PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite


Zimbabwe's Present And Future: A Conversation with Morgan Tsvangirai

Speaker: Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister, Republic of Zimbabwe
Presider: Margaret Warner, Senior Correspondent, "The Newshour With Jim Lehrer"
June 10, 2009
Council on Foreign Relations



MARGARET WARNER: (In progress.) This week he is in the United States as part of a three-week tour of Western capitals in an effort to persuade Western donors and governments to reengage with Zimbabwe, perhaps lift some sanctions and extend aid. His visit to the council today is his first public event here in the States.

And, Prime Minsiter Tsvangirai, welcome, and you have the floor.

PRIME MINISTER MORGAN TSVANGIRAI: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Margaret, and good afternoon, everybody. It is a pleasure to be here at the Council on Foreign Relations. You provide good opportunities for speakers like me to address these kinds of forums.

I'm here today to say thank you to America from the people of Zimbabwe -- your humanitarian aid, which, as we speak, has saved millions of Zimbabweans. Thank you for your support. Our struggle for democracy is a struggle that continues today.

From your very foundation, you stand up on the idea that all men -- all men everywhere are created equal. The revolutionary idea echoed throughout your history, through Abraham Lincoln, who looked for a day that the weight would be lifted off the shoulders of all men and all would have a chance. And President Barack Obama, just last week telling an audience in Cairo that the people of America is the hope of all humanity.

So, as you provide immediate food and medical assistance to the people of Zimbabwe, you also shine the light of hope to us, and indeed to all the dark places of the globe. I first came to America 20 years ago as a young union leader. I had the good fortune to be selected for the International Visitors program.

I spent four weeks here visiting all across the country from New York to Wyoming to California, and I saw your nation from sea to shining sea. This was an eye-opening experience, as you can imagine, for a young man who had gone down in the mines in 1974, but one thing struck me that may surprise you. I was struck by how much the people of America reminded me of the people of Zimbabwe.

Mining, even in the best of circumstances, is hard and dangerous work, and most who do it learn to be judges of the character of those around us. And what I saw in the American people is also what I saw and see in the people of Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans, like Americans, are hard-working people, people who persevere in hard times, and people with -- I'm told the American word is gumption.

The independent Zimbabwe I knew as a union leader was the best country in Africa. We were a nation of different tribes but without tribal differences. We were a place where people of different backgrounds came together working on our farms, on our mines, making them the very envy of our continent.

Our school system became the best in Africa, and we had good health care, and our life expectancy rivaled that of nations in the global north. In the last 10 years, all that has been destroyed. Ten years ago we were the second-largest economy in our region, behind only South Africa. Now we are the smallest, behind even the tiny nation of Swaziland and Lesotho.

The often unhappy 20th century saw too many countries devastated by war and too many governments which intentionally persecuted portions of their own people. Despite the dawn of this new awful century, Zimbabwe stands as a remarkable testament of the power of a corruptive government in pursuit of selfish policies to impoverish an entire nation.

The problem was evident to most Zimbabweans by the mid-1990s. In 1999, from my post as secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, I called a National Working People's Convention, which led to the organization of the Movement for Democratic Change as a direct response to the people's dissatisfaction with the current political dispensation.

In the year 2000, President Mugabe, in an attempt to circumvent a new People's Constitution, orchestrated one of his own, which would have increased his own powers while diminishing those of the people.

To prevent this travesty, I joined other church and civil society human rights and liberal leaders in the National Constitutional Assembly to campaign against the imposition of this sham constitution. In a national referendum it was rejected by the majority of Zimbabweans, the last election in Zimbabwe that outside observers have labeled free and fair.

Sadly, rejection of government at the polls did not lead to democratic change that the people wanted. In a series of elections since then, marred by violence and voting irregularities, the results announced by the ruling party in each case left the democratic opposition just short of what's needed to take power.

At the end of 2008, African leaders, mainly genuinely concerned about democracy, and others who could no longer ignore the Zimbabweans dying on their streets, brought about a negotiated settlement which resulted in my becoming prime minister of Zimbabwe.

The leader of the -- (inaudible) -- Party, the Movement for Democratic Change, agreed to that negotiated settlement very reluctantly. Many of us had been tortured by the regime with which we were to form this new government. All of us had seen friends in support killed.

In the weeks leading up to this negotiated settlement, President Mugabe began a campaign to force out the humanitarian agencies which were the only source of sustenance and medical support for the majority of Zimbabweans.

To walk away from the negotiating table would have been to watch as many as 4 million people starve or generations lose their right to education and employment opportunities. Thus we decided that we had to take the struggle for democracy into a new arena, but this has not compromised our ideal to fight for democracy.

Like Nelson Mandela, I agreed to work with a non-democratic regime as a transition to full democracy. June 11 marks four months into my swearing in as prime minister. I want to tell you that Zimbabwe is changing. Already Zimbabwe is a different place, a significantly different place and a better place.

As a society we were near death and we have come back to life. In our first 100 days we provided first aid in a desperate situation, and we did four big things -- real change that brought real results.

First, we stopped the printing presses. The Zimbabwe dollar, the most inflated currency in the history of the world, is gone. The U.S. dollar and the South African rand are effectively our national currencies. As a result, our record-setting inflation is also gone.

Second, we stopped forcing the print media to be silenced. If I may paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, who said, a people with newspapers and no government are safer than people who have a government but no newspapers.

Third, we have -- (inaudible) -- to constitutional reform, which will lead to a people with a liberal constitution and free and fair elections. This was the promise of the National Constitutional Assembly, and it will just come to pass.

Fourth, we took the riot police off the streets. Our capital city, Harare, is no longer a city under armed occupation.

With those four steps we have kept hope alive. Our schools, which almost were closed, are now mostly open. This year's backlog on marking exam papers has been cleared so children can receive their grades.

Some of our hospitals have some medication to treat some of the sick. Garbage is being removed from the streets in our cities and towns. Food aid is mostly available for 5 million people who need it.

The basic necessities of ordinary life are present on our store shelves or with our results of our specific policies, but also of the people's trust. The people have gone back to work because they trust that the struggle for democracy in the new arena will be successful, and that henceforth their government will be on their side.

As the people gain hope and the changes gains momentum, bigger challenges lie ahead. On June 1st, the Movement for Democratic Change, at its 10th annual convention, formally appealed to SADC, the South African Development Community, to resolve the government deadlock over the reserve bank governor and the attorney general. And at the Global Political Agreement, both of these positions were to be filled by consensus of all parties, and both incumbents were unilaterally appointed.

It is time that African leaders, those who said the Global Political Agreement was an African solution to an African problem, it is time for them to step up. The people of Southern Africa, led by their labor unions, the checheys (ph), the liberation heroes, have proved to be friends of the people of Zimbabwe in their time of need. Their government leaders need to follow suit.

I welcome the involvement in Africa of President Barack Obama and his emphasis on rebuilding what you call America's soft power. The reserve bank of the government of Zimbabwe is the agitator of the worst inflation in the history of the world. Our reserve bank has managed the economic policies that pushed at least 3 million refugees, out of a population of 12 million, to swim crocodile-infested rivers to escape once our unhappy land.

We need to rectify the un-procedural appointment of the reserve bank governor and the attorney general. The office of the attorney general has been so compromised that instead of dispensing justice to all fairly, we have witnessed the elective obligation of the law. The Africa leaders, who are guardians of inclusive government, need to step forward now and tell President Mugabe and the others that they must certainly consider leaving the political space.

As I'm here in Washington, D.C., I also need to address the application of the global political agreement on the question of restrictive measures against officials of our government. The GPA calls for all parties in Zimbabwe to wait for an end to these restrictions.

I am committed to the implementation of a GPA and the restoration of the rule of law. Those in our government who are personally -- (inaudible) -- should to join me in that stand. When they do, world support for the removal of all restrictions will be unstoppable.

Now, let's look ahead. Zimbabwe over the last decade can serve for many years as a bad example. The government that refuses to be accountable to the people can implement policies that -- (inaudible) -- a nation. I look forward to Zimbabwe serving as a good example.

In our Short-Term Emergency and Recovery Programme, farmers are no longer required to sell their crops to the Grain Marketing Board. No wonder we're producing only 20 percent of our food we needed.

Our steps also allows mines to sell minerals at world prices. We should reverse the collapse of our mining sector. The plans of the previous government to nationalize the mines have been shelved. We will also change the policies that brought our manufacturing sector to operate at 10 percent capacity. In addition, we'll again welcome the world at our airports. Tourism is 10 percent of our economy, yet we've scared away tourists while preventing airlines from bringing them to our beautiful land.

Finally, one of our greatest needs is the return of talent. Sadly, many of those who fled from the previous government were those whose language proficiency and educational attainment made them the most marketable in other countries, the brightest graduates of what was once the best school system in Africa. We need those people to come back home. They have an indispensable place in the new Zimbabwe.

Let me reiterate once again that democratization is the first plank of our economic recovery program. We will build a Zimbabwe around democracy, free elections, freedom of speech and assembly, respect for property rights and respect for the rule of law. The growth of prosperity that follows these polices will be slower than the collapse brought about by their absence.

But just as -- (inaudible) -- each time I'm amazed and challenged by America -- amazed by what free people blessed by rich resources can do, and challenged by the knowledge that Zimbabwe, also blessed by rich resources and burning with a desire to be free, can do what you have done here. As America has been a beacon of hope for the world, Zimbabwe can be an engine of progress and democracy that transforms the African continent.

Thank you. Thank you, America, for having kept hope alive. Join me in our people's move forward together. I thank you.


WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. A lot of food for thought there. Let me begin by picking up on something you said, which is that Zimbabwe is a different place. And certainly from what we've read and heard, economic reform is proceeding apace. But on the question of democratic and human rights, the reports are more troubling, whether it's the seizure of white-owned land is continuing or harassment and jailing of opposition figures and the media.

Is the Mugabe regime, or those people who are supporters of President Mugabe in the government, do they still constitute an authoritarian regime that has the power essentially to muzzle dissent?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, thank you, Margaret. I can understand sometimes the reservations around -- and the frustration that is sometimes expressed on the question of democratic reforms.

I want first of all to say that this is not a Tsvangirai government. This is not an MDC government. This is a new political dispensation constituted by these coalition partners. It is an agreement worked out out of long, frustrating, and protracted negotiations. And therefore, where do you judge this government? It must be based on what this government has done, including the question of political detainees, economic reform.

As I speak, there is no one imputation at the moment, but of course there was a time when people were unlawfully not given bail, and we have worked it through because, remember, this is a coalition. Sometimes you need to manage the political sensitivities around these kind of actions. And that's what we have done.

I am hopeful that those remaining issues that continue to be the concern of the international community will be issues that we will be able to manage. And we know the challenges.

WARNER: And what some members of Congress and the State Department are saying publicly is they wish you well in that endeavor, but that until there's actual progress made on the democratic reform side, they can't see their way clear to providing any kind of direct aid. Are they completely wrong-headed in that view, or in fact is there a reason for the West to continue to withhold that kind of aid and to help force the -- you know, the Mugabe forces essentially in the government to give ground on this democratic front as well as on the economic front?

TSVANGIRAI: I think that some of the misgivings arise out of history. And I can understand that. As I said, is there any position we can take which says, until one or two things -- three things are done, we will not move? I think it will be a wrong premise because what you must understand is that this unity government is an irreversible process too as the democratic objective. It is a transition; the democratic goal.

Therefore, I think there has to be a measured, targeted and phased support, also measuring the progress that we are making towards achieving those kinds of benchmarks. And remember that those benchmarks are not something that are imposed from our side.

We, ourselves, 80 percent of the global political agreement, is about democratization. And, therefore, we ourselves want Zimbabweans to be free and we are working towards removing the yesteryear repressive conditions that characterize our political disposition. So we are moving into a new phase, and that's what needs to be rewarded rather than punished.

WARNER: But when you say "we," you're talking about yourself and people -- like-minded people. Do you have the authority in the government to push progress on these fronts?

TSVANGIRAI: Oh, yes. The authority is there. Remember that in the global political agreement, executive authority is vested into three pillars. Instead of being in president and cabinet, it is president, prime minister and cabinet. So it's a three-legged executive authority.

So we discussed these things. But you must understand that sometimes you discuss issues and you disagree, because of the pace and the way you want things done. But it doesn't mean necessarily that you cannot revisit the issues, because it is not insurmountable for us to discuss the issues for the good of the nation. After all, that's what brought us together.

Previously we were people still in acrimony and polarization. We have moved from that. So if the national agenda is to democratize, is to stabilize the economy, then, therefore, all of us are committed to see this kind of move forward. It means that we have to cut some of our practices and our mindset of the past.

WARNER: How persuaded are you that your former opponents feel that way?

TSVANGIRAI: I can only judge by the way we have interacted. Remember that trust is something that is built over time. You cannot just wake up one morning and start trusting your sworn enemy or your sworn opponent. But it takes time. And to me, it has been instructive to the extent to which we have interacted between President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai.

We meet every Monday in preparation for our cabinet discussions. I give the report on how government is performing. And where we have difficulty, we try by all means to find what is the solution.

Well, if anything is to go by, I'm not the one to stand and make a judgment. Perhaps others in government will have to make that judgment, not me. But as far as I'm concerned, things will begin to have workable solutions, to find solutions to the problems that people are facing.

Remember that we're not there for the sake of Mugabe or of Tsvangirai. We are there to serve the people of Zimbabwe. And as long as we are all motivated by the objectives of the global political agreement to serve the people of Zimbabwe, I will always do everything and work with anyone for the national interest.

WARNER: Since you're talking about motivations, what -- you said in your speech that you think you're good at reading character. What is your reading of President Mugabe? What is driving him now?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, I'm sure that I don't want to demean those who have the misfortune of being over 85. (Laughter.) But I can assure you that what probably motivates people on that age group is the legacy. And I can only deduce the fact that perhaps it's about what is the legacy. And you know President Mugabe has gone through these see-saw experiences. And I'm sure, as he's late on his twilight years, he has realized that he is to end his life as the founding father of a nation, not somebody -- (inaudible) -- of the nation.

WARNER: Has he ever said that to you?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, I don't want to reveal some of our own personal exchanges, some of them which border on trying to establish some chemistry between us, because it has been a long time since we have ever sat across the table together. It's 10 years since we last sat together. And as I say, you know, it is quite an experience to work with someone we have been fighting for the last 10 years.

WARNER: And who's had you jailed and beaten.

TSVANGIRAI: Yes. Well, I was almost killed. I know that. But, you know, if Nelson Mandela can go to jail for 27 years, and is humiliated, is beaten, is doing all those things, I'm sure that it is not a small measure for us to be inspired by that example. But even when you have personal rivalries, there's always something called the national interest and that you always put the people first. And I'm sure we can easily forgive, but not forget what has happened.

WARNER: In the meantime, what is wrong with the international community just keeping up the way it gives aid now, which is humanitarian aid through humanitarian agencies? Some governments even say, "Well, we'll pay the teachers directly," or whatever, but they don't want to funnel the money through the government.

TSVANGIRAI: Yes, there may be those that are reluctant to pass on that support directly to government. But I can assure you that there are mechanisms. We have just agreed in cabinet on aid coordination architecture which will allow the coordination between the government and the aid and our donors to sit together, set the priorities, set the mechanism of delivery, and also the mechanism of accountability.

So those who are reluctant because they are not sure how the money is going to be used or whether it is going to benefit the people of Zimbabwe must be reassured by this kind of an arrangement. And besides, it is not just the question of humanitarian aid at the moment. I think we need to move further and say Zimbabwe is a potentially vibrant economy.

If there is something that we can do in the interim to allow Zimbabwean industry to increase from 10 percent capacity to 60 percent capacity, our mines, our agriculture and our industry to grow, then we don't become a perpetual burden to the international community. We'll be on our own.

WARNER: Can you do that with the aid structure that exists now, which is that it --

TSVANGIRAI: No, it's insufficient. What you need is to move away from the humanitarian support, which is largely to deal with the food, health, (baby ?) education. But what we need are lines of credit to our businesses, some injection into the recovery budget so that the government is able to execute those priority programs that directly benefit Zimbabwe.

WARNER: What will you consider a success when you leave Washington? What are you really looking for?

TSVANGIRAI: Firstly, I think that what is important is to have an understanding. We move away from the skeptical position to a position where there is an understanding that what is happening in Zimbabwe is an irreversible process towards change and towards transition. I think that is a very critical element. To me, that will be a fundamental understanding.

Secondly, I think that, yes, I don't have to hide it. I think it will be important for the United States to give transitional support to the government, but for the sake of helping this government to survive, because the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. If this government were to collapse because it has failed to raise sufficient resources, then the danger is that what is there to replace it, and what will be the future of Zimbabwe? To me that is very, very critical.

WARNER: Well, we're now going to open up the floor to questions and invite the audience to join the discussion. And I think you, again, all know the ground rules here, but please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. And just briefly state your name and your affiliation. And I've been asked to ask you to be as crisp as you can, just to give more time for questions and answers.

So who would like to ask the first? I'll go right back there in the back.

QUESTIONER: Desmond Butler with the Associated Press.

Mr. Prime Minister, one of your fellow ministers has said that -- (inaudible). How do you work with a government like that? Is it in Zimbabwe's national interest -- (inaudible)?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, let me answer the first one, which is the government has drawn up an assassination list. If there is anyone who would be afraid of being assassinated, it's me. So I don't think that there is any such an assassination list. It may be some paranoia, but what the government used to do, and therefore, it's a perpetuation of that kind of mindset.

I'm sure that there is no such threat. And I can assure you that if you come to Zimbabwe, you will see that difference, and the confidence of the people demonstrate that.

Now, on the second part, if it was my wish, then 20 years ago President Mugabe would have retired from politics in Zimbabwe. But he is a political reality in our society. We have entered into an agreement with President Mugabe. Let's work through until such time that the electoral process will be the only basis upon which the people of Zimbabwe decide whether you will have any role, or any role at all.

WARNER: Next, right here.

QUESTIONER: Pauline Baker with the Fund for Peace.

Mr. Prime Minister, could you explain to us who is in control of the security forces in Zimbabwe, both the army and the police? The police ministry, I understand, is a joint ministry. That raises the question of who gives orders. How does the chain of command work? You referred in your comments about getting the riot police off the streets. But suppose there's a crisis and it involves your followers. You don't want the police to intervene. Do you have the authority to stop a situation like that, or could you be overruled by the Mugabe government? And please comment on the army as well.

TSVANGIRAI: In the past -- (inaudible) -- the experience has been that the institutions of the state -- the police, the army, the CIO -- has been responsible for a lot of abuses against Zimbabweans. We know that.

But during the negotiations, these matters were tackled. How do we make sure that these organs of state are not partisan, are not abused by any political party, and that they become professional state institutions that protect Zimbabwe? It's there in the agreement. How are we going to make sure that we (tend ?) these institutions in that idea? A training program -- (inaudible) -- the human rights training is going through the police force, through the army.

Now, coming back to your question, who is in charge, the commander of the army, the commander of the defense forces, is the president of the country. In this case it's President Mugabe. But we have a structure that we have built up in the government which is called the national security council.

In the national security council, it is jointly administered by the president chairing that meeting, but all of us in the executive of government actually -- (inaudible) -- to give directives to the police, to the army.

Now, it may appear as impractical, but that's the reality of our situation. And I want to tell you that in the progress of time, I just want to make it clear that transformation is a process. You do not expect people who have been violent yesterday to wake up one morning and become peaceful. They still have the residual carry-over of their baggage of yesterday. We know that.

But what is important -- if any experience is to be learned, it is the Iraqi situation. If, in the transformation of these institutions, you get rid of all of them, or you threaten their existence, you actually create a threat for the stability of that government.

So we have learned that the best way is to educate, reassure, but make sure that during the course of time, you actually build a professional institution.

WARNER: Right here, sir.

QUESTIONER: Hi. My name is Travis Atkins. I'm with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. And my question is for the prime minister.

I was struck by, I think, what I would call the level of hope that -- (inaudible) -- and what I would call probably the extreme skepticism of the western world around the idea that Mugabe and his supporters would be willing to actually share power


And what I would call probably the "extreme skepticism" of the Western world around the idea that Mugabe and his supporters would be willing to actually share power, would be willing to actually move towards change.

So, when you go on a three-week tour of Western governments, could you give us a sense of what is the core of your argument to us, that would cause us to believe that someone who's shown such obstinance is really worthy of our assistance and support?

TSVANGIRAI: I appreciate your question, which is one -- it is a question of belief, based on the past.

My message is very, very simple. Zimbabwe's past should never be an example to anyone. And we all know the electoral violence, electoral -- abuse of human rights. We know that. But, Zimbabwe has moved into a new political dispensation. But, that dispensation is based on a transitional process of transformation to a democratic Zimbabwe.

We have not given up our fight for a democratic Zimbabwe, even when we share power with someone who we believe has never been democratic. My assurance is that it is a process; we are going through stages of transformation; and, down the line, we will have a free and fair election which will give Zimbabweans an opportunity to choose their own government.

And that, to me, is better than the experience everywhere -- elsewhere in Africa where conflicts are resolved by armed conflict, and then you move from violence to violence, from conflict to conflict, endlessly.

And if there is an opportunity to work with President Mugabe in a situation of ensuring that this transformation is irreversible, I will do it, because I know and I believe that, down the line, the objective -- why we have struggled for the last 10 years for democratic change, will be achieved through a free and fair election.

In other words, we are creating conditions, we are setting the stage for creating an environment of political tolerance, of national healing, to ensure that prosperity and stability go hand in hand.

WARNER: Well, let me get to this lady here in the second row, and then we'll go to the back again, or the middle.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. I'm Tina Stanton (sp), with Mitsubishi International.

You mentioned briefly that one of the plans of the government is to expand manufacturing capacity from 10 percent to roughly 60 (percent). How does the government plan to prepare for such foreign investment in infrastructure projects that come with a leap like that?

TSVANGIRAI: Yes. I'm sure that one of the keys strategies on stabilization is how to get back Zimbabwe as the second economy in the region.

Now, there are various measures. One of the measures is, of course, to create the policy environment. We know where the restrictions are, and -- (inaudible) -- our minister of economic planning will tell you that there are so many reviews that needs to be put in place, that are inhibitive for foreign direct investment. That's one.

The second issue is that we have already said that the government has no business to be in some of that activity, and, therefore, allow creative conditions for private-public partnerships and private investment in infrastructure rehabilitation. To me, that is the direction to take.

As far as industry is concerned, it is already suffering from being -- (inaudible) --, because of the competitive nature of progress -- technological progress that South Africa (and other manufacturers have increased. ?) So, we need, actually, a period in which we will probably have to ensure that they are able to recapitalize their industries and to start producing again, as we have been.

WARNER: Right here, in about the seventh row back, on the aisle.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Mr. Prime Minister. Elizabeth Dickinson, with Foreign Policy Magazine.

You've spoken with so much hope, and I'm really struck by your optimism. I want to ask you what keeps you up at night. What are the things that you think could -- that could threaten the success of this government? And what are the things that still remain on your mind as a concern?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, I don't know -- (laughs) -- I don't know how I can articulate my whole night's --


TSVANGIRAI: -- (laughs) -- process of thinking. (Laughs.)

But, let me say that what gives me optimism is that -- is the hope that we have created in the people of Zimbabwe. When I go out (and) talk -- you know, I went to my village and I met a woman who said, "Prime Minister, we want to only do two things: get our education working, get our health -- (inaudible) -- working. You have succeeded." So, to me, it's a very easy task -- the education is working, the health is working.

Now, of course, there are higher complex issues that we have to deal with -- of governance. And, of course, I have my worries. I have my worries when we think that things are moving smoothly. All of a sudden something pops up -- somebody's arrested, a journalist has been arrested. And it becomes the news. The negative becomes the news, and the positive is then ignored in the process. And that is my worry.

I'm also worried -- like all of you, we have expressed very serious mistrust on President Mugabe's commitment to this process. I still have my own corner of my mind which says, maybe he's planning to (shoot/cheat ?) me. I have to be on my guard. But, certainly I have to be -- I have to always look hopeful because that's what the people expect.

And the people of Zimbabwe, to me, are cautiously optimistic that we are on the right path. And I want to tell you that, over the last three months, we have been paying people $100 a month allowance. (It's ?) only salary. But, the people are patient. They believe that, given the time, we are on the right course; and that, given the time, we may actually move away from the allowance regime to a salary regime. And in due course we will be able to do so. And I think that builds the confidence.

WARNER: Yes, right here, sir -- also on the aisle.

QUESTIONER: Prime Minister, Rob Cortell (sp), -- (inaudible) -- Technologies.

Zimbabwe used to be known as the "bread basket" of Africa. And we, here, watch -- have watched, over the years, the destruction of the farm system and the use of the farms as a reward from Mugabe. What are you doing to reform that?

TSVANGIRAI: Ten years ago, when the farm -- the land reform program was instituted, in a haphazard way, we took a stance. We took a stance that the method was wrong. Yes, land is an emotive issue, but it is also an economic asset. And the way you handle it guarantees your food production and food security, or you destroy your capacity to feed yourself. And this is what has happened.

Now, what we have recognized is that even -- (inaudible) -- recognizes that the method used was wrong and that we need to rectify it. And these are the steps that we are taking:

Firstly, is to make sure that we have a land audit which determines who owns what. But, we already have policies that certain sectors of agriculture must not be touched. The agro-industry -- your citrus, your plantations, your (sugar estates ?) must not be touched.

And then the next step is that once you have got an audit, you are then able to see a land reform program -- a rationalization program which gives people a title. Because it is also the security of tenure which is very important. It is not just the ownership of land, it is the security of tenure and the financing of that that is going to increase production in the country. So, we are working on that.

The second thing is that we have to put in a "land commission" which is independent to fulfill those objectives of increasing agricultural productivity. Because, in the end, our farmers, some of them, have not been trained. It is the responsibility of the commission to train, to invest in land production so that we can again restore our place as the "bread basket."

WARNER: And right next to the gentleman who just asked the question.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Gwendolyn Mikell, Georgetown University.

Mr. Prime Minister, I'm wondering about that broader Zimbabwe that is outside your borders. Over the last few years we've seen a tremendous push into the surrounding countries. And I'm wondering what kind of thinking is going on now about the overtures to that population -- the bringing back of that population; but also the regional relationships that have been impacted by that movement. Could you address that for me? Thank you.

TSVANGIRAI: Thank you.

You question about Zimbabwe's (diaspora ?) is a real preoccupying issue. Basically, it is about brain-drain. The best -- as I stated, the best brains have left the country because they are marketable in the region, they are marketable elsewhere.

The second is, there's some -- the majority of whom are actually economic refugees because of the dire state of our economy back home.

Now, in dealing with those two, personally, I think it is important to have a national scheme that is going to attract the Zimbabweans who are outside, who want to come back and make a contribution. We will encourage that.

And I think government is working already at a scheme that is going to attract to Zimbabwe. Like any country which has this massive exodus of people, I think it is time we have a reverse, and that scheme will be encouraged.

As for general economic refugees, the situation is not going to improve until there is positive growth in the country. And positive growth is a "chicken-and-an-egg" situation. At what point do you say things are okay?

I think it is also the progressive, incremental development that takes place within the economy, that (we will ?) make sure that it stems this tide of people leaving the country because they now have some sort of income.

And then, secondly, people are looking forward to finding a job -- of course, allowing government to create those conditions for job creation.

WARNER: I guess, back in the third from the last row there. Yes, go right ahead.

QUESTIONER: I'm Ellie Larson, from the Solidarity Center.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to --

TSVANGIRAI: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: -- America. It's nice to see you here again.

A new constitution is a priority for the people of Zimbabwe and, toward that end, I understand that the chairpersons for the parliamentary select committee have been appointed. But, they are both members of the house of assembly. A number of civil society organizations, including those at ZCTU, the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions, have objected to that because they would like to see an independent voice as part of the leadership of that committee.

Can you comment on how you believe this will affect the process, and what you believe the outcome will be toward a new constitution? Thank you.

TSVANGIRAI: Well, thank you.

The issue of a national constitution is of a strategic importance to all the democratic forces in the country. I understand the reservation expressed by some of the civil society organizations. But, their negotiators agreed that the process of instituting the constitution-making process should be through parliament. And they all agree with me.

This is not the first experience of the parliament taking a leading role in coordinating -- not in inputting the substance, but in coordinating the process. The South African example is that it is the national assembly which actually spearheaded and coordinated the constitution-making process in the country. We are almost following the same line.

But, however, what we have said is that the first thing to determine the people (-driven ?) qualification is that the stakeholder's conference, which is going to be held by July the 18th, will be chaired by an independent person. We all agreed. Because, it doesn't have to be a member of parliament.

It is only the -- (inaudible) -- committees that are emerging from that conference that will have the majority of civil society participating in the process, and allowing for people to solicit the views of Zimbabweans. I think the limitation will be -- it's not about the chairman, it's about what the people will say that is fundamental.

And I have engaged with our civil society partners at your embassies on the process. It's well understood. But remember that at the end of the day is the substance and how many people -- how people are allowed to make an input and to be able to part of that -- (inaudible) -- process. And I'm sure there are no limitations as to how people will be involved. And I think that is the most important focus.

WARNER: Yes, way in the back, with the -- holding the piece of paper. I'm sorry. I can't see people's faces, or I'd try to call on you by name.

QUESTIONER: I'm James Kirchick with The New Republic Magazine. Over the past nine years, the South African government has deferred to the wishes of President Mugabe and his political party. And I'm curious as to whether you think the change in government there will lead to a more non-biased, non-partisan approach from the South African government in terms of the inevitable conflicts that may arise in Zimbabwe over the next couple months and years.

TSVANGIRAI: The role of South Africa is very important to the future of Zimbabwe. Yes, there could have been impressions created that it was biased towards President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, but the negotiations have been concluded. We now have an agreement. And that agreement has been endorsed by SADC, of which South Africa is the chair. So South Africa cannot get out of the process of endorsing that agreement and guaranteeing that agreement. And I think that's the role it will continue to play.

I don't want to go to personal choices and personal preferences. I know that South Africa is important politically and economically for Zimbabwe. And I hope that President Zuma will continue the policy of ensuring that this agreement is observed and that Zimbabwe continues to make progress towards a more democratic future.

WARNER: You are calling on that group that's headed by South Africa to actually give Mugabe an ultimatum about getting rid of the attorney general and the head of the central bank?

TSVANGIRAI: We are calling on SADC to intervene on that process, because they are the guarantors of the agreement. All we are saying is that President Mugabe's appointing these two positions is unprocedural, and that therefore as guarantors of the agreement they must come and adjudicate over that dispute.

WARNER: How can they do that?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, they will call a meeting and then we will raise the concerns we have got. And we go to the agreement; what SADC itself has resolved is there on paper. And all we are trying to say is that let's rectify this procedural anomaly.

WARNER: With outside pressure.

TSVANGIRAI: There has to be pressure. (Laughs, laughter.)

WARNER: Let's see. This gentleman here.

QUESTIONER: Carl Gershman, from the National Endowment for Democracy. I want to follow up on your statement before that we must forgive but not forget. Could you outline what you think the transitional justice process will be in Zimbabwe and whether there will be or will there be not -- not be impunity for people who've committed serious crimes?

TSVANGIRAI: What we have said is that, as a government, the culture of entitlement, the culture of impunity is an issue of the past. We cannot continue to observe the freedoms of the people when this culture persists. As a result, we have created this organ, which is a three-ministerial organ, dealing with national healing, dealing with reconciliation and integration.

Now, they are the group that are supposed to define the process of dealing with transitional justice. What is going to happen to the victims of political violence? What's going to happen to the perpetrators of political violence? To me, when they are able to come with some form of agreement and healing between the two groups, I think we would have made much progress.

But certainly we're not going to sweep everything under -- everything under the covers, because you are not going to heal by imposition. You can only heal by ensuring that truth is told, that there is forgiveness on the part of the individuals. If there is restorative justice that needs to be put in place, so be it. But I am not going to define how that healing is going to take place, because it is within the responsibility and the role of this organ that we have set up.

WARNER: Yes, the woman in the back, third row from the front, I think -- from the back, I mean.

QUESTIONER: Holly Wise, Georgetown University. Thank you so much for your commitment and your courage and for giving us hope. My extended family used to have a beautiful and productive farm in Zimbabwe, so permit me, please, to ask a personal question. I don't like cholera and I don't like carjackings and I do like food and I do like petrol to be able to move about. So should I bring the children for Christmas? Or more generally, what are you doing to promote and safeguard tourism as you rebuild the country?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, under the -- we have a minister of tourism here who is a very -- championed -- a very good champion of -- first of all, you are most welcome to Zimbabwe. You will find it different. And that's why -- that's why the travel warnings on Zimbabwe have been lifted. It's quite safe. It's quite healthy. And I can assure that there will be no car hijackings. But if you're a bad driver, I cannot assure -- guarantee you that you can't bump into a tree or a -- (laughs, laughter). But as for your safety to come and holiday in Zimbabwe, you're most welcome, and I'm sure that you will enjoy it.

I was asked by a lady last night -- this lady, who is a (presenter ?), she said, "If I were to come to Zimbabwe, what is there that you can show me?" And I thought hard, and I thought, maybe if I say, "Victoria Falls," it may interest her. And indeed, she said, "Yes, I know that." I said, "You know, now that you have shown some reluctance to come to Victoria Falls, I'm going to show you the people of Zimbabwe." And she was very excited.

And I think our people are something that we have to celebrate. They are peaceful people. I mean, who in the world would ever, ever have imagined, with all the violence that has taken place in the country, that they have not resorted to armed conflict? They have remained peaceful. They have remained committed to the democratic ideals and to their vote. And I'm sure that it is something we need to celebrate.

WARNER: The gentleman standing in the back.

QUESTIONER: Askia Muhammad with National Scene News Bureau. Mr. Prime Minister, I've been to your country on several occasions. And I would echo your comments about peaceful people. I noticed that people don't jaywalk. They obey the "robots," as they're called, the traffic signals in Harare and other cities.

In 1997, I traveled with Leon Sullivan on the African-African American Summit. On that summit, Andrew Brimmer, then a member of the Federal Reserve Board, said that your country had one of the strongest economies in Africa, and it was worthy of investment by people from this country. Also at that summit, there were demonstrations by members of Zanu-PF against your president because they said they had been betrayed on the promise of land reform, which suggests to me before the land reform movement began that there are sincere concerns on the part of those who fought and bled and died that they have some land. Is that process going to end? Will the people who are promised and want land really fairly be distributed land or has that come to an end?

TSVANGIRAI: I think I said earlier that land reform is a very -- (inaudible) -- issue. But let me tell you, across the political divide there is a national convergence on the need for it. There's never been any dispute across the political divide for the land reform to be -- (inaudible) -- fairly, not based on race or color, but based on equity, transparency and to allow those who want to use land productively to do so. That still remains.

The divergence arose out of the method, the violent nature, the disruptive nature, the uncoordinated nature and the bad nature of that land distribution and the elitism that sometimes resulted from that land distribution. But it is not the people who were landless that benefited from the land reform. It is the elites that benefited from the land reform. And I think those are matters that we are trying to rationalize and rectify.

We have learned from our history that you cannot cut your nose to spite your face. In fact, you -- sometimes it's very, very dangerous that when you think you are taking from Paul to give Peter, you end up both of them being losers. And I think it's very important to learning a lesson, and that we -- (inaudible) -- and I'm sure that we will have a much more reasoned and a much more rational way of dealing with the land reform once and for all.

WARNER: Right here on the aisle. And if I could just ask everyone to be fairly crisp in their questions, because we only have a couple -- few minutes left.

QUESTIONER: Thank you so much, Mr. Prime Minister. Camille Caesar from the Commerce Department. I'd like to ask you if there are specific investor protections that those in the foreign investment community have said to your government they need to see in place before capital can flow again to your economy in the way that you say is much needed now? Thank you.

TSVANGIRAI: Yes. I think that there are bilateral agreements that have been signed. For the United States, it's called what? Overseas protection investment --



WARNER: Yeah. Insurance.

TSVANGIRAI: OPIC Insurance. And I think that Zimbabwe and the United States have signed it. With other countries, bilateral agreements on the firms, they have BPA firms, bilateral protection agencies for various firms. So, yes, there is that.

Unfortunately, what we need to do is actually to enforce those -- it's one thing to sign an agreement. It's another thing to enforce it. And I think that's where the confidence comes in. And I'm hoping that the various ministers responsible for enforcement of those actually build the confidence across the -- across -- between the countries, rather than undermine it.

WARNER: Yes, and the gentleman right next to the lady that just asked a question.

QUESTIONER: (Name inaudible) -- Council on Foreign Relations. I'm wondering about some of Zimbabwe's other relationships with other countries besides the United States. We've talked about the relationship between Zimbabwe and the U.S. I'm wondering, I think, in particular about the United Kingdom, which has an important historical relationship with Zimbabwe, and also about China, which was quite close to President Mugabe, and provided him with a great deal of assistance in recent years.

TSVANGIRAI: We have to redefine our relationship with other countries based on the mutual interests of both countries. And I think that our foreign policy must be designed to promote Zimbabwe's best interests. To me, that is the bottom line. There are more countries whom we can do relations better than others, but generally we cannot be selective; we cannot discriminate against any country.

For the U.K., yes, for historical reasons, colonial reasons, we have a cultural and linguistic linkage with the U.K. And sometimes, when we make a dispute, it becomes so acrimonious because of that past relationship. And one understands sometimes the acrimony is based on that past history. But we are moving. When I go to U.K., I'm going to see Prime Minister Brown, in spite of his present circumstances. (Laughs, laughter.) But he's prime minister of U.K. And I'm hoping that we can -- (laughter) -- we can build something to restore again the relationship between Zimbabwe and the U.K.

As for China, I can only say that I don't think that it was necessarily a personal relationship. I think China in Africa is playing a very significant role across the many countries. And I think it is on that basis that Zimbabwe and China develop those relations. I'm hoping that we can strengthen even further, because I think what we are looking at is the mutual benefit to both countries.

WARNER: This has to be the last question, very brief question. And I want to remind everyone this has been on the record. And then if you all could stay in your seats after the prime minister leaves. Is there someone close to a microphone right here? All right, the young man way in the back.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Prime Minister, for coming. My name is -- (name inaudible) -- Zimbabwe Young Entrepreneurs Network. My question, you've been fighting President Mugabe for the past 10 years, and -- (inaudible) -- on power. What change do you see in Zimbabwe?

And my other question, is we have millions of Zimbabwean diaspora. What message do you have for them?

TSVANGIRAI: Well, let me start, Margaret, with the last one. I have already spoken on it. But I'm also addressing Zimbabweans on Saturday somewhere. I'm going to communicate the same message: Come back home. It's very simple.

On the question of fighting, yes, I have already confirmed that we were bitter rivals -- perhaps not personal enemies, but bitter opponents over the last 10 years. I believe that Zimbabwe deserves -- and, in fact, that's why the liberation struggle was fought, it is to achieve the best democratic ideals for Zimbabwe. And we fought on that basis as a matter of principle. And I still believe that that is the principle we will continue to pursue.

I want to assure you that Zimbabwe is on the right course. It may not be there yet, but I want to tell you that as we move towards fulfilling the policies of the global political agreement and transforming the institutions so that we have a more open society, Zimbabwe will be a better place for young entrepreneurs like you.

WARNER: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, thank you so much for being with us. (Applause.)








More on This Topic

Foreign Affairs Article

Mugabe Über Alles

Author: Robert I. Rotberg

Zimbabwe has been ruled by a unity government since 2008, but President Robert Mugabe and his party continue to usurp power and pillage...