Hot Seat with Professor Jonathan Moyo

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Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
March 30, 2006

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For 5 years, Professor Jonathan Moyo was President Robert Mugabe’s strident defender as Information Minister. Today, he is an Independent MP and sitting on the other side of the fence, tearing into the man he loathed, then liked, and now loathes again. On Tuesday night, he spoke to SW Radio Africa’s top inquisitor, Violet Gonda, and the following is a transcript of the interview

Violet: Our guest on the programme this week is Professor Jonathan Moyo the former Information Minister who is now an independent MP for Tsholotsho.

Violet: Let’s start with the general question on the crisis in the country. You have written an article talking about the devastating economic meltdown and you said if nothing is done to intervene as a matter of national urgency more people will perish as some already have. And you also say the economy is the real opposition to ZANU-PF. First of all can you explain the state of the economy and how bad things are?

Moyo: Well I thank it is now an undeniable truth that there is no single living Zimbabwean who can ever recall such a situation happening in the country, as we have today, in their lifetime. Some people have indicated of course that the economy has fallen to the standards of 1953 but the truth of the matter is people are finding it difficult to make ends meet. We have high unemployment levels, unprecedented at over 85%, we have poverty, people living below the poverty line – over 90% of our population, and now inflation is hovering around 1000%.

Basic goods necessary for everyday living are either unavailable or unaffordable. What is particularly disquieting about this is that those in authority, the ruling Zanu-PF Government, while it claims to enjoy popular support, while it claims to be for Zimbabweans, for the sovereignty of the people, it is now clear to all that they are totally clueless…they don’t know what to do. Over the last 6 months everything has gotten worse and the hope that the government had was that the IMF was going to come to their rescue and that is why some 21 trillion dollars were printed to pay back the arrears and this was done to the detriment of the country.

As we all know the IMF has not restored voting rights, it has not opened new credit lines. There was also hope that with excellent rains, and indeed there were very good rains this year, but again to demonstrate that the government is no longer able to come up with any solution even when it comes to matters that traditionally we would expect it to be leading, this is going to be a disastrous season, the harvest will be probably half the requirements of the country when it comes to maize, but even the other crops like tobacco, and horticulture, the story on the ground is disastrous. We were not prepared.

Violet: Now Professor Moyo you say the government is totally clueless on the way forward. Now what do you think needs to be done?

Moyo: The problem of course is a political matter. Right now there is no national or local confidence in the economy, no international confidence in the economy because of the unresolved political situation that obtains in the country. It really is an obvious thing now that as long as we have President Mugabe in power and more particularly as long as we have Zanu-PF in power, we are not going to address the basic fundamental problems that are affecting our economy. So it is political first and there is no sign that Zanu-PF sees this within itself; indication of a willingness to reform within Zanu-PF let alone reform within the country. And so what needs to be done when the economy begins to affect everyone, businesses consumers, ordinary people in such ways, it means the time for everyone to work together has come; it means the time to put aside petty political squabbles, to forge a united front against Zanu-PF (has come). It’s so clear now that the problem is Zanu-PF. Nobody has confidence in Zanu-PF. And Zanu-PF has lost confidence in itself that is why it is unable to deal with the situation.

Violet: But Professor Moyo not long ago you were the spokesperson for this same government. First of all what policy discussions took place while you were in cabinet and wasn’t there a recognition that things were going bad, that things were deteriorating?

Moyo: Well it’s over a year ago when I was in government discussing these things. You know that since 2000 a fundamental issue in our country has been how to deal with the land question and this issue which I believe many Zimbabweans agree that it is fundamental has not been handled properly. There have been mistakes, very serious mistakes that were made. There were discussions when I was in government about these mistakes and at some point we thought that there was a willingness to correct the mistakes. But if you look at what happened in October last year through constitutional amendment number 17 it’s obvious that there is no willingness in Zanu-PF to deal with these mistakes. Instead they have wadded more complications to the original mistakes.

Now as long as this fundamental question of not just land but general property relations in Zimbabwe as long as this question is not handled properly then we are furthering economic doom. But it is not just a question of what Zanu-pf does alone or what discussion may be going on or not going on in government, it is a question of what Zimbabweans are going to do about it. Many people have seen Zimbabweans as a docile population; Zimbabweans as people who are not capable of rising up against a government who are violating their fundamental rights, not just political rights but also economic rights.

Violet: Can I just interject there Professor Moyo, you know you sound very sensible right now and someone would say what great intellect, but some say coming from someone who’s played a part – you were part of the system when institutions were breaking down – how do you feel they you were part and parcel of that system that has destroyed the country?

Moyo: Well, I don’t agree that I was part of a system that destroyed the country. I was among those who were trying to reform that system. It is too simplistic to assume that there are some people who know how we should resolve the Zimbabwean conflict ant that they are the only ones that have that answer and that those people are outside Zanu PF. That is a fallacy which is costing us a lot. There are many people and as someone who was in government what you hear people say and do in terms of their public posturing and what they actually work tirelessly to achieve within the structures of ZANU PF is entirely a different matter. I certainly consider myself one of those who tried to reform Zanu PF from within and failed and the failure became quite public in November of 2004. I believe that in a country such as ours where the ruling party is linked with the liberation of the country you cannot reform a country like that without reforming the ruling party.

Violet: but you were the ruthless Information Minister who crafted much of the legislation that destroyed the independent media in the country or at least a representative of the government that was doing so. Now you never spoke out against it during your reign as Information Minister. Do you now believe that this was wrong and that government should reverse its stance on the media?

Moyo: No, I am quite clear that there’s a great deal of misunderstanding about my role and there’s also a great deal of misunderstanding about the legislation itself. I believed that it was necessary to have legislation and to have it applied to everyone else But the application of legislation especially when it comes to the arrest and prosecution of people has nothing to do with people outside the police and the Attorney General’s office; those are the people who arrest and prosecute and the fact that there is a selective application of the law in Zimbabwe is well known. I fought with Nathan Shamuyarira over Sky News and he did not want Sky News subjected under the laws of the country which applied to the media and my fight with him is very public because I did not accept that if certain foreign media come through Zanu PF for guru’s like him then they should not be subjected to the law.

Violet: At the time you never spoke out against these oppressive laws against the media. You ruled the media with an iron fist, do you not agree with that?

Moyo: No, I don’t agree with that but I’m aware that there are many people who feel so and some of those people because they take on a certain position and I also know that there are some people who think that if you produce a robust argument against them you are ruthless. They just want you to fall down and say roll over me. Yes, we argued bitterly. There are a number of issues that you can be very specific about where I did not agree with certain elements of the media – I did not agree with them, I don’t agree with them to day on those matters. It does not matter whether I’m in government or I’m not in government.

As an opposition person today I represent Tsholotsho as an Independent Member of Parliament and I do not wish to be assisted by a media that manufactures false stories; claims that people have been beheaded by others when that is not the case. I do not consider such a media to be part of a democratic process, in fact I consider a media like that to be quite retrogressive in terms of the democratic exercise. Unfortunately, in Zimbabwe, we have some people who think that if you present an argument against them which they lose and its a robust argument then they say you are vicious against the media – no I don’t agree with that kind of thing.

Violet: You seem to have an easy answer for everything. I remember calling you several times while you were minister of information and you used to refuse to talk to SW Radio Africa. What has changed now? You are talking to me right now?

Moyo: Yes I’m talking to you I think you have several time s and I’m in contact with some of my colleagues and I have colleagues talking to you and I hope you think it would a good think to talk to you. And I hope you don’t think we are proving anything or we have made an achievement. I just think its a fact that many Zimbabweans have been taking different positions over the past five years for one reason or another. We’ve got to respect that. Either we are going to be setting up kangaroo courts against each other or we are going to wake up to the realisation that our country is bigger, that there is a bigger picture there, but, not withstanding the differences which we have had – genuine or otherwise. History calls on us to now work together.

Violet: We understand that but you must also understand that there is a lot of public anger against you because of all the corruption and greed and lack of viable policies that existed when you were part of that system.

Moyo: I reject that.

Violet: Can I finish the question? Many people would say why did you continue to defend the government as a spokesperson, why didn’t you speak for the Zimbabwean people as you see to be doing right now. Why didn’t you do that when you were in Zanu PF; in government?

Moyo: You ask the artists in this city. I spoke to them and fought for them and brought legislation in their favour. They are Zimbabweans. You ask the people in Tsholotsho, I spoke for them, fought for them as Minister. For 20 years before I came into government there was not even a single High School in the whole of Tsholotsho district. As a result of my direct intervention there are now ten High schools – I consider that a contribution to the people of Zimbabwe and there are many other things that I did. What I would say to those people raising the issue genuinely as I believe you are is that you must remember that when you are fighting that system from outside there are tools and methods are different from when you say, Oh Moyo you are defending this and that I’m sure as a journalist you also recall rather well that throughout my tenure in Zanu PF I was constantly at loggerheads with the so called Zanu PF gurus and so forth. Why was it so? Why is it that they were having all those endless meetings against Moyo?

And finally remember I decided myself to leave Zanu-PF. You did not – meaning generally people with the view such as you are expressing, get me to leave Zanu-PF. They did not even get me to leave themselves. They wanted to discipline me, they wanted to say no you cannot pursue these things. None in the media as far as I am aware has ever gone really deep to unravel the so called Tsholotsho saga. Many of you in the media celebrated because you believed it led to Moyo’s departure from government.

Violet: So tell us what was it, you are here right now.

Moyo: I think it’s a very long story and I think it would be quite useful for you to start digging to understand exactly what happened. Because, look at how your colleagues in the media including the state media in Zimbabwe have dug into the divisions that have been witnessed in the opposition MDC to the extent of calling one faction pro senate and another anti senate. The same people doing that have not been willing to look at the divisions that lead to the so called Tsholotsho saga. They have not. And yet those divisions are there today, and they present also opportunities to the opposition as written large.

Violet: Maybe this is another topic that we can call you on at a later stage.

Moyo: Sure, some other time.

Violet: There is another issue I would like to ask you about. You seem to say you used to speak out about several issues that were happening in the country and you used to voice this while you were Minister of Information. But there were other things that you did, Professor Moyo that were obvious to the rest of the world specially people in the country that these things were not true for example in September 2004 at the height of the food crisis when people were starving in Bulawayo do you remember saying that there is no food crisis in Zimbabwe?

Moyo: Yes I remember and that was true. This is the thing about us Zimbabweans either we get so frivolous to the point of irrelevance. You can’t mix up a situation of malnutrition and the availability of food in a particular place at a particular time.

Violet: But it was worsened by the fact that there was no food.

Moyo: Give me an opportunity to answer, you asked the question. It is not right to assume that if there was maize in the silos of Bulawayo in September 2004 than that maize should be there forever, that it should be there even in January 2006. It would be complete folly, and I just wonder where this thinking comes from.

Violet: Do you remember there was partisan distribution of food especially in Bulawayo at that time also.

Moyo: Listen, I know there was a problem of partisan distribution of food in the whole of Zimbabwe including my constituency Tsholotsho, and that was a major feature of my campaign platform, I know about that.

Violet: That other statement that you made in 2001 you said that “It’s clear to anyone who can read the writing is on the wall that Zanu-PF is the future”. Now your recent analysis contradicts this. Do you see any future for Zanu PF?

Moyo: You know, again, this is an example, listen are you quoting the Bible or you are quoting Jonathan Moyo in 2001 or you are quoting Jonathan Moyo in 2006. Surely you have got to say things they was they are at the time. And frankly that was at the height of very serious efforts by myself and others who are still in Zanu-PF to reform that party and to send a positive message in that party that if you want to be a party of the future going ahead in 2002 and 2004 for the congress, here is the agenda for that, and we were seriously involved in reforming that party. Yesterday it was a party of the future, today it is not. And the reason it is not is because of some old men believe that the party is theirs and they believe they are the shareholders of that party, that no one else can contribute to that party, that therefore it does not belong to all Zimbabweans.

Violet: Surely Professor Moyo how then can people take you seriously when you have changed sides twice in the last 2 decades? You went from being a major critic of Zanu-PF, then became its spokesman and defender and now, a critic again. Can you see why this leads to problems of credibility?

Moyo: The choice is all yours. I did not pick up the phone and call you to say you take me seriously. The choice is all yours and I would like to believe that the fact that you called me indicates that you take me seriously and the fact that I am entertaining you reflects that I am taking you seriously. And it would be a good thing for Zimbabweans to take each other seriously regardless of the various positions we have taken. Raila Odinga over the last 3 years has been in NDP, in LDP, in KANU to the point of seeking the presidency of KANU, out of KANU into NAK, out of NAK, back working with KANU in the Orange Democratic Movement. That’s why the process in that country is more dynamic and much more promising.

You Look at people who are in Zanu-PF, do you think they have always been in Zanu-PF? Why are people taking Nathan Shamuyarira seriously when he was once Frolizi. Mugabe was NDP he was Zapu he became Zanu, why do people take him seriously? We have to deal with the situation as it emerges and what I can tell you is that none of us will ever succeed to transform our country by avoiding Zanu-PF. We have got to deal with it in one way or the other. Some might have to join it to try and beat them from within, others might have to work from outside but at the end of the day the struggle will only succeed when we have brought on board a significant number of the rank and file of Zanu-PF because of our history.

Violet: I’m afraid Professor Moyo we have to end here. Thank you very much.

Moyo: You are most welcome.

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