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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • 2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles
  • Post-election violence 2008 - Index of articles & images
  • MDC pull out from presidential run-off election - Index of articles

  • Amandla! Interviews Morgan Tsvangirai
    June 25, 2008


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    BA: Let me start by asking you what was your response to the wave of xenophobic attacks and violence that shook South Africa. Do you see this as an outcome of the policies of the South African state in relation to the Mugabe regime?

    MT: I think that xenophobic attacks on foreigners, especially Zimbabweans, you can easily connect it to the crisis in Zimbabwe in that in the first place the flooding of Zimbabweans in South Africa is as a result of economic and political mismanagement in Zimbabwe. And the limited resources that South Africans and Zimbabweans have to share, which are unplanned, so it's a consequence of the crisis in this country.

    BA: Now that you've pulled out of the elections, what is the future? What strategies will you be undertaking? Do you believe a negotiated settlement is both desirable and actually possible with a regime that has been responsible for an onslaught of violence against its people?

    MT: Well, first of all, the crisis continues, the stalemate continues in spite of our pull out, because any outcome out of this election is illegitimate. Mugabe knows that, Zanu PF knows that. I am glad that the United Nations and SADC recently today has issued a statement that those elections must be postponed to a period where this crisis can settle down and people can have a really free and fair election. So as far as that's concerned we support that resolution by SADC. But we also generally condemn the state sponsored violence that has been unleashed on Zimbabweans by this regime. It is genocidal and Zimbabweans don't believe that their government can roll out a military plan against them when they are so vulnerable. So I think as far as reconvening another election - another election is supported. Secondly, the whole issue of a negotiated settlement - one of the realities that we have is that we have polarised positions. One is that we as a social movement believe in the freedoms and democratic ideas and democratic change; but the nationalist old guard, the militarised nationalist old guard believes in the rule by force and coercion. So I think that the only thing that is going to force these two opposite positions to be reconciled is when there's a realisation that there is a need to put the country and the strategic international interests first. And I hope that that will be informed by that rally, because we have always been saying that the future of the country is based on inclusiveness and not exclusive monopoly style.

    BA: If Zanu were to say to you: we agree, we'll enter into negations, let's form some sort of coalition government, wouldn't that be a strike against the will of the people?

    MT: Well, there are two fundamental principles that we have to put before you can arrive at that conclusion. One is that the results of democratic elections in March have to be respected and that the people's mandate was bestowed on MDC and therefore should lead that inclusive government. But that is subject to negotiations. The second fundamental issue is that there has to be peace and stability and that this banditry and violence has to stop, and illegal detentions has to stop, and Zanu PF has to bend over backwards and arrest these kind of bandits who are just roaming the country and maiming people. So once we have got acceptance then it is easier to arrive at a coalition for the sake of the transitional process that will softland the crisis.

    BA:In this scenario what happens to a presidential election, would that be indefinitely postponed?

    MT: I think the challenge we have got is that an election is never a solution to our crisis because of the polarisation of the two political parties. So if its head you lose, tails you lose; and I think it's more to do with the role President Mugabe will play if an elections is then held. That's why the negotiations have to be about transition and not about an election.

    BA: What is your leverage to enforce any deal that is made? If they turn around after various concessions and compromises have been made and sort of play hard ball like we saw Kibaki do in Kenya - what would your leverage be to enforce deals that have been made.

    MT: Well, the challenge is to find AU SACD UN, [ployka - sounds like] or more than just one person; but it should include President Thabo Mbeki, but include some AU elder, which will act, this [ployka - sounds like] will act as a supervisory body on the agreement and whatever conflict may arise during the transition, they will be able to intervene using [this body/these bodies - unclear]. So that is the only insurance you can have. You cannot rely on a signature on a piece of paper with these guys who don't believe in negotiated or a compromise, who believe in roughshod and force and coercion.

    BA: It's precisely why I ask you the question because you've brought things to the brink by withdrawing from the election. It's unclear how this reduces the pressure on the people of Zimbabwe given what's taking place now.

    MT: I think it was a strategic decision. Taking into consideration that the real election which took place was in March. This 27th [June] run off is total war, and as I have said in my statement, we cannot be part of a war situation; when Mugabe says if I lose I will not accept the result, I will not accept to leave. He has declared war on the people - so why sacrifice people for a result which is already predetermined? I refuse, we refuse to go into any power based on dead bodies and women have been hacked by hacksaws and those kind of atrocities. So I think it was a strategic withdrawal. We believe we withdrew with on a high moral ground. Let Mugabe proceed on his illegitimate course and no one is going to bestow any legitimacy on them.

    BA: And what then? If he proceeds with the election, what's your strategy thereafter?

    MT: Well, our strategy is that we follow what the SADC has recommended: negotiate. And we believe that there is a basis; Zanu PF says it wants to negotiate but it wants to negotiate after the 27th when they have stolen the election. We have said that what is important is we have a pact so that the election becomes an event in the long strategy of resolving the national crisis by [co-partnership/core partnership - unclear] and cooperation. And I think that is the way to go.

    BA: Let's look a little bit into the future now because it seems to me and it seems to many of us here, it's just a matter of time before you have a meaningful roll, in government. What is the MDC's attitude is to the heritage of the anti-colonial anti-imperialist struggle in terms of the future policies of a MDC government. Mugabe makes loud noises that he represents the anti-imperialist option and you are simply a stooge of London and Washington. How do you see that?

    MT: Well, I think that first of all from an analytical point, the MDC is a post-liberation formation based on the social movements - the trade union movement and the people's social movements that [built/build - unclear] up the MDC. So rather than attack the MDC as a extension of colonial imperialist *11:29 [imaginations - unclear], it is actually a new movement that is a post-nationalist movement to take us from the ideas of the liberation struggle which were betrayed by these nationalists, and take it further and bestow the real values of freedom on the people. That's why it is based on civil society, the trade union movement and all these other movements. So the MDC is actually a progression of the people's project to free themselves from colonialism and from the nationalist elite who have betrayed the very same *12:08 [ideals/ideas - unclear] that we have fought for.

    MT: Could you elaborate what your policies would be in relation to land and agrarian reform? Will you be returning land expropriated and redistributed by the Mugabe regime?

    MT: No, no, far from it. I was telling somebody today, I said, 'Look, there is a national consensus that the inequality of land distribution in the country is unsustainable and that we need a new paradigm to assess that land is an asset of empowerment of the poor. But what has happened in our case is that we have replaced an elite white class to own land with a black elite class to own land. So the actual revolution of equitable distribution of land has yet to happen because the changes that have taken place in Zimbabwe are just the asset changes and they are not about distribution of the very important asset like land. So there is no question about returning land to anybody. It is about resolution of the fundamental problem of land ownership in the country. And what Zanu PF has done needs to be re-looked at in terms of rationalisation and bringing more people on the Land Reform Programme than what has so far happened.

    BA: This obviously then brings to centre stage future economic policies. What economic policie are needed to address the tremendous poverty and mass unemployment that currently exists in Zimbabwe?

    MT: Well, we are a social democratic movement and we believe that you cannot distribute, we don't believe that you can have a redistributive agenda without a proper strategy of increasing productivity and production assets in the country. So the reason why we are socially conscious is because we believe that the contribution to the productive capacity of the nation has to have a social conscience and it has to have a social responsibility to intervene in the poor, in housing, in education, in health, and the social well being of the majority of the people.

    BA: The Mugabe regime is now essentially bankrupt economically. The country has huge debts that are still outstanding to the IMF and the World Bank - will a MDC government be honouring these loans?

    MT: Well, we have no obligation; there is an international law of inheritance. If we inherit all these debts we may have to find ourselves, how to negotiate ourselves out of that debt trap. But what is fundamental is that the MDC believes that we can implement an economic recovery programme based on fiscal monetary and other interventions that in the short-term will arrest the hyper-inflation conditions that we now experience, almost 2 000 000% inflation - it's unprecedented. So one of the immediate tasks is to get our debt out of the way, arrest the hyper-inflation conditions and then create the necessary environment for productive sector to start creating jobs and food availability to the nation. But one of the critical challenges that we face immediately is the issue of humanitarian crisis. Four million Zimbabweans need food assistance. There's no health delivery, there are no drugs in the hospitals. There's no personnel in the hospitals. Our school system has collapsed. So that is an immediate humanitarian intervention that we may have to embark on.

    BA: But it does mean that it puts you in a vulnerable position in relation to the international financial institutions, particularly the World Bank, and I'm thinking here of the situation that we faced post-'94 where many of the policies that a new South Africa implemented were authored by the World Bank, especially our land policy: willing seller, willing buyer and so on, which has proved pretty disastrous.

    MT: Well, we have to accept that you have to deal with these multinational institutions. But you don't have to take their advice; you have to find a way in which you can avert the so-called Bretton Woods Institution's advice, by agreeing that your development has to be incremental, responding to the social needs of the pub(lic), but also increasing the productive state of the land, agricultural outputs, your basic industries. And that's where I think in the long-term you may avoid these Bretton Woods prescriptions. But you cannot avoid in the short-term to deal with the *17:54 [Paris club - sounds like] and all these other institutions because of the debt trap that we have got. So, yes, South Africa had to abandon the RDP, I know at that time I was in the trade union movement and we were discussing the RDP very extensively. Because of the short-term social consensus that had to be built around the Bretton Woods Institution paradigm.

    BA: But it does beg the question in terms of what role would you see for the state playing going forward? One of the things in the RDP was very much centred around a massive investment programme in housing and other things that would stimulate downstream industries. Is that's foreclosed in the current situation in Zimbabwe.

    MT: Well, there will be massive housing that will be needed. But, you see, you have to put the cart before the horse. We have to create the necessary instruments and wealth in order to have social intervention. If you start off by redistribution before creating the necessary productive sectors then you won't go anywhere. I suppose that's what South Africa did having realised the gaps between the intention and the realities on the ground. For us we face huge social problems and I think that it may be some time before those social problems can be tackled. And by the way, we do realise that over a period of time we have to move away from donor dependence or donor support, which I think in the initial stage would be the initial * 19:38 [infusion/inclusion - unclear] of the necessary resources to investment resourced capacity - your personnel, your manpower resources, your industry and those kind of investments.

    BA: But wouldn't what you're saying just be another version of trickle-down economic policies that have been generally incapable of averting and addressing extreme poverty and unemployment?

    MT: Unfortunately there is a stage where some form of trickle-down has to be expected. But the state itself cannot play in every area of social endeavour. But it can intervene socially in those basic services: health, education, housing as a way of providing the basic services and facilities for the poor. But if you are not doing anything it has its own limitations. But, yes, I think that it can give the guiding philosophy as to how the social democratic economic environment has to be created.

    BA: Now South African business seems very eager to invest in a democratic Zimbabwe and have devised various recovery plans. Have you been party to any of these, and what role do you see for South African business in Zimbabwe?

    MT: Well, South African business is welcome to Zimbabwe. I am sure that there will be a basis of partnerships; this is regional investment and it is attractive. It is important that [a - possible word] regional *21:25 is based not only on other aspects but also that business must be able to move within the region in a manner which then allows for all of us to develop. So South African business will obviously be welcome. And I think that between South Africa and Zimbabwe they realised the potential of the country in terms of human resources and other natural resources in the country. So they will be able to find a home to exploit business opportunities in Zimbabwe - so it will be welcome.

    BA: Of course in South Africa there's a sort of governmental transition taking place or shortly to take place with Jacob Zuma, the new president of the ANC likely to become the next president. Have you had much contact with him, and do you see a different role for South Africa under his leadership?

    MT: I have not been able to *22:27 [distinction - unclear] between President Mbeki and President JZ - because I have a very good rapport with President JZ, I am in constant contact with him; we discussed a number of issues, including Zimbabwe crisis. So I can certainly say we agree what needs to be done. So on that basis at a personal level there is no problem and I don't think that there will any problem between South Africa and Zimbabwe in the future.

    BA: But there has been a grave problem between you and President Mbeki.

    MT: Not at a personal level; it has been at policy level. It has been a policy difference when it comes to strategy on the question of mediation in Zimbabwe. And I have told him in the face that I don't agree with your soft, soft approach in this - because the man you are dealing with is entrenched there. And for a very long time he's pursued this policy of quiet diplomacy because he believes that Mugabe had to be persuaded. Now the problem is that the crisis has not *23:30 [ebbed - unclear], it's just reached unprecedented crisis levels. So, but I have met him; we discussed. So it is actually a policy, a principle difference rather than a personal one.

    BA: How do you account for his particular role around the Zimbabwe crisis? As an attachment to the Mugabe regime: support and protection rather than a real initiative to end this crisis?

    MT: No, I think that his role was more of strategy failure. Because his approach was that he needed to marry the crisis rather than to resolve it. And furthermore, his strategy of managing it was based on persuasion of Robert Mugabe. And also the fact that stability was more important than democracy. And therefore all hose were policy failures strategically and tactically

    BA: What role do you see for Britain and the USA now in the current phase and in a post-Mugabe phase?

    MT: Well, our policy has always been that as we move in the new Zimbabwe era we don't discriminate against anyone; we want to be in partnership with every country in the world. We don't discriminate and we want to promote the commercial interests of the Zimbabwean nation rather than any other belligerent relationship with either East or West.

    BA: Lastly, how do you see the role of civil society in Zimbabwe's recovery. How will you manage the demands of the trade union movement, of the jobs and wages and working conditions, on the one hand, and the need to control inflation on the other hand?

    MT: Well, I'm sure that there will be -. First of all I believe in social consensus. I believe that the government has a responsibility in consulting labour, business. If you have to move forward there has to be social partnership - because I think that if we have to face this very hard decision you need a buy-in by these social movements. And I am banking on the *26:06 [present - unclear] movement helping us to plough through and navigate through these very serious decisions that have to be made. I also believe that the trade union movement has to be independent, autonomous. It must be a critical player in not only supporting but actually criticising whatever government is doing. The independence of the trade union movement is critical in becoming an oversight on some of the government policy.

    Audio File


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