they have found new ways of dealing with us. We’re still poor, we’re still adjusting, trying to transform our economies, and so many of us, naturally, have expected that the West would be forthcoming with some aid that can assist us in transforming our economies. They say well, unless you do this, unless you do the issues of human rights, governance and all that nonsense they talk about…. if they read that you are a strong man who is apposed to them, then they will use all these instances – bad governance, the violation of human rights, dictatorship, etc. etc. as reasons for dealing with you. Tarnishing you first, and if necessary, imposing sanctions on your country and getting the rest of the world to look at you in the same way as they do.
V/O: Iran is a nation in a very similar situation to Zimbabwe – Rich with resources but isolated from the West. Mr. Mugabe recently met with the Iranian President – but despite being on friendly terms he wouldn’t support Iran’s rumored development of nuclear weapons.
Mugabe: I wouldn’t support it, I don’t support the position of nuclear arms by anyone, but I would understand it. I would say, they are not the first to have nuclear arms, a nuclear bomb, other countries have developed it. And the countries that shout most against small countries having the bomb are those who already have it, so I would justify it. But at the same time I would hope that they won’t proceed to use it.
Roth: China’s been one of your big supporters for years ever since, you know dating back to your liberation struggle, and you were recently there. Is there any concern on the part of African countries and Zimbabwe in particular that China might, down the road, have a more colonialist attitude towards Africa. I mean, they seem to be involved in Africa because they’re going after resources and those sorts of things and the West criticizes China’s involvement here because they say there’s no strings attached in terms of human rights and those sorts of things. But is there any concern from African governments like your own that China may, someday exhibit a colonial attitude towards Africa, and Zimbabwe in particular?
Mugabe: No we look at China from the point of view of its historical relations with us and we have related to it for more than 30 years. They were the principal supplier of arms to us as we fought our guerilla struggle here, and they never, never insisted that one day when we are free we should repay, you know, pay back in any form, what they had assisted us with, no. They say to us this was coming by way of charity to us. They wanted to assist us to get our freedom. They also had been assisted by the Soviet Union but they used to condemn the Soviet Union for what it did after they, China, had achieved its own freedom, its own status, by demanding that China should pay for each and every piece of arm that they got from the Soviet Union. They say they paid, but they (Soviet Union) said no. They never demanded that from us at all, and after independence they have been assisting us in various ways, and we regard them as true friends. Yes, now we want to see cooperation take place on the basis of partnership. We work on joint…. we work on programs on a joint partnership basis and sure it’s an enterprise, a mining enterprise, that is the basis of our joint partnership. Yes of course they will benefit from the mineral, the equity they will put into it as capital and then the profit that accrues we share. So we feel definitely that they are very sincere, that they are not shylocks.
Roth: I do want to talk about what’s happening here in Zimbabwe because there’s been, I think, there’s been a lot of changes in the last 5, 6 years. When you first assumed power back in 1980, I think the life expectancy was over the age of 60, it’s now in the mid to late 30’s. I know AIDS has something to account for that – what has happened?
Mugabe: The life expectancy, well…. it’s just the HIV pandemic which has affected the lives of people. Just caught us by surprise, we didn’t know what disease it was, it was explained to us later on, I think it started in some countries to the north of us and we didn’t know what to do. We still don’t know what to do in order for us to get rid of it but we know what to do in order for us to avoid, you know, the effect.
Roth: Is the AIDS education in Zimbabwe…. is it good enough in your opinion?
Mugabe: Yes, there is awareness. We carry out AIDS awareness and that’s working, and apart from that we also have an AIDS levy that’s working, and of course the anti-retroviral we are producing some now here and that’s helping, and that why the incidence now has fallen down to, from some 27 to 18 percent.
Roth: But I have heard some people say that the statistic in Zimbabwe could be as high as 40 percent, in terms of prevalence of HIV infection.
Mugabe: No. no, no, no. That’s exaggerated of course. We are not the worst actually we are now the best insofar as controlling, you know, the pandemic is concerned.
V/O: In 2000 Mr. Mugabe helped orchestrate massive seizures of white owned farms in Zimbabwe. At the time – according to government figures – roughly 45 hundred white farmers owned 32% of teh country’s agricultural land. The ensuing chaos brought about the destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy and the advent of large-scale famine. But the Zimbabwean President still defends his decision.
Mugabe: It was the right thing for us to do, and we thank (British P.M. Tony) Blair for the mistake he made, you see, we always regarded the land issue as, shall I say, the number one grievance as we fought this struggle it was the top grievance of all. Lots of land, land here is a crucial asset, a crucial natural resource and we just can’t do it without it, we are attached to it, it means everything to us. And so, as we organized this struggle we used the land issue and built our struggle around it. And as we negotiated our independence at Lancaster house in 1979, this became quite an issue, an important issue. We were deadlocked on it. The British would say they couldn’t, they themselves alone could not find the money we needed, you see for land reform which included a compensation we had to pay to the farmers and we insisted that it was their responsibility to find all the money. It could never be fair for them to expect us to tax our poor people to give their land back. So we were deadlocked and the Americans, realizing that the conference was going to fail on this, because of this issue – and it was the (U.S. President Jimmy) Carter administration at the time it chipped in and they heard about it. We were invited to (unintelligible), was the Secretary General of the Commonwealth and the American ambassador told us that America would certainly give funds towards land reform and if these were combined with British funds they should be adequate.
Roth: Operation Clean Filth, that’s another thing that is definitely, umm, the West has seen that and wondered why, why you did that?
Mugabe: No, blowing things out of proportion.
Roth: Now, how many people were moved out of their homes, in your estimation?
Mugabe: Umm, well the numbers that Britain gave were exaggerated….
Roth: We’ve heard 700,000 to 800,000.
Mugabe: Of course not, that’s absolute nonsense. I don’t think the number was….I don’t think the number was more than a hundred thousand really….
V/O: According to Human Rights Organisations and The United Nations, atleast 700 thousand people lost their homes due to operation “Murambatsvina” or translated literally – “Operation clean filth.” The UN also reported that 2.4 million people were in some way impacted by forced evictions.
Mugabe: So we destroyed the slums here….shacks and slums, in anticipation of our putting up new buildings for the people whose slums have been, you know, destroyed. But others whom we knew were making money out of the slums we say no, you can’t run a business of that nature. You get back to your country home. And so this is it, we started building new homes.
Roth: Have they all been resettled at this point?
Mugabe: Yes, yes. Many have been but we still have to continue now with a program that requires, or that is based on the individuals acquiring stands and being assisted with funds. We establish a facility for them and they use that facility to build the houses themselves this time. The first phase, it was the government building houses
Roth: There was some….
Mugabe: (interrupts) but now it is the owners themselves who are assisted to build the houses, yes.
Roth: There was some criticism from organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Forum, organizations like that that thought, and that have said, they felt what happened there was more of a, you know those neighborhoods voted for the opposition so that’s why you destroyed the towns.
Mugabe: Of course not. How do you know how people will have voted at all? We look after each and every person in the country and we provide their children with education, we do not discriminate. All facilities, health, etc, welfare were there. The dispersal of people, politics doesn’t come into it at all.
Roth: You were raised a Jesuit and you’re still a religious man….
Roth: Now, the interplay between religion and politics in the West has been something highly debated especially with what’s happened in America over the last few years. In your view, do you think there’s a limit to the role faith can play in the exercise of political power?
Mugabe: (long pause)
Roth: Or does faith always influence decisions you make?
Mugabe: No, of course there are certain norms that derive both from the church and also from your own traditions. Being charitable, and loving one another, and not being cruel to people, those are norms really, even without the church, exist amongst all communities I would want to believe. And so, when the church comes in it is really to consolidate them and enable you to now respect them much more because there is now Christianity also, the Christian view of them. Yes sure, Christianity plays a role and members of the church should conduct themselves as Christian. The morality of the church is very important. It’s not always our morality in politics. They say you must turn the other cheek…. if some journalist – some British journalist in Geneva – at our Geneva conference, our constitutional conference, it failed, asked me why it is that we’re waging an armed guerilla struggle….and I said yes, because we want our land back, we want freedom, we want democracy. Or is it because you want to get back at the whites, shouldn’t you turn the other cheek? I said yes, I’ve turned the other cheek but I don’t have three cheeks, I’ve only two. There is a limit.
Roth: Lastly, what would you like your legacy to be?
Roth: Do you think about your legacy?
Mugabe: The continuation of our freedom and independence, democracy, and the freedom of the people. And let that be the path to be walked by each and every member of our society and most of our leaders, those who succeed us, must hold the banner of freedom and recognize the objectives of our liberation struggle.
Roth: Mr. President thanks very much.