Home » General » Zambia’s K1 Billion Tab for Zimbabwe [interview]

There were claims that Zambia had an uneasy relationship with Zanu-PF when the latter was still a liberation movement, although it supported the struggle in Zimbabwe generally and, in particular, the cause of Zapu, led by Cde Joshua Nkomo. In an interview with The Herald on April 8, 1980, though, Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda denied favouring any side, but the people.

Rhodesia becomes the independent Republic of Zimbabwe this month. What, Your Excellency, does this represent, politically, for Africa, the Frontline States and for Zambia?

The first thing I said at a Press conference here on the morning that followed the announcement of the election results in Zimbabwe was that if I could dance, I would have been on my feet. That just about sums up my reaction to this great event. After the slave trade which took millions of the black men to foreign countries, followed by the period of colonisation, which again had its own toll, the black man on the continent has been fighting for the restoration of his elementary rights. This struggle too has taken its great toll and, therefore, with this background I have given the independence of Zimbabwe that is the transfer of power from the colonialists and their puppets to the people themselves, is certainly an event of the greatest significance in the annals of history, not only for this region but for the entire continent.

The significance of this victory to Africa, Zambia in particular, is that for us it means we can now breathe some fresh air politically. For the people of South Africa and Namibia this is a source of great encouragement. When I say that we rejoice in this victory, we are also thinking of the opportunity to develop for the first time economically, politically, socially and culturally, scientifically, technologically and indeed in the field of defence and security – what we under humanism call the five main areas of human endeavour.

What lesson is to be learnt from the Zimbabwe experience?

The greatest lesson to be learnt from this is that no matter how powerful an oppressor might appear, at any given time anywhere in the world, he cannot continue to suppress the soul which God put in man.

Your Excellency, there is a belief that Zambia supported the Zimbabwe struggle generally and Mr Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu in particular. In view of this, how do you take the outcome of the British-supervised election which resulted in the victory of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF?

I am glad you ask this question, because there is a mistaken view in some parts of the world that we supported individuals in this struggle. Let me assure you that whatever we have done here in Zambia under the leadership of the United National Independence Party has been true to the cause of liberation continent- wide and beyond that. Wherever we have supported the liberation struggle, we have supported that struggle as a matter of deep-rooted principle.

When ZANU started fighting they started fighting from Zambian soil. They were fighting from here for a long time and certain difficulties did arise within ZANU, not between ZANU and UNIP, its government and people, but within ZANU itself. Happily these were ironed out, but in the process of ironing these out some of the cadres moved to Mozambique which was then independent. That was not because UNIP and its government chased Zanu from Zambia and history shows that.

Indeed, when we started talking to the rebels and South Africans we demanded the release of the leaders who were detained and it should be remembered that when we demanded the release of the leaders, we demanded the Zapu and ZANU leaders.

At no time have we done anything here, and I say this in the name of God, to discriminate against Zanu at all. Indeed, let it be said quite clearly that there were two fronts. The creation of the Patriotic Front was done here on Zambian soil. I was given the task of getting the OAU to recognise the Patriotic Front at the Gabon summit. It was a tough job, but still we managed to pilot that through and Africa accepted the Patriotic Front as the only fighting force. We did not say ZANU or Zapu or separate the fight.

Even when some of our colleagues in ZANU tried to denounce us and call us all sorts of names we did not, it will be recalled, reply at all because we knew that the truth would be known. Everything we did was above board and indeed we helped ZANU in a small way here and there in terms of material assistance. What we gave to Zanu-PF is what we gave to Zapu. I am talking now about the Geneva conference to which we contributed financially and the London conference. Really our impartiality has known no bounds at all.

Another point is that we made it very clear to Comrade Joshua Nkomo, and he will tell you this – he is an honest man, long before it was known who was going to win, even long before we knew there were going to be elections, that we don’t support individuals, we support the cause of Zimbabwe. He knows this. He has always known this and I think he has respected us for it. So when we say we rejoice we mean that. We rejoice fully and whole heartedly.

The fact that the people of Zimbabwe decided in favour of Comrade Mugabe to lead them at this juncture does not nullify the fact that there were two fronts and both fronts fought hard to attain this independence. So, really, for us nothing has gone wrong in this. Everything has gone right because the people have decided and we respect their decision.

Your Excellency, can you describe the nature of relations between the Zambian government and UNIP on the one hand and the Zimbabwe government and Zanu-PF on the other?

Really they are very warm indeed. I have no anxiety about anything. Comrade Mugabe, the Prime Minister, was here a few days ago and we had very useful discussions, extremely useful and very cordial. The wonderful things he said about Zambia’s contribution we know he meant.

He is an honest man. I believe that whether Zimbabwe was going to be in the hands of Robert Mugabe or Joshua Nkomo, we in Zambia would be very happy. We are very happy. Both are honest men. They are both patriots of Africa – pan-Africanists.

In fact, we in Zambia have told Comrade Mugabe that he can rely on Zambia 24 hours a day. What the Zambian people have that the people of Zimbabwe might ask them to help with we will give.

Now that peace has been established in Rhodesia, what would you, as an elder statesman of Africa, consider the most important considerations for the Prime Minister, Mr Mugabe, the Zapu leader, Mr Nkomo, the Rhodesian Front president, Mr Smith, and the military leaders?

I can only say from long experience – unity. If I can begin with Ian Smith, I assume that in his mistaken view, he decided to participate in politics because of his love for the people, but in his case he limited the meaning of people to whites. For the Prime Minister and Comrade Joshua Nkomo it was for their love of all people black, white, yellow and brown. I know that because I know both of them very well. That love which they have for all people must continue to be the basis for their actions. That love which has sent them to prisons, to long terms of detention must be the guiding line. Without that there is no hope for Zimbabwe.

To Ian Smith, I say, outgrow that selfish, racial approach and put man, regardless of colour, tribe or anything else, at the centre of things. Once he has done that maybe his many unpardonable sins may be, not forgotten, but forgiven.

Love and unity in the hearts of all leaders and all the people of Zimbabwe is what we need all of us.

Would Zambia, now that genuine majority rule has been achieved in Zimbabwe, consider at any time supporting any dissident group that may oppose the Government of Zimbabwe?

The answer is a bold “No”. We will not do that.

Turning to economic matters, Your Excellency, what has been the cost to Zambia of the Zimbabwe liberation war? How and when do you expect to restore the Zambian economy to stability?

The United Nations put it at about K1 billion. When we think in terms of what we have not done which we should have done it’s incalculable. But whatever we have lost it was worth it. It was a price worth paying and we are proud to have paid it.

When we come to what we are going to do, we have for the first time now, a commission of planning of which am chairman – I have appointed myself chairman – because of the seriousness with which we view the whole process of developing ourselves. We are going to continue to develop our mines but emphasis will also be given to agriculture, to correct the present situation where we are only able to grow food as a result of good rain but when there is bad rainfall we are always in trouble as we are again this year. For three years now, 1978, 1979, and 1980, all these have been bad seasons.

So we intend to shift now and move towards getting two or three crops a year. We are thinking of technology in the field of irrigation and this, of course, needs a lot of capital. Perhaps I should add that we are going to use the present as the basis for our agricultural take-off.

What economic aantages does Zambia expect to derive from Zimbabwe’s independence and what, Your Excellency, does Zimbabwe’s independence mean economically for Africa?

For Zambia it means we will be able to get some of our raw materials for our factories more easily and more quickly, possibly in a better form than before. We are looking forward to more and more co-operation between Zambia and Zimbabwe in the economic field. For Africa what we began here a few days ago is a sign of what we expect of things to come and, therefore, as we meet at the Lagos conference, we will be strengthened by the birth of Zimbabwe. We are meeting this month to look at nothing but the economic development of Africa, and the birth of Zimbabwe with its g economy is a booster to the continent.

Source : The Herald