Mugabe: 'No remote control ever again'

Interview by Baffour Ankomah

September 1, 2003


[Ed. Note: We are deeply indebted to the generosity and solidarity of Baffour Ankomah for sharing this historical interview with Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. We are proud for the opportunity to publish this Web-exclusive collector's item.]

New African, May 2002:

Zimbabwe celebrated 22 years of independence on 18 April. Because of the severe drought affecting the whole of Southern Africa and causing food shortages in the region, including Zimbabwe, the ZANU-PF politburo decided to have a low-key independence celebration and instead use the money to import more maize (the staple food) to feed the people.

Before the celebration, President Robert Mugabe granted a wide ranging, world exclusive, interview to the New African editor, Baffour Ankomah. They talked about the pre-independence and post-independence period, and the future of both Zimbabwe and Africa. It is a collector's item.

You were in Ghana for two years, 1958-60, teaching at the Takoradi Training College. What made you come home to join the liberation struggle?

It had always been my wish to go into politics, and I soon realised when Ghana became independent that, actually there could be two reasons for going to Ghana to teach. One was, for me, to be in a newly independent African state, and have the experience of it, the feel of it, see how things were going, and compare and contrast the political system, the way of life being led by the people in the newly independent African state with the one in the colonial state of which I had great experience and was familiar with - whether it was Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia or South Africa where I went for my university education.

I had decided that my life in the future should be political. And for me to be able as a politician to go round and campaign and talk to people, I had to be independent of the governmental system, and if I had remained a teacher I wouldn't be independent of the governmental system very much. But in order for me to get where I wanted to, I had to teach for some time, acquire money and go and study in Britain.

And so when Ghana became independent, I applied to Ghana to teach under a contract. The contract was to last for four years, and I thought during that time I could earn enough money and find my way to Britain to study law, become an advocate and come back and practise, and then join politics as an independent, self-employed person, and therefore avoid the constraints and restraints that a civil servant would have. That's the second reason why I went to Ghana.

So I applied to the Catholic Church there and they offered me this post. I took it up knowing that after four years, when my contract elapsed, I would go and study law.

However, after two years of working at Takoradi Teacher Training College, I came back on leave. By then a number of political events had occurred here. I came back in 1960, there had been the banning of the nationalist organisations in the Central African Federation, the Federation had been created in December 1953 and lasted until December 1963. The nationalist organisations had been banned because of the fear by whites here that British control over the political system in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia was not as strong as in Southern Rhodesia, and therefore not as strong over the Africans in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia as it was here in Southern Rhodesia.

The whites feared that, sooner or later, British control would cease and the Africans in the north would quickly move towards independence. And with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland becoming independent, the influence here would be great and that the British might be tempted also to grant independence to Southern Rhodesia.

So if there was a federal system, the whites here (whose population was higher than all the whites in the three territories that federated in 1953) would have control and would ensure that the pace that Britain wanted the northern territories to take towards self government or independence would be slowed down, if not completely, or be interrupted.

Was land a core issue even then?

Land was an issue. It has always been an issue. The Africans were always complaining about the land, about how they had been pushed into little portions of the country called Native Reserves for a start, and later on they were called Communal Areas. Yes, that was a very deep-seated grievance - land shortage. And the fact that the whites occupied the best of the land in the country, the more fertile areas, and spacious areas for that matter, while the Africans were hurdled together, packed like sardines in small areas.

And this is why when you travel, you have areas that were cleared of the African people and made spacious in order for them to become vast estates for white farmers who then prided themselves of owning vast estates in a country where the majority of the people were hurdled together.

In today's terms, they would call it ethnic cleansing...

...Well, they would call it ethnic cleansing naturally, and this is it - they used race, colour - and here of course it was not so much of ethnicity as colour.

Colour cleansing, not ethnic cleansing?

Colour cleansing yes, but sometimes the two go together - colour cleansing and ethnic cleansing. Here in Africa, the two went together.

You spent some time in prison. What actually happened?

When I came back, I didn't tell you the story why I didn't finish the four years in Ghana. When I came back, parties had been banned, and here in the then Southern Rhodesia, the African National Congress (ANC) had been banned, and people had been detained under the Detention Act in February 1959. I came back in 1960, about May, June. I found that the National Democratic Party (NDP) had been formed to replace the African National Congress. It was then just six months old.

Then I started telling people, friends and relatives who had joined the NDP, they wanted me to tell the people, at political meetings and rallies, how Ghana was; how free the Ghanaians were, and what the feeling was in a newly independent African state. So I went round and talked about how young people in Ghana who had only done Standard 7 were being raised up, being taught how to type, and the wonderful life there was in Ghana, the "Highlife" at the time and so on; you know, the very, very inspiring environment there was in Ghana.

So I told them all that, and about Kwame Nkrumah. I told them also about Nkrumah's own political ideology and his commitment that unless every inch of African soil was free, then Ghana would not regard itself as free. So I went round politicising people, using what I regarded as factual description of my experience in Ghana.

And this was now in June, July 1960; and by then there was quite an amount of concern by the people about the leaders who had been arrested in February 1959 after the Detention Act had been applied. And there was now a movement to get them released.

There were demonstrations, I remember the July, August demonstration of that year. I was instrumental, together with others some of whom are now dead, and we urged the people to strike, to strike in order to demonstrate our desire to have those in prison released. The strike succeeded in Harare first, then it was re-echoed in Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare, and people wanted their leaders released.

Of course the workers who joined the strike had their own grievances about their working conditions, pay and salaries. So we took all that together and bundled it up, and we said no, we wanted the leaders freed, and the workers must also be paid, but it was mainly political, we wanted the leaders who were still in detention to be freed.

So that led to your arrest?

No, it didn't lead to my arrest because nobody knew me at that time and I could move freely. Of course they didn't know me, and they said who is this chap who is so articulate, they didn't know me. They knew only the leaders of the NDP, and they picked them up.

In fact, one day I was driving a car with lots of pamphlets in it, in Highfield. Lots of pamphlets in the back of the car to distribute to various parts of Harare, and my car suddenly stopped, I couldn't start it. And the policemen who were around said, "what's wrong?" The Support Group of the police had teargas everywhere, and I said "Oh I can't start it". They said, "Can we give you a push?" I said yes, "please give me a push". So they gave me a push. And there it was, the car started, and I went distributing the documents.

And one of the documents was actually prepared for the BBC. I was helping with publicity, I was working mainly in the publicity section of the party, I wasn't then officially an officer of the party at all, but my colleagues who wanted me to assist said I better assist in the information and publicity side of the party. And of course we had a duplicator and a cyclostyling machine at the time. So that's what we did. They didn't get to know me until very late.

So finally they got you?

Finally, oh they got me, they got me. They got to know me too. But it took them a long time to know who this guy was. Not in 1960. We sailed through that year. But then in October, the NDP held its inaugural congress. They asked me to chair it in Goodwill Hall, it was a hall for coloured people, I don't know whether it is still there.

At that inaugural congress in October 1960, we had Nkomo elected in absentia as president. I was then the information and publicity secretary of the NDP and that was what I was to the very end of the party until it was banned. Of all the parties that had existed in colonial times, the NDP had the longest life. It went through the whole of 1960 and the whole of 1961, and was only banned in December 1961, just a week or so before Christmas.

It was then that we immediately formed ZAPU, the Zimbabwe African People's Union. At the time, Joshua Nkomo had returned towards the end of 1960 from Britain, and the ANC was banned. He had attended the All People's Conference in Ghana, and from Accra he went to London. It was when he was in London, in February 1960, that the swoop was done here and in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and this was when the major nationalist parties were banned.

So we made him president. When the NDP was banned in December, within a matter of 10 days we formed ZAPU. But we didn't want to call it ZAPU initially. There was KANU in Kenya, and TANU in Tanzania, and here the name given was ZANU.

And as publicity secretary, I said ZANU yes, it would give uniformity with what had happened elsewhere in the subregion, but for me PU - the people's thing - was what mattered, so why can't we call it ZAPU.

So ZAPU was my choice actually as publicity secretary, and I thought it would give a better ring and a better appeal to the people - the people's union. So Nkomo said, "OK, you can have it your way". So we called it ZAPU.

And Nkomo became leader.

Nkomo became leader, I was still publicity secretary.

There are allegations that you unduly supplanted Nkomo and became leader.

No, if anyone was defending Nkomo, it was I. I was the last to leave ZAPU and only at a time when I felt things had gone too far. No, no, no, I was the whole way through against anyone who wanted division, who wanted us to remove Nkomo. No, not I.

I feared that if we did that we would divide the people almost immediately and Matabeleland would go its way. So we sailed through that problem. ZAPU did not have as long a life as the NDP. It got banned in September 1962. It was formed just before Christmas 1961 and got banned nine months later. And we had planned that ZAPU would go beyond what the NDP had done. The NDP had been principally a people-mobilising party, getting the people to be much more conscious than during the ANC days.

When the ANC was banned in 1959, not much work had been done and the people were, as it were, raw. But they became now much more mature. There were more politicisation, more conscientisation about their nationalism, and giving also a belief and a greater sense of confidence in them, and they wanted to do in Zimbabwe what others had done elsewhere, for example in Ghana, and after Ghana of course we had the other Francophone countries becoming free.

You know Nigeria would not have independence for a start, they said they were not mature yet. They laughed at Ghana when Ghana wanted independence. They [Nigeria] wanted a kind of political tutelage for a year or two before their own independence.

And so to get the people to have the confidence that they could actually overcome the European here [in Zimbabwe], the psychology that was required to re-orientate them was great.

And so, we had people who actually when the native commissioner or district commissioner or policeman was saying any nonsense or was trying to challenge you at a political meeting, there were people who could actually box him, box him to give people the confidences. Or say rough things to him or dismiss him as nonsense. So people could now say: "Ah, can people do this to a white man?" And it took some time to get them now to have confidence in themselves. But confidence was coming.

But ZAPU was banned nine months after it had been in existence. And at that point, we said we should not form another party. We should go underground, prepare our people now, send people to be trained abroad, and nobody had any experience how a guerrilla war could be waged.

And we got detained after the banning. We got detained when David Whitehead was prime minister, and I was detained at my own place. The detention was very ridiculous and ludicrous all at the same time. How did it happen?

The leaders were taken to their home places and confined to their country homes. You were given a radius beyond which you couldn't travel. And then you had to report to the nearest police station once a week or so. And at your home, they pitched their tent where two policemen, Special Branch people, security people, drawn from the CIO guarded you, or two policemen alternatively plus a white man who supervised them and who would be present and then absent himself and come and go like that.

So I was detained at home. And if I went to church they followed me, and I don't know whether they prayed with me. And even I remember, you know, going to the cemetery to bury a relative, there they were beside me, perhaps not as mournful as I was.

But the funniest of all, you know, here we use the plough and oxen to till our fields. So this was December. We were detained after September, so come December we were still at home, and it was ploughing time, the rains had fallen, and there I was ploughing, holding the plough. My brother had been arrested because a bomb had been discovered in one of the rooms of our cottage at home, and he was the one staying there. He was at Marondera awaiting trial.

So his wife was the one who was driving the cattle for me with the whip. The way we plough you take a piece of the land, and then you start, it was a one-dish plough, it takes long to finish a piece. And you go this way, and the cattle are trained, a young boy would lead them if they were not, and you turn and go up and down, again and again, until you finish the piece. And the police would follow me as I went round like that, even if it took two hours, there they were.

Very interesting.

Very interesting. But anyway, in about December 1961 there was an election which Whitehead had lost, and in came the Rhodesian Front - a combination of the Dominion Party and another. The leader was called Winston Field. He came before Ian Smith. Winston Field said no, these people who had been detained by Whitehead I have no case against them. I want to start on a clean slate. And so that is how we got freed. Again, we drifted into town, and it was when we were here that we started now meeting and planning the way forward.

So I was released. Nkomo was this time again abroad and was not arrested. But quite a number of leaders were detained at their homes. We were released towards the end of December or early January 1962. And we started looking ahead as we met. We had said to ourselves that we wouldn't form another party. Eventually Nkomo returned from abroad, we met him in Highfield and we decided to start recruiting.

In the meantime, we asked Winston Field to release, not just ourselves as he had done but also the detainees who were arrested in February 1959. There were now four of them left. So he released them about February 1962, then we started planning.

But James Chikerema and Nkomo came to us and said it was necessary, if we were going to embark on a guerrilla struggle, for them to visit Egypt and talk to Abdel Nasser, but along the way they would first talk to Julius Nyerere and if they could also go to Accra, they would talk to Kwame Nkrumah. We said fine, and they were given funds by our treasurer, and so they travelled.

By the way, we in ZAPU had imposed on ourselves a restriction that we would not go to the United Nations to make appeals for financial help, because in the NDP we had tended to rely too much on outside help.

Anyway, Chikerema had tremendous influence on Nkomo. He was the man we said should organise young men for guerrilla warfare. So they travelled to Tanganyika and then to Egypt. And when they got to Egypt, we heard they had gone on to London and to New York. We said why violate the restriction we made for ourselves not to go to the United Nations and make financial appeals?

When they came back, we were very disappointed that they had done this. They told us that they had had lots of arms from Nasser, and we said yes and so what? They said when things started happening here, it would be very serious, you just have to press a button here and there would be an explosion. We said, "Ah, press a button and...? Have we trained our guys yet?"

The rest of us didn't want to know the numbers but we wanted to know whether we were now at a stage where enough people could undertake this sabotage acts to mark the beginning of a guerrilla struggle.

They said yes. Later we found that what they called arms were just about two truck loads. But how can you wage a guerrilla war with two truckloads of arms? You may be able to start something yes, but you can't say because we have that you can fight an effective guerrilla war.

They said - and this is Chikerema who had influenced Nkomo - that they had messages from Nkrumah, Nasser, Nyerere all to the effect that we should leave the country because there was going to be a very, very serious programme of guerrilla struggle.

We said: "Ah, are we at that stage?" They said, yes. I said to Chirekema in front of Nkomo: "If we leave the country without real preparations, the people would say we have deserted. Are we that ready?" They said if we start things here, we will get arrested. I said no.

And Jason Z. Moyo who was close to me, he was my best man at my wedding when I got married to Sally [his first wife from Ghana who died in 1992], he was the secretary for finance in the party, he also had said no.

And Nkomo and Chikerema said: "OK you remain behind, perhaps you will change your mind, we are going, but give us your car."

So my little car, an Opel Rekord, the only car I have bought in my life, which I bought when I was in Takoradi [Ghana], I asked Sally to come with it, to send it before she came here to Southern Rhodesia as it were. I said fine, "you can have it. I wanted to exchange notes with J. Z. Moyo, the two of us were quite keen in the NDP and also in ZAPU.

So I talked to J.Z. Moyo and he too was against our leaving the country. But he said: "If we stayed behind and things didn't go well, then the rest of the people would accuse us of having obstructed the campaign. So let's go."

I said fine, I will go with Sally. So we travelled from here to Bulawayo, then we joined J.Z. Moyo and we drove through the southern part of the country and crossed into Botswana. There was a river there, it was quite full, and we had to wade through the water with the car, but the car managed to pull through.

When we arrived in Francistown [Botswana], the leader of the only party in town (not the same as the present party) accommodated us, while J.Z. Moyo arranged for a small plane to fly us to Tanzania.

So on Good Friday, we left Francistown and landed on the border with Zambia for refueling. We slept there actually, then we flew on to Tanzania and used a local flight to Dar es Salaam. When we were there, staying in the hotel, an arrangement was made for us to meet with President Nyerere. His secretary was Kambona.

So we met Nyerere. Mind you, the background was that Nkrumah, Nyerere and Nasser all wanted us to leave the country, so we could form a government in exile, and when things happened here in Southern Rhodesia, naturally, the leadership would be free from arrest.

And now we are meeting Nyerere. But when the issue was put by Joshua Nkomo, it was put this way: "Mr President, we are here to ask for support, we would want to form a government in exile, and we have decided that it wouldn't be safe for us to remain in Rhodesia, and so we want you to provide us with a room here, and secondly provide us with all the support, financial and material, that we might require for the purposes of waging a struggle."

And Nyerere looked at us for a while. And he said: "Well, I know very little about guerrilla struggle and governments in exile. But the little I know is that before you can establish a government in exile, you sure must have a square of control of your territory. You don't have that. There is no fighting that has taken place in your country. And there are no guns that have the range of firing bullets from here to your country. I would be very happy to provide you with a room, but we would be doing you a disservice if we allowed you to form a government in exile here. That's a matter we cannot do at the moment."

So we were just listening. And we went to our hotel, it was called the Metropole, owned by Tiny Rowland. And I then went to Takawira, (he is late [dead] now), he was the chairman of the party external. And I said: "Ah, Mr Takawira, did you hear how the conversation went. We had to ask for the first time for permission to live in this country, to be accommodated here, but I thought we had been told that the request for us to be outside our country came from Nkrumah, Nyerere and Nasser. What is this? So we've not been told the truth. But why should this have happened?"

We all concluded that it was Chikerema's own persuasion to Nkomo. That was the bone of departure between me and Joshua Nkomo.

So what was the next move? They said we must discuss it together. In the meantime, President Kaunda [of Zambia] sent a note, it was carried by Terrence Ranger, one of the white liberals here. Kaunda was angry that we had taken this action of "leaving the people" as he said. "We would denounce you if you don't come back," he added.

But we said to Kaunda, no, but give us your country as a venue so we can meet members of our executives who are in Southern Rhodesia, they could come to the northern side of the border and meet with us to discuss the leadership of the party.

Kaunda was agreeable, but when Nkomo got back home, with the influence of Chikerema, in fact Chikerema told him: "No, don't go to that meeting, they are going to change the leadership. What you should do now is to suspend so and so and so."

And we were suspended from ZAPU, a number of us. In the meantime, we also announced on the BBC that, on the contrary, we were suspending Nkomo and the others and creating a new leadership.

So we were split now. The people at home who were being suspended (we were still in Tanzania) decided they better form another party. If I had been in the country I would have advised against it. I would have insisted on changing the leadership within the same party, it would have been much easier. But they decided they wanted a new party. The members of ZAPU who had remained at home formed a new party, and Ndabaningi Sithole was made the leader, and I was made secretary general, but I was still in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

That is how we actually split. But there was never any manoeuvre by me personally, never at any stage, to upstage Nkomo.

Yes after Lancaster, Nkomo desired that we fight the elections as one. My side said no, we have fought the struggle separately as ZANU and ZAPU, and let's fight the elections separately, and we will merge after the elections, win or lose. So we pledged ourselves in advance to be working together, be united in government and form a government of national unity if we win the elections.

But at no time did I ever actually personally want to push Nkomo from his seat. Never. Except when we joined with others and said no, because of the events that had taken place, and the fact that we had been misled, we must go for a new leadership. Yes, at that stage I was for a change of leadership.

If I should take you to Ian Smith's UDI days (Unilateral Declaration of Independence). It is said that you, Nkomo and others were taken from prison to meet with the British prime minister Harold Wilson, and Wilson was furious that you had been denied food for hours before the meeting. But you didn't get any joy from Wilson either?

Yes, the prisons would always do that. You know, they would not give you food, and when they gave it, it was bad food. What happened was we were in two camps now - the ZAPU camp and the ZANU camp. We didn't see Wilson together. No, ZAPU's delegation saw Wilson alone and we saw him alone in State House where I conduct ceremonies nowadays. We were never allowed to meet as ZANU and ZAPU. We were taken to the police, we were given a very rough ride in a bumpy aircraft. Yes, we were not well accommodated. We were given food but after quite some time. They didn't treat us kindly at all.

So from the police, when our turn came to see Wilson, we met him. It was in October 1965, just a month before UDI. And Wilson told us that he had come to prevent the contemplated stupid action by Ian Smith to declare UDI. And he thought he had succeeded by threatening Ian Smith with an oil embargo. But we said oil sanctions would not work. He said he thought they would work, they would crush the entire economy, it would crumple under the oil embargo.

But we said: "Why, won't you send troops, British troops? He said, word for word: "Ah, because the British public would not stand for it."

We said: "Kith and kin issue?"

He said: "Well, you know what happened when the Suez War was fought, and this was by the Conservatives, the British public was against it. You see, it was that pressure."

But we said: "No, we are not here negotiating with the British public, we are negotiating with the government, and it is government action we want."

So I have been using that recently in respect of the demand by Britain and the whites here that I use my army and police force to go and deal with the war veterans on the farms. I say no, I can't send my army full of war veterans to go and kill war veterans. I would rather use more peaceful means. And this is what we have done. And through that peaceful way we've managed to prevent loss of life to a great extent.

So Ian Smith carried on...

...So Ian Smith carried on.

He says in his book The Great Betrayal, have you read it?

I haven't, I've heard about it, The Great Betrayal.

He says in that book that his regime was winning the war against the terrorists, he still calls you terrorists...

Yes, to him we are terrorists, we will remain terrorists unto death.

In the book, Smith uses the phrase "the kill rate was very high" - meaning the kill rate of the terrorists was very high. So if he was winning the war against you and the nationalists, why was he forced by the combined pressure of the South Africans, America and Britain to give up power?

Ah, he was losing the war. He might have had a high kill rate, they had to bomb our camps of refugees and children, and we were losing 700, 800 people, and there was bombardment in various areas, they bombed our camps (bases we called them), naturally it was a very high kill rate for them. But it was dastardly, very cowardly. They had to bomb children and innocent groups. That's the callous nature of the white man here and the white man in Britain as we judge them now through the various actions that they are taking.

Anyway, we had created quite a huge problem for them. We had seized lots of areas that we called "liberated zones" where we had our own administration, and we actually were ruling those areas in a way. And there were "semi-liberated areas" and the "contested areas" where the war went on. And the "liberated areas" were vast in number, and Smith saw himself losing.

The end of 1979 would have seen us launch an urban guerrilla struggle, and they were aware of the damage it would do now to their own population, we would of course had chosen the targets which would have affected them most. So whoever talked to him must have been the person who saw or judged that Smith was losing.

But when he came to the Lancaster talks in London, he had accepted majority rule, which he had rejected and sworn that it would never come in his lifetime. But there it was, in his lifetime he had accepted it.

And he sat in that meeting, he was not the same proud man we had met in 1976 in Geneva when he attended just one session and bolted, and said he had better things to do at home. That was in 1976, but in 1979 no.

Yes, he did not attend all sessions, but at least he attended quite a number. And he was much tamer. And he wanted to discuss with some of our people, he wanted to discuss with the late Tongogara, who was the commander of our forces.

So Ian Smith should not blame anybody, he betrayed himself.

First, he betrayed the law here by declaring UDI and committing treason, it was a treasonable act. And at Lancaster we agreed that we would not try him for it. And we extended the hand of reconciliation to him, but he is an unrepentant guy, and I just wonder what countries like Britain, France and America would have done to a man like that if he had been a Nazi.

Of course, they would never have wanted him to enjoy the hand of reconciliation. They have never forgiven anyone who was a Nazi, never. They have eliminated a lot, even old people in their 80s or thereabouts, they still drive them to court.

Finally, Lancaster House, 1979. And the vexed question of the land came up. Tell us what exactly happened. Why didn't you demand that the British promises be written down? I have seen BBC interviewers telling your high commissioner in London: "Show us the paper on which the promises were written."

Well, this is what people who do not live by promises, dishonest guys, do. When we discussed the land issue, the British and those who participated in the talks would know that we were deadlocked on that issue. And the British government was insisting that we accept the full burden of paying compensation to the farmers should we get their land. This is over and above our observation of the principle of willing buyer, willing seller.

We said no. We would not accept the burden of paying the full price for the land unless Britain gave us full funds. The British then said they would give us some funds but the funds may not be adequate.

And we said we could never ever tax our poor people in order to get the funds to buy their land back. It was never paid for in the first place. Those who seized it from them, from our ancestors, never paid for it, they never paid our ancestors.

So we were deadlocked, and there is evidence that the American ambassador in London invited us to discuss it in Sonny Raphael's house [Raphael was then Commonwealth secretary general]. It was Sonny Raphael who extended the invitation to us, saying the American ambassador would want to meet us. "He is proposing something in order to break the deadlock," Raphael said.

So we met the American ambassador over dinner, and there were just the four of us. What was it that he was proposing?

He said: "I notice that you've made headway on various issues and you are now deadlocked over this issue of land. America is prepared to assist by giving funds, making funds available, in quite a generous way. Those funds plus what the British are going to give, will enable you to purchase most of the land that you require. In addition to that, Britain and ourselves are going to appeal to other donors to mobilise more funds."

But he added: "We would not want the funds to be known as funds for compensating the British nationals. Just imagine what the American national would think, funds coming from his pocket going into the pocket of the British nationals. So we will give you the funds under the general rubric of the land reform. How ever you use the funds is your own affair. But we would say the funds had been given for land reform. You can use it for compensating the farmer, in that process that is up to you, but we would deny that it had been given for that purpose." That is America. And we said, well, we would respect that.

Did he mention any figures?

No, but when they started giving funds here, their donation was the highest of all, very generous indeed. And we said as long as the funds were available, fine. In fact before then, when we met with Lord Carrington, the suggestion was we might as well go to the EEC and talk to them about more funds now that the Americans had given this pledge.

So Nkomo and I flew from London one Friday because on Saturdays we didn't have talks, we had made arrangements with members of the EEC, and we met with them and told them about this deadlock and the need for us at independence, should independence come, to be seen to be proceeding with land acquisition and redistribution. The land grievance was the deepest, the most profound of all grievances. And we had to do quite a lot about it. And they said yes, they would be prepared to make contributions to the land reform programme.

So with that assurance, we said fine. And of course we trusted that the British would not break their word.

And at independence, the funds were forth coming - from the United States, no lateral hindrance. But from Britain, goodness me, always tight-fisted. "For every pound we give you," they said, "you must have an equal amount in Zimbabwe dollars." At that time, of course, our dollar was 10 cents higher than the American dollar in value. So we had to give 1.4 or 1.5 of our dollars for every British pound for a start.

And this is how they gave it: If we wanted £10m, we had to find £10m on our side to match it, and Bernard Chidzero was the finance minister and we objected to this in the strongest way. We said: "Well, we haven't got those funds. And this was not the understanding at Lancaster."

So you can see how the British tried, even the £44m they eventually gave, they gave it reluctantly.

Anyway, it was the Thatcher government, and when they had given £40m they wanted to stop, and we said no, we haven't finished the land reform programme, and they said we can give you another £4m. That was the maximum that they made available.

So, in total, how much did Britain give you, because they are quoting various figures in London. After the £44 million, they say they gave you another £36m.

No, the £36m was the start, and it went to £40m and then to £44m roughly. It may have been slightly over that, you know. And they said there was about £3m still in the coffers, but they didn't tell us that at the time.

They stopped funding the land reform because they say you gave the land to your cronies.

There were no cronies, no cronies got any land. Those who acquired any land from amongst the ministers, and we had of course a leadership code which also prevented anyone acquiring the land, we were following our socialist principles at the time, but even after we had modified our ideology, very few people in government acquired the land, and they bought it. Those who wanted the farms bought their farms.

The giving of land to cronies is a theory propounded by Blair in recent times, he is the one who has been talking about cronies.

But who are cronies and who are not cronies - members of the party? And we've lots and lots of people, we've got support across the country, and should they be denied land anyway? They are part of the population. Of course we didn't go out and say our so-called cronies would get this farm or that farm. We never did that. They are lies that you get from No.10 Downing Street these days - they never know the truth there.

If I can take you back to just when you won your first electoral victory. Did you know that Ian Smith's army generals were planning to seize power from you even before your inauguration in 1980?

Yes. We had known this during the Lancaster talks. We got the information that the South Africans had agreed...

...Even then, Smith says in his book that you did consult him on certain issues for a year or so after independence and then you stopped...

Yes, yes. I did that.

Why did you stop, was he being too pushy?

If we should go to your first question. We knew about Smith's generals. We knew that there had been this arrangement with the South Africans, an arrangement between the Rhodesians and the South Africans, and perhaps with British support, and it was the reason why I asked Lord Soames to stay on after independence to help me.

I said to him: "I have never run a government before in my life. Two things I had done - one, I had taught for nearly 18 years; and two, I had led a guerrilla struggle. I had never run a government, you have been in government, you've been a representative of Britain to Europe and you've vast experience, stay on."

And he said really?. And this is a man who had been bitter against me. He said: "Yes, I will ring Carrington immediately". So Carrington said: "Yes, stay on for some three to four weeks, no more".

I wanted to create confidence in the new government, from the European Community and avoid a situation of conflict or perceived conflict.

Then Soames said: "Well, we are ready, we can offer you troops, the British team which had come here, the monitoring team, can now be joined by B-Matt (British military advisory training team) to get you integrate your forces.

I said fine, let them come, because as they would be working with our army, with our guerrillas, putting them together (and the Rhodesians of course hated that), they would act as a deterrent to the Rhodesians and stop them from embarking on any stupid act. If they did, then Britain would obviously not accept it.

Then the South Africans also if they saw there were British troops within our army and helping, they would think twice before coming to the rescue of the Rhodesians by way of a coup d'état.

That was the main reason why we wanted the British B-Matt team here. We could have gone for the Chinese or the Koreans, they trained us after all. But it was a departure, and a departure which was tactical.

And you did consult Smith on various issues after that.

Yes, I did. When I formed my government, we consulted with Soames and he had certain individuals in mind whom he had been told were liberals. And we agreed that we would include the late David Smith, he had been to the Lancaster talks and he was very approachable to us, a liberal but of the Rhodesian Front, Ian Smith's party.

And there was also Chris Andersen who had been minister of justice under Smith, but he was now against Smith. And of course Dennis Norman, he left my cabinet not long ago, he left just before the last parliamentary election in June 2000, he is a farmer and apolitical, he did not belong to Ian Smith's party.

So when I chose David Smith as cabinet minister, I called him to my house in Mount Pleasant which the party had bought for me. And I said: "Well, there is a post we are giving you." He said: "I will accept it, but you know I am a member of the Rhodesian Front, it would be good if you invited Ian Smith and told him that you had chosen me as a member of this cabinet."

And I called Smith, and he came. I told him, "Mr Smith, I am appointing David Smith and Chris Andersen as cabinet members. I thought I should tell you. I hope you would agree."

And he said: "But why do you want to come through the backdoor and avoid the front door?".

I said: "Ah, I don't understand you".

He said: "But you should have asked me to give you the people."

I said: "No, if I had done that I would be recognising the Rhodesian Front. I don't recognise your party as such, and people would say 'Ah, he is negotiating with the Rhodesian Front'. But isn't it still an honour that these people, being your members, have been chosen to be in my cabinet. However you look at it, they come as members of your party."

He said: "Ah, that's OK, that's OK".

So that was the first day. And this was before I put my cabinet together. And remember that the Lancaster Constitution had reserved 20 seats exclusively for whites and no blacks could fight for those seats. And Smith was one of the people leading the members of the Rhodesian Front members in parliament, the group of 20 whites in parliament.

And Smith was saying, "why don't we meet from time to time". So we used to meet from time to time. And he would tell me about things he liked and disliked. He would tell me that he knew we were going to win the election. And Bishop Muzorewa was useless and so on and so forth.

I said to myself that this was in accordance with the national reconciliation principles that we had pronounced. So there is nothing wrong in chatting with Smith, but each time I chatted with him, he went to his people and said the prime minister (I was prime minister then) had confidence in me, and these things he is doing, he is doing them in accordance with the advice I am giving him.

So Chris Andersen came to me and said the more you continue to meet Smith, the more he would continue to boast that he is actually the one who is giving you advice.

I said: "Oh I didn't know that he is using this opportunity to meet and discuss with me, he takes it as my being dependent on him. From this moment on, we stop it."

So I stopped it. And then Smith said: "Ah, now you can see that things are going wrong because the advice I used to give him is no more."

At independence, you stretched the hand of reconciliation to your former enemies. Do you sometimes look back, especially in the current situation, and say we made a mistake?

Yes, I think so. I look back with regret that for all that we did to forgive those we could have held responsible for the loss of life and the treason that this country saw, and for all the acts of oppression, suppression and repression that our people suffered from, that hand we extended, the hand of reconciliation and the policy of forgiveness we pursued, have not yielded reciprocity.

It was wrongly given and we are full of regret that we went out of our way and there was no reciprocation. If there was, it was very little and you can't perceive it.

If you look at the disposition of the whites in this country, the way even in this last election they went out to support the MDC, the way they showed that they were unrepentant, completely losing cognisance of all that we had done to accommodate them, that makes us feel very sad. Very sad that we worked in vain, sad that we have in fact given them an opportunity to weave and knit strategies against, shall I say, the hand that had fed them for all this long.

We didn't know we were working with the Kwaku Ananses [a cunning, deceitful character in Ghanaian folk stories]. In Zimbabwe we say it is more the rabbits, but in West Africa it is Kwaku Ananse. So they are.

Even after the last parliamentary election [in June 2000] when they had come to us and said they had done wrong by going out to support the MDC, but no, they were not repentant.

In fact they got themselves busy and put together strategies to get the MDC to defeat us, to get British support, the support of the Europeans and so on, and completely refusing to support our stand that Britain should be responsible for compensating them for the land.

No, they have never said that. They have never wanted to say it. They have left the burden with us. And if we experience problems because of the burden, so much the better, then we would be unable to acquire the land, so they felt, that's how they are thinking.

But of course we don't accept that onus on us. It is a British responsibility. If Britain says no to paying compensation, hard luck. The land is ours, so we will take it.

So, yes, we look back with regret. But there are others, mind you, our hand of reconciliation was just not extended to only the whites. There were also blacks who had worked with the other side. Yes, we have seen that some have actually repented and are desisting from supporting the negative elements.

But it was more the whites that we had in mind than the blacks when we extended the hand of reconciliation. But nearly to the man today, nearly to the man, including ministers of religion, white ministers of religion, they are against THIS Mugabe, against THIS Zanu-PF. But Zanu-PF is here to stay.

Now that we know their strategies, we know how we should knit the way forward and how we should ignore the white community almost completely in our consideration of national reconciliation.

Yes, they are here, we will not do anything to harm them. No, we won't harm them. But we won't treat them in a more favourable way than we have done. In the past, we went out of the way to show to them that in spite of the history, in spite of the suffering that we went through, we were still in a position to accommodate them as friends. But they are no longer friends to us. We regard them as actually political enemies, and this is how we will regard them in the future.

That is strong stuff, which brings me to my next question. Why is it that the African has to always forgive, and even forget, his oppressor? But we see Slobodan Milosevic in court answering for his alleged sins. And more of his army generals have been declared wanted by the "international community". In Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, all over Southern Africa, massacres and genocide were deliberately committed against the African people, and all that the African does, or made to do, is forgive and forget. Or at best, we get a truth and reconciliation commission. Why?

This is our nature, we are a forgiving people. And although there had been conflict situations amongst us, those conflicts have not instilled into us the spirit of vengeance, of seeking retribution that you get on the part of whites. Just look at them, just look at how the whites even just now that we go for land in order to bring about justice, look at how they are ganging together against us.

Tony Blair has said it, and they don't question it. Blair has said: "Mugabe is an evil man and Zimbabwe is a rogue state, believe it because I'm saying so". And they say: "Ah, Blair is white, Mugabe is black. We go with Blair." That's their nature.

And perhaps we have not discovered the nature of the white man. But here in Zimbabwe we have now, we know what they are. It doesn't matter what the white man has done to the black man, he is always right, even when he is sitting on him in an oppressive way, he is always right.

Our people must live in poverty when land is available. That land is in the hands of the whites, don't touch it even if they have vast acreages to themselves. No don't touch it. Let the blacks die of hunger, of poverty, as long as the white man thrives.

I think when you have been subjected over years, over centuries, in some cases to positions of poverty and inferiority (politically and economically), there is something that tends to register itself. And we knowingly or unknowingly, wittingly or unwittingly, even when the transformation takes place, your oppressor is still a dignified man, we don't humiliate him. And that I think is a wrong culture.

We have had a rude awakening here in Zimbabwe, even though the struggle itself should have provided the rude awakening long ago, the struggle we waged. But no, it is only now that we have realised that the white man is this bad.

We should have learned during the liberation struggle the nature of the white man when no country in Western Europe was willing to provide us with arms to support us in our struggle, none. The best they did was to help refugees, help sick people here and there with clothing and medicines. That we got.

But the Eastern countries that they regarded as regimental, authoritarian, that's where we got arms, that's where we got training so we could redeem our humanity, our culture, our very beings as African people, what Nkrumah used to call the African personality.

They are the ones who did it - the Chinese for us, the Soviet Union and others for ZAPU, and other countries like North Korea. Of course, coming down to Africa, countries like Algeria and Libya - they are the ones who provided us with arms.

But not one, not one Anglo-Saxon. In fact they regarded us as terrorists in a situation in which we were calling here for legality, and legality meaning the restoration of the status of Britain as the colonial power over Rhodesia. We were the terrorists, not Ian Smith, just look at it.

And as we went to the Geneva conference, Crossman was the foreign minister, the Labour Party was then in power, he never lasted long, he never came to the meetings, it was their ambassador to the UN who chaired the meetings. And he was cold. I was a communist, a Hitler, some even called me a Napoleon, but I didn't want to conquer any country.

Even as we negotiated at Lancaster House, we were the people to be dealt with by the press, very negative press, not Ian Smith & Co.

Just look at it, the cause of the white man is always supreme, lift his flag high, the African must always be down, as a recipient of his gifts and crumbs from his table.

But in Africa we are great. And this is the gospel of Nkrumah, and the teachings of the great ones like Nasser and Ben Bella, he is still alive, he is the one who asked us to die a little in order to free South Africa.

Their teachings did us good. They provided a high level of consciousness and gave us the spirit to fight, they gave us the opportunity, the material benefit. The first 50 people we trained for the struggle, we trained them in your country Ghana. The very first group came from Ghana, and we are naturally full of respect, gratitude and appreciation for countries that gave us this new way of life.

And if you received it from people like Nkrumah, the ideological direction, you can't afford to get lost. You can't afford to sell, or as we say here - be a sell-out.

And we are different, and as I told my colleagues at our last SADC meeting in Malawi, that if we are not careful and agree to be subjected to, to allow the Europeans to come and supervise our elections and we don't supervise theirs, we are doomed as a people.

But I said to them, I belong to the old school of thought and you may not like what I'm doing, but that is the school of thought that has been the mental and intellectual discipline that I espouse to this day.

After independence, your government had work to do, building the infrastructure for future prosperity - the schools, dams, roads etc. And it went swimmingly well for the first 10 years. You even resisted the IMF for 10 years, and then suddenly in 1990 you gave in and ESAP was born. Why did you give in, knowing the performance of the IMF and World Bank elsewhere?

You work in a situation of collective activity, collective thought and democratic practice. We started off with an ideology based on Marxism-Leninism, but not communism because we defined ourselves as socialists.

Yes some aspects were borrowed from Marxism-Leninism, giving workers a dominant place in society, the issue of cooperative business, but we still recognised the right of the individual to private property, and the tradition of private ownership, people owning their own cattle, their own goats, their own sheep, their own plots.

And we said we would practise socialism in many fields in the social sector. The government had the responsibility to build schools, hospitals, clinics and to help the poor in the collective sense, to make education free. And we started with all that.

But 10 years down the line or thereabouts, with the economy not yielding as much as some people had thought it would, and we needing great amounts of expenditure, it was felt that in order for us to attract investment into the country, we should change our ideology.

And we had united - ZAPU and ZANU, forming the unity in December 1987 - and therefore once we had unity there were people from both sides who thought we should liberalise the economy, with no restrictions.

And so, we gave in on socialism and yielded to capitalism. But we still said no, we don't want rampant capitalism where the government does nothing for the people. We will still continue with the social thrust - schools, building clinics, in the area of welfare, we will continue the work we had started.

But in education where we had assisted people in the past, we said there should be a contribution from the people as well. Previously, there was free primary education but now we said some contribution should come from the people towards the education of their children at the primary level. And the fee structure in government secondary education was also to be raised somewhat.

And the economy liberalised. We followed the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). No controls in regard to labour. Employers previously could not just dismiss workers without reference to the Ministry of Labour, now they could. No restrictions on prices, even on essential commodities which was the situation previously. So we liberalised and opened ourselves up.

Yet the IMF would not be forthcoming. They still found fault with us. They will always find fault when they do not want to give you money. And of course they don't want to give money all the time. Whether because they don't have it or they have it and they don't want to give it, one doesn't know.

But there is hardly a country that can boast of having been given billions by the IMF. They will always give you little and then demand you do 1, 2, 3; and their demands are not progressive, some of them are actually negative and destructive.

When they say you devalue, and they know that devaluation doesn't benefit us, devaluation doesn't benefit a small economy at all, because the prices of the commodities are not governed by market forces.

And the list of commodities that we produce, whether it is cocoa as in Ghana or gold as in our case and in the case of Ghana, we don't take the issue of the cost of production as the Western countries take into account. The prices are fixed elsewhere, in London, in the Metal Exchange, they fix the prices there, coffee the same, all commodities, the prices are fixed outside.

Here you say we want our market forces, but you don't have them, you don't have these market forces within your country, they are outside, that's where the market forces are.

So if you devalue, you do it at your expense. Yes, those who export might benefit. What about when it comes now to procure machines, and a developing country must acquire machinery and technology, and these come now at great expense, and so you will not be able to acquire the technology or the machinery you need in the quantities in which you need them.

So you get restricted immediately there. But you continue to ship out things, in the meantime your economy is hard put, and the prices go up because they are not fixed by market forces here.

Even then your government still continued with ESAP for 10, or is it 12 years? Now I hear you've dumped it.

Yes, we kicked it out of the door.


Yes, we kicked it out of the door.

So, with your experience, do you think Africa needs these IMF and World Bank programmes?

No, not at all, not at all! World Bank perhaps yes. World Bank as before, for reconstruction, for the building of roads, dams, in the areas where high capital is required and also in regard to urban reconstruction programmes, yes.

But now they are also saying - associating themselves with the IMF - that unless you have an IMF programme, then we are not going to give you assistance. Before they would say no, we are different. In fact, during the first 10 years when we told the IMF please stay with your money, the World Bank used to say we were right.

We were saying the IMF did not want us to proceed with our education for all campaign. The IMF were saying no, you cannot educate everyone at the same time. And I said to them, tell me which children I should leave out of school. I can't have an immoral attitude to the education of our people.

And in fact some of my top civil servants were repeating that to me. I remember Dr Mswaka of Finance saying: "You can't educate everyone at the same time." I said: "OK, Mswaka, I will educate the children of the poor first, all of them must have schools, and the upper class can find education elsewhere for their children. Is that what you want?"

Then he said: "No, no."

You see, you can't follow a doctrine of that nature.

Yes, you may be deficit in resources but a country like ours, we have enough resources to spread education across the board. And that's what we've done. The poor now can boast of children who went to university, and at least they can boast of a secondary school in their neighbourhood. Of course we can improve the quality of education, that's what we are trying to emphasise at the moment. This is how we see it, that's the thinking at the moment.

And we tell the IMF, please keep out. But they still come, you know. It's like the wolf, it can't keep away from the sheep. They want to come and do us harm. We are better off without them than need them. If they actually decide to keep out of Zimbabwe - but of course we can't close the door to people who want to visit us - we would be much happier.

The World Bank, they still say to us, well, you have a debt to pay; if you pay your debt we will continue. I have no quarrel with the World Bank, but the IMF is, as I have said, an iniquitous institution with no right to existence at all. And it is politically manipulated to cause certain unpalatable situations to occur in countries, so those countries then come under the control of the big masters. It is very sad.

Just as you had in Ghana, my brother Rawlings, they said Ghana was a success story, but all of a sudden the story was that the economy was not going well, the people were hungry, and prices of goods had gone up. And there it was! They didn't help him with the elections. And sadly he lost the elections.

And my brother Kufuor, yes, these are maiden days. But let him wait for a year or two and see what forces will visit him.

They don't want a government to have the ability to continue and make the country to prosper. If we don't prosper then they have the chance to come and manoeuvre and manipulate us, at times at our invitation, at times by pushing themselves into the situation.

When you came to power in 1980, Mrs Thatcher was running the show in Britain. Later John Major came along, and now Tony Blair. But you are not as hard on Thatcher and Major as you are on Blair.

Yes, yes. The policies of Thatcher and Major were conservative, we didn't agree with them. But they talked to us, in fact they did much to help, they did some good. There are certain programmes they pursued, especially in the early days that did some good.

But Thatcher then became too much of an iron lady. She visited us here. Major was here too, attending the Commonwealth conference. You need that personality which Mr Blair doesn't have. I call him an arrogant little fellow. He is very narrow-minded. He has no perception. He doesn't look beyond his own eyes. First, he must have a backward look - "what had my predecessors done?" He doesn't examine that at all, the history of our relations with Britain, no, he just looks at things from his point of view.

And of course he is still youthful. I am not the only one who has discovered that he is an arrogant fellow. Quite a number of my neighbours, they won't tell you, but I will tell you what he is, they say so to me. They say he is a different fellow to establish friendly relations.

When Claire Short wrote that famous letter of 5 November 1997 to your government repudiating Britain's colonial responsibilities in Zimbabwe, did you get back to them?

Ah, we sent delegations after delegations. They have been people talking even up to now, there have been interactions, my minister of finance tells me that he met with Claire Short in Monterrey, Mexico, recently and they discussed the issue. And the British are still on with their poverty alleviation thing, but of course the situation now is, we are poles apart, nothing can be done at the moment.

The sad thing is that they don't want to examine and analyse what has gone wrong. They want to go inexorably on this path of hard attitude, but we say to them OK, they are in Britain, we are in Zimbabwe, they may do this or do that, our people can never, never allow themselves to come once again under British control - remote control or direct control, never!

And it is not just Mugabe, it is the people as a whole, their national consciousness will just not allow that they be dominated again. Mugabe can be out of the way, but there will be more Mugabes coming in, yes.

Now they say your recent election victory is not "legitimate". The Commonwealth has suspended Zimbabwe from its councils for one year. You have categorically rejected a re-run of the election. Do you think Zimbabwe can stand alone, with the inevitable sanctions (declared and not declared) to come?

If that is what we are going to pay, we will pay it for sustaining our principle and the right of our people to be sovereign over their resources, yes. You cannot, as Nkrumah said, sacrifice principle to expediency, no. Principle must never be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. That's Nkrumah. And he is right.

If you are principled, you are principled. You can't let your principles down. You may use tactics to save the principles, yes. But you cannot surrender your principles.

We are saying the election was observed by many countries - South Africa had more than two groups here, Nigeria, and we invited countries like Tanzania, Senegal and others to send individual groups of their own.

And all these groups, including the African Union, you know the OAU, have pronounced the results as legitimate. Who do we listen to, even if we have to listen to somebody else outside Zimbabwe - the Europeans who yesterday were our oppressors and still want to be our oppressors today? Or to our own people in Africa who are genuine and would want Zimbabwe to prosper alongside their own countries?

Of course, we will listen to our African brothers. And that is why we wanted the observation to be done by our brothers. I told the delegations who came here to go and look for themselves and point anything that they see wrong to us, we would listen to them. Some of them did, and when they left, they were full of praise and said no, they had rarely seen an election held in this meticulous way, and the election could not be faulted.

Yes, before the election, there were incidents here and there, but where have there been no incidents? Even in Britain, the deputy prime minister, John Prescot, was seen knocking a person out. These things happen, emotions and tensions run high during elections.

But at the end of the day, people must be free to exercise their political right. Europe doesn't want us to say the people voted according to their conscience, and they were not interfered with as they voted.

And for that matter, even George Bush, the American president, I don't know whether he actually won in Florida or won the presidential election at all? Or was it Al Gore who won?

What I know is that the US Supreme Court, with more Republican judges than others, pronounced Bush the winner. Is that how elections should go? Shouldn't the verdict be that of the people? That's what democracy is about.

They say democracy is that practice which sees the people vote, where the people decide who shall be their leader, and they choose that leader or party because they see in them greater benefits for the country and themselves, and a direction which naturally gives them security.

I know you are tired, it's been a long day for you, all that cabinet meeting, but tell us this. You recently said in a Newsweek interview that, and I quote: "And, of course, I also want to rest, I've done very little writing, I want to write, research and produce some works". Some people have taken this to mean you might not finish your new 6-year term.

Well, I don't know about that [laughs]. We will look at the situation as it unfolds, and of course I should not quit and leave the party to disintegrate. So we will see.

But has the party been talking about the succession? On my travels throughout the country, the message I am getting from the people is that they are afraid that without a committed successor to ensure continuity of programmes, the gains made on land reform might be reversed. Has the party been talking about who takes over from you?

No, no, no. The party hasn't been talking about that. We naturally look at ourselves within the party and we see people who are aspiring to, but there has not been any choice yet. No.

So you mean you are here to stay for the next six years?

[Laughs]. I don't know about that. I don't know. If we can decide on a successor some day, well, sure, I will be willing to retire and rest and do a bit of reading and writing.

Let me take you out of Zimbabwe for a moment. Zimbabwe intervened in Congo at the invitation of the legitimate government of that country. But many Western countries (particularly America and Britain, while applauding Rwanda and Uganda's intervention in Congo by funding their operations and domestic national budgets) are not happy with Zimbabwe's intervention. Why? What did you do wrong?

Because we prevented the strategy of the countries that invaded the Congo to overthrow Kabila and so create an opportunity in which their own economic interests will be secured. And they thought - this is my own analysis - that with Kabila in power, their interests would be jeopardised. My analysis may be wrong but that's how I see it.

And of course, countries like Britain and others choose to support the invaders. But invading a country is not permissible. The right to self determination, the right to sovereignty and the security of the country, these are sacrosanct. But if these are set aside, diminished by an invasion and there is a subjection of the will of the people by a foreigner, and to support that is actually a diabolical act. Because you are surrendering your principles, you wouldn't like that to happen to your own country.

But there you are. And the fact that it has happened to the Congo, which is a developing country, that undermines the principle of the right to sovereignty of a state.

And of course, I'm surprised as anyone else, that in broad day light a country like Britain would support the wrong side, the invader side, and go against the basic principles of international law or international relations. This is what they have done, and it could only be done by a man like Blair who has defied the principle, defied morality and he doesn't care one hoot what happens. I don't think if it had been John Major, he would have done that.

Can I also take you to Australia. As you watched the performance of the African leaders at the Commonwealth Conference in Australia, where they refused to be dragooned by the powers that be into suspending Zimbabwe even before the election, did you sense an Africa coming of age?

Yes, sure. I sense that now we have a developed sense of African unity and a sense of oneness, the sense of African pride. That is going to encourage us all. I think we will try and work for that, to develop it, that even as we meet in the African Union that sense of pride can be enhanced and augmented. But we have still some distance to go before we can say Africa has indeed united, so Nkrumah be happy where you are.

Well said, but wasn't it a beautiful sight to see the African leaders, for once, behaving like the men and women Africans expect of their leaders?

Yes, sure, the principles, they fought for the principles, and they fought against the racism of Blair and his fellow racists - the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Canadians. Just look at them, in one corner, and the rest of the world - it was not just the blacks, there were also the Asians, Caribbeans and the Pacific people - all together against these four. That should have taught them a lesson, but no, they did not learn anything apparently from it.

Finally, when history comes to be written, how do you want to be remembered?

As the son of a peasant who took up the fight against colonial racism, the oppression of his people, and enjoyed being made a leader of the guerrilla struggle, and enjoyed the confidence of the people in him as he led the country for the first 20-plus years, and when he dies, he should just be remembered as a person who was content with what he had. He played his part in the shaping of the nation, the Zimbabwe nation, by the Zimbabwe people.

· · · · · ·


The Anti-Mugabe Brigade - Gilles d'Aymery - Sept. 02

Africa on Swans


Baffour Ankomah is the Editor of New African, a British-based magazine published by IC Publications, an international publications company, founded in London 40 years ago. With offices in New York and Paris, the IC group specializes in producing newsletters, magazines, special supplements and reports on Africa and the Middle East. In addition to New African the IC Group publishes two other magazines, African Business and The Middle East. This interview appeared in the May 2002 issue of New African and is republished on Swans with the generous and kind courtesy of the author.

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This Week's Internal Links

The Cruise Missile Left, Part 4 - by Edward S. Herman

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume? - by Baffour Ankomah

Mean - by Richard Macintosh

A Genocide Museum For The U.S. - by Philip Greenspan

It's All Nader's Fault, And Other Fairy Tales - by Deck Deckert

Disquieting Green Politics - by Gilles d'Aymery

The United States Of Entropy - by Phil Rockstroh

Introduction To Future Challenge of Faith-based Governance - by Anthony Judge

Till what end? - A Poem by Scott Orlovsky

Naked Jan, or How to Get Read on the Web - by Gilles d'Aymery (Aug. 97)

Marriage Mutatis Mutandis - by Jan Baughman (May 96)

FOOLS' CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions - by Diana Johnstone

Letters to the Editor


Published September 1, 2003
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