/ 26 February 2008

‘If Zim catches fire, everyone will burn’

There was no dictator in Zimbabwe, just unwelcome outside interference, its ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo said in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Britain and the United States were backing the opposition financially because they wanted President Robert Mugabe out of power over his land reforms, Moyo told an Institute for Security Studies briefing ahead of the country’s presidential election on March 29.

He questioned to what extent this ”external hand” was influencing ”unexplained, wayward behaviour” by the opposition.

”That is primarily the reason why the Zimbabwean people have for long been decrying the death of patriotic opposition with the capacity to come up with a national agenda and home-grown solutions to our problems,” he said.

It was only the people of Zimbabwe who could, through the ballot, tell the world whom they thought had their best interests at heart.

”The will of the people must manifest freely, uncontaminated by outside money.”

From the outside, the picture being portrayed of Zimbabwe ”is one of a bad situation which should not be allowed to continue”.

Media campaign

”The idea is to wage a massive media campaign against Zimbabwe and with the economic hardships, the people would be expected to vote out the president and Zanu-PF.”

Moyo said Zimbabwe had a voter population of 5 612 464 on December 4 last year. The voter’s roll was still open and was being inspected by the Zimbabwe Election Commission.

Four candidates, including Mugabe, are contesting the elections.

Moyo said security had been tightened ahead of the poll and that the carrying of dangerous weapons, including machetes, knives and guns, had been banned.

Overall, the situation was ”peaceful” except for minor skirmishes ”usually involving youth from either side of the political divide who engage in acts of provocation”, sometimes to attract publicity, he said, adding that the perpetrators had been arrested.

Moyo praised President Thabo Mbeki’s role in mediating between Zanu-PF and its opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change to bring about free and fair elections.

He dismissed as ”some mischief intended to derail the elections” an MDC charge that Mbeki had not been an honest broker.

”… We go along with the words of advice of the South African government that the Zimbabwean side needs to talk more now than before.”


Blaming the country’s economic difficulties in the past seven years on drought, a severe shortage of foreign currency and a hyper-inflationary environment, he said this had created a hostile environment to business operations with a resultant reduced export capacity.

Sanctions had cost the country access to ”much needed lines of credit”.

”It is given that the powers that be with the muscle to do so, would have wanted economics to be a factor in the elections, influencing people to vote against the ruling party and [Mugabe],” he said.

However he was confident that ”the people will not be hoodwinked to turn against each other in a lethal manner”.

Outside interference had to be ”reduced and resisted” at all costs.

Moyo gave the assurance that the ruling party would accept the outcome of the elections even if it lost.

Asked whether the country would erupt into violence should the ruling party lose, he said: ”If Zimbabwe catches fire, everyone will burn,” adding that this included people with United States dollars and British pounds in their pockets.

He invited ”interested media houses and organisations” to observe the elections.

”We want to see a clean election. Observers must come and do a thorough job, a professional job,” he said. – Sapa