Mugabe’s Q&A session with Sky News

BELOW are excerpts of an interview between President Mugabe (RM) and Sky News’ Stuart Ramsey (SR) in May last year in which the president predicted a bumper harvest and an imminent economic turnaround.



“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>SR: Mr President, there are a number of issues I’d like to talk to you about. I’ll start first with the political situation in Zimbabwe today. One of the impediments to substantive negotiations between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC was the opposition’s demand that you step down from office. Now they have told us that that demand has gone away, do you think it is now time for negotiations between the two parties to get under way?


RM: Well if there is business to negotiate about we will welcome negotiations but if there is no business I don’t see why we should talk about negotiations. What I mean is if you have a democratic system running and if your ruling party, naturally it has its policies and is trying to effect its policies on the one hand and the opposition on the other, well the real functions, respective functions of the two are clear. The government is there to govern, the opposition naturally to keep watch, try to criticise government as much as possible in the normal way. They are in parliament, they get their voices heard in parliament, their criticisms are made there and that’s the normal way of running a democratic system.


SR: There are those who say that the election wasn’t fair and that they actually .


RM: That’s what they say. We say the election was fair. We say all the African groups pronounced the election fair. There might have been one odd one which went the way Europe wanted things to go and of course they are a voice not of themselves, not of our people, that is them to see, the voice of Europe, the voice of Mr Blair, Mr Bush.


SR: But before the election took place, I remember it clearly, the voter rolls were confused, people weren’t sure where they would vote, which part of the country they had to vote in.


RM: No, there might have been some confusion here and there but by and large things were quite correct. I mean we were not running the election for the first time, we had run elections before and we are very faithful to our democratic system and the demands of that system. We have held elections timelessly, every five years and there was very little to learn you know for this last election. Sure, there might have been hitches here and there and there are always hitches, not just here but even in democratic countries, let alone in developing countries and we were prepared to look at the hitches and to try and correct things as effectively as we could but generally the elections went quite smoothly.


SR: Can I ask you about another issue, this is the view of the international community toward you and towards them. Recently at the National Chief’s Convention you described Tony Blair as a colonist who still thinks he owns Zimbabwe. Surely that isn’t really the case.


RM: That’s the case. That man, I don’t know how Britain came by him. You can see some of the mad things he has done and the world now is in turmoil.


SR: You don’t think that Tony Blair or Britain for that matter considers Zimbabwe a colony, surely not?


RM: Yes, he does, he does. He doesn’t say so but his actions do say so. What has he not done to try and control how things should go here? He has opposed us in my election, he has called upon nations to in fact regard Zimbabwe as a lawless country, a country where democracy is not respected, where there is no rule of law, where human rights do not exist and all that is a lie.


SR: But he is by no means the only international leader.


RM: No, no, no, no, it is him and .


SR: The Commonwealth wanted you to remain suspended, you’ve removed yourself from the Commonwealth. Now why would they do that? They are doing that because they also have concerns about the rule of law and democracy?


RM: Who is the Commonwealth? Who is the dominant character there? It’s Britain and Britain supported by the other white countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and they call the tune, you see. The Africans try to oppose but they were not heard, they were ignored. There it is, fine, what is the Commonwealth just now?


SR: It is not just Britain of course, it is not just Commonwealth, Botswana has been critical in the past, South Africa and the Sadc nations, another club that you are a member of.


RM: Critical of what?


SR: Critical of the fact that for example 1,3% of its economic growth in South Africa didn’t happen almost as a direct result of .


RM: No, no.


SR: . 20 to 30 000 jobs didn’t happen.


RM: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.


SR: Trade declined by R15 billion.


RM: No, we were not the cause of that, we are not the South African economy.


SR: But you were vitally linked to it at one point but now.


RM: Our trade with them has always been good, and they admit it, that in spite of the sanctions the trade has been rising, rising, rising in terms of volumes and all of the .


SR: What trade is that? It’s declining, not increasing.


RM: The what?


SR: The trade is declining it’s not increasing.


RM: No, no, no, you go and ask Irwin, he will tell you that in spite of all that has, you know, been done to Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s trade with South Africa has always been rising, not declining.


SR: Why do you . what are your links with Britain? Why are you unhappy with Britain to such a degree? You were friends for a very long time.


RM: To tell you the truth we are not unhappy with Britain as Britain, with Blair’s Britain yes, we are unhappy, that is the rulership of Blair, very unhappy and unhappy, first of all he is a man, I don’t know he considers himself as a super human, he doesn’t want dialogue, he doesn’t want to talk. I haven’t had any discussion with him except in Scotland during the Commonwealth summit there. We have asked for discussions, for dialogue-he won’t have it.


SR: Why do you think he won’t have it?


RM: He won’t have it because he doesn’t want to talk to us. We are inferior, he is a super human, no, and he won’t be drawn into any discussions with us, he has got that stance.


SR: One of the reasons why .


RM: And we have been asking, we are open. We talk to everyone who wants to talk to us.


SR: Would you like to talk to Britain again, would you make efforts now to negotiate and to discuss?


RM: We’ve made enough efforts. If Britain wants to talk we are ready, we have said so again and again and even the people he has asked to intervene, Obasanjo, Mbeki, have asked to try and have dialogue with us. There is a Zimbabwe which some countries would want to regard as a pariah state and never say any good about it, everything that it does is bad but we are not bad. Stay here and you will see that our people are free, you will see that they are able to say things that they would want to say about government, criticise us as much as possible, there is an opposition, not just the MDC, we also have small other groups which have not succeeded naturally in raising members of parliament but they are vocal, they say things against us and they are not arrested. Also things have been said, bad things, personal criticisms even.


SR: The World Food Programme says that urban food shortages are approaching critical. A United Nations memo to say that you could reach the level of tonnage that is being estimated is complete nonsense and quite impossible. The farms, outsiders say, simply aren’t producing enough food. You’ve got bread prices that the state media says could go up by 50%.


RM: So what is WFP wanting us to do?


SR: What they are saying is you need food aid and therefore .


RM: We need food aid and not the land to produce, we don’t need to produce?


SR: No, they are saying you need to produce more and you need food aid. You’re saying you don’t need food aid. In fact last week you were saying you would produce 2,3 million tonnes which far exceeds anything ever produced before. You are saying you do need food aid?


RM: We have produced that before.


SR: You are not going to produce it this year though.


RM: We are producing it this year, definitely. Our estimates are there and they are showing us we will have enough food for the country and with a surplus.


SR: 800 000 tonnes the shortfall is estimated.


RM: Why is WFP wanting to feed us when we are saying that .


SR: Because they don’t want people to starve.


RM: We are not hungry. It should go to hungrier people, hungrier countries than ourselves. They need the food and we urge it to go and do good work there.


SR: When we first arrived here a couple of weeks ago, government ministers estimated crop production at 1,5 million, many thought that that was a little high. In two weeks it went up to 2,3, now how did that happen? You didn’t suddenly have a bumper harvest and they’d got their figures wrong. The fact is, and the view from the outside is that you will get 2,3 million tonnes but you will do it by buying it from outside, probably from Zambia.


RM: Do you want to wait here until the harvest is over and then you will see .


SR: I’d like to come back and see it and I’d like to see.


RM: Well come back, you’ll be free, you are invited to come back.


SR: Are you going to be buying food from outside?


RM: No. Definitely no, never. Not this year.


SR: So why are all these estimates wrong Mr President?


RM: From agriculture. We have an agricultural system which is second to none in Africa.


SR: Had is the argument, not has. It is no longer producing the .


RM: Have, we have.


SR: So why are these estimates so wrong?


RM: The whites who were here were mere actor farmers, ill-educated and we brought in a system which is much more enlightened than the system they had, you see. Go everywhere and you will see agronomists, you will see our Agritex, extension officers who are well educated and they give us these estimates across the country.


SR: Are you perhaps just believing these estimates because they are telling you want to hear?


RM: I travel. I travel, I travel quite a lot across the country, there is no corner of the country I don’t know.


SR: You have been applauded by the opposition even for your moves to fight corruption. Is it not the case that the party has become corrupt under your stewardship which is why in 2004 it has been adjudged that you are going to have to move.


RM: Why the party? What are you talking about?


SR: The Finance Minister has been saying .


RM: These are corrupt individuals. I suppose you get corrupt individuals across the board. You are now telling me that your government is absolutely pure, without ..


SR: I am not representing our government, I am simply asking questions.


RM: But I am putting it back to you, you have a government in your country and you get individuals who are corrupt naturally. If you get them it doesn’t mean that everybody else is corrupt.


SR: The chief communications of Zanu PF said to me that it wasn’t just …

RM: Of where?


SR: Of Zanu P F, said it wasn’t just a disease it was actually an epidemic of corruption and it was high time it was addressed. You are addressing it, but the question still remains, how has corruption been able to develop.


RM: The same way as it developed in other countries, surely you shouldn’t ask that question. Corruption develops, the human being is greedy, in some cases he wants to enrich himself by adopting irregular methods of attaining the wealth he desire and this is what happens. There are thieves who think the shortest way to enriching themselves is by way of possessing that which doesn’t belong to them.


SR: A regular allegation from the outside world is that Mr President, you are corrupt as well.


RM: Oh come on, come on, come on.


SR: Can I move quickly on to the economy, I know we are running short of time here. I interviewed the Reserve Bank governor who does seem to be a man determined to turn things round but he has huge problems. Inflation, 600%, maybe more, maybe over 1000%. 40% contraction in the economy between 1999 and 2003. You owe the IMF US$273 million and the World Bank and the IMF will no longer lend you any money. The economy is in a right mess isn’t it, Mr President?


RM: It was, yes. It is now improving, it is getting out of that mess, sure, yes, with sanctions imposed on us.


SR: The sanctions are mainly imposed upon individual members of .


RM: No, no, no, no. This is a game where you don’t understand your Prime Minister. What did he do? He said personal sanctions because that was the more acceptable form of sanctions to some of his allies but behind us he says no to countries, stop your aid and so on and don’t invest and so we have had real sanctions, economic sanctions.


SR: But you don’t think your country’s own economic mismanagement has been perhaps compounded by the land reform programme which took away a lot of potential exporters.


RM: No, if anything the land reform programme is going to reinvigorate the economy, get it to revive. Just now the revival that is taking place is due to that, to the fact that now this season is a good season and agriculture is going to yield quite a good percentage of our GDP and so that we will assist the process. Of course in the financial sector, the measure we are taking, the monetary policy that has been enunciated and we are getting now countries that belong to the other world than the Western one, you know, interested in us and .


SR: Yet the estimates are that there are real concerns about direct foreign investment isn’t there, because of the instability.


RM: We would rather not have Western investment any more and we are going East with China, we have the Tigers, they are interested, India is interested and I think we will get the necessary investment coming from those countries.


SR: One of your good friends is the Libyan leader, were you surprised when Tony Blair turned up in his tent shaking his hand?


RM: Yes, yes I was, I was actually surprised and I knew that the idea was not just to get Libyan oil but also to get Libya to desist from assisting us.


SR: You think that’s his specific attempt to try and stop him.


RM: An attempt, yes.


SR: But it does seem to have worked, the various deals that were put in place for fuel and . those have been put on the back burner.


RM: No, we are still working together with Libya, he is still a good friend of ours in spite of that.


SR: What did you say to him about Tony Blair?


RM: About Tony Blair? I said I was surprised that he was meeting with Tony Blair but of course they are entitled to have relations with Britain. We do have relations with Britain you know, British Airways, I’m sure you flew by them to here and they make lots of money flying to Zimbabwe, enabling people to go to the Victoria Falls. We have nothing against the Britons as such, it is just this one man who we think is really an anachronism and should never have been Prime Minister.


SR: President Bush was asked this question recently, has he made any mistakes? He didn’t give a very convincing answer, have you made any mistakes Mr President?


RM: Yes, I have and that is how I have developed. You develop by making mistakes that naturally you correct. If you make mistake and don’t correct them then you won’t develop at all. But the mistakes must not be in the majority, form the majority of your thinking, of your actions, of your deeds, they must be just the exception to the positive, affirmative and correct actions you take. Otherwise you are a mistaken person the whole way through and you become devil then. But I don’t think I have become that devil. You judge yourself by firstly your ability to achieve the goals you set yourself, secondly by ensuring that in your performance you have the actions, the thinking and the co-operation of others and then you judge your performance that others also are able to judge you and if your own judgement of yourself is the same judgement as others make of you, then you are a happy man. But if you are gong to say I’m right when others say you are wrong, you will get self-opinionated and that is what the likes of Bush and Blair are, you see.


SR: President Mugabe, thank you very much for joining Sky News.


RM: Thank you.