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Transcript of "Hotseat" - SW Radio Africa talking to Judith Todd and Professor Stanford Mukasa
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
July 12, 2005

NB: Internet users can listen to the "audio" interview in our archives. You can listen to the programme HOT SEAT: Tuesday 12 July 2005 on www.swradioafrica.com

Human rights campaigner Judith Todd says Mugabe must be forced into exile

Violet: International pressure is mounting against Robert Mugabe. The latest news is that he has agreed to hold talks with the leader of the opposition Morgan Tsvangirai after pressure from Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo. But, Zimbabweans are sceptical about Mugabe's sincerity in entering talks with the MDC, especially since it's not the first time that he has agreed to hold talks, only to change his mind later. What is even more worrying is that people in Zimbabwe's political leadership seem to know nothing about Mugabe agreeing when I contacted them. ZANU Officials refused to comment and William Bango, Tsvangirai's personal assistant, said it's improper and immature for Tsvangirai to comment now as he has not had any contact with the Nigerian leader since the announcement was made. So, to debate the issues in the programme 'Hotseat', we have political commentator Professor Stanford Mukasa and Judith Todd, a long time human rights campaigner and daughter of former Rhodesian Prime Minister, the late Sir Garfield Todd. I first asked Professor Mukasa to comment about the fact that no one in Zimbabwe seems to be talking about the talks.

Professor Mukasa: well, in the first place I am surprised that the personal assistant to the President of the MDC says they have not heard anything about what appears to have been widely publicised news, namely that Obasanjo, Nigerian President, has managed to get Mugabe to agree to talks with the MDC. So at this point, whether the talks are on or not on remains to be addressed. However, we believe that there might be some basis to the fact that the talks are underway - some preparations for talks are underway. Now, if we can go a step further, and assuming that there will be talks, I think at this point many Zimbabweans are likely to be sceptical about the outcome of such talks. Mugabe, right now is deeply entrenched in his ways. There is no turning back for him. He is about three years away from retirement and he does not see, I don't think he is in a position or mood to compromise or to enter into any talks. Remember, he has previously agreed to talk with the MDC, but he cancelled that at the last minute. So, I don't see anything right now that would make Mugabe - he might agree to the talks, but I don't see him conceding much. He is close to his retirement now, he is 81 years old. It's not like he is just starting in politics, but he is just about to exit the political scene.

Violet: Right, now Judith do you agree with Professor Mukasa who says that it seems like we've been here before with this issue of talks? What is your reading of the situation.

Judith Todd: I'm enormously relieved to hear Professor Mukasa talking as he is one of the few people who is looking at reality in the face. You know, we've just got to face the facts, as we are talking at this moment people are dying in Zimbabwe; the only thing we don't know is in what numbers are they dying. I'm afraid that Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki have left it too late and there are only two things that they can do to practically alter and rescue the tragedy that Zimbabwe is in. Number one is to offer asylum to Mugabe and number two is to immediately concentrate on getting aid quickly to the brutalised people of Zimbabwe. If Mugabe is allowed to stay in power until the end of this year we know now that 25% of the people who are just alive now in Zimbabwe, our population, will be dead. So now is the time not to be taken off down these old tracks again, as Professor Mukasa says. We have to face up to reality, and one way forward is of course Mugabe won't budge but we can start the process of plea bargaining with the people upon whom his support he rests. From the smallest, like the captive Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi, to the Kingmaker; Soloman Mujuru. We have to act now and get Mugabe out of the way - no talks.

Violet: But still, how can we do that? Because I'll go back to the same issue that we are talking about, you know, that African leaders seem to think they can drag Mugabe to a room and force him to talk, but still, how can we even force ZANU PF to do the things that you are calling for Judith, because is it not the case that no one can force Mugabe to make any concessions?

Judith Todd: Someone needs to start spelling out and keep spelling out what is facing President Mugabe and his accomplices inexorably, and that is that they are already on the way to prosecution for crimes against humanity. We need to get the UN and the Commonwealth to start spelling this out, day after day, every meeting. I mean they are almost on their knees now. But the problem is; it doesn't really matter what happens to them. What matters is the people who are dying now in Zimbabwe.

Violet: Do you agree Professor Mukasa? Should we not waste our time talking about talks and get these other international groups to put pressure on Mugabe to be offered asylum elsewhere? What do you think?

Professor Mukasa: Yes, I agree, I do agree. But, I see some pressure coming on to Mugabe to accept or agree to talks. Whether or not that would be a waste of time or not, I like to think that it would most likely be a waste of time. Because the way I see it happening is that if Mugabe agrees to talks with the MDC he will be negotiating to impose his own programme for exiting the corridors of political power. We now know that some documents that have been leaked, that Mugabe's plan is continue in power until 2008 and at that point, hand over power to Joyce Mujuru and give Joyce Mujuru some time to consolidate her position in power until the year 2010. So I think the plan is to combine both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Now, yes, I agree that ultimately it is a waste of time because Mugabe just sees his own way, he sees what he wants; he doesn't see other people's points of view, that has been his nature for the past 25 years and we know that the leopard does not change his spots. But, what I would say is just for the purposes of recording history, one should give him an opportunity. If he should agree to come to the conference table then some demands should be placed on him there and then. But then the talks should not be a replacement of other things that Judith Todd has talked about. Let there be a multi- faceted, a multi-pronged assault on Mugabe. If is going to be talks, if is going to be pressure from the international community, if it is going to be persuasion from his close friends like Dos Santos and the former president of Mozambique, that's fine. If it is going to be a group of eminent persons like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu. Let there be a multi-faceted, a multi-pronged assault on him. One of those blows, if I may put it that way, is likely to land on the target.

But I do certainly agree that at this point it is simply too late. He has so much blood on his hands, he has committed so many crimes, really he is a criminal and he does not really deserve to be negotiating the future of the country that he has so callously destroyed. I mean you have got the lives of people that have been destroyed. But, at this point, if he should say I am ready to talk, well, give him the chance to do so. It reminds me of De Klerk, towards the end of apartheid days, very few people thought that De Klerk might be willing to talk. Or John Vorster during the Ian Smith regime who surprised everybody by bringing pressure on the Ian Smith regime. So, they can, sometimes, in history, be those rare occasions where some of the worst dictators, at the very last minute, sort of see the light.

Violet: Judith what do you think ? Some say the international community wants to see a government of national unity in Zimbabwe and let's say the two parties meet and go to the negotiating table, is a power sharing government the solution if that happens, if the two parties meet?

Judith Todd: I think if we were lucky enough, or unfortunate enough to be at, for example the Caledonia Transit Camp tonight, they would say 'please may we have some food and some water and some hope, will you please stop this man extinguishing the very last spark of life that we have'. And, talks will kill people. I agree with the Professor, there should be a multi, multi pronged assault on the evil regime in Zimbabwe, but for God's sake, no more constitutional conferences, no more quiet diplomacy, for once let's start thinking about the people who are dying at the hands of Mugabe and ZANU PF and try and save those lives.

Violet: So how can we make the world sit and listen?

Judith Todd: Oh it's happening already. I mean what's been happening the last month is dramatic compared to the last year. For example tonight, on South African television, I've been watching. Alright, it's only a few seconds but it's better than nothing. The delegation of religious leaders who are in Zimbabwe right now, talking about their horror of what they are finding. It is beginning. It is beginning to be impossible for President Mbeki etc to any longer conceal what is happening in Zimbabwe.

Violet: And. Professor Mukasa, many Zimbabweans actually say that Mbeki has betrayed the people of Zimbabwe and that South Africans actually have everything in their power to bring Mugabe and his henchmen by whatever means it takes, including embargoes on fuel and power, and loans from the bank. Do you agree with this?

Professor Mukasa: Yes certainly. Mbeki has certainly let down the people of Zimbabwe. Why? Because of his reverence to Mugabe. For some reason he tends to equate Mugabe with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. So what he sees in Mugabe is a freedom fighter, a nationalist who bought independence to Zimbabwe, he doesn't see anything else. That's all he sees in Mugabe. With all this evidence surrounding him, he just doesn't see anything else, that's all he sees. The same thing with the New York based African American group called the September Movement, they say Mugabe right or wrong, we will support him no matter what it takes. So there is this fanatical, this obsession with Mugabe's record. For some reason they don't seem to get it that Mugabe has over stayed his presence in Zimbabwe, he has over cashed that glamour and glory that he gained in the liberation days. The most astounding thing was when Joshua Nkomo had to flee; in a free Zimbabwe, in and independent Zimbabwe, he had to flee! When the former liberation war hero, Garfield Todd was treated in such a callous manner, when Judith Todd was treated just like trash. I mean, people for their illustrious history in the struggle for independence. Here are people who stood by the Zimbabweans, and now they are told 'you are not a citizen, you cannot vote'. So you can see Mugabe has long deviated from that traditional virtue of being a nationalist leader. Mbeki does not see all those things. Mbeki simply says, and this is the same situation with other African leaders, they say 'well, whether he has done right or wrong he is still a leader, we still respect him on that basis and we are not going to look at anything else'. So this is where we are, and quite frankly, to keep on harping on at the African leaders to say you must do something about Mugabe, sometimes I feel like it's just a waste of time.

Violet: And talking about what people can do, now, Judith you're a campaigner for human rights and I understand that you are actually going to New Zealand to expose what is happening in Zimbabwe. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Judith Todd: Yes I can. I was invited to speak to the Press Club of Cape Town last week which I did and I gave them what I thought was a fairly simple speech, but they were staggered by things which apparently people don't know. For example, there is no historical reality in the ANC saying that they've got a long history with ZANU PF. They haven't. The ANC stood with ZAPU and Joshua Nkomo and Mugabe and ZANU stood with PAC. Well, just little things like that really startled people, because it undermines the whole thesis of ANC support for Mugabe etc. Anyway, after that speech, which apparently then circulated, I got an invitation from New Zealand, where Henry Olonga should now have arrived, to combine with him in standing against the proposed New Zealand Cricket Tour to Zimbabwe. You know that this - this, we can call him now I think, a mass murderer, Robert Mugabe, is actually patron of Zimbabwe cricket. And so, I am happily going there to do what I was actually doing almost 40 years ago with Dennis Brutus. We were in New Zealand together then campaigning against the New Zealand Rugby side touring apartheid South Africa . What has changed between now and then, is that we now have an ANC government in South Africa which came to power with the help of things like sanctions against apartheid South Africa. And we find them now saying that sport and politics don't mix and that we should treat evil regimes, like Mugabe's regime, quietly. Anyway, some of us, fortunately Professor Mukasa included, and Henry Olonga included do not see it like that. We don't think that evil is altered by the complexion of someone. So I will continue doing what I can.

Violet: We have had several international tournaments, including cricket tournaments postponed. But it seems these do not actually stop Mugabe. What impact do you think stopping this tournament would have on Mugabe? And, also, the rest of the world? What action exactly must be demanded from the rest of the outside world?

Judith Todd: Actions from the outside world: start proceedings immediately against Mugabe and his accomplices on the grounds of crimes against humanity. Number two, coming back to what impact the cancellation of the New Zealand cricket tour would have, as you know, our country now is in complete darkness. The regime there is able to conceal news of most kinds from most people. One thing they would not be able to conceal is the non-arrival of the cricket team..

Violet: And Professor Mukasa, what action must be demanded of the outside world?

Professor Mukasa: I think the international community must treat Mugabe as a terrorist; as a criminal. The way they treated Slobodan, they way they treated Pol Pot's regime, the way they treated Idi Amin's regime. That is where Mugabe belongs and there should be an increase in what I call targeted sanctions. Just barring Mugabe and his cabinet Ministers from coming to Europe or to North America does not mean that Mugabe does not do business. He has got friends, he has got relatives who are doing business for him. So, to deal with Mugabe you must also get to the roots; his friends, his relatives and all those people who are associated with Mugabe. Two, there must be an international campaign against purchasing produce from these seized commercial farms. Many of these ZANU PF officials who have grabbed those farms, like the coffee from Bennett's farm, they are now selling it and they are making money out of it and the international community should not be part that. So the targeted sanctions must be expanded and extended. Here I call upon Zimbabweans in the Diaspora; if you find any goods, any produce that comes from Zimbabwe, you must alert the community, you must alert the owners of the shop and tell them that these goods are stolen goods and you are trading in stolen goods. So, there must be a concerted effort, not just by the international community, but by the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to isolate Mugabe.

We are planning right now a major campaign against Mugabe when he comes to New York in September. What we are planning to do is to collect as many pictures about the atrocities that Mugabe has committed and we are going to blitz the United Nations, send them to every delegate at the United Nations and say this man that you are giving a red carpet welcome to, this is what he has done to his own people. In as far as stopping the tournaments or cricket tours to Zimbabwe, yes, they by themselves may not stop Mugabe, but we have got a saying in Shona that is astunya arwa, what it means is that no matter the small contribution you have made; it is a contribution towards the liberation struggle. You know not one act will stop him. The campaigns going on in South Africa, the Vigil taking place outside the Zimbabwean High Commission in London, all of those are small isolated acts of defiance they will continue to have an impact on Zimbabwe.

Violet: We are talking here about the international community, but we also need to realise that people inside Zimbabwe have also got that responsibility to do something. Now, it's understood that people at home and abroad are thoroughly fed up with Mugabe, how can the MDC take advantage of this situation Judith?

Judith Todd: I think frankly at the moment people in Zimbabwe have to concentrate on trying to keep alive. Therefore I think the responsibility on the rest of and what the Professor calls the Diaspora becomes very, very great. We've often underestimated the cunning of Mugabe and his accomplices. At a stroke he has done away with the possibility of urban uprising which was very, very much on the cards. And we must recognise that the situation now is very different to what it was under Smith. Under Smith we had friends around us, we had Zambia we had Tanzania and we had Mozambique from which we could act; we do not any longer. So we have to refer to international bodies now to start these international processes of law against these criminals.

Violet: And, Professor, a final word?

Professor Mukasa: Yes, I know Zimbabweans are under tremendous pressure inside Zimbabwe, but I still have hope having seen what happened in Kurgistan, having seen what happened in Ukraine, in Haiti, in Colombia and Brazil and all those others, where people, some of them even poorer than Zimbabweans said 'no, I cannot take this any more'. I know it's a bit idealistic to talk about mass uprising, it's a bit idealistic to talk about mass protests, but if we could get just one thousand people onto the streets, if we could do that maybe that could go a long way in showing Mugabe. Mugabe has done everything to provoke people and at this point if that can happen, if the MDC can try to mobilise people into a concerted mass action. In other words, I don't want to give up on the mass action. I still believe, although the economic conditions as terrible as they are, I still believe that the people of Zimbabwe have the energy, have the motivation to rise against this. I know people will be killed and I know the fear is very real and I know not many people will be ready to stand up and do what Lovemore Madhuku and his courageous group and do what the Women of Zimbabwe Arise have been doing. But, if we can look at the Women of Zimbabwe Arise and if we can look at Lovemore Madhuku's group as a point of inspiration as a pointer to what people can actually do. If we can look at the supporters of Roy Bennett at Chimanimani, if we can look at how they were able to stand up against some of the most evil, most vile soldiers armed to the teeth - the fact that they were able to stand up against them, those are points of resistance that I'm hoping should inspire all of us.

Violet: Well, thank you very much Judith Todd and Professor Mukasa

Professor Mukasa: Thank you very much and good bye

Judith Todd: Thank you everyone.

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