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  • Arthur Mutambara interviewed by Geraldine Doogue
    ABC Radio National (Australia)
    August 16, 2008

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    Geraldine Doogue: My first guest on today's program is emerging from an incredible week of a behind the scenes chess-plays and horse-trading, all of which have led to major talks that start today in South Africa, and which could determine the fate of Zimbabwe.

    Arthur Mutambara, is the leader of the faction within the Movement for Democratic Change that's led by Morgan Tsvangarai. Both men, plus Robert Mugabe and South African president, Thabo Mbeke, are participating in talks that many hope might culminate in some sort of National Unity government.

    Now we've spoken to the ambitious Arthur Mutambara before and he's always enlightening, highly, about his country's politics, way beyond the newspaper headlines. The question is, is he acting at the moment as a noble circuit-breaker in this long-running tragedy or more as an opportunist?

    I'm delighted that he could spare some time to talk to us at the start of a very busy weekend. Professor Mutambara, welcome back to Saturday Extra.

    Arthur Mutambara: Thank you very much.

    Geraldine Doogue: I'm going to read you a rather difficult old summary that I read in The Guardian newspaper this week, which said that you were a 'shameless opportunist who has appeared to be currying favour with his former enemies by parroting Mr Mugabe's anti-western rhetoric'. Now I take it that you fundamentally disagree with that summary?

    Arthur Mutambara: Yes we do. What we have stated, we did a press conference on Wednesday and made it very clear that this is a tripartite negotiations framework. There cannot be a bilateral agreement out of this framework. Either all three principals agree and we have a solution in our country, or if one of them doesn't agree, then there's no solution. So there's absolutely no way that our party is going to cut a deal with Mugabe to the exclusion of Morgan Tsvangarai. So that must be understood without equivocation or ambiguity. We are in here because Zimbabwe is going through a humanitarian, economic and political crisis of immense proportions and we're driven by the national interest, we're driven by the desires of the people of Zimbabwe to move from poverty, from misery, to a justiciable environment in our country, and we are saying all the leaders, all the three political leaders must put national interest before self-interest.

    Geraldine Doogue: So can I ask you, why did so many papers around the world get this wrong then?

    Arthur Mutambara: Because they are very stupid, they are very stupid, it's as simple as that. In the first place, technically you can't have a bilateral agreement from a three-party negotiations framework. Secondly because the negotiations are being held with confidentiality so they didn't have the information. And there is also propaganda on the part of ZANU to try to put pressure on Mr Tsvangarai by saying to the world, 'If Mr Tsvangarai doesn't agree, we're going to work with Mr Mutambara, and we're saying, No, no, no. And the foolish journalist who has the nerve to believe that Mr Mutambara can cut a deal with Mugabe in this framework is sick in the mind.

    Geraldine Doogue: Okay, that's a good rebuttal. Did you agree to anything that made the negotiations advance, then?

    Arthur Mutambara: Okay. What we have done is that we've agreed on all issues, the three of us, Morgan Tsvangarai, Robert Mugabe and Mutambara. We've agreed to everything, except one issue, and I'm not at liberty to discuss that one issue, but I can say there's one issue which is outstanding and Mr Tsvangarai has asked for time out to reflect and consult on that matter. And we respect that because in any negotiations we must allow our colleagues the opportunity to reflect and consult.

    Geraldine Doogue: So you're not going to tell us what that is, I take it?

    Arthur Mutambara: Yes. But I will say on that issue we as a party have no problem with the current position in the negotiations. And so that's where we are in agreement on that particular issue Mr Tsvangarai is on his own. I must emphasise I am not beholden to Mr Tsvangarai. I am not beholden to Robert Mugabe. I'm a separate political party, holding the balance of power in our parliament, and will use that balance of power in the national interest. I am not bound to agree with Tsvangarai all the time. When I disagree with Morgan Tsvangarai I will go against him. I am a separate political party with its own existence. However, we hope that the negotiations are going to continue, Mr Tsvangarai will reflect and will be able to come out with an agreement that will be signed by the three principals. Right now nothing has been signed. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

    Geraldine Doogue: Okay. So can I ask you this, which is what the world is waiting for, that Tsvangarai is looking for the transfer of real executive power from the President's office, to someone else. Now can you tell us, from your inside knowledge, whether that is on the table?

    Arthur Mutambara: Well of course, as I said before, we are not allowed as part of this framework to negotiate in the media. We are only allowed to discuss those matters that the facilitator has allowed us to discuss. What I can tell you is that we are working towards a practical and reasonable and justifiable political settlement in our country, and most of the reports that are in the media are false, and we are hoping that the Zimbabwean political leaders will come up with an agreement. What we must emphasise, you think about the west that I'm parroting Mr Mugabe's language. Let me make it very clear, we are discussing as Africans, we are discussing as Zimbabweans, and will brook no interference from patronising westerners who make the following statements. For example, saying to us, 'We will not allow, we will not accept an agreement unless it's led by a particular leader.' Who are you to tell Africans how to run their affairs? If the three leaders agree on a particular position, it's not for Britain, it's not for Australia, it's not for America to say that we are wrong. Who are you? How dare you undermine our intelligence, how dare you are so racist to the extent that you can't guarantee us and give us the respect, the vote of confidence that we can make our own decisions.

    Geraldine Doogue: Well, let...

    Arthur Mutambara: You are collectively stupid...

    Geraldine Doogue: Let me...

    Arthur Mutambara .... collective foolishness. We won't allow Australia to judge our agreement. It's none of your business.

    Geraldine Doogue: Let me bring up...

    Arthur Mutambara: ...of Zimbabwe.

    Geraldine Doogue: Let me bring up the issue of the...

    Arthur Mutambara: I haven't finished. Secondly, you've individuals in the west. So you're saying to us that Zimbabwe are not capable of making a decision. With individuals and governments in Europe and America imposing sanctions while we are talking. We must not do anything to damage your rapprochement, the spirit of discussion while people are talking. If sanctions are imposed after the failure of the talks is a different matter. But to impose sanctions while we are talking is a travesty of justice and we're saying shame on you for expressing no confidence in Morgan Tsvangarai, shame on you for expressing no confidence in Mugabe, shame on you for expressing no confidence in Mutambara. We will not brook that nonsense.

    Geraldine Doogue: Is it possible—and this is what I think some people with some memories are wondering—that you or Mr Tsvangarai could be walking into a trap as Joshua Nkomo did in the '80s, where it looked like a power-sharing agreement and in fact as you know...

    Arthur Mutambara: I have a question. Do you think I am stupid? When you ask that question you think we are foolish and we are very offended that you think we are that stupid. We are smarter than the Australians, we are smarter than the Americans, we went to better schools than most of these leaders in America, in Britain and in Australia. I am coming out of Oxford. None of your prime ministers can challenge me intellectually. So how do you patronise me and tell me that I'm going to be hoodwinked by Mugabe. You are doubting my intelligence. Shame on you.

    Geraldine Doogue: So you are quite confident that this veritable old-stager called Robert Mugabe is not going to emerge in the same level of power as before. You're quite confident of that, are you?

    Arthur Mutambara: Very confident, because we know what we are doing. We are capable Africans, we are capable Zimbabweans. We are very clever people.

    Geraldine Doogue: Let me just put something else to you about a very interesting observation made by an African man actually, writing in The African Executive, that the difficulty about African politics is that ethnicity can take centre stage long after the tribal war has been won, and he was suggesting that this has been a real problem for Zimbabwe and in trying to move to a new settlement, it does bedevil a lot of your efforts, no matter how difficult the crisis. Are you confident you can rise above that?

    Arthur Mutambara: That is completely nonsense, which is not even worth my comment. Next question please.

    Geraldine Doogue: So this is not—we should not...

    Arthur Mutambara: Complete nonsense, not worth my comment. Can we have the next question please.

    Geraldine Doogue: Okay, well so you're telling me by the sound of you, Arthur, and we've spoken to you a couple of times, you are starting to feel some real confidence that these terrible times that have afflicted your country, might be coming to an end?

    Arthur Mutambara: We have cautious optimism. We're not over-confident, we have cautious optimism and we hope that all the political leaders in our country will put national interest before self interest. We are very, very keen that we are driven by what's good for the country, what's good for the people of Zimbabwe. Not what's good for Morgan Tsvangarai, not what's good for Mutambara, not what's good for Mugabe, or what's good for the west, what's good for America, Britain and so on—we should be driven by the Zimbabwean national interest and we're smart enough to be able to extract a reasonable deal from these negotiations, and there will be no bilateral arrangement. It will be a threesome agreement.

    Geraldine Doogue: And so will the west not like what's going to emerge?

    Arthur Mutambara: It can go to hell. Who are you? Do we judge your elections in Australia? Do we judge your elections and your agreements in America and Europe? Nonsense. If Tsvangarai agrees. Who are you in Australia to judge and say Tsvangarai is wrong?

    Geraldine Doogue: So what in your view is the ideal outcome of this weekend's talk, Arthur Mutambara?

    Arthur Mutambara: The best outcome is to get an agreement where Mr Tsvangarai, Mr Mugabe and myself say this is a good arrangement for our country. We all agree and are going to sign this document. This is the best short term answer to extricate our country from the worst situation in which it is. And I must emphasise that whatever we agree upon this weekend or the week after, it's a short-term answer. It's not the long-term solution for our country. The long-term solution for our country is to get a new people-driven democratic constitution, create a national vision, 20-, 30-year vision to make Zimbabwe a globally competitive economy, and hence economically transforming ourselves so that in terms of the capital income GDP, business growth, entrepreneurship, financial literacy we are one of the top 20 countries in the world. We are on a long journey to the promised land.

    Geraldine Doogue: Thank you very much indeed Arthur Mutambara. Good luck.

    Arthur Mutambara: Thank you very much.

    Geraldine Doogue: And Professor Arthur won't forget these negotiations, will you, coming up this weekend. Let's watch with interest.

    *Arthur Mutambara is the leader of one of the factions of the Movement for Democratic Change.

    This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying speakers.

    Audio File

    • Arthur Mutambara
      Language: English
      Duration: 12min 14sec
      Date: August 16, 2008
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 11.2MB

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