Gil Noble Interviews Pan-Africanist President Robert Mugabe
This interview aired on
Sunday, September 10, 2000 on ABC-TV's “Like it Is” hosted by Gil Noble.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe...On the UN Summit GIL NOBLE, Host:Some 180 heads of state from around the world came to New York this past
week to take part in the United Nations Millennium Summit. Among the most
controversial of those attending was Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, the
African nation once known as Rhodesia when it was a British colony. After 15
years under the rule of a breakaway white minority, the first truly democratic
elections were held in 1980, putting Robert Mugabe in office.But that nation's prevailing problem is land ownership and many of the
white settlers own huge tracts of land and are loath to give it up. On top of
that tug of war, often bloody, is the issue of globalization and its impact on
nations, especially in the African Diaspora.My interview with President Mugabe began on this issue.
ROBERT MUGABE, President, Zimbabwe:I hope I can bring on behalf of my country, as well as on behalf of our
region, is the fact of our expectations-- various expectations as we enter the
global village.And these have to
do with our socio-economic situations and whether, in fact, going in the global
village will enhance our opportunities for transforming our economies.Or are we going to go in to see once again the efforts we have made
towards transforming our economies being diminished -- and diminished by the
fact of disparity; the disparity between the developed and the developing
countries -- and the fact that up to now developed countries have not been quite
keen to see the developing countries transform their economies.And we have remained as, in Africa, for example, mere primary
producers of goods with very little real beneficiation of those goods.That is, very little of factories and established forms which need, of
course, an input of technology to enable us to add value to our commodities. That is one -- the fact of development itself.That's an expectation that we want to see, the global village provide
opportunities for that development to happen. Two, we also want to see ourselves as equal partners,
political partners, with the developed countries in terms of the charter of the
United Nations.And that
sovereignty means recognition of sovereign-- recognition by each and every one
of us, you know, that we are equal -- one and to another in terms of authority
that's wielded by each and every country within its own political system.And that-- the developed countries must respect that sovereign authority
of small states and not try to undermine the small states using that economic
muscle, as they are trying to do at the moment.
this country, the heads of the state-- the head of state in this country says
that globalization will benefit the Diaspora.What is your response?
if what the head of state says here is anything to go by, let's see it happen.Why shouldn't it happen before the entry into the global village anyway?Why hasn't it happened so far? And so we will guard ourselves against the
furtherance of divisions and segmentation of our black entity -- universal
entity, shall I say -- us, as one.The
blacks, wherever we are.And that
the misfortunes and adversities of the past should not visit us in the future.
And at the moment we are worried because of the attempts being made by developed
countries actually to divide us -- divide us much more.In Africa, they are using again the economic muscle to subject some of
our countries to their own authority.And
because we are poor and poverty, of course, begs us to be obedient to those who
can provide us with a little food.
you say ``economic muscle,'' do you mean the World Trade Organization, the IMF
-- is that what you're talking about?
mean-- yes, the IMF.But the IMF
are only institutions and we are members of the IMF.But it is those behind the IMF I mean.And say they are the United States, they are Europe and
others.The combination of them.
people read globalization through the lenses of American corporations shutting
down factories and opening them in nations in the Diaspora.Has that process visited Zimbabwe?
yet, it hasn't.I cannot see what
that is meant to do.Hopefully, the
intentions might be just those of profit to make more money and not to bring
about greater domination of those areas where these investments are taking
we move a little bit to some of the more pressing issues in today's news, as far
as land reform.When you came to
office many years ago, that was your stated premise -- to bring about land
reform, among many other important issues.Many say, and the government has officially acknowledged, that the pace
has been slow.
slow again because of our obedience to compliance with the law.They like us to have a constitution -- an entrenched process that
prevented our moving fast.One of them was that provision which required that any land
needed for resettlement must be acquired on a willing sale or willing basis.And, of course, it was not always easy to get willing sellers. And once
the sellers said no -- the would-be seller, that is -- said no, you had no
option but to leave him alone.
kind of leverage does this mine caster agreement have on the new government?
this is it.We obeyed the law
because the constitution had a clause, a requirement that-- a [unintelligible]
requirement that even though the constitution as a whole could be amended by
two-thirds majority, that clause could not be so amended until a period of 10
years had passed. And so we waited for 10 years to pass.And as the 10 years elapsed, we amended that provision so government
could acquire land on the basis of national interests. Then there was also the
fact that we were not to acquire land without full compensation.And we had to give money to compensate the farmers.But it was not this that we have been very, very now disappointed -- and
disappointed because at Lancaster House there was an undertaking by both Britain
and outside the conference by the United States that they would find the money.And so we didn't bother about removing the clause.As long as money was available, we would get it and then use it for
purposes of compensating the farmers. But after about five or so years, Britain
said it did not have the money.And
in the United States, the regimes changed.Carter went out and Reagan came in.And Reagan said no, he was not going to give us money for that purpose.
In Britain, well, they said they had given us enough. But we tried to negotiate,
and negotiate with the conservative government.This time it was that of Major -- Major was the prime minister in 1996.And we had put together an arrangement which would have been acceptable
to both sides and they were willing to fund the resettlement process and make
funds available. To what extent?Well,
we say I suppose in time they would increase the amounts, but the principle of
forwarding us the funds was accepted.But before the funds were put together, the Labour government
defeated Major.Mr. Blair's
government said no, they were not prepared to take on colonial responsibilities
But we said, fine, if you're not prepared to do it, there now stands at
Lancaster House that we would not tax our poor peasants in order for them to buy
back their land would come back.And that's why we are behaving the way we are doing -- being
very firm with Britain.We will not
compensate the farmers unless Britain makes the funds available.
Europeans did not give any compensation to the Africans from whom they took the
is one reason we are making this very firm stand.
the white farmers are asking to be compensated for land that they stole?
this is what we have said.It was a
robbery.Daylight robbery.And we are building up a case, a separate case for that one -- for
compensating us not just for the land, but for the whole act; an act of robbery;
a colonial act of seizing our land; subjecting our people for a hundred years
nearly, and exploiting our resources without our permission.
there another dimension in this land reform issue?And that is whether there are Zimbabweans who are able to take over the
machinery of agriculture and mineral produce in the country.
are well-educated people, well-skilled.They
are the ones, actually, buying most of the European farms.And we provide cheap labor.We
provide skilled labor.We have
technicians.We have research
centers.That's no problem at all.
We are self-sufficient in that regard.We
are not self-sufficient in regard to accessing the technology that we require.We need tractors.We need
other [unintelligible] that are not available in Zimbabwe.And it is that side which will be to some extent handicapped.But we will use our resources to the best of our ability to acquire the
necessary machinery. But insofar as the technology-- the farming technology is
concerned, there is nothing we can do.
GIL NOBLE:But as far as the
acquisition of equipment and machinery, if you don't have the resources in the
government, then one has to go to the IMF for loans?Is that--
ROBERT MUGABE:No.The IMF usually doesn't provide that kind of loan.It provides help loans, short-term loans with the full balance of
payments.And that is all when you
have deficits then you go to the IMF, with the trade deficits and generally
balance of balance shortfalls.That's
why they provide facilities.And
this entire U.N. cry has been just about those loans that are really frugally
given. And quite insignificant in amounts, but because several countries have
tied themselves to the IMF in respect of affording funds to developed countries,
and this is a gimmick, naturally, to get them to do what they IMF wants. We want
the IMF to give us those little insignificant funds when we had balance of
payments, problems worrying us, so they can unlock, you know, the funds that
other countries might be able to afford us.
GIL NOBLE:Now, I understand that
your government now has a fast track program.
GIL NOBLE:How fast a track is it?
ROBERT MUGABE:Very fast.Very fast.As fast as the
hundred-meter run now.That is how
I want to compare it.But we had to
embark on that because we're looking at the season.And come October, the race will have come and we wanted people to be in
possession of the land to be able to till the land this season.Obviously we will not complete the process this year.But most of the land should be acquired this year.
GIL NOBLE:The majority?
and then next year we'll just do a mopping up exercise.And then so we are saying to the people, ``Get out of the land.We'll demarcate the land using our own technicians as between grazing and
horrible.And then mark out the
places where homes will come. We will provide the water and the combination of
two institutions we have; one in agriculture, one in the ministry of water, that
is a combination of the instruments they have, the equipment they have -- the
tractors, that is. We will help the farmers.
ROBERT MUGABE:We don't intend to
go outside the criteria where established from the purpose of first identifying
the land that we need for [unintelligible] and then designating that land. If a
farmer has one farm -- only one farm -- well, we say-- we do not touch it unless
it's adjacent to a communal area.And
in that case, we will take that one farm and ask him to choose another.
Secondly, farmers with more than one farm -- and the majority of the farmers
there have two, three, in some cases, 18 farms to an individual -- we will take
all the land that is in excess of one farm.And then, of course, under-utilized land will go.Then land held by absentee owners sitting in the House of Lords and
controlling-- using remote control to agriculture -- that will also go.
GIL NOBLE:Is that true?
ROBERT MUGABE:Yes.The Actons and Rifkins will lose their farms.They are in the House of Lords. Then, obviously we will not tax
agro-industrial enterprises -- sugar plantations, citrus plantations, and in
some cases, horticultural plantations as well, then the forestry areas.We have huge forests of exotic trees -- cyprus, pine, wattle, et cetera.We won't tax those to the best of our ability.
GIL NOBLE:Are they run by outside
ROBERT MUGABE:They belong to
interests like Anglo-America, and [unintelligible].Some are government also.
GIL NOBLE:You haven't mentioned
ROBERT MUGABE:He has two farms.I think only one is being considered for resettlement and the other he
Yes, he is a free man.And as I
joke about it, he wears a borrowed head because in other circumstances we would
have, you know, tried him for genocide and claimed his head.But we've allowed him to keep it, to wear it for the rest of his life.
GIL NOBLE:So he has not really put
up a complaint, a major complaint about relinquishing this land?
ROBERT MUGABE:No, he hasn't to
date.I don't think he has been
affected in any serious manner.I
think he's still in possession of his land.
GIL NOBLE:Now about this
agro-industries.Is the earnings,
the revenues to the government satisfactory to you?Is it fair?Would
they pay a tariff or a duty or a tax that is satisfactory to you?
ROBERT MUGABE:The farmers are
really good at dodging taxes.They
are very rich.But every year they
plead poverty and say they are not able because of costs, because of this,
because of animals destroying their crops.Sometimes they complain that there is robbery.And they find excuses, all kinds of excuses. They are growers of tobacco.And let it not be forgotten that we are number three,
sometimes-number two, grower of tobacco that's sold on the international market.But we come after Brazil and Brazil comes after the United States, as you
are aware.And so we have quite
some farming magnets. We depend on the taxation mainly.There is not even land tax to charge them, but we have been
considering that.And we-- it's
when they sell and make a profit and then on the basis of the levels of profit
we pose our own tax-- taxes on them.
GIL NOBLE:Does your government
have the facilities to really examine their books and make sure that what they
are reporting as earnings is actually--
ROBERT MUGABE:That's where we have
a weakness, I think.It is in respect to those carrying out horticulture,
especially, and those who send their flowers and other products to the
Netherlands or elsewhere.And that
hasn't been a real degree of vigilance and a degree of inspection.And I think there has been a great weakness there.And so you get some of them resorting to, you know, all kinds of tricks
-- under invoicing, over invoicing -- in order to dodge not only the tax system
but also-- not only to avoid, you know, paying taxes, but also to try and fund,
you know, back their funds outside the country.
GIL NOBLE:Are there penalties for
ROBERT MUGABE:Yeah, yeah, sure.There are penalties where when we discover that's happened.But it is extremely difficult to discover that. Then we have this new
development which started just a few years back, I think in the '90s, where the
farmers were now transforming [unintelligible] land into conservancies.And these are little safaris where they get animals, wild animals.And most of the wild animals come from the game reserves, and fence them
up.And then with friends from the
United States who want to come shooting buck antelope and so one, they make
arrangements.And payments are made
outside.Then the safari hunters
come.They shoot one or two animals
and come back.He is satisfied to know that they had a good time in Africa.But unbeknown to them, the arrangement they will have made with the
farmer for them to bank, you know, the payments here are illegal.And I don't think they are aware of that.
L NOBLE:Can you tell those who
are listening to this interview, is your analysis of the controversy that you
report about this whole question of Zimbabweans sitting on the land that was
quote-unquote ``owned'' by the Europeans and there were some fights and some--
GIL NOBLE:What is your explique
and analysis of what that was?
ROBERT MUGABE:Well, this was the
campaign by the war veterans.And
it was caused by-- they had discovery that what they had fought for in the first
place -- the land -- had not come.And there were the farmers now exhibiting a great reluctance,
if not resistance, to the land reform program.And they started a campaign. When the campaign started, we were quite
unaware that this is what they were doing.But when they did it, we said, ``Ah, yes.Of course, we support it.''But
it should not extend beyond mere demonstration.And we regarded them as demonstrations by the war veterans.Your occupation of the land is not real seizure of that land.You don't own it by nature of occupation.You're merely demonstrating your desire that government proceed with the
land reform as quickly as possible.Don't
take anything that doesn't belong to you from that-- from the farm or from the
farmer.And please be peaceful
about it. a thousand farms were so occupied.But in a few of them there were incidents of violence, which we regretted
very much.And two farmers died,
but a lot more blacks were killed in the process.
ROBERT MUGABE:Yes, yes, yes -- by
farmers organizing either their workers to go out and attack-- attack the war
veterans and their supporters.That
GIL NOBLE:African against African?
ROBERT MUGABE:Yes, yes.Of course.This is what
you've got.Even politically, this
is what has happened.That's why
you had the so-called movement for democratic change winning that number of
seats. You had the whole other launch of European media and European personnel
in Zimbabwe; the European parties from South Africa supporting them.And lots of money has been pouring in.So you can see that it has not been that easy. But we won and the victory
was not a victory against the poor blacks, now led by [unintelligible].It was a victory -- victory, the second victory against Britain --
Britain and its allies.
GIL NOBLE:Mr. President, by the
time this interview airs this Sunday, the U.N. meeting will have ended.I was just wondering what your report card is on President Clinton
ROBERT MUGABE:Well, as to what
President Clinton is going to say, well, I'm--
GIL NOBLE:Just up to now, as we
speak -- up until now.What kind of
report card would you give him?
ROBERT MUGABE:Well, I'll say
perhaps of all presidents, he has been the only one who has visited Africa so
many times.But visiting Africa is
one thing; doing real material, substantial things for Africa to see it develop
is another.It's not just good
intentions we want, we want to see those good intentions actually in practice.They must be measured by the degree you see of material assistance that
has been given to Africa.
GIL NOBLE:Have you seen that
ROBERT MUGABE:On only limited
areas -- the areas of health.And
unfortunately his time has also been characterized by the, shall I say, the
elitheral attitude of Congress.And
the Congress now adopting a policy of less and less aid to developing countries,
but wanting more and more trade, you see, and opening the avenue of trade. To
open the avenue of trade you must first open the avenue of economic development.What are you going to trade in?Bananas
and sugar -- what we have been selling to the United States over decades.And that has not brought about change.We want to see countries of Africa actually transforming.And transformation is an exercise -- or shall I say, process of moving
from a primary production to secondary production, adding value to your own
products and selling them now to the international markets. that's not-- that
hasn't happened.If anything, we
have seen our economies actually now declining.
GIL NOBLE:Are the prices of
African produce -- mineral and agricultural, such as in your country -- set by
your government, by Africans or in Europe?
ROBERT MUGABE:That's one thing we
are crying about and do not want to see this situation, you know, visiting us in
the global village. You take our case.We
depend on gold, nickel and several other minerals, you see, name them -- it can
be oil.It can be asbestos.It can be platinum, et cetera.But
the prices, look at the prices on the market.The price of gold has been very low; the lowest since 1980.And that has affected our own reserves.And that's why now we are running short of foreign currency.But the production is continuous. But, of course, the fact has also been
for some of us, more mines to close down.And
this has persisted.But it's not
just in the area of mining or minerals.Even
in the area of agriculture, yes, the tobacco prices are improving now.But last year they were very bad. But it's not just tobacco.You have also cotton.We're
like quite a lot in cotton.But
Africa produces coffee.It produces
cocoa.Ghana produces nearly twice
as much gold as we do.Only
yesterday, and Clinton visited Ghana, they called it a success story. They will
always call you a success story, like they did us in the 1980's, only for them
to damn you the next day as a failure.Now
Ghana because of the reduced international market prices for its gold and cocoa
as well.And this in the context in
which oil prices are going up.And
that's affecting us.They have had
to devalue the cedi from 3,000 to the dollar to 6,000 -- less, you know, by 100
percent-- by 50 percent, is it or 100? Now you get that situation happening and
it's not just Ghana alone.Ghana
was a success story yesterday because the trend was an up point.But now the crosses are looking down, just as they are in our own case.
And in those circumstances we cannot continue to say the international price
markets are fair to us.They fix
the prices of our commodities and proceed to fix the prices of their own
commodities that they sell to us -- machinery, technology.These are going up as our own prices in their markets are coming down.Where is fairness?
GIL NOBLE:And then you're saying
at the same time duties and tariffs are down.
ROBERT MUGABE:There you are.Well, this is TWO now.They
want the duties down.And you want
the duties down and we are going to rely on duties not only as a source of
revenue, but also for the protection that they afford to our nascent industries.But now they say-- hands down, no one shall impose immunity on any
commodity.We want fair trade. How
can you-- we are economic midgets and they are Tysons.We are going into the ring.Oh,
you see, there is no match.
GIL NOBLE:As you know, there has
been a hewing cry being raised on both side of the Atlantic about reparations.My question to you is what is your reading on that?How do you feel about that?Are
the demands that are being made on this side of the Atlantic different from
those that are made in Africa?
ROBERT MUGABE:A similar dimension
is slavery here, but it's also colonialism and subjugation of a people; slavery
of a whole continent, you know.Being subjected to the will, whims and caprices of the west.Exploitation of resources.And
underpayment of actually forced labor.Underpayment
of workers.And values then, in
some cases-- genocidal incidents happening in various countries.And it depends on the country.And
so each country would have to make out its case against its former colonial
master. In our own case, naturally it's colonialism over repeated-- over 90
years and the exploitation of our resources -- gold and other minerals.The agricultural exploitation of our country and the subjugation of our
people for no pay when they were forced, you know, to work without pay. So you--
you had that kind of slavery to in Africa itself.
GIL NOBLE:But is it naive to make
this request without a stick to demand it?
ROBERT MUGABE:Well, the stick can
only be pressure from all of us, from our unity.And that's the only stick we have -- let's be united.And if it is being done, you see, to one racial group and that group has
won its case using purely the fact of history, the pressure of history and the
pressure of human rights.And then,
of course, the pressure of its own-- the unity of its own people.Well, why can't we do it in the same way?There is no way we can go to war about it.We just have got to use the processes that exist.
ROBERT MUGABE:To all who say
nonsensical talk about democracy, transparency, human rights, today is being
raised now in order for the whites to point to our countries which are still
[unintelligible] from their own systems of colonialism and have not got
stabilized; pointing at them as offenders of these principles.When only yesterday, as they ruled our countries they didn't know of any
democracy.There was no
transparency.There were no human
rights.And this is why we take the
stand that no colonial master should be able to come to us and talk about
democracy. Lay still, Britain, who actually was our direct colonizer and which
made our people suffer and whose system infuriated us and made us go to war in
search of our right, in quest of our right to rule ourselves; the right of
democracy which was never there in Rhodesia.Human rights and transparency -- and we achieved them.Displaced Ian Smith with his unilateral declaration of independence and
dictatorship.And for the first
time in 1980, there were democratic elections.We brought them about. For the first time, with a declaration of rights
in our constitution, we brought it about.For
the first time our people could now say they have their right of
determine their future.They are a
sovereign people.We brought that
about. And so when Britain and other European countries shout democracy, we
cannot listen to them at all.We
say ``Nonsense.When did you learn
democracy yourselves as applying to our countries?''
IL NOBLE:Are you referring to
this democracy 2000 that is being discussed now, this venture?
ROBERT MUGABE:Yes, sure, sure.I'm referring to now and I'm referring also to you saw what was coming on
to various networks -- CNN, et cetera -- a descriptive of our own systems; a
descriptive of me as leader of the Zimbabwe-African National Union Patriotic
Front.And that-- alleging that we are undemocratic.We are-- we gave birth to those virtues in Zimbabwe.And how could we be the destroyers today of what we gave birth to?
GIL NOBLE:In closing, Mr. Mugabe,
I asked you about that stick.
GIL NOBLE:And you said that the
stick is going to be forged-- would be forged out of African unity.
ROBERT MUGABE:Unity.Unity and the Diaspora, also.
GIL NOBLE:Is that happening?Do you see it?
ROBERT MUGABE:Yes, we are
beginning to talk about it, all of us in the OAU.But we are yet to forge a solidarity or solid unity about it.But I think as one country creates that solidarity within its system and
another does so elsewhere, we will then be in a position to talk of an African
solidarity in the whole of the continent.
GIL NOBLE:Is there any daylight at
all that we can look forward to regarding the strife between African nations,
between African against African; Sierra Leone, instances like that?
ROBERT MUGABE:This is likely to
continue as long as we have Africans divided.Again, it's the lack of national unity at the time of independence which
is the cause.And, of course, a
failure in our system to build up a national consciousness -- a truly national
consciousness that resorting to military dictatorship is wrong.It is un-African, in most cases.
GIL NOBLE:You've been very
generous with your time.Thank you,