Former Finance Minister Dr Simba Makoni, who now leads the Mavambo opposition political party, joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma on Question Time.
Responding to listeners questions Makoni traces the history behind the imposition of targeted sanctions on members of the Mugabe regime, why he opposes the current indigenisation drive and comments on suggestions that he acted as a spoiler in the 2008 presidential election?
Interview broadcast 01 August 2012
Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. Over the weekend, former Finance Minister and Mavambo president Dr Simba Makoni ignited debate when he was quoted by the Sunday Mail newspaper arguing that sanctions imposed by western countries on Zimbabwe were targeted at members of the Mugabe regime and did not affect ordinary people.
We have invited Dr Makoni to the programme and hopefully allow you the listener the chance to ask him questions on the controversial issues surrounding sanctions, indigenization and other topics affecting you. Dr Makoni thank you for your time.
Simba Makoni: It’s my pleasure. Good afternoon listeners.
Guma: Okay you became Finance Minister in July of 2000 so you would be best qualified to tell our listeners the history behind the imposition of these measures by the west.
Makoni: Well first of all I don’t know if I am best qualified; I’m sure there are other people including those who imposed the measures who are better qualified than I but I do have some knowledge.
The perception of the world was that the 2000 general elections and the 2002 presidential elections had been held under conditions that did not support free and fair outcomes firstly;
Secondly that there was a growing abuse of human rights and denial of human rights, victimization of individuals perceived to be opposing Zanu PF and its government at that time.
And so my understanding is the first measures were imposed against those individuals and institutions that were believed to participate in the abuse of human rights and that’s when the terminology of ‘smart’ or ‘targeted’ sanctions which comprised at that time mainly a travel ban and a seizure of assets belonging to those individuals were imposed in March of 2002.
Guma: Now the Zanu PF theme song is that these sanctions are affecting ordinary people and must be removed. Why don’t you buy into that argument?
Makoni: Well I think we need to understand or establish the facts. These measures are targeted at individuals and organizations, mainly public companies and public institutions believed to be participating in the denial or abuse of citizens’ rights.
Now if Simba Makoni as a member of the Zanu PF politburo as I was at that time and Minister of Finance, was barred from travelling to UK and France and if he had a bank account overseas, that bank account was frozen, how does that affect ordinary Zimbabweans?
I would concede that to the extent that some businesses are unable to conduct normal businesses for reasons unrelated to targeted travel ban against Simba Makoni or Robert Mugabe, that people in those businesses and those who use the services or products of those businesses obviously would endure difficulties but the question at issue is – are the measures intended to harm and designed to harm ordinary Zimbabweans or to penalize those perceived to be abusing human rights?
Guma: Okay so let’s separate this: you have the travel restrictions and the freeze on assets of individuals and companies linked to the regime but many in Zanu PF use the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, ZIDERA, alleging it is too broad in its effects.
Makoni: No I think we also need to understand what the objective or the target is. Zimbabwe defaulted on its obligations to multilateral and bilateral lenders by the middle of 1999, and those who were owed money who did not see prospects of being re-paid took measures to limit their risk or their exposure.
And one of those was a decision by executive directors and governors of multilateral institutions not to extend further facilities to a non-paying debt. That is the origin of ZIDERA and that is the target of ZIDERA, as I understand it.
Guma: Benson Brown sent us an email saying you mentioned in a previous interview a number of Zimbabwean products which are allowed to be exported abroad to try and debunk this sanctions myth perpetrated by Zanu PF, his question is and I quote: “what about our diamonds which are being blocked from being sold abroad? They contribute a great deal to our economy.”
Makoni: Absolutely but Benson needs to explain why our diamonds are being blocked from being sold because there are issues of transparency and accountability, there are issues of the contact of the people who are mining and their relationship with the community in the diamond mining areas.
So Tendai Biti tells us and I don’t believe he is not telling the truth that he is not receiving proceeds from diamonds but he’s receiving proceeds from platinum and ferrochrome and gold which are not being blocked and there are reasons. We must address the causes, not the symptoms of the problem.
Guma: Now writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Scott Baldauf argues and I quote: if most of the country’s assets are indeed owned by the leadership under sanctions, then it would make sense the country would suffer. Your take on that?
Makoni: Well first we must interrogate the assertion that most of the country’s assets are owned by the leaders – I don’t believe that is fact. Most of the country’s assets are owned by enterprises but some of the leaders do own substantial assets. How they acquired them is the subject of another discussion but they would not be the ones who provide the wherewithal and the survival of the largest majority of Zimbabweans.
Guma: But the fact that they have a presence in these companies would also roll on to affect the companies that they are involved in, would it not?
Makoni: It would indeed but let me just share with you about this list of products traded overseas; the Herald newspaper today carries a headline which says : Zimbabwe’s trade with the EU grew 46% in the last year.
That wouldn’t happen under sanctions, but coming to your question, yes indeed those people who are employed in businesses that are the subject of targeted sanctions quite clearly would have less remuneration, less revenue for those businesses than if they were not targeted.
Guma: Okay let me switch the arguments a bit; academic Dr Alex Magaisa recently wrote an article saying “I was never sufficiently persuaded by the effectiveness of the smart sanctions and instead thought they actually had a boomerang effect.”
He argues the targeted sanctions were in fact missing the targets and giving Zanu PF a convenient excuse to block full implementation of the power sharing deal. What’s your take on that?
Makoni: Well there are two missing aspects; Alex in that discussion or the quotation you are making does not then conclude with what would have been the alternative. I am quite sure that the virulence with which president Mugabe and his colleagues in Zanu PF argue for the removal of these sanctions shows that they are having an effect.
But I also will not deny that Zanu PF has put in a propaganda spin to use the existence of the targeted sanctions as a reason for not implementing their commitments and obligations to the GPA but is that a justifiable argument? I would say no.
Guma: The EU is putting forward the proposition that if Zimbabwe holds a successful free and fair constitutional referendum, they’ll consider easing targeted sanctions. Is that a wise move?
Makoni: Well I think the EU and many other friends of Zimbabwe who would like to see progress are advancing a strategy which says for every positive move, you get a reward. In that context I would agree that there’s justification for rewarding some progress when it is realized.
But I also understand the EU position is not to remove all the measures just after the referendum, is to remove some. You continue to reduce as the incremental progress is realized. I think that is a rational approach.
Guma: Some in Zanu PF will be bitter at what they perceive as you singing a different tune now that you are in opposition to the tune you were singing when you were finance minister. How would you respond to them?
Makoni: Well this is a very interesting proposition Lance because Munyaradzi Huni put a line to that effect. What is missing is what tune was I singing when I was in Zanu PF? Nobody is saying that. I don’t remember ever saying anything contrary to what I am saying now when I was in Zanu PF.
Guma: Perhaps you were guilty of being silent on the issues and not coming out publicly.
Makoni: Well does the absence of knowledge suggest there is nothing? If you are not in this room where I am right now and you don’t know what is here does it suggest that there is nothing here? So yes, I did not vocalize the position in the manner I am doing now.
There are circumstances and explanations for that but it does not also justify a conclusion which says because I didn’t say so it doesn’t mean I didn’t believe it or I didn’t know it.
I said it differently in recognition of the discipline I was under at that time but I don’t think you ever heard me or anybody can accuse me of ever standing on a high mountain and urging for the removal of the sanctions at that time.
I did not engage in that discussion at all because I understood and accepted the reasons why I was on the sanctions list at that time by association.
Guma: Okay before we go to the new draft constitution, just a quick comment from you on the current indigenization drive. What do you think are the problems with it?
Makoni: Well there are a lot of problems with it starting with the definition of indigenous.
Secondly with the lack of transparency in the criteria and parameters for determining who partners who including the fact that the minister arrogates to himself the role of matchmaking.
Lance shall have a partnership with Simba, John shall have a partnership with Susan – what gives him that right? Business partnerships are like human relations, you go to like-minded people. There are also issues around the ethicacy of a strategy that concentrates on parceling out the little that there is without creating the more that is needed.
Guma: What would your ideal model be for indigenization, just quickly?
Makoni: First of all I would not use the term indigenization Lance because I think in the 21st century in a small global village where human mobility is so high, the concept of indigenous is very, very nebulous.
I used these words in the Sunday Mail interview and I simulated three scenarios of people who are now residents or citizens of Zimbabwe with different origins but they are discriminated against in terms of race. That is a very serious shortcoming in the formulation of national policy.
Secondly we are advancing in my party the concept of citizen empowerment. All citizens need to be empowered and our policy and strategy would be to remove the impediments that disable people as individuals, as families and Zimbabwe as a nation to improve and increase its welfare and material assets.
Guma: Coming to that, I think it links neatly to my next question – Justice Gasa via email says – Lance can you ask Dr Makoni what his take is on the new constitution?
Are MKD going to support it should it come to a referendum? What in his view are the weak points that need redress in this draft and what does he see as the best way forward for Zimbabwe?
Makoni: Lance we are studying the constitution; I am sorry to say we only received a copy of this document yesterday. They circulated it among the so-called principals of the GPA, parties in parliament and copies are not yet available to the public.
But we are going to do, like the other parties have done, convene a meeting of our national management committee, hopefully in the very near future, analyse it and we will then address ourselves to it after studying it.
But I can say on the basis of the process of developing it we have serious concerns about what Welshman (Ncube) rightly described in May as a negotiated constitution between the three GPA partners. This constitution was not produced according to the design of a people driven constitution.
Guma: Lameck Mahachi sent an email asking and I quote from his email: “it is known that prior to the harmonized elections in 2008, it was reported that you had a closed door meeting with Robert Mugabe and that what transpired at that meeting was never made public. Since he was also a presidential hopeful, why was he having a secret meeting with someone he was going to stand against in that presidential election?” close quote.
Makoni: I make two comments very quickly Lance. The first one is I hope we can bury the ghost of the past. I have answered this question I don’t know how many times. I met Robert Mugabe on January 21 2008; I was still a member of Zanu PF and I announced I was leaving the party and standing as a presidential candidate on February 5 2008, two and a half weeks after I had met Robert Mugabe. Part of my conversation with him was what led to my leaving the party on February 5. But there is no contradiction, there is no unclarity there. The sequence is quite clear.
Guma: Did you at any point ask him to step down as suggested by other reports?
Makoni: In that Sunday Mail interview I repeated what I have said – I have been part of the people advocating for change going back to the mid-90s. Part of that change included change of direction, change of policy and change of people including the top leadership of the party. I was involved in that process.
Guma: And what answer did you get to that suggestion?
Makoni: The public secret that everybody knows, hakuna chete chete chete, ndivo vega (no ways no ways, I’m the only candidate).
Guma: Okay J Mataire says please could you ask Dr Makoni if he thought he was going to win the 2008 vote or he was a spoiler to ensure there was no outright winner of the vote? Did he really imagine a lot of Zanu PF bigwigs abandoning Mugabe and joining him?
Makoni: Well first of all he needs to realize that Zanu PF bigwigs will not win or lose a candidate in elections, they are too few. We were addressing ourselves to the electorate of Zimbabwe, the numbers that we did at that time suggested that it was feasible to win that election and I set out to win that election.
Guma: Nqabutho Dhlamini on Twitter says please ask Dr Makoni his views on secession of Matabeleland.
Makoni: Zimbabwe is a unitary country and I will work with all those citizens who would like to see equitable and balanced development of a unitary country.
Guma: Do you not think though that people in the region have not had, in terms of development, what’s rightfully theirs and some other system needs to be considered?
Makoni: Lance, there is a perception that some parts of the country have been marginalized, they have been disadvantaged, they’ve been left behind. When I was Minister of Finance in that short two years, I criss-crossed this country, there is not an area where I didn’t meet an unhappy people who felt that they were left behind all the others.
The state of underdevelopment of Zimbabwe is widespread. There may be very minimal differences between Checheche and Uzumba, Tsholotsho and Filabusi, overall the Zimbabwean territory and its citizens are underdeveloped and I don’t believe that any Balkanisation will solve the problem of underdevelopment.
Guma: Last question for you Dr Makoni – James Zimba on Twitter he says: could you please ask Dr Makoni what he thinks he will leave as a legacy – his past in Zanu PF or the Mavambo that is yet to start?
Makoni: I think it is too early to talk about leaving a legacy. I am in the struggle with others to change our country for the better, to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life. When that process is finished, either by the end of my life or by my taking on new assignments, others can then measure my legacy.
At the moment I am persuading Zimbabweans to join us in making change that we need and when we have made that change people can then measure my legacy.
Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that’s former Finance Minister and now Mavambo president Dr Simba Makoni joining us on Question Time and I hope some of your questions have been answered. Dr Makoni thank you so much for your time.
Makoni: It’s my pleasure, thank you very much.
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