‘We’ll fight to death’
I want to tell them that we shall fight to the death for our land. The land is ours and here we shall live and die," President Mugabe says in this exclusive interview with the East African Standard
QUESTION: Mr President, you are on record as having said that land acquisitions in Zimbabwe are a matter of life and death. Why such a hard-line stance?
Answer: The fight for land here is just like in Kenya. The liberation struggle is not just about ruling; freedom from imperialist or colonial rule is incomplete if it does not include economic independence.
As we negotiated independence at Lancaster from October to December 1979, the vital issue that arose was land and we demanded provision for our people to acquire land through settlement programmes and this was initially agreed to by then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mugabe talks to the East African Standard in Harare last Wednesday.Pic by Yahya Mohamed
The British government initially agreed to compensate British settler farmers and the implementation was to be undertaken by my government.
It was vital to implement the process because land was initially seized from poor peasants but the negotiations came to a near breakdown.
The US accepted to join hands with the British to compensate the farmers and even funds were set aside for the land reform programme by the US, the British and the European Commission.
On April 18, 1990, we started working on the programme and started resettling Zimbabweans from Botswana, Mozambique and from within.
Agriculture immediately started and people started to cultivate land temporarily.
However, the British tricked us as we ventured into the major resettlement programme and drafted into the constitution the willing buyer, willing seller principle.
We had to accept the deal initially but it became difficult and the formula could not work as more and more farmers refused to sell their land.
After we settled some 57,000 families, the programme became even slower and extremely difficult.
The Americans gave us money to continue with the programme but at this point, the British were reluctant to give funds.
We lamented to Thatcher, leading to the making of the constitution to set aside funds to be used to compensate farmers.
Thatcher then released 44 million Sterling Pounds and said that was the end of it.
We asked for more money but Thatcher refused and before we could press for more, out she went and in came John Major.
We reviewed the issue with Major, who was a very good person. He was very co-operative and sent a six-man team to Zimbabwe to assess the situation between 1995 and 1996 and consequently got a report.
I then sent my ministers in June 1996 but before any deliberation could be made on a workable land acquisition programme, Major was defeated and in came Tony Blair, the Brute.
I raised the issue with him in 1997 in Scotland but he started being dismissive. One of Blair’s former ministers, Claire Short, said she was Irish and we should not talk about colonial obligation as it did not arise.
When my continued quest for negotiations failed due to his dismissive approach, we decided to take over land by force.
I told them to keep their money and we keep our land. To date, all Blair wants is to fight and not to talk.
Many white farmers are still farming in the country in spite of all this. From about 400 of them during the start of the programme, I think half are remaining and this half are the multi-nationals whom we have not touched yet, though the process is continuing.
What is your opinion of Tony Blair?
"Blair Brute" and his government are our enemy number 1.
He is presenting a totally false picture to countries with which we are economically related, and like the liar he is claims there is no law in Zimbabwe, no order, no democracy and no respect for human rights.(Pauses and beams with delight) Talking of respect for human rights, now we know the human rights they respect.
Blair has refused to understand and handle this issue as a bilateral one. He has only opted to make it international and has gone ahead to spearhead and ensure personal sanctions against me.
He is dissuading countries which have good economic relations with us and this economic sabotage is what he has continued to spearhead fully, thus undermining our economic relations with those countries.
Blair could even at one time use his forces to intercept a ship carrying fuel [to Zimbabwe] on the high seas and buy it at twice the price.
We are more democratic than the US. And by the way, talking about democracy, who elected President Bush and by what vote?
Maybe you should tell me because you come from the world of information and are well informed. What I know is that they could not reach conclusion in Florida as to who had most votes. Some votes were never counted and the matter had to go to the Supreme court.
Now the court they went to has more Republican judges meaning that his side had more judges in the Supreme Court than Democrats and having called that judicial objectivity, he won as President. I hope that doesn’t happen again this time round.
How do you survive with all these economic hardships and the poor relations with the West?
Oh, we are survivors. And we are turning around the economy with or without help from the West.
Fortunately, we don’t depend only on agriculture but also mining. We mine gold, iron, cranium, asbestos, platinum and diamonds and this has helped our economy and the living standards of our people.
We are survivors, we will survive. We were born here and shall die here. I want to tell them that we shall fight to the death for our land.
The land is ours and here we and our children shall live and die. We even heard recently from intelligence sources that Bush and his government were planning to invade Zimbabwe after Iraq but I want to tell them that they are welcome. We are guerrilla fighters who have fought before and are ready to fight another war any time.
We are a revolutionary movement and we want to retain our gain especially the sovereignty of our people, the rights of our people, the ownership of their resources and the right to those resources.
That is how we have ruled this country and that is how we intend to run it in future.
What do you make of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). What I know is that MDC is a movement founded and funded by British parties which are actually forces opposed to us, abhorent to us.
The British Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberals came together at the instigation of the Blair Government and agreed to raise money for an opposition.
They used the Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions, sponsored by the Westminster foundation, to come up with MDC.
If the party was formed from the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe, that could have been well and good, but what we reject to the neck is an agency being used to undermine the sovereignty of our own people by outsiders. That we will fight to the end.
We, however, accept the opposition. MDC participated in the 2000 elections and the referendum and was defeated by 1,000 votes. This gave enthusiasm to MDC which then participated in the June elections and won 56 seats out of 120 seats.
There are a total of 150 seats in parliament where chiefs are represented and governors are automatically MPs.
The MDC is, however, terming undemocratic powers conferred to the President of Zimbabwe that allow me to appoint 12 more members.
When Bush and his constitution picks men from the streets, that is democracy and yet when the Zimbabwean President has powers to appoint 12 more members, that becomes undemocratic.
MDC has continued to be a factor in making of law and governance through parliament and that we have accepted. But what we will forever reject is for them to go to Britain to seek advice and ask for sanctions to be placed against their own people and country.
That is abhorrent, we must have pride in our country and people.
And your relationship with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank?
We are still members of the international community. It’s only that during the bad days, we could not meet the commitments.
Although we remain members, I have no faith in them. We can do our thing without the IMF and the rest.
They come in with their balance of payment assistance, yes we need that at times. But their prescriptions, they are awful, believe me.
I lost faith in them in 1980 when they told me that I could not educate everyone in my country at the same time and that I had to do it in phases. Whose children was I supposed to leave out of school? That IMF advice was unfair and impractical.
Do you feel that African countries support you enough in your land reform policy?
Oh! We are very happy that we are now better understood by African and developing countries.
They now understand what the problem in Zimbabwe is all about. They understand that the differences between us and the British are on land and nothing else.
That is why Africa supports us, Kenya included. And of course Kenya should be number one to fully support us because you fought the same war against the colonialists.
We are happy that Kenya still giving us support because they too realise the value of land.
Is it true your government has muzzled the Press?
We are a free country. Democracy is not just a matter of the rights of certain groups or individuals.
Journalists claim that they are in a special category and must have special recognition of their rights.
Only if they recognised the rights of other people too!
I have also poor Mugabe here, my own rights, why do you want to defame me and call me this and that? If you do that I can react in two ways.
One, a personal way, insult you tit-for-tat but I won’t do that. If I take you to court for defaming me, I am not wrong or if at the end of the day I realise that the journalists are getting away with it, defaming all people because they have the pen.
We established a law that Thou shall not tell lies as it is in the Commandments that thou shall not lie.
And if you lie and lie again and you are a member of, say an organisation, then we either arrest you for continuing to defame others or we simply ban your organisation and say No.
We have also established a commission to look at various institutions in our media world.
I will tell you some of the lies told in this country; that a police officer decapitated a child in a certain area; that certain officers or commanders of the Army were planning a coup that was foiled, and much more.
Objectivity, truth and honesty must arise when journalists are undertaking investigative stories.