President Emmerson Mnangagwa had an interview with Alec Russell, editor FT Weekend of London on Tuesday. In the interview he talked about a wide range of issues including his relationship with former president Robert Mugabe, his expulsion, elections and his desire to transform Zimbabwe.
Below is an edited transcript of the interview published by the Financial Times today.
Q: Do you still speak to the former president? When did you last speak to him?
A: Just before he left for Singapore [in mid December]we chatted. Before he left for Singapore. He said he wanted to go Singapore, I said, Sir, you’re most welcome. I will give every facilitation for you to proceed to Singapore. Then that was that. Then the list of people going to Singapore came to me. There were 38. A delegation of 38. So I phoned back and said, chef . . . That’s what we call each other. Boss, you’re going for a medical check-up; why do you want 38 people? Then he says, Emmerson, I don’t know that list. No one even told me. I never told you? Yes, OK. He says, I don’t know that there are 38 people. I know it’s myself, my wife, and my family. And we are hardly 10. I don’t know where the other 30 . . . I said no, I have a list here of 36 plus yourself and the wife will be 38. So I can’t just approve 38 people just for you for a medical check-up; no. You know the new dispensation, I mean, we are trying . . . I have cut down the cabinet. It’s a leaner cabinet. And I’m also saying no minister travels first-class and so on. So I’m cutting expenses and that can’t be understood if you are going to go for medical check up with a big number. He says, Emmerson . . . He never says Mr. President, he just calls me . . . Just said Emmerson. Emmerson, send me that list. So I called the protocol people. Then they sent the list to him and they reduced the number down to 21. He says I can’t reduce any further; this is the number. That’s the number that then went. With him, it became 22, but the others were 21. He was then the 22. Then he went . . . But when he went in a 767 it carried these 22 people also to Singapore. Then when I was told I said no, this is not good. If the press hears that we’ve taken the former president on this huge plane, it’s extravagant and so on. And it was published that it cost $6m. So we then said we must look for a smaller plane to go and pick him back when he finishes. Fortunately when he was there, he then phoned back but he didn’t talk to me; he talked to my directors. He said, you see, it’s very absurd that the president allowed me to come with a 676 when we’re so small delegation. Can you look for a smaller plane to pick me back? This is him. So the message arrived. So I gave instructions to the minister of transport and my officials. Somehow, the communication didn’t reach Air Zimbabwe on time. Then they sent again the 767.
Q: But how is he now? He was in power for 37 years, and now . . .
A: Just now he’s OK. Because when he came last week he sent me a summary of his medical report showing that . . . Just thanking me for having gone there, and then a small written report by Dr Matenga showing that he had a very successful and satisfactory medical check-up and he is back and he will be going back in April. This time when he goes back we will make sure he goes with a smaller plane as he asked.
Continued next page