La Tribune Afrique: To what extent is the Russian-Ukrainian war already making itself felt in Zimbabwe?
Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe : Soaring fuel prices are impacting our economy. This finding is the same for all countries that import oil. Prices have fallen slightly in recent days, but we do not know if they will stabilize at this level. Still, this trend has allowed us to reduce fuel prices. The impacts of this crisis are also reflected in our imports of fertilizers from Russia and wheat from Ukraine (…) Not long ago, our cereal production only allowed us to cover two months of our annual consumption, but thanks to our land redistribution program associated with our irrigation works, the level of our imports has dropped significantly. To date, we only have to import one month of our annual consumption. We are actively working to strengthen our production capacities in order to achieve food self-sufficiency and we can already congratulate ourselves on the good results that result directly from the reforms undertaken.
How do international sanctions against Zimbabwe impact national development?
We have been under sanctions for over two decades. They limited our trade with the international community and led to a deep crisis that did not allow us to repay our debt, nor to be able to meet our food needs. In Zimbabwe, the regime has changed! Discussions with the current government must open. We have started repaying a small part of our debt with the World Bank since last year. The situation is progressing. We recently participated in the African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Summit in Brussels and we have good relations with France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Spain and many other countries Europeans. (…) Today, our main objective is to strengthen our competitiveness on the international market. We want to attract investors and to do this, we strive to create favorable conditions for an attractive business environment.
Do the bilateral relations between Russia and Zimbabwe explain your abstention at the United Nations to condemn the Russian invasion in Ukraine?
It is true that we cooperate politically and economically with the Russian Federation, but our decision is not motivated by considerations of an economic nature. Our abstention on March 23 at the United Nations is justified above all by the fact that we believe that dialogue remains the best solution to reach a settlement of the conflict between the two countries.
You have decided to get involved in the fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Would a lifting of the sanctions allow a greater involvement of Zimbabwe in the region?
Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and it is within this framework that we support our brothers and sisters in Mozambique in their fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado. Also, we can’t wait for the insurgents to come to us. At the regional level, our country has great experience and knowledge of the terrain which enable it to deal with insurgents, but our intervention capacities are limited by the sanctions and by the embargo on arms which we the object (…) When the SADC intervention forces have left, Mozambique will have to guarantee its security and secure its borders, which is why we are assisting it in terms of strengthening his abilities. We have already trained a battalion which is currently deployed in the Cabo Delgado region, mobilizing 304 of our instructors. However, we are unable to provide additional assistance as we do not have the technical capabilities. At present, we are therefore unable to fully play our role in the fight against regional terrorism because of international sanctions.
In view of the security threat in Mozambique, is a multinational intervention on the ground involving Western actors possible?
I think that the United States, like the EU, does not wish to intervene militarily on the ground. There are of course considerable commercial interests in the Cabo Delgado region. This is particularly the case of France, which is developing a multi-billion dollar project there (the project to build an LNG plant by TotalEnergies at a cost of 20 billion dollars, editor’s note). Nevertheless, it seems to me more appropriate for the United States or the EU to support Mozambique by participating in the strengthening of its capacities, but also those of Zimbabwe, Zambia or Malawi, which have a great knowledge of the land and local cultures, in order to stop the expansion of the jihadist threat. We have to solve this problem ourselves, but if they really want to engage against these Islamists then they are welcome…
Over the past two years, the number of mosques in Zimbabwe has increased exponentially, from 46 to 400. What is the risk of Islamic radicalization on Zimbabwean territory?
We have a democratic constitution that guarantees religious freedom. It applies to all religions. I have personally met with Muslim religious leaders in Zimbabwe and they have all unanimously condemned the insurgent attacks. We must not forget that the jihadists also kill and decapitate moderate Muslims who are very affected by what is happening in Mozambique (…) It is a fact that the number of mosques in Zimbabwe has recently increased and we are attentive, because we want to make sure that there is not behind this phenomenon, a hidden agenda. For the moment we have not heard of any threat on our territory.
How do you view the involvement of Rwandan soldiers in Mozambique?
Each country has the right to maintain the bilateral relations it wishes with a friendly country. Rwanda’s military presence followed the Cabo Delgado attacks around industrial sites and Rwanda’s mission in Mozambique is to fight insurgents. To carry out their mission well, the Rwandan soldiers will have to blend in with the local population.
How do you interpret the results partial elections that took place a few days ago?
On March 26, voters were called upon to vote to elect 28 representatives to the National Assembly, following several deaths and a change of party in the opposition which required the holding of a new ballot, in accordance with our Constitution. We managed to win back two seats from the opposition. The same day, local elections were taking place and we managed to maintain our positions. This is therefore an encouraging result in view of the general elections to be held next year.
What would push you to run for a second presidential term in 2023?
When we became independent, there were no term limits. Since 2018, the new Constitution authorizes two presidential terms. Coming to the end of my first term, I could therefore legitimately run for a second. Zanu-PF will meet this year to appoint its president. If I am invested by my party then I will automatically be a candidate for the presidential election (…) Our priority will then be on the modernization of our agriculture, because Zimbabwe is endowed with fertile land which is being undermined by climate change . We will also have to modernize our production apparatus, particularly in the mining sector. We will also emphasize education, innovation and science so that our youth can be competitive in the technological world of tomorrow.