Don’t Let Mugabe Near A Microphone

Mugabe CNN InterviewCNN’s Christine Amanpour’s interview With President Robert Mugabe

International Correspondent, Christine Amanpour’s interview with President Robert Mugabe on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly was appallingly inept and very nearly scandalous.

Indeed outraged Zimbabweans rightly, if jokingly, dismissed the journalist as Aman-poor.The Cable network claims its new global interview programme on which the President was featured sees its Chief International Correspondent apply the totality of her ‘experience’, ‘sharp intelligence’ and ‘extraordinary depth of knowledge’ to set the agenda for a ‘new global conversation’.

Yet while the veteran journalist may be ‘sharply intelligent’ and ‘deeply knowledgeable’ about other issues, she is terribly ignorant about Zimbabwe and the challenges the country faces today. As it turned out, what CNN sought to pass as an exclusive and incisive conversation with the President was overally a shoddy piece of work which will not set any useful ‘new agenda’ in the ‘global conversation’ on Zimbabwe.

Particularly disappointing, however, is the fact that Amanpour was manifestly ill-prepared for the interview which enabled the President to get away without substantively addressing the issues dominating public debate in Zimbabwe today.

The fact she and her employers did not bother to do any basic research before the interview – apart from consulting a few ex-Rhodesian soldiers by Amanpour’s own admission — resulted in such silly errors as confusing people that were affected by ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ with farm workers, many of whom were left in limbo after government acquired land for resettlement.

Again any ‘experienced’ and ‘intelligent’ journalist would know that trying to engage President Mugabe on the ‘land issue’ and the matter of ‘sanctions’ is a hopeless enterprise. The President is at his most passionate and eloquent when talking about these issues; and as soon as Amanpour inexpertly raised them, the Zimbabwean leader quickly overcame his initial unease and seized control of the interview.
A better strategy would have been to grant the President his oft-repeated position that the country is under economic sanctions.

The Interviewer could then have put it to him that the impact of the sanctions need not have been so grave given that supportive countries such as China have become huge players in global investment and the provision of development assistance.

Indeed it is China that is financing most of the post-war reconstruction efforts in countries like Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and not the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Instead of hopelessly trying to argue that Zimbabwe is not under sanctions, the CNN reporter should have quizzed the President on why friendly countries like China have committed such huge resources to Angola, the DRC and even Sudan and yet remain relatively reticent about dealing with Zimbabwe.

But to get back to the sanctions, and at the risk of be-labouring the point, it was palpably disingenuous of Amanpour, resident as she is in the United States, to insist that Zimbabwe only faces individual ‘restrictive measures’ and not the full gamut of economic sanctions.

The CNN Correspondent would have to be suffering a bad case of dementia not to be aware that the United States House of Representatives and Senate enacted the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) in 2001 which then President George W Bush duly signed into law.

The Act states that “the secretary of the treasury shall instruct the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against (1) Any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe, or (2) Any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.”

The international financial institutions specifically named by the Act are “the International Monetary Fund the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency”.

Therefore, anyone who remains adamant that ZIDERA is not an economic sanction deserves to be sectioned and committed to a mental institution. In addition, the matter of some designate Deputy Minister called Roy Bennett continues to come up as if he was the only member of the MDC team yet to be appointed to the inclusive government.

Quite how and why CNN and other western media deliberately ignore the fact that several governors, permanent secretaries and ambassadors put forward by the two MDCs have still not been appointment to the GPA as well is baffling.

Yet, if madam Amanpour and her employers want to make ‘journalistic fools’ of themselves by regurgitating discredited opposition talking points; that is their choice and they are fully entitled to such lunacy.

However, what Zimbabweans justifiably find aggravating is this unending fixation with the matter the 4,000 or so former white commercial farmers who, despite their alleged ‘dispossession’ remain relatively well-off wherever they are.

There is not a single white former commercial farmer begging on the streets of Harare because they were disposed of ‘their’ land.

Again hands up any former white commercial farmers living off menial jobs and or as illegal immigrants in South African or the United Kingdom after losing ‘their’ farm to Mugabe’s so-called ‘land grab’?

Still, instead of repeating the silly claim that Zimbabwe’s agricultural productivity collapsed because of the land reform programme, CNN could have done a better job of the interview by putting it to the President that beneficiaries of the land reform programme, particularly influential individuals are not making productive use of the resource.

Many of the seized farms lie derelict or are only used as trophy assets and weekend braai spots.

The Zimbabwe government has also acknowledged the problem of multiple farm ownership by key regime figures but still fails to decisively deal with the problem.

The interviewer only needed to look through RBZ Governor Gideon Gono’s various monetary policy statements in which he bemoaned the diversion of resources made available by the bank to support the new farmers, especially those in the A2 zones.

Dr Gono also railed repeatedly against the vandalisation of irrigation equipment on acquired farms which could have helped mitigate the impact of the droughts the President blamed for the fall in agricultural output.

The CNN interviewer also failed to substantively engage the President on the many sticking points undermining progress in the power sharing government such as the lack of movement on constitutional and media reforms, when and how to bring back the Zimbabwe dollar and the inordinate delays in the appointment of statutory commissions.

These are among the many issues that dominate public discourse among Zimbabweans today, not the ‘dead’ matter of whether or not the disposed former white commercial farmers, ‘citizens by colonisation’ as Mugabe called them, were treated unfairly.

The West and its subordinate media need to accept that land reform, however haphazard and or ill-planned, can now not be undone. Neither should it be.

What can now only be discussed with regard to the land issue is the matter of restitution for those who lost farms to the resettlement programme and everybody knows whose responsibility this is.
Above all; and as far as the land issue is concerned, Zimbabwe has moved on; and so must the world.

(posts by Gilbert Nyambabvu. Newzimbabwe)