Interview with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe

The original source for this article is:

This interview aired on Sunday, September 10, 2000 on ABC-TV's 'Like it Is' hosted by Gil Noble. The show is aired weekly in the New York Metropolitan area. This transcript was provided by All News (1- 800-ALL-NEWS) and it is reprinted with their permission.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe...On the UN Summit

GIL NOBLE, Host: Some 180 heads of state from around the world came to New York this past week to take part in the United Nations Millennium Summit.

Among the most controversial of those attending was Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, the African nation once known as Rhodesia when it was a British colony.

After 15 years under the rule of a breakaway white minority, the first truly democratic elections were held in 1980, putting Robert Mugabe in office. But that nation's prevailing problem is land ownership and many of the white settlers own huge tracts of land and are loathe to give it up.

On top of that tug of war, often bloody, is the issue of globalization and its impact on nations, especially in the African diaspora. My interview with President Mugabe began on this issue.

ROBERT MUGABE, President, Zimbabwe: I hope I can bring on behalf of my country, as well as on behalf of our region, is the fact of our expectations-- various expectations as we enter the global village. And these have to do with our socio-economic situations and whether, in fact, going in the global village will enhance our opportunities for transforming our economies. Or are we going to go in to see once again the efforts we have made towards transforming our economies being diminished -- and diminished by the fact of disparity; the disparity between the developed and the developing countries -- and the fact that up to now developed countries have not been quite keen to see the developing countries transform their economies. And we have remained as, in Africa, for example, mere primary producers of goods with very little real beneficiation of those goods. That is, very little of factories and established forms which need, of course, an input of technology to enable us to add value to our commodities.

That is one -- the fact of development itself. That's an expectation that we want to see, the global village provide opportunities for that development to happen.

Two, we also want to see ourselves as equal partners, political partners, with the developed countries in terms of the charter of the United Nations. And that sovereignty means recognition of sovereign-- recognition by each and every one of us, you know, that we are equal -- one and to another in terms of authority that's wielded by each and every country within its own political system. And that-- the developed countries must respect that sovereign authority of small states and not try to undermine the small states using that economic muscle, as they are trying to do at the moment.

[Commercial break]

GIL NOBLE: In this country, the heads of the state-- the head of state in this country says that globalization will benefit the diaspora. What is your response?

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, if what the head of state says here is anything to go by, let's see it happen. Why shouldn't it happen before the entry into the global village anyway? Why hasn't it happened so far?

And so we will guard ourselves against the furtherance of divisions and segmentation of our black entity -- universal entity, shall I say -- us, as one. The Blacks, wherever we are. And that the misfortunes and adversities of the past should not visit us in the future.

And at the moment we are worried because of the attempts being made by developed countries actually to divide us -- divide us much more. In Africa, they are using again the economic muscle to subject some of our countries to their own authority. And because we are poor and poverty, of course, begs us to be obedient to those who can provide us with a little food.

GIL NOBLE: When you say "economic muscle," do you mean the World Trade Organization, the IMF -- is that what you're talking about?

ROBERT MUGABE: I mean-- yes, the IMF. But the IMF are only institutions and we are members of the IMF. But it is those behind the IMF I mean. And say they are the United States, they are Europe and others. The combination of them.

GIL NOBLE: Many people read globalization through the lenses of American corporations shutting down factories and opening them in nations in the diaspora. Has that process visited Zimbabwe?

ROBERT MUGABE: Not yet, it hasn't. I cannot see what that is meant to do. Hopefully, the intentions might be just those of profit to make more money and not to bring about greater domination of those areas where these investments are taking place.

GIL NOBLE: Can we move a little bit to some of the more pressing issues in today's news, as far as land reform. When you came to office many years ago, that was your stated premise -- to bring about land reform, among many other important issues. Many say, and the government has officially acknowledged, that the pace has been slow.



ROBERT MUGABE: Well, slow again because of our obedience to compliance with the law. They like us to have a constitution -- an entrenched process which prevented our moving fast. One of them was that provision which required that any land needed for resettlement must be acquired on a willing sale or willing basis. And, of course, it was not always easy to get willing sellers.

And once the sellers said no -- the would-be seller, that is -- said no, you had no option but to leave him alone.

GIL NOBLE: What kind of leverage does this minecaster agreement have on the new government?

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, this is it. We obeyed the law because the constitution had a clause, a requirement that-- a [unintelligible] requirement that even though the constitution as a whole could be amended by two-thirds majority, that clause could not be so amended until a period of 10 years had passed.

And so we waited for 10 years to pass. And as the 10 years elapsed, we amended that provision so government could acquire land on the basis of national interests.

Then there was also the fact that we were not to acquire land without full compensation. And we had to give money to compensate the farmers. But it was not this that we have been very, very now disappointed -- and disappointed because at Lancaster House there was an undertaking by both Britain and outside the conference by the United States that they would find the money. And so we didn't bother about removing the clause. As long as money was available, we would get it and then use it for purposes of compensating the farmers.

But after about five or so years, Britain said it did not have the money. And in the United States, the regimes changed. Carter went out and Reagan came in. And Reagan said no, he was not going to give us money for that purpose.

In Britain, well, they said they had given us enough. But we tried to negotiate, and negotiate with the conservative government. This time it was that of Major -- Major was the prime minister in 1996. And we had put together an arrangement which would have been acceptable to both sides and they were willing to fund the resettlement process and make funds available.

To what extent? Well, we say I suppose in time they would increase the amounts, but the principle of forwarding us the funds was accepted. But before the funds were put together, Major was defeated by the Labour government. Mr. Blair's government said no, they were not prepared to take on colonial responsibilities

But we said, fine, if you're not prepared to do it, there now stands at Lancaster House that we would not tax our poor peasants in order for them to buy back their land would come back. And that's why we are behaving the way we are doing -- being very firm with Britain. We will not compensate the farmers unless Britain makes the funds available.

[Commercial break]

GIL NOBLE: The Europeans did not give any compensation to the Africans from whom they took the land.

ROBERT MUGABE: That is one reason we are making this very firm stand.

GIL NOBLE: So the white farmers are asking to be compensated for land that they stole?

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, this is what we have said. It was a robbery. Daylight robbery. And we are building up a case, a separate case for that one -- for compensating us not just for the land, but for the whole act; an act of robbery; a colonial act of seizing our land; subjecting our people for a hundred years nearly, and exploiting our resources without our permission.

GIL NOBLE: Is there another dimension in this land reform issue? And that is whether there are Zimbabweans who are able to take over the machinery of agriculture and mineral produce in the country.

ROBERT MUGABE: There are well-educated people, well-skilled. They are the ones, actually, buying most of the European farms. And we provide cheap labor. We provide skilled labor. We have technicians. We have research centers. That's no problem at all.

We are self-sufficient in that regard. We are not self-sufficient in regard to accessing the technology that we require. We need tractors. We need other [unintelligible] that are not available in Zimbabwe. And it is that side which will be to some extent handicapped. But we will use our resources to the best of our ability to acquire the necessary machinery.

But insofar as the technology-- the farming technology is concerned, there is nothing we can do.

GIL NOBLE: But as far as the acquisition of equipment and machinery, if you don't have the resources in the government, then one has to go to the IMF for loans? Is that--

ROBERT MUGABE: No. The IMF usually doesn't provide that kind of loan. It provides help loans, short-term loans with the full balance of payments. And that is all when you have deficits then you go to the IMF, with the trade deficits and generally balance of balance shortfalls. That's why they provide facilities for. And all this U.N. cry has been just about those loans which are really frugally given.

And quite insignificant in amounts, but because several countries have tied themselves to the IMF in respect of affording funds to developed countries, and this is a gimmick, naturally, to get them to do what they IMF wants.

We want the IMF to give us those little insignificant funds when we had balance of payments, problems worrying us, so they can unlock, you know, the funds that other countries might be able to afford us.

GIL NOBLE: Now, I understand that your government now has a fast track program.


GIL NOBLE: How fast a track is it?

ROBERT MUGABE: Very fast. Very fast. As fast as the hundred-meter run now. That is how I want to compare it. But we had to embark on that because we're looking at the season. And come October, the race will have come and we wanted people to be in possession of the land to be able to till the land this season. Obviously we will not complete the process this year. But most of the land should be acquired this year.

GIL NOBLE: The majority?

ROBERT MUGABE: Yes, and then next year we'll just do a mopping up exercise. And then so we are saying to the people, "Get out of the land. We'll demarcate the land using our own technicians as between grazing and horrible. And then mark out the places where homes will come.

We will provide the water and the combination of two institutions we have; one in agriculture, one in the ministry of water, that is a combination of the instruments they have, the equipment they have -- the tractors, that is.

We will help the farmers.

[Commercial break]

ROBERT MUGABE: We don't intend to go outside the criteria where established from the purpose of first identifying the land that we need for [unintelligible] and then designating that land.

If a farmer has one farm -- only one farm -- well, we say-- we do not touch it unless it's adjacent to a communal area. And in that case, we will take that one farm and ask him to choose another.

Secondly, farmers with more than one farm -- and the majority of the farmers there have two, three, in some cases, 18 farms to an individual -- we will take all the land that is in excess of one farm. And then, of course, under-utilized land will go. Then land held by absentee owners sitting in the House of Lords and controlling-- using remote control to agriculture -- that will also go.

GIL NOBLE: Is that true?

ROBERT MUGABE: Yes. The Actons and Rifkins will lose their farms. They are in the House of Lords.

Then, obviously we will not tax agro-industrial enterprises -- sugar plantations, citrus plantations, and in some cases, horticultural plantations as well, then the forestry areas. We have huge forests of exotic trees -- cyprus, pine, wattle, et cetera. We won't tax those to the best of our ability.

GIL NOBLE: Are they run by outside interests?

ROBERT MUGABE: They belong to interests like Anglo-America, and [unintelligible]. Some are government also.

GIL NOBLE: You haven't mentioned Ian Smith.

ROBERT MUGABE: He has two farms. I think only one is being considered for resettlement and the other he can keep.

Yes, he is a free man. And as I joke about it, he wears a borrowed head because in other circumstances we would have, you know, tried him for genocide and claimed his head. But we've allowed him to keep it, to wear it for the rest of his life.

GIL NOBLE: So he has not really put up a complaint, a major complaint about relinquishing this land?

ROBERT MUGABE: No, he hasn't to date. I don't think he has been affected in any serious manner. I think he's still in possession of his land.

GIL NOBLE: Now about this agro-industries. Is the earnings, the revenues to the government satisfactory to you? Is it fair? Would they pay a tariff or a duty or a tax that is satisfactory to you?

ROBERT MUGABE: The farmers are really good at dodging taxes. They are very rich. But every year they plead poverty and say they are not able because of costs, because of this, because of animals destroying their crops. Sometimes they complain that there is robbery. And they find excuses, all kinds of excuses.

They are growers of tobacco. And let it not be forgotten that we are number three, sometimes number two, grower of tobacco that's sold on the international market. But we come after Brazil and Brazil comes after the United States, as you are aware. And so we have quite some farming magnets.

We depend on the taxation mainly. There is not even land tax to charge them, but we have been considering that. And we-- it's when they sell and make a profit and then on the basis of the levels of profit we pose our own tax-- taxes on them.

GIL NOBLE: Does your government have the facilities to really examine their books and make sure that what they are reporting as earnings is actually--

ROBERT MUGABE: That's where we have a weakness, I think. It is in respect to those carrying out horticulture, especially, and those who send their flowers and other products to the Netherlands or elsewhere. And that hasn't been a real degree of vigilance and a degree of inspection. And I think there has been a great weakness there. And so you get some of them resorting to, you know, all kinds of tricks -- under invoicing, over invoicing -- in order to dodge not only the tax system but also-- not only to avoid, you know, paying taxes, but also to try and fund, you know, back their funds outside the country.

GIL NOBLE: Are there penalties for such an--

ROBERT MUGABE: Yeah, yeah, sure. There are penalties where when we discover that's happened. But it is extremely difficult to discover that.

Then we have this new development which started just a few years back, I think in the '90s, where the farmers were now transforming [unintelligible] land into conservancies. And these are little safaris where they get animals, wild animals. And most of the wild animals come from the game reserves, and fence them up. And then with friends from the United States who want to come shooting buck antelope and so one, they make arrangements. And payments are made outside. Then the safari hunters come. They shoot one or two animals and come back. He is satisfied to know that they had a good time in Africa. But unbeknown to them, the arrangement they will have made with the farmer for them to bank, you know, the payments here are illegal. And I don't think they are aware of that.

[Commercial break]

GIL NOBLE: Can you tell those who are listening to this interview, is your analysis of the controversy that you report about this whole question of Zimbabweans sitting on the land that was quote-unquote "owned" by the Europeans and there were some fights and some--


GIL NOBLE: What is your explique and analysis of what that was?

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, this was the campaign by the war veterans. And it was caused by-- they had discovery that what they had fought for in the first place -- the land -- had not come. And there were the farmers now exhibiting a great reluctance, if not resistance, to the land reform program. And they started a campaign.

When the campaign started, we were quite unaware that this is what they were doing. But when they did it, we said, "Ah, yes. Of course, we support it." But it should not extend beyond mere demonstration. And we regarded them as demonstrations by the war veterans. Your occupation of the land is not real seizure of that land. You don't own it by nature of occupation. You're merely demonstrating your desire that government proceed with the land reform as quickly as possible. Don't take anything that doesn't belong to you from that-- from the farm or from the farmer. And please be peaceful about it.

Over a thousand farms were so-occupied. But in a few of them there were incidents of violence which we regretted very much. And two farmers died, but a lot more blacks were killed in the process.

GIL NOBLE: Really?

ROBERT MUGABE: Yes, yes, yes -- by farmers organizing either their workers to go out and attack-- attack the war veterans and their supporters. That happened.

GIL NOBLE: African against African?

ROBERT MUGABE: Yes, yes. Of course. This is what you've got. Even politically, this is what has happened. That's why you had the so-called movement for democratic change winning that number of seats.

You had the whole other launch of European media and European personnel in Zimbabwe; the European parties from South Africa supporting them. And lots of money has been pouring in. So you can see that it has not been that easy.

But we won and the victory was not a victory against the poor blacks, now led by [unintelligible]. It was a victory -- victory, the second victory against Britain -- Britain and its allies.

GIL NOBLE: Mr. President, by the time this interview airs this Sunday, the U.N. meeting will have ended. I was just wondering what your report card is on President Clinton regarding Africa.

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, as to what President Clinton is going to say, well, I'm--

GIL NOBLE: Just up to now, as we speak -- up until now. What kind of report card would you give him?

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, I'll say perhaps of all presidents, he has been the only one who has visited Africa so many times. But visiting Africa is one thing; doing real material, substantial things for Africa to see it develop is another. It's not just good intentions we want, we want to see those good intentions actually in practice. They must be measured by the degree you see of material assistance that has been given to Africa.

GIL NOBLE: Have you seen that happening satisfactorily?

ROBERT MUGABE: On only limited areas -- the areas of health. And unfortunately his time has also been characterized by the, shall I say, the elitheral attitude of Congress. And the Congress now adopting a policy of less and less aid to developing countries, but wanting more and more trade, you see, and opening the avenue of trade.

To open the avenue of trade you must first open the avenue of economic development. What are you going to trade in? Bananas and sugar -- what we have been selling to the United States over decades. And that has not brought about change. We want to see countries of Africa actually transforming. And transformation is an exercise -- or shall I say, process of moving from a primary production to secondary production, adding value to your own products and selling them now to the international markets.

And that's not-- that hasn't happened. If anything, we have seen our economies actually now declining.

[Commercial break]

GIL NOBLE: Are the prices of African produce -- mineral and agricultural, such as in your country -- set by your government, by Africans or in Europe?

ROBERT MUGABE: That's one thing we are crying about and do not want to see this situation, you know, visiting us in the global village.

You take our case. We depend on gold, nickel and several other minerals, you see, name them -- it can be oil. It can be asbestos. It can be platinum, et cetera. But the prices, look at the prices on the market. The price of gold has been very low; the lowest since 1980. And that has affected our own reserves. And that's why now we are running short of foreign currency. But the production is continuous.

But, of course, the fact has also been for some of us, more mines to close down. And this has persisted. But it's not just in the area of mining or minerals. Even in the area of agriculture, yes, the tobacco prices are improving now. But last year they were very bad.

But it's not just tobacco. You have also cotton. We're like quite a lot in cotton. But Africa produces coffee. It produces cocoa. Ghana produces nearly twice as much gold as we do. Only yesterday, and Clinton visited Ghana, they called it a success story.

They will always call you a success story, like they did us in the 1980's, only for them to damn you the next day as a failure. Now Ghana because of the reduced international market prices for its gold and cocoa as well. And this in the context in which oil prices are going up. And that's affecting us. They have had to devalue the cedi from 3,000 to the dollar to 6,000 -- less, you know, by 100 percent-- by 50 percent, is it or 100?

Now you get that situation happening and it's not just Ghana alone. Ghana was a success story yesterday because the trend was an up point. But now the crosses are looking down, just as they are in our own case.

And in those circumstances we cannot continue to say the international price markets are fair to us. They fix the prices of our commodities and proceed to fix the prices of their own commodities that they sell to us -- machinery, technology. These are going up as our own prices in their markets are coming down. Where is fairness?

GIL NOBLE: And then you're saying at the same time duties and tariffs are down.

ROBERT MUGABE: There you are. Well, this is TWO now. They want the duties down. And you want the duties down and we are going to rely on duties not only as a source of revenue, but also for the protection that they afford to our nascent industries. But now they say-- hands down, no one shall impose immunity on any commodity. We want fair trade.

How can you-- we are economic midgets and they are Tysons. We are going into the ring. Oh, you see, there is no match.

GIL NOBLE: As you know, there has been a hewing cry being raised on both side of the Atlantic about reparations. My question to you is what is your reading on that? How do you feel about that? Are the demands that are being made on this side of the Atlantic different from those that are made in Africa?

ROBERT MUGABE: A similar dimension is slavery here, but it's also colonialism and subjugation of a people; slavery of a whole continent, you know. Being subjected to the will, whims and caprices of the west. Exploitation of resources. And underpayment of actually forced labor. Underpayment of workers. And values then, in some cases-- genocidal incidents happening in various countries. And it depends on the country. And so each country would have to make out its case against its former colonial master.

In our own case, naturally it's colonialism over repeated-- over 90 years and the exploitation of our resources -- gold and other minerals. The agricultural exploitation of our country and the subjugation of our people for no pay when they were forced, you know, to work without pay.

So you-- you had that kind of slavery to in Africa itself.

GIL NOBLE: But is it naive to make this request without a stick to demand it?

ROBERT MUGABE: Well, the stick can only be pressure from all of us, from our unity. And that's the only stick we have -- let's be united. And if it is being done, you see, to one racial group and that group has won its case using purely the fact of history, the pressure of history and the pressure of human rights. And then, of course, the pressure of its own-- the unity of its own people. Well, why can't we do it in the same way? There is no way we can go to war about it. We just have got to use the processes that exist.

[Commercial break]

ROBERT MUGABE: To all who say nonsensical talk about democracy, transparency, human rights, today is being raised now in order for the whites to point to our countries which are still [unintelligible] from their own systems of colonialism and have not got stabilized; pointing at them as offenders of these principles. When only yesterday, as they ruled our countries they didn't know of any democracy. There was no transparency. There were no human rights. And this is why we take the stand that no colonial master should be able to come to us and talk about democracy.

Lay still, Britain, who actually was our direct colonizer and which made our people suffer and whose system infuriated us and made us go to war in search of our right, in quest of our right to rule ourselves; the right of self-determination. To establish democracy which was never there in Rhodesia. Human rights and transparency -- and we achieved them. Displaced Ian Smith with his unilateral declaration of independence and dictatorship. And for the first time in 1980, there were democratic elections. We brought them about.

For the first time, with a declaration of rights in our constitution, we brought it about. For the first time our people could now say they have their right of self-determination. They can determine their future. They are a sovereign people. We brought that about.

And so when Britain and other European countries shout democracy, we cannot listen to them at all. We say "Nonsense. When did you learn democracy yourselves as applying to our countries?"

GIL NOBLE: Are you referring to this democracy 2000 that is being discussed now, this venture?

ROBERT MUGABE: Yes, sure, sure. I'm referring to now and I'm referring also to you saw what was coming on to various networks -- CNN, et cetera -- a descriptive of our own systems; a descriptive of me as leader of the Zimbabwe-African National Union Patriotic Front. And that-- alleging that we are undemocratic. We are-- we gave birth to those virtues in Zimbabwe. And how could we be the destroyers today of what we gave birth to?

GIL NOBLE: In closing, Mr. Mugabe, I asked you about that stick.


GIL NOBLE: And you said that the stick is going to be forged-- would be forged out of African unity.

ROBERT MUGABE: Unity. Unity and the diaspora, also.

GIL NOBLE: Is that happening? Do you see it?

ROBERT MUGABE: Yes, we are beginning to talk about it, all of us in the OAU. But we are yet to forge a solidarity or solid unity about it. But I think as one country creates that solidarity within its system and another does so elsewhere, we will then be in a position to talk of an African solidarity in the whole of the continent.

GIL NOBLE: Is there any daylight at all that we can look forward to regarding the strife between African nations, between African against African; Sierra Leone, instances like that?

ROBERT MUGABE: This is likely to continue as long as we have Africans divided. Again, it's the lack of national unity at the time of independence which is the cause. And, of course, a failure in our system to build up a national consciousness -- a truly national consciousness that resorting to military dictatorship is wrong. It is un-African, in most cases.

GIL NOBLE: You've been very generous with your time. Thank you, Mr. Mugabe.


Reprinted from:

Fair use notice of copyrighted material:
This site contains some copyrighted material that in some cases has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance the understanding of politics, human rights, the economy, democracy, and social justice issues related to Venezuela. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.