"You no longer need your calculators to go for lunch in Harare"

As 42 opposition activists were facing treason charges in Zimbabwe for watching video footage of the Egyptian democracy protests, the Financial Times sent Alec Russell, its comment and analysis editor, down to Harare to interview Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister. Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change is serving together in a Government of National Unity with Life President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF since 2009. This arrangement is all tenuous of course. ZANU-PF thugs and the police continue to harass opposition supporters and some Tsvangirai’s supporters want him to leave the government since ZANU-PF ministers occupy key all Cabinet key portfolios at the expense of the MDC. The piece was for the FT Weekend’s feature “Lunch with the FT.” Until recently Russell was as the FT’s correspondent in Johannesburg. The piece is vintage Russell: He uses the term he invented for African leaders:”Big Man;” gets his facts from the Cato Institute, and sundowners is “that ritual of the African safari: the serving of drinks at the close of the day.”

But we do learn a few things:

“You no longer need your calculators to go for lunch in Harare.”

If you were to enter [Cabinet meetings] you would not know who was who, MDC or Zanu-PF. The seating is Zanu-PF, MDC, Zanu-PF, MDC … and he [Mugabe] and I direct. We really do consult when things get out of hand.”

“I used to think [Mugabe] is callous and all that,” he says. “But you know what? He’s human after all. He’s very humane. There is a split personality between Mugabe the [revolutionary] hero and Mugabe the villain …  If you confront him, he tends to close his mind and to say ‘I’m not guilty of violence. I’m not guilty of this. I’m not guilty … ”


Further Reading

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The party question

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The missing pieces

Between melancholy, terror, and disillusion, Petit Pays is a groundbreaking and eye-opening take on one of the darkest pages of African history, one that is often misunderstood in the West.