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Mutambara interviewed by Geraldine Doogue
Radio National (Australia)
August 16, 2008
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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.
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?
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.
Mutambara: Thank you very much.
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
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.
Doogue: So can I ask you, why did so many papers around
the world get this wrong then?
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.
Doogue: Okay, that's a good rebuttal. Did you agree to
anything that made the negotiations advance, then?
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.
Doogue: So you're not going to tell us what that is, I
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.
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?
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.
Doogue: Well, let...
You are collectively stupid...
Doogue: Let me...
.... collective foolishness. We won't allow Australia to judge our
agreement. It's none of your business.
Doogue: Let me bring up...
Doogue: Let me bring up the issue of the...
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.
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...
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.
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?
Very confident, because we know what we are doing. We are capable
Africans, we are capable Zimbabweans. We are very clever people.
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?
That is completely nonsense, which is not even worth my comment.
Next question please.
Doogue: So this is not—we should not...
Complete nonsense, not worth my comment. Can we have the next question
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?
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
Doogue: And so will the west not like what's going to emerge?
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?
Doogue: So what in your view is the ideal outcome of this
weekend's talk, 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.
Doogue: Thank you very much indeed Arthur Mutambara. Good
Thank you very much.
Doogue: And Professor Arthur Mutambara...you won't forget
these negotiations, will you, coming up this weekend. Let's watch
Mutambara is the leader of one of the factions of the Movement for
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.
Duration: 12min 14sec
Date: August 16, 2008
File Type: MP3
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