No Obstacles Will Scuttle Deal: Mugabe

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has said he has no plans to quit his job in the near future and is upbeat that no obstacles will scuttle a power-sharing agreement he signed with the two MDC formations last week.

 

In an interview on Wednesday with the Associated Press in New York Mugabe also expressed his aversion to democracy.

This was the second time within a fortnight Mugabe had demonstrated discomfort with democracy.

Speaking after signing the inclusive government deal with the two MDC formations’ leaders — Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara — Mugabe said “democracy in Africa is a difficult proposition”.

In the Associated Press interview, Mugabe was reportedly sharp, quick and animated and declared that he was determined to remain president despite what he said were efforts by Britain and the United States to oust him.

‘’They are waiting for a day when this man, this evil man, called Robert Mugabe is no longer in control,’’ Mugabe said. ‘’And I don’t know when that day is coming.’’

When asked if he had thoughts of resigning, the former guerilla leader chuckled: ‘’No — or a thought of dying.’’

Mugabe dismissed reports that the September 15 power-sharing deal could fall apart “because I don’t know of any hitch’’.

Under the agreement, Mugabe remains president, but cedes some of the powers he has wielded for nearly three decades.

Mugabe said the only outstanding issue in implementing the deal was deciding on four of the 31 cabinet posts.

He said negotiations were continuing in Harare.

Mugabe declined to say which posts were still being discussed.

‘’Every one of us is actually positive about the agreement, or the need to cement the agreement and make it work,’’ Mugabe said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t work together as Zimbabweans. We are all sons of the soil, as we say, and the differences arise purely from (your) own conceptions of what Zimbabwe should be and what the government of Zimbabwe should be.’’

Tsvangirai won the most votes in the March presidential election, but not enough to avoid a run-off against Mugabe.

An onslaught of violence against Tsvangirai’s supporters led him to drop out of the presidential run-off and Mugabe was declared the overwhelming winner of the second vote, which was widely denounced as a sham.

More than 100 opposition supporters were killed in the violence, thousands of people were beaten up and suffered broken limbs and thousands were forced from their homes.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been political rivals for a decade.

But Mugabe made it clear in the Associated Press interview that he was willing to share power with Tsvangirai, who would become prime minister under the agreement, leading a council of ministers responsible for government policies and reporting to a cabinet headed by Mugabe.

Mugabe did not spell out who would have the final say if there was a major disagreement. And while he repeated several times that all parties want the agreement to work, Mugabe dismissed Tsvangirai’s MDC as a creation of Britain’s three major parties and beholden to its government.

Mugabe described Zimbabwe’s government as a pyramid with the president at the top, but he said ‘’the president never settles on the matter alone’’, and always works with the vice-presidents.

‘’And now that we have a prime minister we rope him in and we discuss in the presidency, or whatever we call it, together, and we look at the issues and see what solutions can be applied to any problem that confronts us,’’ Mugabe said.

The power-sharing deal was mediated during months of negotiations by President Thabo Mbeki, who has been forced to step down from the South African presidency by the country’s ruling party.

Mugabe said it was up to Sadc whether Mbeki continued as mediator. But the Zimbabwean president offered praise for Mbeki, saying he has been ‘’quite excellent’’ and that ‘’he’s really a man who we praise’’.

‘’There is a man who has been in the seat for so many years as the father of the African National Congress and democracy in one stroke pulls him down,’’ Mugabe said of Mbeki. ‘’Democracy without morality is no democracy for all.’’

Tsvangirai has repeatedly said he does not want a legal witch hunt in Zimbabwe, but that he believes some kind of truth and reconciliation process is necessary to allow healing after years of violence and repression. Mugabe disagreed.

‘’At the moment, the fight between us has been one between Britain and ourselves — Britain, of course, using as their front the opposition,’’ Mugabe said. ‘’So the British and the Americans, they’ve got to be reconciled to us.’’

Western nations, who have shunned Mugabe’s government and whose aid and investment are sorely needed, have reacted cautiously to the coalition agreement. They have so far stayed on the sidelines, waiting to see whether Tsvangirai will emerge as the main decision-maker.

Millions of dollars in aid are expected to flow in if Mugabe actually shares power.

Mugabe said the West should now begin removing ‘’demonic’’ sanctions, which have targeted individuals and companies seen to be supporting his regime. They were tightened after March elections and the European Union recently added an arms ban.

‘’We don’t expect investment from countries that are hostile,’’ Mugabe said. ‘’They can keep their investment, but we would hope in the first place that sanctions would be lifted. There is no reason for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe at all. There has never been any reason for it, you see, except hostility.’’

Asked if Zimbabwe can return to its former economic status in five or 10 years, Mugabe said: ‘’Yes, if only the West can leave us alone, you will certainly see us come up. It will take us time because we have lost some time because of sanctions.’’

While critics have complained about Zimbabwe’s human rights record, Mugabe said the African Union and southern African leaders have not.

When asked whether he would allow Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to come in, he replied: ‘’Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Let them keep out.’’

Mugabe also dismissed calls from those who say he should be tried for human rights abuses.

‘’I’m sure they forget I am not Mr Bush who invaded Iraq … Probably they mistake me for him. Isn’t that the man who should be tried before I am tried?’’ — Staff Writer/AP.