SWRA ‘Hot Seat’ Interview: International engagement with Zimbabwe

HOT SEAT INTERVIEW:  Part Three of the ‘Hot Seat’ programme in which SW Radio Africa’s Violet Gonda talks with Professors Brian Raftopoulos, Jonathan Moyo and Economist John Robertson.

Violet: Welcome back to our teleconference with three people who have at one time or another been advisors to some key political players. Analyst Professor Brian Raftopoulos who has been one of the advisors to the MDC, Mugabe’s former strategist and ex- information minister Professor Jonathan Moyo – a man more renowned for being the architect of much of the oppressive media regulation in the country – and last but not least, leading economist John Robertson. In this program we discuss more about the issue of international engagement and what the international community can do about the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe always blames the economic crisis on sanctions imposed by western governments, ignoring the fact that they are targeted sanctions, designed not to impact on ordinary Zimbabweans. I first asked John Robertson if he thought economic sanctions, as described by Mugabe, were in place?

Robertson: No I do not agree they are economic sanctions. Any Zimbabwean can import anything from anywhere in the world if they can pay for it and any Zimbabwean company can export anything they’ve got to anywhere else in the world. We’ve got no economic sanctions against us whatever. The areas where it might have affected ordinary Zimbabweans have come through in the form of aid that is now much more constraint and many of the NGOs and welfare organisations abroad are much more circumspect about bringing aid to Zimbabwe because they have experienced – and feel that it might happen again – a lot of political interference in the way they can distribute what they have brought. So there are difficulties in the aid category but not in the investment or international trade. And we do not actually have any right to blame sanctions for Zimbabwe’s decline.

Violet: And Professor Raftopoulos, now Mugabe constantly uses this rhetoric to deny that he is responsible for anything. Now how do you persuade a dictator to look at the facts and accept responsibility for the mismanagement of the country?

Raftopoulos: Well, dictators by definition have a certain blockage when it comes to the future of their country as a whole because invariably they then begin to think about the reproduction of particularly their party and their own future. But I think options opened to this particular dictator have narrowed down extremely narrowly and that even those who are responsible for the security question now, maybe even see him as a future security problem. Therefore, there are beginning to emerge forces beyond him which are going to push him into certain kind of positions. That, one must also understand this also might open up new spaces domestically. As the regional, international pressure increases there may be new opportunities domestically to again mobilise certain kind of actions. And this is why it is important for the opposition therefore, even though they are split to get some kind of strategic unity on the way forward in dealing with what might be opportunities that may emerge.

Violet: And there are others who believe targeted sanctions must be tightened and even extended to include the regime’s family members. Now what are your views on sanctions Professor Moyo?

Moyo: Well I am not sure or aware that there are people who are saying that because the view I am aware of which was recently expressed by President Mbeki and later his foreign minister Nkosazana Zuma was that these targeted sanctions are not achieving much. And frankly I don’t think there is a lot of evidence there to indicate that these targeted sanctions have worked. Of course the government and the ruling party have used them for purposes of political propaganda but they are sanctions which have meant to put pressure on the government denying it access to credit lines, international credit lines, for example, through the IMF and the world bank. But you have seen them coming up with things like Look East policy and so forth. Surely the government may be telling us that its look East policy is failing. But it really can’t claim that the sanctions are what is the fundamental problem. So, I think there are other forms of international pressure that can be applied to address this issue rather than the targeted sanctions because these have been with us for quite some time now. But I wanted to agree with Professor Raftopoulos that; Do you know today in Zimbabwe, Mugabe clearly as a sitting president who has been in power for too long, since 1980 – has become a security problem in terms of the continued existence of the state. And this is why there is a lot of activity within ZANU PF to replace him. This is why the succession issue is an important one to examine even for the opposition in terms of the opportunities that it creates. Very soon the issue will move from Mugabe being a security issue to ZANU PF being a security issue and the game will be over. And that is why I believe that we are really in the middle of the end game because there is appreciation within the ruling party circles that things cannot continue this way and that for them it’s to find a replacement for Mugabe.

Violet: Now on the issue of looking for a replacement for Mugabe. Since you have had the opportunity of seeing things from the inside. Who do you think are the major contenders for this post, for this position?

Moyo: ZANU PF never really created a tradition or process for choosing a successor. As we all know in ZANU PF once you are elected, so to speak, to leadership you are not or not even elected; once you are in leadership you are not to lose your position through an election unless you die or you are found to have gone against the party rules and so forth. So, we don’t have serious contenders that would have the qualities expected by the nation given the problems that we are having. But those who are on offer because of what ZANU PF is certainly include Vice President Mujuru. When she was elevated to the position of Vice President, Mugabe publicly indicated that she was his chosen successor. But we have since learnt that this might not be so. That in fact Mugabe was hoping to have someone of less stature, lesser capabilities than him in the hope that he could get two additional years. There is quite some serious talk within ZANU PF that Mugabe would like to remain in power until 2010 and use the two years between 2008 and 2010 to find a successor who might not be anyone we know. Otherwise yes, there has been talk about Sydney Sekeramayi and even Simba Makoni as a possible dark horse and there is the endless talk about the Emmerson Mnangagwas’ group. But it looks like none of these may in-fact be the successors to Mugabe.

Violet: And just to go back on the issue of sanctions. You said that you don’t believe the sanctions are achieving anything or achieving much. And I just wanted to find out – are you not saying that because you are on the sanctions list yourself?

Moyo: Well the fact that I am on the sanctions’ list myself might be the proof that they are not achieving much because clearly putting me on the sanctions list does not lead to anything more so now when I am not in the government. But I thought that they were initially intended to target people who were making policies in government and those who are close to them like their spouses or even children at one time, it was thought. And finally people who are in business and are benefiting from the policies of the ZANU PF government or the patronage of the Zanu pf government otherwise everybody else is excluded. Those kind of sanctions I don’t think can make a difference. The ones I see making a difference and clearly bothering the government at the moment are those that come from the American Democracy Act directing that it’s representatives – multi lateral organisations such as the IMF and World Bank should not vote in support of policies or even loans to Zimbabwe. Those are working. We have seen that the government really – from around September or so last year -wanted some statement of endorsement through the IMF and they even, rather foolishly, believed that by paying off the arrears they may get Zimbabwe’s voting rights restored and new lines of credit extended to them. So we can see that there is quite some concern and wish that there could be some change in the relationship between Zimbabwe and the two major multi lateral financial institutions. So the sanctions on that score are working in so far as they are frustrating the government. But in general these we hear about from Australia – confused list; from the EU – having dead people and wrong names, I think that is more of a political statement rather than a real programme of action that achieves a purpose on the ground.

Violet: Mr Robertson do you agree?

Robertson: I do agree with that. They have not made any difference at all and they have been used as political capital to persuade many, many Zimbabweans that the problems being caused on the country have come from outside. So I think that has not been helpful because all of these difficulties have definitely been generated within Zimbabwe and they are our own faults. In fact Zimbabwe has now become not only an embarrassment to the region but I think we are becoming a threat – on the point that was made earlier – that as we become a weakened economy we become more vulnerable to influences from abroad. And I think we could become very much more influenced soon to the detriment of the entire region as goods start coming into Zimbabwe that have to be shipped out to the rest of the region, we could cause the demolition of industries in South Africa, in Lesotho, in Botswana, in Swaziland all of the countries that are presently trying to build up their capacity to become industrialised to be ruined by Zimbabwe’s inability to prevent the influx of massive quantities of consumer goods from abroad. Now this is a major danger that is not going to be overcome until we ourselves get some assistants to get back on our feet and I think it is for that reason we should be seen by the region to be a problem that they themselves need to be involved in sorting out and I think it’s very, very urgent that they get their act together quickly, not just us.

Violet: But would you agree with other sentiments or other ideas from people who say that the smart sanctions should tightened or made more effective?

Robertson: I think I’ve yet to see the kind of smart sanctions that I believe would actually work. I think it has to be in the form of much, much more telling pressures. And I think the pressures would only be really valid and really taken seriously in Zimbabwe if they come from the region. The people who can speak about us from the United States or from Europe are so faraway that the government again, I believe will make political capital out of such things and do nothing to change but if the pressure comes from the region I believe the Zimbabwe government will react and be very keen to see changes come about very quickly.

Violet: And Professor Raftopoulos many Zimbabweans say…(interruption)

Moyo: sorry, sorry, can I, can I just wanted one sentence to add from what Mr Robertson has said.

Violet: sure

Moyo: The sanctions that the Zimbabwean government is really afraid of are United Nations sanctions and they have for quite some time been afraid that the moment Zimbabwe becomes a UN Security Council issue and gets on that agenda then the possibilities of UN sanctions will be there. They are prepared to do everything in their power to prevent those. They talk about the current sanctions in some double way because they know that they really – you know occasionally they will frankly say these don’t matter – but when they are dealing with the opposition they will say you are the ones who called for these sanctions and therefore you must go back and tell your masters to remove the sanctions. But they know that these are not the issue. The moment they face UN sanctions – which they have feared there is a possibility – then you will see a big change.

Violet: What would it take for Zimbabwe to be slapped with UN sanctions. Some say with all that has happened in Zimbabwe why is it the UN has not yet done so, especially after operation Murambatsvina?

Moyo: Well they came very close and that possibility is still there because the government has not addressed at all the suffering of the over 570 000 households who were displaced internally by Operation Murambatsvina. Those who were directly affected by either losing their source of livelihood or homes are still out there. That’s why the visit by Annan is such a controversial issue that is still hanging over the heads of the government.

Violet: And also what about South Africa Professor Raftopoulos? Many Zimbabweans say Mbeki has betrayed the people of Zimbabwe and should be doing everything in his power to pressure Mugabe to change by whatever means. Like embargoes on fuel and power and loans from banks. Do you agree with this?

Raftopoulos: Look clearly the South African government will not move alone into that kind of strategy for all kinds of reasons which many people have discussed. I think that as far as the smart sanctions are concerned symbolically they have been important but I agree that the broader, the broader sanctions issue is much more, needs to be put much more on the agenda. I think both the opposition and the civic movement in Zimbabwe have to develop a clearer position on what to say and what strategy to use on a broader sanctions campaign because if the Mugabe regime continues in the strategy that it is and continues to push Zimbabwe into a deeper crisis then discussions around a broader sanctions against Zimbabwe – not just a UN – but broader economic sanctions certainly has to become a strategy that has to be considered. And I think the UN issue is still hanging. The Tibaijuka report issues are there. I think they are available for mobilisation and I think that pressure has got to be applied. But certainly from South Africa you are unlikely to see much in terms of direct sanctions in terms of economic sanctions.

Violet: Next Tuesday we will bring you the final part of the teleconference with the three people who have at one time or another advised some of the key players in Zimbabwean politics. In our final segment Political analyst Professor Brian Raftopoulos, former Information Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and economist John Robertson will discuss the issue of what happens after Mugabe.

Tue, June 27 2006 » Interviews

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