After the recent events in Zimbabwe, which saw opposition leaders beaten up by the police, and the decision thereafter by the SADC to stand by Zimbabwe, our editor, Baffour Ankomah, went to interview the president in the eye of the storm, Robert Mugabe. He was in fine fettle. Please turn the page.
Baffour: You had a good SADC conference in Tanzania, didn't you? One British journalist grudgingly reported that you returned to Harare with a spring in your step. Was everything hanging on this summit?
President Robert Mugabe: Well, when we went to Dar es Salaam, it was really to try and explain to our colleagues of SADC the events that happened here on 11 March, so they could get the true picture. We also wanted to explain to them, in a very clear perspective, why the actions here were not to be seen in isolation but to be read in the context where our erstwhile enemies--Britain and its allies--were actually orchestrating a situation which they believed would lead to regime change here.
This is the explanation I gave them, and I knew they would understand it. I knew that they too had been disturbed by what they had seen on CNN, BBC, Sky News and the other television services. But they are solid, SADC is solid; and let it not be forgotten that if imperialism and colonialism were ever solidly fought and defeated, it was here in Southern Africa that the real fight against imperialism took place.
And so we went to Dar es Salaam not to put up a fight but to explain to my colleagues the true situation here, and they understood the explanation. In the circumstances, what they themselves thought was the right thing to do was to support us because they realised that we were besieged, and we have been besieged for a long time. Economic sanctions have been imposed on us and they have undermined our economy and our efforts to develop. And so, while the world thought Dar es Salaam would deal us a death blow [laughs sarcastically], it was they who were dealt a death blow.
Baffour: At the end of the day, the region showed solidarity with Zimbabwe ...
Mugabe: [cuts in] ... It did, yes.
Baffour: But I would like you to situate the Zimbabwe case in the wider African context. Why should a Ghanaian or Nigerian or Kenyan or South African or an African-American support Zimbabwe? Why should Africa stand with Zimbabwe?
Mugabe: Well, obviously, our cause is their cause. The success of Zimbabwe is their success. And we don't live in isolation, we are not an extension of Europe, we are part of Africa, and so really our stand, as a fight, should be seen as an African cause, and wherever we have Africans, be they in the Diaspora or in Senegal or Ghana where we first got our revolutionary drink, they should be able to understand and appreciate the war we are fighting here, and when they are disillusioned, it is our duty to remove that disillusionment and get them back on the right path as our supporters.
Baffour: You are saying that if Africa allows Zimbabwe to go down, no African country would again be able to pop its head above water. It would be like when Nkrumah was taken out, the African revolutionary fire was extinguished, and we lost the momentum for the past 40 years.
Mugabe: Sure, it would affect them too--the whole of Africa. If you want to read Nkrumah's own principle--Ghana would not regard itself as totally free and independent unless every inch of Africa was free. So every inch of Africa matters. If that inch loses its freedom, then the whole African continent is affected. It's freedom minus. And you don't want anything of that nature to happen to Africa.
And in Dar es Salaam, President Thabo Mbeki put it very clearly. He said: "The fight against Zimbabwe is a fight against us all. Today it is Zimbabwe, tomorrow it will be South Africa, it will be Mozambique, it will be Angola, it will be any other African country. And any government that is perceived to be strong, and to be resistant to imperialists, would be made a target and would be undermined. So let us not allow any point of weakness in the solidarity of SADC, because that weakness will also be transferred to the rest of Africa."
Baffour: That was quite heart-warming, wasn't it? But upon seeing the TV pictures of Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders beaten up by the police, many people around the world are asking: "Why is President Mugabe using the police to beat up his opponents?"
Mugabe: [Laughs]. I wasn't there. I didn't even know they had been beaten! But if a person challenges the police, breaches law and order, and thinks the police would just look at him and shake hands with him, and say "you've done a good thing by tossing and pushing us around", well, he is quite mistaken. The police are there to maintain law and order. And it doesn't matter who, if you threaten them with force, they will answer back with force. And the police did their work.
We may regret that in doing their work, they might have exceeded the punishment they gave them. But these things happen. It happens in war, it happens everywhere. If you challenge the police, don't think they are going to be merciful with you at all. Moreso, that Tsvangirai's own people had earlier beaten up some policemen very badly. There was a group of policemen who were unarmed, and Tsvangirai's people took advantage of their small number, assailed them, and beat them up very badly. They are now in hospital and I hope they would recover, and recover fully. So the police had that grudge also. They are also human beings. Let us always bear that in mind. If Tsvangirai leaves his home to come and provoke the police because his counterpart, Arthur Mutambara, had been arrested, and Tsvangirai's people do not want Mutambara to carry the glory of having been arrested and imprisoned, with Tsvangirai having gone home and deserted the struggle, to have that balance of honour and dishonour, and then Tsvangirai wants to correct that by going to challenge the police, at a police station, what do you expect the police to do?
If he had stayed at home, the police would never have gone to his home. But he chose to go to the police station, provoked them, there was a tussle, and they beat him up. So I am saying he was wrong. He is supposed to be a leader, aspiring to be president, and he should know how to behave. Mutambara was not beaten because he knew how to behave. Why should Tsvangirai alone be beaten, and not Mutambara?
Baffour: Again, many people were shocked to hear you tell the West "to go hang" when they criticised you personally and your government for the police action against the opposition leaders. What exactly are the British and the Americans and their Western allies doing to destabilise Zimbabwe to elicit such a response from you?
Mugabe: The sanctions. The British--since Tony Blair came to power and changed the face of the Labour Party completely in regards to relations with us--have reneged on the understanding and agreement reached at Lancaster House [in 1979] regarding the land reform...