Tea with Robert

In a sleeper story that hasn't made the impact it deserved to, Sky News in the UK on Monday aired an interview with Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. This is the first 'in depth' interview that Mugabe has given in four years, and Mugabe seems to be in a state of denial about the depths to which his country has sunk, as well as showing breathtaking contempt for the rest of the world.

Interviewer Stuart Ramsay did well to tackle Mugabe on some of the trickier aspects of being a despot. Try these quotes on for size...

On the grossly unfair 2000 election:

STUART RAMSAY: International observers were critical of the election.

ROBERT MUGABE: Which international observers?

STUART RAMSAY: A variety of countries.

ROBERT MUGABE: Which ones?

STUART RAMSAY: Britain obviously was one of them, Australia...

ROBERT MUGABE: Great Britain, you know the attitude of Britain, they will never accept anything as right when it is done by us.

On food aid from the World Food Programme...

STUART RAMSAY: Countries like Britain and the United States having given, what, Britain £51 million in the last 18 months to assist Zimbabwe and yet you only have critical words for Britain and the United States.

ROBERT MUGABE: What is this?

STUART RAMSAY: They give financial assistance to aid agencies directly to bring in food and whatever general assistance is needed here.

ROBERT MUGABE: We have expressed our gratitude to WFP for its assistance.

STUART RAMSAY: The major donors are Britain and the United States.

ROBERT MUGABE: Well yes, sure, so when we say thank you to WFP we were saying thank you to the donors of WFP aren't we?

STUART RAMSAY: Are you saying thank you to Great Britain?

ROBERT MUGABE: We are saying thank you to WFP.

An President Mugabe, the eternal optimist:
ROBERT MUGABE: We are producing it this year, definitely. Our estimates are there and they are showing us we will have enough food for the country and with a surplus.

STUART RAMSAY: 800,000 tons the shortfall is estimated.

ROBERT MUGABE: Why is WFP wanting to feed us when we are saying that...

STUART RAMSAY: Because they don't want people to starve.

ROBERT MUGABE: We are not hungry. It should go to hungrier people, hungrier countries than ourselves. They need the food and we urge it to go and do good work there.

But at least Mugabe has it right on one thing. This is his perspective on the vital role of the Commonwealth:
ROBERT MUGABE: Well the relevance is that it is a kind of club where there is a comradeship and you discuss issues of all kinds, political issues, issues that have to do with the international situation. You discuss economic issues as well but at the end of the day you do nothing about them, you see, except maybe gang together, have a cup of tea and actually, practically do nothing.

There is some hope, thankfully, to come out of the Ramsay interview. At age 80, with no clear successor, Mugabe is close to meeting his maker. This will be the best chance in ages for a more moderate replacement, with a basic respect for democracy and the rule of law. Perhaps it's due to the obsessive focus on Iraq, but Zimbabwe does deserve much more attention that it's currently receiving. Of course, this leads to the perennial problem that faces the developed world in tackling despots - how do you bring down a leader without hurting ordinary civilians. Sanction? Bombs? Nasty motions passed by UN General Assembly? Hmmmm....


NahumAyliffe said…
How about a pre-emptive strike. No evidence required. Just bang on in there with all your laser guided weapons and create some collatoral damage.
After all, Mugabe is a mass murderer. Two can play at this game. We might even be able to kill at a slower rate than Mugabe, and destroy more stuff! Let's form a mob...

I think the pre-emptive strike is a top idea. I'll provide some of the hatred and indifference if the American army can sustain the loss of life. Sound familiar?

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