From the archive August 23, 2013: Thabo Mbeki on Zimbabwe

via THABO MBEKI ON ZIMBABWE! | Mayihlome News By Thabo Mbeki transcript of a lecture August 23, 2013

The article is a transcript of a lecture delivered at UNISA’s Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) on August 23, 2013.

I had thought that you had started yesterday, but I was told only when I arrived here 15 minutes ago that actually you didn’t. I hope that doesn’t signify that as Africans we are always late.

We had agreed that I would speak at the opening of your symposium, because I had to go to Zimbabwe yesterday to participate at the ceremony of the inauguration of President Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, I’m told that this was the seventh as President and more if you include his Prime Ministership. The Zimbabweans insisted that I should come, and I agreed with them because they were saying that the inauguration marked the end of the Global Political Agreement which they signed in 2008 in whose evolution we had played a part.

We had agreed that I would speak at the opening of your symposium, because I had to go to Zimbabwe yesterday to participate at the ceremony of the inauguration of President Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, I’m told that this was the seventh as President and more if you include his Prime Ministership. The Zimbabweans insisted that I should come, and I agreed with them because they were saying that the inauguration marked the end of the Global Political Agreement which they signed in 2008 in whose evolution we had played a part.

So, I am saying all of this to apologise for speaking to you in the evening rather than in the morning. But I really like to say to thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this symposium to look at this every important issue, the issue about solutions to Africa’s development. It is indeed very important that as Africans we must focus on all of this and mobilise the intellectual capital that exists among ourselves to answer this question.

What the principal was saying about the last Nelson Mandela Lecture here by Mo Ibrahim raising questions of leadership on the continent, those remarks were correct. I think this is an important part of our challenge as Africans, ourselves to find the solutions to Africa’s development. I don’t know how many of our leaders on the continent read books. I am sure some of them do – well apart from the Bible and the Quran, other books – but I think we have to produce these books because there are other Africans who read books. So as we meet at this symposium to look at what we do, we say as African thought leaders asking about where should we be tomorrow, it is important that we have to do this. There is nobody else to do it for us. The people who have done this for us in the past, and they are many, have said who are these Africans? What are they? What’s their past? Where should they be tomorrow? Other people have said that about us. And what has it produced? Disaster! A disaster from which we should rescue ourselves.

I was saying that yesterday, I was in Zimbabwe for the inauguration of President Mugabe. I don’t know who among us here, what opinions we have about Zimbabwe, but there are certain things which worry me greatly about Zimbabwe.

With regard to the last elections, one of the things that worried me was a very intense and sustained campaign to discredit the elections before they took place, very sustained and very intense. So I was saying to myself, ‘Why?’ And I could see quite clearly that the intention was in the event that the elections resulted in the victory of President Mugabe and Zanu PF, they would obviously be unfair. In the event that they resulted in the election of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, then they would be free and fair. That was the intention. Although it didn’t surprise me, what disturbed me was that many among us Africans seemed to buy into the story that was being told. And so I was saying to myself that this is very worrying because what it means is that we, as Africans, don’t know enough about ourselves and continue to be enslaved by a narrative about ourselves told by other people.

Any African, anybody following events in Zimbabwe for some time, would not have been surprised at the election results, not in the least, and indeed some of the people who were communicating these negative messages about the elections before they took place, even some of them actually predicted what would happen: that a particular politics of Zimbabwe meant we would have a particular outcome.

There is an old friend of mine in Zimbabwe, another intellectual like yourselves, I won’t mention his name. Shortly before the elections he says, publicly, the MDC is going to sweep in its major victory in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. So I read this thing, and I said: ‘But what’s wrong with him?’ I haven’t spoken to him for some time, but I am going to ask him that question. I said, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ You could never make a prediction like that if you knew what’s been happening in the Zimbabwean rural areas in the last 10 years.

Many years ago and as part of the leadership in this region, we engaged the Zimbabwean leadership – President Mugabe and others – in a very sustained process to discourage them from the manner in which they were handling the issue of land reform. We were saying to them, ‘Yes indeed we agree, the land reform is necessary, but the way in which you are handling it is wrong.’ We tried very hard, ‘No, no you see all of these things about the occupation of the farms by the war veterans, this and that and the other, all of this is wrong’, that’s what we were saying. But fortunately the Zimbabweans didn’t listen to us, they went ahead.

The consequence of it is that, I have looked at least four books that have been written about the land reform in Zimbabwe, all of which say in fact the process of land reform in Zimbabwe has given land to at least 300-400,000 new land owners, the peasants of Zimbabwe at last own the land. The programme succeeded and has this direct benefit on these huge numbers of Zimbabweans. And so I found it very strange that this intellectual friend of mine could say the MDC would win the elections in the rural areas. They couldn’t, essentially because they were identified by that rural population to have opposed land reform, rightly or wrongly. We can discuss that. The point I am making is that we still have a challenge to understand our own reality, and I am using the example of Zimbabwe to say that I have a sense that even with regards to this issue, which for some reason for years has been a major issue in the international media and politics and so on, that even we as Africans still have not quite understood Zimbabwe. I think it’s your task to change that, so that we understand ourselves better.

I think we should also ask ourselves the question: Why is Zimbabwe such a major issue for some people? Zimbabwe is a small country by any standard, there is no particular reason why Zimbabwe should be a matter to which the New York Times, the London Guardian and whoever else… why are they paying so much attention to Zimbabwe? Why? I know why they pay particular attention to us, because they explained it, they said ‘You have too many white people in South Africa. We are concerned about their future. They are our kith and kin. We are worried about what you would do to them, so we keep a very close eye on what happens.’ So we understand, we may not agree with the thinking, but we understand.

But I am saying why this focus on Zimbabwe? Towards the end of last year, they asked me to speak at a conference on Zimbabwe diamonds. So I went, and what surprised me about the conference held at Victoria Falls was that everybody and anybody who has anything to do with diamonds in the world was there. From America, from Israel, from India, from Brussels – everybody. It was not about diamonds in the world, it was about Zimbabwe diamonds. So I was puzzled, saying but why have they all come? Two hours before we left the conference to come back, we sat in a session which was addressed by one of the Indian diamond people. In the course of his presentation, he explained why; he gave an answer to this query in my head. He said in a few years’ time, Zimbabwe will account for 25 percent of world production of diamonds. So I said, ‘I now understand. I understand why everybody is here.’ But I think the reason there has been this kind of focus on Zimbabwe is that for many years now, the political leadership in Zimbabwe have been communicating a message which many among the powerful players in the world find unacceptable.

I was saying earlier that we opposed, we tried to discourage Zimbabweans from taking the particular steps they took with regard to land reform, acknowledging that it was indeed necessary to have land reform, and I was saying they ignored us. It is, I think, exactly the manner in which they came at that question of land reform that offended other forces in the world who said, ‘This is wrong, we don’t like it’. And unlike us who said, ‘Well, they are not listening. They have done what they want to do about their country, we have to accept that’, these others said, ‘They have set a bad example which we don’t want anybody else in Africa and the rest of the world to follow, so they must pay a price for setting a bad example.’ Bad example, bad in the instance of the interests of these other people, not bad in terms of the interests of the people of Zimbabwe.

So, I think this is part of the reason that there is so much attention, globally, to a country on the continent which is actually in itself – never mind the diamonds – is not that particularly important, but is important because it is setting, in the minds of some, a bad example which must be defeated. But principally are we as intellectuals telling that story? Are we explaining that, in the first instance to ourselves so that we know what is the correct position to take in our own interests; in own defence? My sense is that we are not doing it, we are not explaining why, what is this enormous interest in a small African country here in Southern Africa which really basically – I can’t think of any particular reason why it would have such enormous, global, geo-strategic importance, but it has. Why?

You know, all of us know, the African Union and SADC among others, deployed large numbers of observers for these recent [July 31, 2013] elections. The African Union even had placed its observers there at least a month ahead of the elections. This was to ensure… I don’t think, at least I know of no deployment of African observers of this size because between the AU and SADC, just those two, I think they had at least a thousand observers. I know of no instance when the continent has deployed that kind of number – it is because of this concern about Zimbabwe in particular. And both observer teams have essentially said the elections were peaceful and everybody agrees about that; and they have said the elections were free, and that they represent the opinion of the people of Zimbabwe.

SADC have said they need a bit of time to look at the matter of the fairness of the elections. ‘Yes indeed the elections are credible, they represent the views of the people of Zimbabwe’. The reason SADC observers said that they want to look at this is because they want to look at it in detail and say, for instance, was the media coverage of the contending parties, was it fair and balanced? They may make a determination about that and say it was not fair or fair. Was the location of voting stations done in such a way that it would ensure equal access, relatively is the access between rural and urban areas? They will make a determination about that.

They are not questioning the credibility of the elections, but want to look at this matter about what is meant by ‘fair’ in order to ensure that as a continent when we do indeed conduct elections in future we have some standards to follow in terms of what will constitute this element of ‘fair’. So they decided to leave a residual group in Zimbabwe to look at that question, and the AU agreed to join them, left another group there to do that, which is fine.

I was talking three-four days ago to a member of the executive of the SADC Lawyers Association which includes all the lawyers in this region and their law societies and this and that and the other. They decided to send an observer team to Zimbabwe, which they did. They have done their report and I have asked for a copy but they said they would send it. But what they are telling me is that one of the things that surprised them was that as soon as they made that announcement that they would be deploying an observer team in Zimbabwe, out of the blue, completely unsolicited, they got huge offers of money from the United States to say, “Look, we want to pay for your observer mission.” And they say that we never asked for this money, we had never ever been in contact with these people, we don’t know how they got to know that we were going to do this, but were very, very happy to support us with huge sums of money. But we said, ‘No’, we refused. We said, ‘No, we will finance ourselves’. The reason we did it was because we knew that if we accepted that money, then we would have to produce a report consistent with the views of the paymaster, so we said, ‘No’.

Now, the very strange thing at the end of this story which I am telling you… Well, let me say, what the Zimbabwe government did was of course to refuse that organisations like the EU which have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, countries like the US which have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, should have election observers for the natural and I think logical reason that, ‘You declared yourselves as an enemy, in what way would you then send observers who are going to be objective in terms of observing these elections, please don’t come.’ I think they were right. Nevertheless, they said all the countries that have embassies in Zimbabwe, the embassies are free to observe the elections, which they did. African, European, Asian – all of them.

But I am saying one of the strange things is that you have the entire continent in terms of its credible and legitimate institutions say, ‘Yes indeed there were problems, and we are going to detail those problems, but these elections represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe.’ Then you have an alternative voice in Washington, London and Brussels which says, ‘No, you Africans are wrong.’ How does that happen? Why this absolute contempt for the view of the Africans about themselves?

I was saying just these two organisations, the AU and SADC, had at least a thousand observers in Zimbabwe – I am not talking about others, even the African Caribbean and Pacific Community had an observer team there, I am not talking about those – watched this process. When the chair of the AU Commission was in Harare and talked to all the political leaders, she said none of them have raised any issues about serious problems with the elections, they hadn’t. And yet when all of these Africans say, ‘Yes problems, we will tell you what these problems were, but the result presents a credible view of the Zimbabweans,’ you have people in America and Europe who say the Africans are wrong. Why? Maybe because the Africans are stupid? The Africans can’t count… or something?

The latest SADC summit has just taken place in Malawi, in Lilongwe. In the days before the summit, during the summit, the British government were putting pressure on the government of Malawi to persuade the summit that there should be an audit done of the Zimbabwean elections.

The MDC decided to go to court in Zimbabwe to contest, as you know, the elections. And then suddenly withdrew the petition. Personally, I was very pleased that they submitted the petition, because it would give a possibility actually to look in detail at all the allegations that have been made about what went wrong with the election. I was quite upset when they said they are withdrawing the petition, because it denied us the possibility to do this thing. But later, I understood why they withdrew, because even in the petition they made various allegations and did not submit to the court any document to substantiate any of the allegations.

At some point during this electoral process, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe spoke to one of the British television channels, and said in one constituency, 17,000 people voted of whom 10,000 were assisted to vote. Now, this is allowed in terms of Zimbabwean processes if you are illiterate, you might be old, you might be blind – whatever – that the people at the voting station can assist you. You come and say, ‘Look, I can’t read but I like Morgan Tsvangirai, please tick for me where it says Morgan Tsvangirai,’ that’s assisted voting which is allowed.

So, the British ambassador says here was this one constituency, 17,000 voters 10,000 of whom were assisted – so many – but she doesn’t identify the constituency, up to today. Morgan, in his affidavit to the Constitutional Court, includes this… ‘There was a constituency where 17,000 people voted, 10,000 of whom were assisted voters’. He doesn’t identify the constituency like the British ambassador.

In the end, I can say (inaudible name) is a very ugly fellow, but if I accuse him of that in court I should prove it. And that became a problem. So, we still don’t know what was the substance, what is the substance of all the allegations made which Washington and London and Brussels have used to say the elections were not credible. We don’t know. In reality, the only reason they were not credible is because Robert Mugabe got elected. That’s all.

I am using this, all of this talking about Zimbabwe, as an example about our continent because all of these things I am saying relating to Zimbabwe you can find the same similar examples on the continent, but we are not challenging it as intellectuals. We are not challenging a narrative, a perspective about our continent which is wrong and self-serving in terms of the interests of other people.

The Zimbabweans now are talking about indigenisation and I can see that there is a big storm brewing about indigenisation. But what is wrong with indigenisation? What is wrong with saying, ‘Here we are as Africans, with all our resources. Sure, we are ready and very willing to interact with the rest of the world about the exploitation of all these resources, but what is the indigenous benefit from the exploitation of these, and even the control?’

You have seen examples of this, all of us have, when Chinese companies in terms of all this theory about free markets, have sought to acquire US firms, they get prohibited. ‘No indigenisation of US intellectual property. We can’t allow it to be owned by the Chinese, so, No!’ When the Africans say ‘indigenisation’, why is this a strange notion and yet when we talk about solutions to Africa’s development one of the issues that we have to address is exactly this indigenisation? How are we utilising our resources to impact positively on African development?

I am saying that because I can see that there is a cloud that is building up somewhere on the horizon when Zimbabweans say ‘indigenisation’. But we have to, as intellectuals and thought leaders, we have got to address that and say, ‘Yes indeed as Africans we are concerned about our own renaissance, our own development, and we must as indigenous people make sure that we have control of our development, our future and that includes our resources, and therefore indigenisation is correct.’ We must demonstrate it even intellectually, which I am quite sure we can.

I wasn’t intending to speak for so long, but as you can see I get very, very agitated about Zimbabwe because it’s very, very clear that the offensive against Zimbabwe is an offensive against the rest of the continent and what has facilitated that offensive is indeed wrong things that Zimbabweans have done. They have done wrong things, they have acted in ways that have been incorrect, so it has been possible for some people to stand up and say, ‘Look, look, look there is a violation of democracy and human rights’, and all of us say, ‘Yes, yes, yes what they did there was not quite right.’

But all of us make mistakes, we have made mistakes here [in South Africa], but they have been used, those mistakes, to mount a particular offensive against Zimbabwe… that offensive is not in the first instance about Zimbabwe, it’s about the future of our continent. So the Zimbabweans have been in the frontline in terms of defending our right as Africans to determine our future, and they are paying a price for that. I think it is our responsibility as African intellectuals to join them, the Zimbabweans, to say, ‘No!’

We have a common responsibility as Africans to determine our destiny and are quite ready to stand up against anybody else who thinks that, ‘Never mind what the thousand African observers say about elections in Zimbabwe, we sitting in Washington and London are wiser than they are. They say the elections were credible, we say that they are very foolish, those elections were not.’ We stand up as Africans to see an end, and really an end, to that contempt for African thought! We have to, if we don’t, this development we are talking about will not happen.



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    Mwanawevhu 11 years ago

    Talking nonsense. Shame on you. Why do you like to see us suffer? It’s high time Sir you leave us alone and shut up cause you have done enough damage as it is.

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      Mwanawevhu;;;have a long term strategy like Cde Thabo Mbeki…Mbeki known what Africans fought for during the Liberaton struggle not you ,you stupid ASS…Morgan Tsvangirai and you were brain washed by the British and American governments…so wake-up you STOOGES..Africa for Africans and Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans…have long term strategy SWINA lOTHUVI……….

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    Jrr56 11 years ago

    Mbeki the discredited drunk, even the ANC threw him out and his biggest critic was his own brother.

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    Bruce 11 years ago

    As a former president you crafted a good precription for Zimbabwe but was adminsterd by crazy doctors, Mugabe and Tsvangiraiand Muthambara. Hence may be you also faulter in asking crazy doctors to administer it. You should have appointed a commission to administer the prescription.

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    LoudSilence BlindingDarkness DzimbaDzemabgwe 11 years ago

    Mr Mbeki former President Sir. I would like to bring to your attention that the MDC does not and will not ever oppose land reform. To be precise the MDC was the one party to have come up with land reform in their manifesto in 99/2000. This is the very same policy that irked a complacent Zanu pf machinery to go and cause havoc in the farms using a disgruntled war vets that were fast becoming a thorn in the flesh for Bob and his cronies.

    The MDC Mr former President had a well planned and thought out plan as opposed to the Zanu Pf face saving attempt. To this day MDC has only gone against the violent nature, the abrupt and unplanned nature and the outright illegal manner in which the land reform was done.

    Only Zanu Pf cadres particularly in the military have benefitted immernsely. Only a few controvesial MDC leaders have been gifted with farms as way of patronage. None the less, land reform regardless of the way it was done and who benefitted has and will always be an ideology that MDC subscribes to to this day.

    On the issue of the influence of the West. Well many have always accussed the MDC of selling out to the West and b eing puppets of the West. The MDC may have never really articulated itself well here. None the less I am of the view that any organisation, indeed political party fighting for political space and electoral contestation is indeed free to liase and engage with potential partners who identify with their cause and are willing supporters to such cause. Such alliances have been evident in the history of the African Continent’s struggle to liberate itself. South Africa was supported and aided by the West. Russia and China, Mozambique and Zambia were traditionally allies of the Zimbabwean struggle for liberation. Hence even today Bob has a look East mentality and prefers the Chinese over the West. That is his choice and will and only the people of Zimbabwe will either benefit or decry the involvement of the orients in the Zim economy.

    SADC and the AU are organisations who in their inaugural formation were indeed establish to aide and catalyse the expedient decolonisation of the Continent and subsiquently engage in further developing Africa. It is neither surprising nor contrary therefore that they still to date engage in the African discourse in a way that props up parties of old, the revolutionary.

    You Mr former President Sir, are yourself a friend and admirer of President Mugabe. The man has undoubtedly had an influence in your life and political career. To what extent only the two of you truly know. Rumours are abound of your business interests in Zimbabwe and the DRC. You are an African and we pride ourselves in a son of the soil to invest. However some of your actions in Zimbabwe and indeed your comments and involvement not matter how noble and African they maybe, they remain compromised by a percieved vested interested.

    It would not surprise many that you well may have been informed about the shinanigans and chichenery that went down in this election. But of a man of such high esteem I beg not to publicly accuse lest my migre African poor man’s salary be wiped out in court hearings.

    Nevertheless Mr former President Sir, your voice on Zimbabwe carries with it a pugnant smell of a filthy rich African traitor and biased peace broker who defends murderers and wines and dines with the very same people who trample on your very own African Renissance agenda and ideolgy.

    Africa would be a better place if a new crop of intellectuals and readers of books would come up and drive true development, creation of genuine employment and the industrialisation of our Mother Continent. We want freeways to stretch allout into Africa. We want every African to afford and drive an African car. We want to see an Africa that will leap into science and health innovations that would make South Korea and its Samsung/Hyundai business innovations look like child’s play.

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    Pachokwadi 11 years ago

    Mbeki is right on other things. We don’t need the west particulary USA Britain and France to tell us how to run our continent, but in some part Mbeki misses the point. The election was declared free and credible not free and fair. We all know why. The election was grossly manipulated and the field was not level to support a free and fair election. I admit Mugabe had done some good which
    is worth of praise from all the hornest people and desrves approval, but a man of Mbekis intellectual
    Standard to be blind to all the wrongs that are outwaying the good in Mugabe and his self saving prenciples is so worrying.
    The army, police and and all other state agents are an extension of zanu pf literally. Mbeki is himself not much different to Mugabe if not worse. He is the man who questioned the aids pandemic whilst people surounding his where dying of the same. He is the man who presided over a govemnent of crockery where many people where arrested for corrupt deals where his name continually featured. He is still the man who almost got his vice in jail for engineered charges of rape. I just wonder what he got from Mugabe in terms of land and resources or wealth to agree to campaign for Mugabe. Only God knows.

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    mutongi gava 11 years ago

    thi is problem with the leaened african crooks calling themdelves interlectuals beacause they read erong books.wat intekectual property has this interlectual ex pres.produced ,quuiate diplimacy my ass.he is a war monger who advocates others to sacrify themselves for hid benefit no wonder the uneducated,unread Zuma kicked you in the teeth whilst u were still studying thesis of your coup.u should behave like an ex rather than expose yo assi

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      Well, we should be used to Mbeki’s warped and strange opinions by now. Look at his stance on Aids! Sure African solutions to African problems, but SOLVE the problem, don’t make it worse by policies that never work! And don’t say it will take time for them to work. You have had a very long time to prove yourselves wrong. Look at the mess the country is in for god’s sake!

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    Well, we should be used to Mbeki’s warped and strange opinions by now. Look at his stance on Aids! Sure African solutions to African problems, but SOLVE the problem, don’t make it worse by policies that never work! And don’t say it will take time for them to work. You have had a very long time to prove yourselves wrong. Look at the mess the country is in for god’s sake!

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      And Mr Mbeki, you know why everyone was desperate for change, even though you say they weren’t? It is because they were desperate to move forward. Desperate to get out of this stagnant and stifled economy. Well, we are back in it, worse than before and it looks like for the next 5 years. WE have to live here not you, so please be quiet with your intellectual and completely off the mark ramblings.

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    And Mr Mbeki, you know why everyone was desperate for change, even though you say they weren’t? It is because they were desperate to move forward. Desperate to get out of this stagnant and stifled economy. Well, we are back in it, worse than before and it looks like for the next 5 years. WE have to live here not you, so please be quiet with your intellectual and completely off the mark ramblings.

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    From this article I now understand why the ANC kicked out Mbeki from the Presidency six months from the end of his term. The man should be teaching at a University theorising about everything. He is simply out of touch with reality. This is the reason why simple and ‘uneducated’ politicians like Malema could plan his downfall under his nose. He was busy theorising about the possibility of the likes of Malemas causing his downfall. Dream on old man but leave Zimbabwe alone you have cause more than your share of damage.

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    Osama bin laden 11 years ago

    Thabo Mbeki you hurt me so much, your are so young to deal with Zimbabwean politics. Dealing with people like Mugabe you must be at least on the same level with him.

    You did not even completed a single term in the office, and to me it was not a suprise why the ANC kicked your ass out of office!

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