H.E. President Robert G. Mugabe
President of Zimbabwe and Chairman of the African Union
On March 15, 2015, JAPAN and the WORLD magazine sat down for a special interview with H.E. Mr. Robert G. Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, who was on an official visit in Sendai to attend the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (UN WCDRR). With increasing globalization and demand for natural resources, the African continent is rapidly gaining worldwide attention. President Mugabe discusses the economic and security challenges Zimbabwe and other African countries are facing, as well as the agendas prompting changes in the region.
—Your Excellency, you are here in Sendai as the President of Zimbabwe and the Chairman of the African Union. What are Zimbabwe’s main objectives during this conference?
We can reduce the risk of natural disasters, but in terms of manmade ones, we need to prevent them from occurring altogether.
Zimbabwe’s objectives and aspirations are not different from those of other members of the African Union. I have not only Zimbabwe’s own disaster risks in mind, but also those of the African continent as a whole. These disasters are certainly natural ones that happen whether we like it or not. Disasters such as tsunamis don’t occur because we made a mistake. Sometimes a normal rainfall might turn into a destructive storm. On the other hand we have manmade disasters like the ones caused by Boko Haram, which is now also supporting ISIS, and Al-Shabaab in the East. These terrorist groups are affecting us. We must have a sense of vigilance, and teach our people to be ready to move away from danger. This danger also disturbs people from their normal duties and way of life. When Boko Haram struck Nigeria, the group kidnapped over 200 kids that were at school that day; and to this day we don’t know where these kids are. We don’t know if they are still alive, and if they are, how are they being treated? Who is taking care of them? Their life ambitions and the people these kids could have become were terminated almost immediately the day Boko Haram attacked. My mind is focused on these dangers in Africa. We can reduce the risk of natural disasters, but in terms of manmade ones, we need to prevent them from occurring altogether.
—Peace and unity are something you have always fought for, especially now that you are serving as chairman of the African Union. Can Your Excellency please share with us the key agenda items of your mandate as chairman of the African Union?
Tying women to just doing the domestic work is not a positive social role; that will not develop their intellect and skills. We are focusing on the role of women. We need to free women from the grip of domestic chores.
The African Union has programs aimed at transforming the continent. We must examine the development of our women. There is still also great illiteracy in some countries, as well as poverty. We must analyze which problems we need to target and improve. In Africa, women are traditionally confined to domestic duties. They must raise children, look after their husbands, and cook for them. Tying women to just doing the domestic work is not a positive social role; that will not develop their intellect and skills. We are focusing on the role of women. We need to free women from the grip of domestic chores. This is the reason why in Zimbabwe we have different types of laws to achieve gender equality. This equality between men and women is not in biological terms, of course, but in social terms. There are many countries were women are getting paid less than men, and women are also being oppressed in other nations. We need to discuss this. We want both men and women to be educated and to be paid equally for the same job. This is the reason we abolished gender inequality.
—On the bilateral level, this morning you had a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Zimbabwe-Japan relations have been improving steadily over the past few years. How does Your Excellency see this relationship developing?
This is developing in a positive way. It’s all for the better. Japan is a more highly developed country, but it doesn’t have the natural resources needed for the creation of other products. There cannot be an economic transformation or development unless you industrialize. That’s why in Zimbabwe we are preventing the export of raw materials, and we are going to emphasize this important point to the rest of Africa as well. For example, Zimbabwe is a cattle-rearing nation, and cattle are recognized as a form of wealth. We have six million cattle, but we haven’t developed an industry where we can exploit our cattle like Ethiopia has. They produce leather goods like shoes and bags. However, they still export raw hides and wet-blue leather to Italy. Italy is known for its artisanal craftsmanship. We should invite them to partner with us and produce leather goods at home. Other African countries like Ghana have cacao, they can make their own chocolate and domesticate chocolate production. There is not much technology required for such production. We produce a lot of tea that is sold locally. We also have minerals, including diamonds, which we should cut and polish. These are just some examples that show what we can do here in Africa to develop our skills and exploit our own natural resources instead of just providing raw materials to other countries.
—Zimbabwe is currently enforcing a development program that started in 2013 called the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development (Zim Asset). Can you please tell us about this program and how it’s progressing?
We are inviting countries that already have the technology we require for our transformation to invest in Zimbabwe.
This program recognizes our natural resources and aims at developing an industry on the basis of adding value and beneficiating from those natural resources. We have several challenges confronting our industries at this time—especially in our manufacturing sector—that’s what we are trying to fix. However, you need technology to transform a country and industrialize it. For this reason we are inviting countries that already have the technology we require for our transformation to invest in Zimbabwe. This technology is, of course, quite expensive; and without this technology you can’t move forward. At the same time, our universities and technology institutions will train people who will work in factories so we can create the necessary products that will help us transform our nation. Funding is not easy and we don’t have easy access to development credit facilities right now. We need to find ways to encourage funding.