The Southern Times Writer
WINDHOEK – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe continues to provide strong leadership to Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe, and only the people of that country can determine his mandate and tenure, Namibia’s Founding Father and Former President Dr Sam Nujoma has said.
In a wide-ranging interview with Zimpapers Television Network, which was published in the Zimbabwean leading weekly, The Sunday Mail, Dr Nujoma provided insights into his strong friendship with President Mugabe and how the two iconic figures of African independence have maintained close contact for decades.
He also revisited his explosive 2002 Earth Summit in South Africa speech in which he openly confronted then British prime minister Tony Blair over his interference in Zimbabwe’s affairs.
Dr Nujoma said Mugabe enjoyed expansive support in Zimbabwe.
“(It is the decision of the people of Zimbabwe, and no foreigners should interfere in the internal affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe. We should not listen to foreigners (regarding such matters). We should make our own decisions and maintain that because our unity is very important.
“The leadership of Zanu-PF is strong and has the support of all the people of Zimbabwe, and no foreigners should be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Dr Nujoma went on: “Our friendship (with President Mugabe) is based on unity of purpose and action. We fought together against colonialism and minority white occupation led by Ian Smith in Zimbabwe and John Vorster’s apartheid regime in Namibia. And we succeeded.
“So we have to ensure that there is no neo-colonialism and no economic control by other forces outside our region and continent. Those are the days I remember when we assisted each other, and finally we achieved our genuine freedom and independence … I think we are strong.
“Yes, after independence, we continued with our relationship at party as well as government level to ensure unity of purpose and action were maintained; not only between Zimbabwe and Namibia, but across the entire continent of Africa. And yes, we do contact each other from time to time …”
Regarding his confrontation with Blair, he said: “I believe that the people of Zimbabwe make their own decisions and nobody else must interfere.”
At the Earth Summit, Dr Nujoma caught Blair by surprise, openly criticising him for advocating debilitating economic sanctions on Zimbabwe on the back of its revolutionary land reforms.
At the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr Nujoma attacked Blair for creating problems in Zimbabwe to protect the interests of white settlers.
Departing from a prepared speech in the plenary session of the Heads of State and Government attending the Earth Summit, Nujoma, waving his trademark finger, attacked developed countries for the slave trade and discriminating against Africans.
“Here in Southern Africa we have a problem created by the British government of Tony Blair who is here. They created the situation in Zimbabwe and campaigned successfully to the European Union to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.
“British colonialists today own 70 percent of land in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is a tiny country and has 14 million indigenous people who have no land. The whole land is occupied by British settlers,” charged Dr Nujoma then.
The then Namibian leader, whose speech was interrupted by applause from mainly Heads of State from developing countries, said it was pointless to talk of equality of all human beings when Africans were enslaved and were still being discriminated upon in North America and Europe.
“We the African people suffered more than any other nation in the world through the slave trade.
They are talking about equality of human beings but what’s equality of humanity when the Africans who were taken as slaves are the underdogs of this world?” he asked.
Dr Nujoma said Africans must remain united as it is only through unity that Africans can achieve total integration with a single currency and a single passport.
He challenged the younger Africans to take the baton forward and not fail in the mission of building an integrated and peaceful Africa driven by Africans.
“As Africans, we must unite because it is only when we are united that we can successfully enhance the total integration of the continent with a single African currency and a single passport,” he said.
Quoting the late Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, said Dr Nujoma the older generation, the likes of Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Agostinho Neto of Angola, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sekou Toure of Guinea and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe led Africa to political freedom, Dr Nujoma urged the current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa to pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination and carry it forward.
“I am also happy to learn that some among us will be honoured with an award in recognition of our efforts in removing the last vestiges of colonialism from Africa as a whole.
“I call upon the current generation to dare not fail in their historic mission of building ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by Africans’.
“For that to happen, our youths should not allow themselves to be divided through the old tactic of divide and rule, but must unite.
“Indeed, as President Nyerere further emphasised, ‘without unity, there is no future for Africa’.
Nujoma called on the African youths to prepare themselves to defend the territorial integrity, the territorial waters and the airspace of the African continent against imperialists and foreign aggressors.
“I believe a united people striving to achieve common good for all members of the society will always emerge victorious,” he said.
He also touched on the economy saying the struggle for economic independence would be long and difficult and required Africans to embark upon scientific research, proper planning and hard work.
The African continent was endowed with abundant natural resources and therefore investing in infrastructure was the key to its growth.
“In this regard, the Grand Inga hydro-electric plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo should be developed beyond mere rhetoric in order to provide AU Members with cheap and adequate electricity supply.
“Our economic strength depends substantially on our mastery of science and technology.
It is this very same mastery that enables any country’s citizens to fully exploit its natural resources and wealth. For Africa to succeed, we must join hands and work as a team,” Nujoma said.
It was also important for Africa to tap into the expertise of those in the Diaspora and embark upon strategies which promote manufacturing and adding value to natural resources abundant on the continent.
“It is only in that manner that we will be able to create wealth, enhance economic growth and improve the competitiveness of our economies in international markets.
“Furthermore, I believe that one of the effective strategies to reach our goals is through educating and training our youths, especially in the scientific fields so that we can produce our own agriculturalists, medical doctors, engineers, scientists and other technical personnel who will play an active role in the industrialisation and modernisation of our economies,” said Nujoma.
He said efforts to promote continental integration must prioritise education of the African people as key elements in addressing development challenges.
It was clear, he said, that the renewed geo-political interest in Africa, especially its natural resources and potential markets, was leading to attempts by former colonial powers to reclaim the ground gained in terms of African self-determination.
The profoundly retrogressive developments on the continent were a direct consequence of the unstable security and political situation such as the one that was created by the forces of imperialists under the leadership of Nato who overthrew Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi without due consideration of severe repercussions of their actions.
“As Africans, we have a responsibility to promote peace and security on the continent because when peace is restored, Africa as a whole stands to benefit.
“We must, therefore, consolidate, guard and defend our hard-won freedom, democracy, peace, security and political stability,” said.
Dr Nujoma bemoaned the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco and called on Morocco to respect the territorial integrity of the people of Sahrawi.
“Sadly, Africa still faces the unresolved case of colonialism in Western Sahara.
The continent has achieved many milestones, but the question of Western Sahara is a question that every self-respecting Pan-Africanist should champion.
“For this reason, I call upon the Kingdom of Morocco, which rejoined the African Union, to support the holding of a free referendum for the people of Western Sahara for self-determination and national independence,” he said.