8 Monday, March 26 2018 | NEW ERA FEATURE An interview with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa Question: Do you still speak to the former president? When did you last speak to him? Answer: Just before he left for Singapore [in mid December] we chatted. Before he left for Singapore. He said he wanted to go to Singapore, I said, Sir, you’re most welcome. I will give every facilitation for you to proceed to Singapore. Then that was that. Then the list of people going to Singapore came to me. There were 38. A delegation of 38. So I phoned back and said, chef ... That’s what we call each other. Boss, you’re going for a medical check-up; why do you want 38 people? Then he says, Emmerson, I don’t know that list. No one even told me. I never told you? Yes, OK. He says, I don’t know that there are 38 people. I know it’s myself, my wife, and my family. And we are hardly 10. I don’t know where the other 30 ... I said no, I have a list here of 36 plus yourself and the wife will be 38. So I can’t just approve 38 people just for you for a medical check-up; no. You know the new dispensation, I mean, we are trying ... I have cut down the cabinet. It’s a leaner cabinet. And I’m also saying no minister travels first-class and so on. So I’m cutting expenses and that can’t be understood if you are going to go for medical check up with a big number. He says, Emmerson ... He never says Mr. President, he just calls me ... Just said Emmerson. Emmerson, send me that list. So I called the protocol people. Then they sent the list to him and they reduced the number down to 21. He says I can’t reduce any further; this is the number. That’s the number that then went. With him, it became 22, but the others were 21. He was then the 22. But when he went in a 767 it carried these 22 people also to Singapore. Then when I was told I said no, this is not good. If the press hears that we’ve taken the former president on this huge plane, it’s extravagant and so on. And it was published that it cost US million. So we then said we must look for a smaller plane to go and pick him back when he finishes. Fortunately, when he was there, he then phoned back but he didn’t talk to me; he talked to my directors. He said, you see, it’s very absurd that the president allowed me to come with a 676 when we’re so small delegation. Can you look for a smaller plane to pick me back? This is him. So the message arrived. So I gave instructions to the minister of transport and my officials. Somehow, the communication didn’t reach Air Zimbabwe on time. Then they sent again the 767. Question: When and how did you first meet Mugabe? Answer: We’ve been together for about 54 years when I was a student and also when I went for military training in Egypt as well as in China. He was responsible for sending my group in September ’63 for military training in China, where I spent some time in the military academy in Nanjing. Graduated from there, came back to Rhodesia then, and attended the first Zanu conference in Gweru where he was elected secretary-general of the party. Our main task was to recruit young men at the time for military training abroad. We were called the Crocodile Group. Question: Who called you the Crocodile Group? Answer: Reverend Sithole. I’m the only survivor. We received communication from Mugabe that there will be a liberation committee meeting in Dar es Salaam; can you do some sabotage in the country . . . to show that the battle was active in the country. So, as a result of that, I blew up a train. Last year’s showdown with Robert and Grace Mugabe Answer: There was this group called the G40 group, led by the former First Lady . . . using the former First Lady as their means to achieve their objectives. But the man who was an obstacle to their agenda was myself. I was the most senior person after Mugabe in the party and I had so much support and popular among the people, and they knew they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve with me in the party and with me on my feet. So, this is what happened. Then they mooted an agenda of rallies. One thing emerged very clearly: that the only two people who would address the rallies, that is the First Lady first, the former First Lady, and then the president. The First Lady began just attacking me from nowhere: that my body language shows that I’m ambitious, the way I dance . . . At the Gwanda rally, I was taken ill. The alleged poisoning Answer: Then I was airlifted to South Africa, where it has been proved that I had been poisoned. Question: Did the doctors work out what the poison was? Answer: Yes, they say it was called a hard metal arsenic toxin. Arsenic toxin, something like that. That’s the class of poison. And it’s not easy to come round with it. They say it is colourless, it is tasteless, and the areas where it could be found are possibly two. Three, initially, professors in that area eliminated this one, and it was left with two countries. Russia and Israel. So it’s possible it came from Russia. They were surprised that I survived because then you’ve heart attack, what they called cardiac arrest. Then the verdict of death would be death by cardiac arrest. So they kept me, you know, washing this out, I had something like 28 one side, you know, what do they call these sachets? In one side. And then the other side to wash the stuff out. So last week . . . This was in August. Last week I went there. They have now declared that I am now OK. It’s not visible anymore. The poison was testable, but not totally clear. But it means it’s not testable. That’s what they said. So maybe I’m the same club with you. Question: Have the police worked out what happened? Is there an investigation? Answer: Maybe doctors did. It could be food poisoning. There [are] nine categories of food poisoning. All the nine were negative. Which means the poisoning was not food poisoning. Then the second category is three categories. That is from your urine, from your blood, from your tissues. They took those again, and the type President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa of poisons, which they could identify, it was all negative. So what was left are these . . . What they say, hard metal poisons. Which, then, they had to seek external expertise to identify. So after about two months, six weeks or thereabouts, they were able to identify the type of metal. Question: Do you know who did it? Answer: I suspect. I suspect as to who did it. They are still good friends of mine. I now suspect that they now know that I know. They now know that I know. His firing Answer: After the First Lady castigates me (at a rally), I shake her hand. I said thank you very much. She becomes even more annoyed. Then the next day there was a rally. I didn’t go to that one but I listened. So, I was being castigated there as a snake. And to deal with this snake you must crush the head. And this snake is Mnangagwa, we must crush the head, not beat the tail or the body. She went berserk on that one. At that stage now I believed she was not mentally OK. Then the next day I was fired at about four o’clock. I got a letter. In the terms of section so and so, you are fired with immediate effect. Question: Signed by the president? Answer: By [the] former President. So, I then left my office immediately; I went home. But when I arrived home within two hours or so some colleagues . . . Some officers from security services came and said, Sir, we are part of a group which is charged with the task to eliminate you. So you must leave now. To where? Said just leave, don’t know where you can go, but just leave. Because we are going to pick you tonight and we will poison you, we will kill you, then put a string around your neck and say you hanged yourself. That’s the end of story. But we felt you have not committed any crime, so leave. I said, look, I can never leave my country; you can go and do what you want to do. They pleaded, you must leave. Then they left. After they left I decided to leave. When they were saying so, my wife was there. Then I left. My two sons . . . Three. No. My elder son, twin sons. They said they will accompany me. I said OK, come with me to the border. So we drove over the night. We reached the border by the morning. We arrived at the border. This side of the border, Zimbabwe border, they clear us. Passport was cleared. But there’s a boom; they lift the boom for you to cross on the Mozambican side. They didn’t lift the boom; they said, no, no. You can’t go through; we have instructions that you should not go . . . You should not leave the country. Oh, OK. If I am not leaving the country then I go back. They said, no, you can’t go back into Zimbabwe. I said, oh, you’re crazy. What crime have I committed? I must just go back. So as I was walking back to my car this guy says, no, no, you can’t go . . . We must get . . . No, I’m not arrested; I have no crime. So I’m going back. You’ve stopped me from going to Mozambique so I’m leaving. Then they said, police, police, police! Question: Did you think at one moment, why don’t I ring the president? This must be a terrible mistake. If I speak to him, it will be all right? Answer: I knew he was not in control of himself. I was aware he was under the grasp of this group. Then I went to a friend’s house. In the evening around about eight o’clock I took off with one of my sons. We went through about 30km or so because we walked from about half past eight in the evening until 7:30 in the morning. We reached Mozambique. A friend sent a small plane and it picked me to South Africa. Once in South Africa, after about two days, there was a lot of speculation where I was. I was in Mozambique, I was in China . . . Question: For the record, did you go to China or not? Answer: No, no, I was in South Africa . . . Then things began happening back home here. I think the first thing was the army making some statements here. Question: Did they contact you before making the statement? Answer: No, there was no contact at that stage; there was nothing. Then later there was another statement by the chief of staff, general . . . The first one was made by commander defence forces [Constatino] Chiwenga. Then the second . . . I think on the second day or so I saw another statement by chief of staff, major general . . . At the time he was a Major General SB [Sibusiso Busi] Moyo. Then talks began. You should know better; some talks began. Now, I was seeing this from outside so the sequence may not be very accurate. Talks began, negotiations conducted . . . There was this guy from the Roman Catholic Church, Father Mukonori; he was the intermediary between the military and the First Family. When the party began to institute impeachment proceedings, I think the President realised that this was not a joke and if they proceed he would be stripped of all the powers and perhaps even be arrested. At that stage I also phoned the president from South Africa. Then the president said, Emmerson, chef, he said where are you? I said I was in South Africa. Why are you in South Africa? I said, but you fired me. You’re forgetting you fired me? Come, come, come. I said, no, it’s my security there. He says, no. I want you here at State House because I want to resolve these issues with you here. So I realised the old man was not clear of what was happening. Perhaps he’d even forgotten that he had fired me. So I said no, I couldn’t come. But he was imploring me to come back and join him in the State House to resolve these issues. The following day he stepped down. Then I was contacted by both General Chiwenga and SB Moyo. Both contacted me and we discussed, they said, come. Oh no, no, I said no, I cannot come immediately. I have to pay my respects to the people who have kept me for the last 14, 15 days in South Africa. * This is an edited transcript of an interview between Emmerson Mnangagwa, president of Zimbabwe, and Alec Russell of the Financial Times in Harare on Tuesday January 16.
Monday, March 26 2018 | NEW ERA FEATURE 9 An interview with Zimbabwe former president Robert Mugabe Question: What role have you played in the formation of the National Patriotic Front, the new opposition party led by Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri? Are you a member? Is the former first lady a member? Answer: I’ve had quite a number of groups coming here and seeking my views. I had Mai (Joice) Mujuru earlier on introduced by Father (Fidelis) Mukonori. She came to discuss the past and then she made reference to the fact that all that was happening against her during her time with us when she was vice-president was meant to create a place for Mnangagwa, and she knew that is was coming to this, now that he is at the top. I said to her, well, if you stand for that which is right, proper, legal and constitutional, go out, find some of our young men and young women who stand for it, enrol them, there is nothing wrong about it. When she left here, she was stoned in Glen Norah and Glen View. She sustained a bruised cheek after being hit with a stone. That’s very bad. Question: Tell us about Mutinhiri’s visit. Answer: Mutinhiri said he thinks the solution is establishing a new party. I said ‘on what principle?’ He said ‘first, to correct what has happened’. I said fine. To put paid to all falsehoods and hypocrisies that have emerged, people saying they are correcting the wrong that is surrounding the legacy of the president and at the same time they are taking action to do down that president. That evil contradiction must go. If we are supporting the president, let us say so in word and deed and not pretend to be doing so in order to cover our illicit activities against the president. Question: Is it correct to say you’re a member of the National Patriotic Front? Answer: No. Question: If Mutinhiri and others get to launch the party and invite you to be a guest at the function, would you attend the event? Answer: I would have to think twice before I can go because there may be others who may come and perhaps (in that case) I think I better not go. Question: Is the former first lady a member of the National Patriotic Party? Answer: No, she’s not. Question: In that connection, we also want to know this: a statement issued by Jealousy Mawarire indicated that the idea of the formation of the party emerged in the middle of the November coup. There is also the insinuation that the people who have formed the new party were consulting you in the middle of the coup. Is that true? Answer: In the middle of the coup? No. Question: At what point, during the coup, did you get to know as commander-in-chief that the military was in the streets and yet you had not deployed it? Answer: I went for a graduation (ceremony) and the boys (intelligence) came and surrounded me and said we (the Central Intelligence Organisation) are being beaten up. I said, ‘ah, all is well, I’ve gone to the university and I haven’t seen anything.’ All the cars had been removed from the road and it was absolutely quiet. That’s when the boys (CIO) [Zimabwe’s national intelligence agency Central Intelligence Organisation] told me that everything was being taken away from them. And that they had been beaten up. Question: So the CIO were being intimidated even before the coup? Answer: Yes, before. To clear the way. Question: On that Monday when General [Constantino] Chiwenga made a statement, Former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe what did you think about it? Did you take it as seriously as the public did? Answer: I thought at least Chiwenga would have informed me that they (the military) were having such and such a problem. Question: So you thought Chiwenga would inform you? Answer: Yes, to inform me what dissatisfaction they had. And at that point I said, well, we’re prepared to discuss. Question: You thought on that Monday Chiwenga would have discussed matters with you, and then on Tuesday you went to cabinet and tanks were already moving and the public was taking pictures and posting them on social media. Were you briefed by your security apparatus what exactly was happening at that point? Answer: They said that the tanks are moving to another destination, to Manicaland somewhere. Question: The then South African president Jacob Zuma told the world, as the situation unfolded, that ‘I have spoken to president Mugabe, he is fine but is restricted’. Those were Zuma’s words. At that point, did you ask for help from president Zuma? Answer: No. Question: When the South African delegation, comprising ministers, came to Harare, did you have an opportunity to meet them separately? Answer: No. We met them together with the commanders. Question: South Africa is a neighbouring country and you were under siege. Why didn’t you seek help from president Zuma? Answwer: They (South Africans) had spoken to the commanders and they had promised that they wouldn’t stage a coup. Question: But did any regional leaders show concern about the coup that was unfolding? What was the attitude of the regional leaders, were they saying you should solve the matter internally or were they willing to come in? Do you feel betrayed by your regional peers? Answer: In a sense, yes. But when you look at their conditions, except for South Africa, they haven’t got the capacity to intervene, but South Africa could have done much more. It did not have to send an army, but just to engage. You see this group that came here, the (South African) ministers, they gave a false impression that all was okay (and that) they had spoken not just to us but also to the soldiers. If they had spoken to the soldiers, and then gave out that there was no need for intervention because they had been assured by both sides, then the other countries just sat on their laurels and they said ah well South Africa says there’s no need (to intervene). Question: You read a televised statement and most people assumed you would tender your resignation that night. It’s now called the “Asante sana” statement. You did not resign at that stage. Was there an intention to resign at that point? Answer: No. Question: Were you toppled through a military coup? Answer: Yes. What you didn’t know, Father (Fidelis) Mukonori knelt on his knees, and moved on his knees towards me, begging me to resign. Question: Did Mukonori say who had sent him? Answer: No, he was just intervening. Question: In that case, do you think the nation is ready for elections? Answer: No. We are not. Question: Do you feel betrayed by Mnangagwa whom you worked with for over 50 years? Answer: Oh, yes, it’s a great betrayal. Worse than that of Brutus (Shakespearean character in the play Julius Caesar). Question: But you’re the one who had appointed him vice-president. Answer: Yes, sure. Question: People will ask why you appointed him if you didn’t trust him. Answer: Some developments occur after a person has been put in place. You know, even in our culture, when someone who’s ordinary is made a chief, and once he gets into position ah, ah, many people start quarrelling ‘he’s taking out cattle, he’s taking our wives’. Then you begin to wonder: but this is the man who was very honest and whom the people chose to be their chief. So those things happen. People get the taste of power and the taste of power then destroys an individual. You think that you now have some glory that you never had before. Question: Which brings us to General Solomon Mujuru’s death. People think it had something to do with Zanu PF succession issues. Answer: It was just a case of someone dying. He just died. And what is fortunate for the party is that it happened away, on his farm. Question: So you think his death was an accident? Answer: Some say some Israeli (business associates) who had issues with him. Question: Oxford researcher Miles Tendi says General Mujuru was killed by military intelligence. Answer: No. Ah, he was a terrible guy. Very selfish. And a smoker. A smoker, I think this is what killed him. In Geneva (Switzerland), we burnt down a hotel and it was Mujuru again. Well, we managed to avoid trial, but it was his smoking that almost got us killed in a hotel. He was a careless smoker. An investigation established that the fire started in his room. But we denied it and said no no. Question: Thousands of people were killed during Gukurahundi. You have come out and said it was a moment of madness. How did the atrocities come about and what can the nation do to move forward? Answer: But that one, if we are to tell the truth, it’s the Ndebeles and Zapu [Zimbabwe African People’s Union] and Zipra [Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army] who should bear the blame. We had that election, in 1980, the first one, and we won, we had 57 seats and Zapu had 20. (Joshua) Nkomo actually wept dearly. They had operated in Angola—remember they had gone to Angola—they said let’s do in Zimbabwe what the MPLA has done; if we lose we will have Zero Hour. And they lost. So what happened? There was a ship of arms received by (the then Tanzanian president Julius) Nyerere in Dar es Salaam port, it came on Tazara (Tanzania-Zambia Railway). Because KK (the then Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda) preferred Nkomo to me, so KK passed on the arms, from the Soviet Union, to Zapu. But now after independence! So at Hwange Dumiso (Zipra intelligence supremo Dabengwa) had made arrangements underground to hide the arms. When the second shipment came, Nyerere then called me and said ‘Robert, what’s this?’ This is a second ship. Then he said ‘ask KK’. I asked Kaunda, you know Kaunda is a very soft man. He said ‘ah, my brother, if I wronged you I did so because the arms addressed to Zapu were always going to Zapu from the Soviet Union. I said ‘but KK, we are now independent’. He said ‘yes I’m sorry and I won’t do it again’. But the ship came and it was received by Dumiso and once again the arms were hidden in Hwange. Zipra had pledged 12 000 war veterans to join the integrated army. They left out some of their experts and in their place, because they had promised 12 000, they put mujibhas (wartime runners) to fill in those places in the army. The mujibhas were trained and they started putting on uniforms and they started earning as trained soldiers. Nothing was happening to the well-trained ones who had been left out. And they saw the mujibhas take their place for a long time and they said ‘ah no we can’t continue like this’. So some amongst them came to us, came to ED and reported that this is the arrangements we had, we put mujibhas in our place and we were left out. (They said) ‘we had arms, we hid arms here and there in Hwange’. So ED and (CIO director David) Stannard went and discovered these guns. That’s why Dumiso was arrested, that’s why he went to prison, that is why Dumiso and ED will never work together. So Dumiso was arrested. But they had already given a few weapons to some individuals who now said ‘ah is this what has happened, we have been discovered’. They started shooting in Matabeleland South and then we said okay we had a Fifth Brigade trained by North Koreans. So we said, fine, face them, you go into Matabeleland South. Question: Some people are saying you should be like Zuma who has expressed support for his successor President Cyril Ramaphosa. In other words, they say you must support Mnangagwa. Answer: I said, well, if she (Grace) agrees, I can get another six (wives) and have seven like Zuma. Then I have my Indian friends in Dubai, they can come and be my Guptas. Laughs. But in truth, I can be like Zuma if ED is like Ramaphosa. Laughs. And he (ED) can’t be like Ramaphosa as things are now. I suppose by reverse he can because Ramaphosa was elected and we saw the election. And we saw it was quite tight with Mama Zuma, the lead was only 200 (votes). But what was our lead? Laughs. Question: Do you have 21 farms? This would be hypocritical for a man who always spoke about ‘one man one farm’. Answer: Where are the farms? I don’t have them. I got a farm in Norton, Highfield Farm. I bought it, it’s sandy but it has one virtue, it’s close to the dam. But during a season like this one, you get nothing because it’s just water flowing on it. I built Alpha Omega dairy (in Mazowe), that is all. * This is an edited transcript of an interview published in the Zimbabwe Independent on 23 March.