Shortly after results of the presidential poll, Peta Thornycroft interviewed winning candidate, Zimbabwean President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House in Harare. The constitutional court will next week hear argument challenging the result by the opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa.
PT: Who gave the army the order to go into the city on August 1?
EM: I consulted the commissioner-general of police and he indicated to me that in terms of the law, the commissioner of police can contact his counterpart who commands the local unit to give him immediate support while the process is ongoing.
The entire country was in a jovial mood. No-one expected the violence that happened so suddenly. The police were taken by surprise. They were deployed country-wide, covering the election process, so suddenly the small unit (left in Harare) could not control what was happening: In terms of the law, police are allowed to summon assistance to bring order.
We regret what happened thereafter and since then. This should not happen again. We are instituting a commission of inquiry and to give it more flavour and transparency we are bringing people in from abroad.
I have one name from SA, one from the UK to consider with three names to join us to look at the matter. The inquiry will begin immediately after the inauguration.
PT: You have made such an effort to rebuild the party and now this tragedy after peaceful elections.
EM: Fortunately I am not doing it alone, I am doing it with my team, we all agree that Zimbabwe must change. We must have a different image from the isolationist posture of the past. Zimbabwe must embrace the international community totally and we are doing everything possible for political reform. For us again to relate and to cooperate with the international community and international business.
PT: There is one photograph shown in the media of a soldier shooting and another soldier stepping forward and stopping him on August 1. What are your views on that?
EM: I have not seen that picture.
PT: It’s a shocking picture. Why hasn’t he been arrested?
EM: Orders have been given about all those people who took the law into their own hands, whether it was police or others who take the law into their own hands. I also don’t want to pre-empt the outcomes of the commission I am instituting.
PT: Human rights groups say there are 150 cases of unconstitutional violence since August 1. Do you agree?
EM: Let me assure you, the best thing to do is get the list of 150 cases and pass it onto us. This is fake news and it’s flying left right and centre.
We were told (of these cases) by Philippe van Damme, the EU ambassador here, and we took him to task and said let’s go around all the hospitals in Harare and see if there is any record of people in hospitals. He had to later apologise as this was not true.
PT: Human rights groups have details of those cases.
EM: Be wary of Zimbabwe human rights groups. They have an agenda. They have always been against the government. They have not changed their minds, they have not shifted their mindset to become democratic but that will take time.
We must deal with facts and not any speculation. Whatever you hear try to check and I think the police will be able to assist you in checking.
PT: Human rights people are desperately looking for the Commissioner of Police.
EM: So why would they come to you – the journalists? Let them go to the commissioner, he is in the country, he is in town…before they make such statements, let them verify these issues with the right authorities. That’s what should be done.
PT: MDC Alliance MP Tendai Biti fled the country and went to Zambia. There was a warrant for his arrest.
EM: What I saw on TV, was that statement issued by the police, that they wanted him to come to Harare Central Police station to clarify certain issues. This has been on the radio. If he was really innocent and had not done anything, he should have quickly gone to Harare police station and stated the issues he wanted to clear. Why did he skip the country?
We’ve also had some discussion with some of the observers. We had set up a call centre where they allegedly received calls from people saying they were threatened here and there. We asked for the addresses of those people threatened in order to investigate.
PT: But many people are fearful nowadays… especially when they see people in uniform.
EM: I have not received information from my party or from the general public or from any citizen saying I am fearful. Never, never.
You will see the police walking in uniform. It is legitimate, it’s allowed by the law. You will see soldiers in their trucks. They are not on a mission to intimidate.
Our police and our army they are very friendly, we have defence forces week, where they go around building clinics. building schools to show the army and the public are in good relations.
So this fake news about our people..that they are afraid of the army.
PT: How will Zimbabwe now move along after these terrible turn of events?
EM: We will continue preaching peace, peace, unity, unity, love, love to our people, it is a culture and we want its roots to go deeper and deeper.
The good will always prevail over evil. Yes, we have people who peddle evil, but what is correct will prevail.
PT: Were you surprised at the election results only .8 percent above 50 percent. (To avoid a run off the winner must have 50% +1.)
EM: We have 133 political parties. Of the 133, 54 political parties were participating in the elections and 22 were bidding for the office of president…all 22 were fighting me, and I am so proud that I beat not only the 22 but the entire 54.
And I got 2.4 million votes against 2,1 million….. 22 political parties and I beat them all.
PT: The MDC Alliance has gone to court to challenge your victory. What are your views?
EM: I am not privy to their thinking.
As a government we have not interfered with the process of the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission), we are staying aloof, we allow the law to take its course. This is my attitude.
And we are already moving the trajectory of growth, so what will happen will be the continuation of the trajectory of growth, we are going to be out there with more focus, more energy, to make sure that in the course of business, Zimbabwe needs to become more competitive, so that we can again catch up with the rest of the developing countries ahead of us.
PT: Will the Mugabe family have some of their many farms taken away?
EM: It’s not a question of voluntary giving up, but about complying with the policy.
I am still receiving evidence of what the (former) first family had. When that process is complete they will select one farm and the rest will be given elsewhere.
We have the land commission, and this is one of the matters they are seized with attending to.
It’s not on the basis of the family, (one family, one farm). It is on the basis of government policy. There are so many others families who have more than one farm. It must all be governed by the size of the farm.
PT: Is there anything you regret in your life?
EM: I don’t think I regret anything. I have no other life I know except politics from when I was 17. I never worked for anyone but the people and the party. I don’t regret I chose that life. At the end of the day, I did what I did for my country.
PT: Will the new truth commission you signed into law, to deal with thousands of murders of opposition supporters from the 80s, get enough money to operate properly?
EM: When they (commission officials) want money, they don’t go to journalists… let them come to me. You must first ask them, did you go to the president?
PT: What do you say about those massacres, known as Gukuruhundi, following independence?
EM: Well, our former President (Mugabe) described it and said it was a ‘moment of madness’.
That’s how he described that event. I have said we can’t live in the past, and that should never again happen in our country. Let us be a family and forge ahead, whatever wrongs we regret and they should never again visit our country. I second the position taken by our former president – a moment of madness.
PT: In Mugabe’s statements to the press before the elections, he said he never trusted you.
EM: I trusted him to the end and it’s only now that I’ve learnt he doesn’t trust me. We shared the deepest issues together.
PT: Mugabe has talked about you and Dan Stannard, the former Rhodesian head of security who later became head of Zimbabwe’s security about some of the activities you got up to. What is your thought on this?
EM: During the era of independence some South Africans and Selous Scouts (Rhodesian soldiers) were going to blow up heads of state and Prince Charles, Indira Gandhi, at Rufaro Stadium.
They brought in some Sam 7 missiles, and the person who alerted us was Dan Stannard. We removed them. Even Claymore Mines were put in Rufaro grounds and this is why Stannard got an award. I think it is his (Mugabe’s) old age, that he has forgotten.
He said I was a Rhodesian spy? Old age is bad if his mind twists that way.
Why would he work with me for 54 years if I was a Rhodesian spy? Rubbish and nonsense this is.
PT: What about the immediate post-independence period of instability in the country.
EM: I should give credit for how we handled matters post-independence. The president, prime minister (Mugabe) back then espoused national reconciliation.
We had some whites who went out to reverse our gains but we were able to outmanoeuvre them and establish peace.
At the time there were a lot of bandits and dissidents killing people in Matabeleland North, the Midlands. I am happy that at the end of the day reconciliation won because it was not an easy task to marry three armies which had different orientations.
PT: What about violence against the MDC post-2000? Many were killed and jailed and none have been prosecuted for those crimes.
EM: You can go back to the police and find out who was not charged. Go to the police and ask what happened to those cases.
Anyone who committed a crime the police would have had a duty to arrest, them.
PT: What about the G40 faction within Zanu PF that has been loyal to Mugabe… what happened to them?
EM: I have never been a member of G40. I don’t know what they are planning or not planning. I hear from security that they continuously tweet. They continuously make statements.
To me. I am looking forward to the future. There is no reason for living in the past. We must all preach peace and unite our people even those who were antagonistic. We are Zimbabweans and come together.
PT: Returning to the shooting in Harare on August 1. Who gave the order to the army because General Valerio Sibanda says he did not give the order?
EM: I have replied to this. You are so repetitive…
This is typical like Mugabe.
We walked together for 54 years and he didn’t trust me.
No one gave orders …there is this perception and it is disjointed. I explained, the army has a strict command structure, I am the commander-in-chief and matters are handled according to the process.
This article was first published by IOL