La Tribune Afrique: To what extent is the Russo-Ukrainian war already making itself felt in Zimbabwe?
Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe : Soaring fuel prices are affecting our economy. This conclusion is the same for all oil importing countries. Prices have declined somewhat in recent days, but we do not know if they will stabilize at this level. However, this trend has allowed us to reduce fuel prices. The effects of this crisis are also reflected in our imports of fertilizers from Russia and wheat from Ukraine (…) Not so long ago, our grain production allowed us to cover only two months of our annual consumption, but thanks to our program of land redistribution in connection with our irrigation works, the level of our imports dropped significantly. To date, we only need to import one month of our annual consumption. We are actively working to strengthen our production capacity to achieve food self-sufficiency, and we can already congratulate ourselves on the good results that are a direct result of the reforms carried out.
How do international sanctions against Zimbabwe affect national development?
We have been under sanctions for more than two decades. They restricted our trade with the international community and led to a deep crisis that prevented us from paying off our debt or meeting our food needs. The regime has changed in Zimbabwe! Discussions with the current government should begin. Since last year, we have started paying off a small portion of our debt to the World Bank. The situation is progressing. We recently attended the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) Summit in Brussels, and we have good relations with France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Spain and many other European countries. (…) Today our main goal is to strengthen our competitiveness in the international market. We want to attract investors and for this we strive to create favorable conditions for an attractive business environment.
Does the bilateral relationship between Russia and Zimbabwe explain your abstention at the United Nations to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
It is true that we cooperate with the Russian Federation politically and economically, but our decision is not motivated by considerations of an economic nature. Our absence from the UN on March 23 is justified primarily by the fact that we believe that dialogue remains the best solution to reach a solution to the conflict between the two countries.
You have decided to take part in the fight against terrorism in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Will the lifting of sanctions allow Zimbabwe to become more involved 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. Besides, we can’t wait for the rebels to come to us. At the regional level, our country has a lot of experience and knowledge of the terrain, which allows it to fight insurgents, but our ability to intervene is limited by sanctions and arms embargoes, which we object to (…) When the SADC intervention forces are gone, Mozambique will have to guarantee his security and guard his borders, so we help him in terms of strengthening his capabilities. We have already trained the battalion currently stationed in the Cabo Delgado region by mobilizing 304 of our instructors. However, we are unable to provide further assistance as we do not have the technical capability. Therefore, at present, we cannot fully play our role in the fight against regional terrorism due to international sanctions.
In view of the security threat in Mozambique, is a multinational intervention on the ground involving Western actors possible?
I think the United States, like the EU, does not want military intervention on the ground. Of course, there are significant commercial interests in the Cabo Delgado region. This is especially true for France, which is developing a multibillion-dollar project there (a project to build an LNG plant by TotalEnergies worth $20 billion — ed.). However, I think it makes more sense for the United States or the EU to support Mozambique by participating in capacity building, as well as Zimbabwe, Zambia or Malawi, who know the land and local cultures well, in order to stop the spread of the jihadist threat. We have to solve this problem ourselves, but if they really want to fight these Islamists, then please…
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 in Zimbabwe?
We have a democratic constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. This applies to all religions. I personally met with Muslim religious leaders in Zimbabwe and they all unanimously condemned the insurgent attacks. We must not forget that jihadists are also killing and beheading moderate Muslims who are very affected by what is happening in Mozambique (…) It is a fact that the number of mosques in Zimbabwe has increased lately and we are careful because we want to make sure that behind this phenomenon is not worth a hidden agenda. At the moment, we have not heard of any threat on our territory.
How do you feel about the participation of Rwandan soldiers in Mozambique?
Each country has the right to maintain desired bilateral relations with a friendly country. Rwanda’s military presence followed Cabo Delgado’s attacks on industrial sites, and Rwanda’s mission in Mozambique is to fight the insurgency. 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 a few days ago?
On March 26, voters were called to vote for the election of 28 representatives to the National Assembly after several deaths and a change of party in the opposition, which required a new vote in accordance with our Constitution. We managed to win two seats from the opposition. On the same day, local elections were held, and we managed to maintain our positions. Thus, this is an encouraging result in view of next year’s general elections.
What might push you to run for a second presidential term in 2023?
When we became independent, there were no time limits. As of 2018, the new Constitution allows for two presidential terms. Coming to the end of my first term, I could legally run for a second one. Zanu-PF will meet this year to nominate its president. If my party invests money in me, then I will automatically become a presidential candidate (…) Then our priority will be the modernization of our agriculture, because Zimbabwe is endowed with fertile lands, which are undermined by climate change. We also have to modernize our production apparatus, especially in the mining industry. We will also focus on education, innovation and science so that our youth can be competitive in the technological world of tomorrow.