The familiar voice that dominated Zimbabwe politics for more 37-years, re-emerged Sunday after several months of silence, on the eve of the country’s most critical elections. Former President Robert Mugabe called journalists to his Blue Roof mansion in Harare, to castigate the party he led since before independence, which recalled him in November, and the new man who leads it, his former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and offer support to the opposition. Mr. Mugabe used the press conference to clear the persistent rumors that he never intended to leave office, by declaring that in fact, he was preparing to step down as the party’s leader and that he had a picked a successor. Below is part of the transcription of the press conference.
Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's Press Conference:
Ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends. It’s the 29th of July, the eve of the election. I thought on the eve of the great day yet to come, I should invite as many voices as possible just to hear my own feelings and the way I look forward to tomorrow. What is tomorrow going to bring us, the people of Zimbabwe? Why should I ask that question? We have had, since November, an environment in our country, which was far from being free, even politically, let alone constitutional, and legal. And I have during that time, during all this time, cried for return, our return to constitutionality. Our return to legality. Our return to freedom for our people. An environment in which our people would be free.
Military intervention and resignation
[We have not been free]…since that day, when tanks rolled across the country, when there was a takeover by the army.
It was argued that in doing so, there was need to correct what those in the army, regarded as a situation that surrounded the president. The president was surrounded they said, by persons. Persons who sought to tarnish the president who is our founder. Who sought indeed to do him down. It was these evil, malicious people, who we need to remove …. malicious characters, and they called them sometimes, the G40, who we you want to remove from around the president. But in the process, it was the president – the very person they said they wanted to protect – whom they did remove.
They will tell you, that he resigned. True, I resigned and in the note read in parliament, when I resigned, I said I have done so in order to avoid bloodshed, in order to avoid conflict between the army and the people. That was the essence, essence of what I said. The words might have been different. But that was the idea, was the reason.
‘I was going to resign’/Intended Successor
But why did a section of our country, our people decide to go this way, in order to secure a position for just one person? Was there no better route? Zanu-PF which I led, had planned to have an Extraordinary Congress in December, and this Congress I was going to resign, and open … then our system so those … open up our system so those who wanted to compete for leadership of the party, and then the leadership of the country, would do so. So I want … I also, at that Congress, even though I would have resigned, I would have supported a candidate I had in mind. And I had in mind all the time – it was (Former Defense Minister Sydney) Dr. Sekeramayi.
I had … when Thabo Mbeki, former president of South African asked me who I wanted to take over after me, I said, I think Dr. Sekeramayi will be my choice. I had talked to Sekeramayi, and he had said fine, but he was surprised. But I was going to argue at that Congress that it, choose him.
Yes, ED (President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnanagagwa) could have also argued that he deserved to be chosen. Sure, they would compete at that Congress. Well that did not happen. So all the nonsense that you hear, that I, the president wanted to leave his wife as president or as a candidate after resignation, all that nonsense that Comrade Shiri, (Retired Air Chief Marshall and current Minister of Agriculture) Perence Shiri told to the Tanzanians, that aaah, we took that action because the president wanted to leave his wife in position of leadership, is utter nonsense. This was my…my intention.
Well, things happened the other way. But what have we seen really happening on the ground. Happening even in Zanu-PF? I was sacked from the party I founded. Zanu-PF with the likes of va [late Vice President Mr. Simon] Muzenda and others. I was regarded now as an enemy. But if the coup was to protect me, how come that I am treated now as an opponent, opponent of those in government, new government? Persons would not be allowed to visit me. If anyone came and was allowed to pass through the gate, afterwards he was told, he was asked, what did you discuss? What did he say? Aaah! Then relatives, far off, were harassed, properties taken from them. Why? Cases, nonsensical cases, completely absurd, were raised against them, and they were actually arrested. Arrested. Why? Why arrest, harass, relatives, even far off? So you see, when the system ceases to be that of freedom, that democratic, and becomes unconstitutional, those things happen. Illegal things happen. Decisions are taken on the basis of who is my friend, who is my relative, as against who is not my relative, my friend and who is not my relative. Even after all this has happened in the party, you, you heard individuals being dismissed from the party. Having to run away. Some having to seek, across the border, protection, as temporary refugees. And this is what we have just now.
We have people who are still outside, let alone the likes of [former Higher Education Minister] Jonathan Moyo, [former Minister of Public Works and nephew of Mr. Mugabe] Patrick Zhuwao, ([former Local Government Minister] Savior Kasukuwere, who were said to be among the leaders of the G40. They are not alone. And you have people like [Dr. Ignatius] Chombo, who was the Secretary for Administration of Zanu-PF. He was the first to be arrested. Crime? To this day, I don’t know what crime or crimes he’s said to have (inaudible.) So he has been harassed, sent to prison out, and if he was to tell you how he was treated upon being arrested, thrown out, headlong, through the window, thrust through the window like that … you would be shocked, that what have we become in the country? Have we become savages, terrorists to ourselves? Anyway.
‘Enemy of ourselves’
Those tanks that rolled through across the country, whom were they fighting? Who was the enemy? We were the enemy of ourselves. Fighting ourselves. A Zimbabwe which had, right up to independence, yes, fought for the people, turned through the army against the very people whose interest they fought for. I said NO! I still say no, this was wrong! This is the greatest damage we have done to our history. The greatest injustice we had done to ourselves. We had become a democratic country after our independence we went to the assistance of others who were in trouble: Mozambique, we assisted Namibia, we were in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo.), etc.
Is this now the Zimbabwe which has become so undemocratic? So illegal in its actions, and unconstitutional? I am talking on the eve, on the eve of the day I longed for, that let the people go and vote. Let them go and vote freely and I am glad. Even ED has said people will be allowed to go to vote freely, and the result will be recognized. Fine. We appreciate that.
Not voting for Zanu-PF
So all who have put their names of candidates – for the first time we have had now … long list of aspirants to power. Twenty three is the number of candidates, and the people say, aaah, what is your choice? But no one has ever said what is not your choice.
I must say very clearly, I cannot vote for those who have tormented me. No, I can’t. I’ll make my choice among the other 22 … but it’s along list. I worked with Mai (former Vice President Joyce) Mujuru. I worked with Mai Mujuru. I worked with also Mai [former Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani] Khupe. There are other names I am reading for the first time. There is (MDC Alliance President Nelson) Chamisa, I have not worked with him. I have seen him work with his late leader [MDC Founding President Morgan] Tsvangirai, whom I worked with in our Government of National Unity. But I have not met him yet. He seems to be doing well. He seems to be doing well, going by his rallies. Whoever wins, and if he does, well, we wish him well.
Return to Constitutionality
But I hope the choice or the voting which will be done tomorrow, and this is what I regard as the greatest event that should happen, will reform, will throw, thrust away, military, a military form of government and bring us back to constitutionality. We must have a democratic constitution. We must have a democratic constitution. That is what we fought for. The people. We always say, the people, the people, the people. The people’s needs, the people’s voices, the people’s conditions, the people’s freedoms first and foremost. These are the things that we always cried for when we were waging our struggle for the freedom of Zimbabwe. And we had that freedom. And we had those tenets, after 1980. The people’s freedom to speak, organize themselves as they liked. To belong to any party of their own choice. To go about freely in their country. To feel free. They can visit each other. Families can unite with other families, forming self-help organizations.
But they are now at present the people are terribly frightened, terribly frightened I must tell you, because they send us messages, daily. Aaaah, we can’t come to see you. Others say, how can we come and see you, we are afraid. How can we have a country like that? And this is being done by people we worked with in the struggle, emphasizing that we wanted our country to be democratic. Yes, we are using the guns now to fight for their freedom, and even as we do so, we are saying to them our guns are directed by our politics. Politics directs the gun. But now it’s the gun, directing politics. No. No. I say, no, no, no! Let tomorrow decide that sure, there should be a big no to guns directing politics. Let tomorrow be the voice of the people saying this, and never again. We shall never again experience a period where the army is used to thrust one person into power, no. And a number of people die. I don’t know the numbers now, but a number of them have died. We shall investigate, perhaps, after the election tomorrow.
So the election tomorrow, I ask, is it to bring democracy, to bring constitutionality, to bring freedom, or shall we see the return, a return of the same rule, we have experienced since November.
Well wishes to winning candidate … and advice
With advanced, congratulations to whosoever, which so ever party wins the day and let us accept that verdict. Let us all pray that tomorrow brings us good news. Yes, and I believe good news to everyone, is that we get our freedom back, that we get our democracy back, with its legality, with its constitutionality, and thrust away the hypocrisy, so we can say, aaah, what happened that November, is now history, and our women….will ululate.
I am sure you will also be happy to interact with us, with everybody, with me. I was not able to do so. If you are put in a place, in a high place, where you are a leader, you are the president of a country, you have the rules that must guide you. You don’t get the rules from those who are ambitious who come and sit next to you and say, aaah, do this, so and so is no good, so and so is a hypocrite.