AFRICANGLOBE – President Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, now Serbia, worked to prevent conflict of Second World War proportions by advocating a doctrine of non-violence that promoted peace and development after the West and Soviet Union began a political battle to control the world in the wake of WWII. He was among the proponents of peace who later formed the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam).
On Friday, Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (News Programme) deputy editor-in-chief Bojan Brkic (BB) spoke to President Mugabe on the sidelines of the 22nd Session of the African Union General Assembly in Ethiopia about Nam, his friendship with President Tito, relations between Zimbabwe and Serbia, the disintegration of Yugoslavia as well as Europe’s “horse-and-rider” approach to Africa. Below is a transcript of the full interview.
BB: Mr President, let me first thank you for this honour of having this interview with one of the best friends of the country I grew up in.
I suggest we start this interview with the reminiscences of the golden era of the Non-Aligned Movement and the movement for the true independence of nations around the world. You co-operated a lot and were a friend of our President Tito. When you think of those times, how do you feel about them?
President Mugabe: Well, yes, you feel very sad, nostalgic about those days. You see, good experiences should be the basis for other new experiences and good things to happen in the future. If you have good experiences that are disrupted by challenges of a negative kind, then, naturally, you feel very much more nostalgic about the future and the good things become a source of sadness, a source of sorrow.
It’s as if death has happened in the past whereas when you have established good relations in the past, you expect those relations to develop in the future, mature into the future and yield even much more by way of benefits to those who participate in that friendship. Or, if it is experience of a country, the same; that there would be growth and development in the future, but not extinction and a kind of death of the process of development.
And when you think of our relations with Yugoslavia, the good things that Yugoslavia did; the help that came there from and it was a multi-faceted relationship that Yugoslavia had with us in Africa. We only joined in that relationship much later after the likes of Tanzania as led by Julius Nyerere; Zambia as led by Kenneth Kaunda; Mozambique as led by Samora Machel had all established excellent relations with Yugoslavia.
And then we also became a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which was founded by Tito and others. That is Yugoslavia again, having played its part in trying to establish peace in this world for after the Second World War, two powers emerged: one – the Western power with the Nato as the basis of that power and wielding capitalism as the mode of economic development.
On the other hand, you had the Soviet Union with Moscow also integrating countries next to it and preaching what Marx and Lenin had preached earlier on: the doctrine of communism as adopted by Lenin and they called it Marxism and Leninism or communism preached by Marx and taken over later by Lenin. What was St Peter’s Town, they had called it Leningrad. That was the capital of what was now the leading Marxist country, the leading communist country — the Soviet Union.
So, Marx and Lenin had their doctrine taken over by the Russians and they became now the people leading in spreading it as far afield as possible. But, the two – Moscow and then the Western countries, Western countries not just Europe, but America on the one hand – were vying with each other for power.
Not just for ideological control of the world, economic control of the world, but for political control of the world.
It was then thought by the likes of Tito and others that a movement that could stand in between and prevent a war of the same magnitude as the Second World War was necessary. So, they had the first meeting in the 1950s in Indonesia and that’s where it was felt that this movement must be formed and formed quickly. It would unite developing countries; it would unite all other peaceful small countries. Its own ideology would be a non-violent ideology. These other two were driven by violence, really, and this one would be non-violent.
And so, Tito was the leading figure; the leading voice of this Non-Aligned Movement, Nam, with its voice of non-violence. ‘‘No more fighting. We will stand in between these two and preach non-violence’’.
And true, many countries in Africa which became independent also joined the Non-Aligned Movement.
We joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1980 as we became independent and so we also started having relations with Yugoslavia.
BB: (Relations) which were not only ideological, there was a lot of concrete economic co-operation. You still have a lot of what Yugoslavia built in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe: This is what I was going to go into. Non-violence was not just a doctrine of a people who will be uniting in singing ‘‘non-violence, non-violence’’, of course.
They would also be relating economically, politically. Therefore, the doctrine of non-violence brought about a unity of our people who would relate to each other economically and try to develop their countries in a peaceful way.
We took Yugoslavia as the leader of this non-violent movement and that meant, of course, that our reliance for the development programmes of our own countries would be first on Yugoslavia before we could go to anyone else. That is why Yugoslavia had a hand in the structures, various infrastructures of our countries, be they eastern countries of Africa, Tanzania for example, Central Africa, Southern Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe much later. Yugoslavia also related ideologically to other countries and there was a meeting of the minds with even Castro, with Cuba, in the Non-Aligned Movement. And today, as we look at ourselves, we can point at the structures that were established by Yugoslav experts, Energo Projekt especially.
We built a conference centre, which is a combination of the conference centre itself and a hotel in Harare using Energo power.
So, Energoprojekt was the one we asked to do that project for us in preparation for the Non-Aligned Movement Conference, which we were to host in 1986. This was concluded end of 1985 and by 1986 we were ready with this beautiful conference centre. It is there in Harare for anyone to see. Quite a beautiful centre, it has remained that beautiful, shining above our Harare skies, very attractive. In Zambia; the same. Mulungushi Village was done and done within nine months of the holding of the Non-Aligned Movement (Conference) there.
KK, that is President Kaunda then, wanted to hold the Non-Aligned Movement Conference and he did not have much time.
He had just nine months to think of accommodation. And who did he think could provide accommodation in so short a time? Yugoslavia. And he went to Yugoslavia for it.
Also, when he thought he would be cut off from the hydro-electric power at Kariba, on the Zambezi, by Ian Smith after Ian Smith’s government in Southern Rhodesia had decided to declare UDI, Unilateral Declaration of Independence, in 1965, he had to take precautions and what was he to do?
Who was he to go to? Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia did this project on the northern side of Kariba for Zambia just in readiness for what he feared would be action taken against him by Ian Smith’s government; that is cutting off electricity. But that did not quite happen.
Anyway, these are just some of the few. When we got independent, I told you, we did the same as President Kaunda had done. But even belatedly. . . Now Yugoslavia was threatened. There was imminence of disintegration. We had asked Energo to build us a house, a family house. The expert was a Mrs Simovic. She was the architect. Poor lady, she got cancer of the brain and died in Belgrade. She went back home thinking she was going to be cured, but cancer of the brain developed, became worse and she died.
But the builders went on and we had a Mr Savic who came much later to finish it. It took us a long time, naturally, because we had to pay for it from our own pocket at the end of the month. We had agreed with Energo; they gave us good terms. We paid just for the labour and we would buy the materials to build the house ourselves, the bricks and everything else and get whatever donations we might get, here and there.
At the end of each month, we then just paid the wages of the people who would have worked. We got the invoice. It took us a long time to complete the house; more than 10 years. But it’s a beautiful house.
We combined Yugoslav, the artistic capacity of Yugoslavia, with the feature of also the Chinese cultural artistic aspect of it.
BB: Your Excellency, you mentioned a lot of good experiences. At the beginning of the interview, you said the good experience of the past should not be allowed to die because of the turmoil that we have been through. But that is what more or less happened to relations between our two countries. What can be done and what do you intend to do on your side to revive what we had before?
President Mugabe: We should, first, not allow the doctrine of Nam, which is non-violence, to die, which means peace among the nations; between the nations; within the nations. That must survive, not necessarily as a derivative of the Non-Aligned Movement because Nam also derived it from experience in the past; that it was necessary for people to live in peace and this deriving from wars that had been fought in the past, especially the Second World War.
You must also always associate a movement of that nature with those who were behind it and Marshal Tito is one of the greatest movers of the Non-Aligned Movement; he and others who belong to it. Later, we of Africa joined him to further that movement. It’s not dead yet. We must continue it. We still belong to the Non-Aligned Movement. India is behind it. Countries of eastern Asia are members of it.
Well, I met Tito in 1979, I think around October. No, just before October, around September in Brijuni. I met Tito there. He was actually not well now and you could see that he was a bit nervous. But he still said he was going to attend the Non-Aligned Summit in Havana, which was going to be held there in October.
We met again in October and that was my last meeting with him, in October 1979, just before we left Havana, dashing to London for our final independence talks. That October, early October, we left the meeting going on in Havana and we got to London, just as the second week of October was beginning, to start discussions at Lancaster House, discussions which led us to, finally, the acceptance by Britain that Zimbabwe shall have independence in the following year, 1980.
But just before our independence in April, 1980, Marshal Tito had passed on. He had died. When I visited later, after independence, it was to visit his grave rather than meet the man I had met at Brijuni.
Those memories are crucial memories that strengthen us in continuing with this Non-Aligned Movement. We must improve on it and there are still people with the same push and the same sentiments, same determination as President Tito. But, he is gone. The sad, very sad experience that Yugoslavia has had is that of its disintegration, disintegration, which has been, as we looked at it, I think promoted if not sponsored by Europe, Europe using a few dissident voices in Yugoslavia. Hence, then there was that falling apart, which has left Serbia, now, on its own. Other parts – Croatia, etcetera – are independent. It’s a sad experience, but the reality must be accepted.
BB: What do you expect, hope for in the bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Serbia in the period to come?
President Mugabe: As I was saying to the Foreign Minister (of Serbia, Mr Ivan Mrkic, in an earlier meeting), we should link up first; have a team that comes from Serbia, visiting us, discussing relations economic. And we also would want to continue to discuss, naturally, Non-Aligned Movement (Nam); if Serbia can continue, if Serbia is able to continue what Yugoslavia was doing with that movement.
But first and foremost, we would want economic relations with Serbia; if we can get groups that can come to discuss joint ventures in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, infrastructural work and ICT. We would want Serbia (to come) and we will give it preferential treatment because it has given us that treatment in the past.
So, if Serbia comes, they will be very welcome. They are friends all over Africa and no enemies. It is one country, of course, now it is Serbia; it used to be Yugoslavia, it was one country we could say was a perfect friend to us. No hypocrisy about it; no cheating about it, you see, and no discrimination at all, taking us as equals.
Whereas in other areas — Europe, America – they will shake hands with you, yes, but they will always regard you as inferior. And to this day, we have that problem that Europe wants to continue to dictate to us.
They do not want to recognise that we are a free people; we can run our own affairs without them.
And we continue to tell them, “Please, keep your dirty hands away from our business. We are what we are: masters of our own destiny in Africa. The resources of Africa are not resources of Europe anymore, no. We have kicked you out of Africa. Take care of your own countries and leave us to take care of our Africa and that is that. “We will choose our friends. We want good friends like Yugoslavia, now Serbia. Those are the ones we want to relate to, those who will see us for what we are and who will allow us to see them for what they are.” That’s the friendship we want and not that of, as they used to call it, horse and rider.
And who was to be the horse? That’s what they used to say: ‘‘We want the partnership of horse and rider in Africa.’’ Of course, we would be the horse and they the rider. And we were ridden for too long. But even the horse has its way of kicking, kicking the rider and getting rid of them if it gets annoyed. We did get annoyed and overhauled the rider, never to rise again.
BB: Since I cannot think of any better message to end the interview, I will just leave it there. Thank you very much.