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Lord Carrington, former Conservative Foreign Secretary and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi
On Sunday, 06 March, 2005, Sir David Frost interviewed Lord Carrington, former Conservative Foreign Secretary and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Lord Carrington and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi
Lord Carrington, former Conservative Foreign Secretary and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi

DAVID FROST: It's exactly 25 years since Robert Mugabe won the election which made him the first Prime Minister of the newly independent Zimbabwe.

The deal for the transfer of power in what was then Rhodesia, was agreed at Lancaster House in London, and it was signed by Lord Carrington the Conservative Foreign Secretary at the time, and the leaders of the struggle against white minority rule. But the optimism which accompanied independence has seemed to sour, particularly in the last decade.

Robert Mugabe has been accused of ruthlessly suppressing all political opposition, his policy of confiscating land from white farmers is said to be ruining the country's economy, and Zimbabwe's been suspended from the Commonwealth.

Well, I'm joined now by Lord Carrington, welcome, we're delighted to have you with us, and by the Zimbabwean Ambassador in London, Ambassador Mumbengegwe. Good morning.


DAVID FROST: Let me ask you first, Ambassador, if I may. Everybody says that Zimbabwe has the fastest shrinking economy - as it was a much wealthier country - in the world. And Mr. Mugabe himself has said that there's 6 million acres of land not being farmed at the moment. Is that the reason for Zimbabwe being the fastest shrinking economy in the world?

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi
Simbarashe Mumbengegwi

SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: No, that is not the reason. Zimbabwe has been very unfortunate in the sense that at the time that the land redistribution programme in the year 2000 coincided with three years of successive drought in the whole region. Now, as you know, Zimbabwe's economy is very much agriculture driven. When you have one year of drought the economy suffers. Two years that's really bad. Three years you can imagine the havoc that has caused to the economy.

That is the first point. Then the second point has been that our land redistribution programme had met with intense opposition from the government of the United Kingdom who have modernised the allies in Europe, in America, in the white Commonwealth to put sanctions in Zimbabwe. So by and large a combination of drought and economic sanctions very much contributed to the economic bad patch that we have been through. But the economy is picking up now.

DAVID FROST: Do you see it that way? Would that be your explanation of what's gone wrong?

Lord Carrington
Lord Carrington, former Conservative Foreign Secretary

LORD CARRINGTON: I thought that had been contradicted by Mr. Mugabe himself by saying well five, six million acres that are not being cultivated. I mean, and the... with respect, the redistribution has got nothing whatever to do with it. Everything was going quite well up until about 15 years ago. For 15 years Zimbabwe didn't do too badly.

DAVID FROST: Oh now, the first ten years people...

LORD CARRINGTON: It was all right and then things went wrong so Mr. Mugabe played the race card, and then that didn't work because all the redistribution went to all the friends and the people who didn't do anything about it. And then subsequently he's become more and more authoritarian and you've seen Zimbabwe, the strongest economy in Africa, go down the drain. And it's a disgraceful state of affairs.

DAVID FROST: Back to you Ambassador. Mr. Mugabe takes the responsibility in the last 15 years things have gone wrong. And people do say of course that it is getting more and more a dictatorship and will these next elections be free and fair. But you respond to, Lord Carrington, Peter Carrington.

SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: Well let us not forget, you know, Lord Carrington referred to the race card. The question of race has never been very far in Zimbabwean politics. We all know that during the 90 years of colonial rule the land was forcibly taken from the black majority.

The black majority was brutalised, we never heard of any human rights, and during that whole period it was the people of Zimbabwe themselves who came up and fought to introduce democracy in Zimbabwe, to introduce the notion of human rights in Zimbabwe, to introduce the rule of law.

And indeed the question of land being owned by white people in Zimbabwe was not introduced by President Mugabe. It was introduced by the British colonial administration. Therefore, any land reform programme in Zimbabwe had to acquire land from white people, that's how the race sector comes in, in order to distribute to the black majority.

DAVID FROST: All right then, it's over to you.

SIMBARASHI MEMBENGEGWE: No, no, just one point.


SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: If the land owners in Zimbabwe were black people, nobody in this country would ever have heard of Zimbabwe's land reform programme. So that question of kith and kin is very, very, very close in Zimbabwe. And it was raised very prominently by former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson when he refused to put down the rebellion by the Smith regime back in 1965.

DAVID FROST: All right, now we must go...

LORD CARRINGTON: This is absolutely irrelevant to what is happening in Zimbabwe at the present time. The white farmers and all the rest of it, that's all history. What has happened since, there's been an authorising government, oppressing the people of Zimbabwe, you've seen what's happened to the currency, you've seen what's happened to the food, they're starving.

You've seen what's happened to human rights. That has got absolutely nothing with respect Ambassador, to do with what you've been saying. And what's happening in Zimbabwe is absolutely disgraceful.

DAVID FROST: And, let me just put one question to you, and that it's important thing to say, I mean, Condoleezza Rice herself black, and the President of the United States, not black, have both put forward the fact that out of only six countries that they named as outposts of tyranny, and one of them is Zimbabwe. Now why would Zimbabwe qualify for that list?

SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: Well of course it doesn't. You see that is the whole point. And with due respect to Condoleezza Rice, she doesn't know what she's talking about. She has never been to Zimbabwe and those who have been to Zimbabwe, those who have very close ties in Zimbabwe, in our region, they've totally contradicted the position, publicly.

So she doesn't know what she's talking about. Zimbabwe has been a democracy ever since throughout British colonial rule, in the white minority rule 1980. The election which is coming is the 6th parliamentary election that we have had and all our elections have been declared free and fair. Remember, remember, Lord Carrington.....

LORD CARRINGTON: ....the last election, the last election...

SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: I just want to remind you, you know, to jog your memory.

LORD CARRINGTON: Let me have a word sometime.

DAVID FROST: Well I think we will, yes.

SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: The last election, the last election...

DAVID FROST: One more sentence and then we go for...

SIMBARASHI MEMBENGEGWE: The last parliamentary election in the year 2000 was declared by all observers including the EU and the Commonwealth, to be free and fair. Lord Carrington, in the year 2000...

LORD CARRINGTON: Not everybody, not everybody...

DAVID FROST: Lord Carrington, a word from you because then we've got to go.

LORD CARRINGTON: Why do you think, I may say they say Ambassador, you've been suspended from the Commonwealth, you're not any longer a Commonwealth, not even a High Commissioner, you're an Ambassador. Why do you think that has happened? Because everything's so marvellous in Zimbabwe?

SIMBARASHE MEMBENGEGWE: Well, this is the point I was going to make. That is the only group which qualified the presidential of the elections of 2002, not the parliamentary elections, was the Commonwealth observer group, was only one of 15 observers which came up with that conclusion.

Discussion Ends

NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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