It’s about power, stupid

The talks to bring peace to Zimbabwe drag on, check-mated by the conflicting notions of power-transfer versus power-sharing. Mandy Rossouw put a similar set of questions to both Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change to assess the political temperature

George Charamba: spokesperson for Robert Mugabe

Why, in your view, did the talks take so long to reach agreement?
The summit adopted a document that should have been signed by everyone, but it was signed by only two of the three parties. The document stood the test of the power-sharing deal if you go by the results of elections in March, which said there was no outright winner. They [the people] don’t want power to be transferred, it must be shared. The summit communiqué is an exhortation to the MDC-Tsvangirai to please proceed and sign the document. The negotiations are part of an entangled scheme; it is not about whether Zimbabweans will understand one another politically. It is about how Zimbabwe is being used to protect external interests. We are dealing with interests that have nothing to do with Tsvangirai and Mugabe. It is about the plight of the white man and Britain and its mining interests. Zimbabwe is heavily mineralised and that is our curse.

What should be the most important outcome of these talks?
The reaffirmation of Zimbabwe’s independence. To put it down simply to matters of democracy and good governance is missing the issue altogether. Talks are of no significance if they do not address economic independence. There should be a broadening of empowerment to cover more than land.

Zimbabwe is addressing a new question: what to do about the political kingdom [that was won without winning power over the economic resources]? Which country has firmly put on the agenda the social question [of the redistribution of resources] and had to pick a fight over national resources [with its former colonisers]? Tsvangirai did not do that — he doesn’t own a dime.

It [the money] is with the settlers, the people who matter economically. It is the economy of ownership. There are 600-plus British companies in Zimbabwe. It is not this native of Buhera [referring to Tsvangirai]. He can’t be calling the tune in this country.

What influence does the continuing economic decline in Zimbabwe have on the talks?
I don’t know what you are terming as economic decline. In terms of the stats, Barclays is declaring a dividend every year, so does Stanbic and Zimplats. All the real players are sticking it out and doing brisk business. The social condition of the native is on the decline. The condition of the Zimbabwean black will remain the same for years from now, because it is about who runs the economy. When [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown wants Tsvangirai to sign, he will sign.

All sanctions must be dropped. An MDC that signs an agreement with Zanu-PF removes the fig leaf from Britain to uncover the interest of the British [and shows the MDC to be a front for British interests].

What kind of support would Zimbabwe need once the recovery process starts?
Zimbabwe doesn’t need to be assisted. We are the cheapest producers of platinum. This is not a country that is poor but we are suffering due to our national mineral endowment. The $1,8-billion that is promised by the United States and United Kingdom will never come.

We don’t have the capital and the investors of goodwill — that is what Zimbabwe needs. We will be able to pull ourselves up if our agricultural effort is not destabilised. Why haven’t those companies that are already here not made a difference? The capital that will liberate us is the capital that has liberated us before. You know about our Looking East policy? We are looking at China as a source of capital and also Iran, India and Russia. If the British and Americans make way, there would be replacement capital there. The Russians want to move in and exploit the mines. The Chinese are already trying to find a way into the platinum industry. We are not moving backwards, we are stumbling forward.

The status quo is unsustainable
Tendai Biti: secretary general of the MDC

Why, in your view, did the talks take so long to reach agreement?
It has not taken a long time. If you look at negotiations in Darfur and Sudan and South Africa, the talks took nothing less than two years. It is actually a shock just how quickly we have been able to reach agreements on the things we reached agreement on. The principles of constitutionalism and non-violence have been agreed. The issue that is bogging us down now is the nature of the state and of its power relations. It’s not a walk in the park.

What should be the most important outcome of these talks?
The most important outcome is a solution that places Zimbabwe on an irreversible path to the resolution of the crisis once and for all. This can’t be a piecemeal agreement.

What influence does the continuing economic decline in Zimbabwe have on the talks?
It is a reflection and proof of the fact that nationalism has been a failure. The problem is some people’s value systems are skewed and the economy is the least of their concerns. Any government that presides over interest rates of well over 2 000% would have resigned. But you won’t resign if that does not bother you.

Why is it important for the talks to be concluded speedily?
The status quo is unsustainable.

You have thousands of people fleeing the country every day. Inflation is sky-high. Life expectancy is 34 years.

What kind of support would Zimbabwe need once the recovery process starts?
One of the ironies of the present matrix is that this regime that has made sovereignty the national religion has made the Zimbabwean economy so vulnerable. This has decreased our independence. This state will require massive amounts of money and assistance because these nationalists have made us decrease our sovereignty.

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