FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT: I would be extremely surprised. I mean, what you’ve got is an executive president in control of the army, with an executive prime minister in control of the police. I mean, this is constitiional gobbledegook. I don’t know how it’s going to work out. Mugabe is a seasoned campaigner, he’s been in charge of the army for a helluva long time. He’s actually the winner in this whole show. I don’t understand what Tsvangirai thought he was going to achieve by entering into a deal of this nature. So I must say I’m very sceptical about the whole show.
ALEC HOGG: It appears as though stability any time soon might be a forlorn hope?
FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT: Well, I can’t see investors rushing in there to help with economic revival, economic development. The European Union is still sort of backing off, taking a look-and-see attitude; they want more detail. It’s a country desperately in need of economic revival – you just have to look at the agricultural situation to realise this. But also it’s not a highly urbanised country. You’ve got two towns, if you want to call them that. You’ve got Harare and Bulawayo. You can fit 50 of them into Soweto. So I really don’t know how they think they can achieve stability by entering into a power-sharing deal in which, as you say, you have an executive president with the army under his control and an executive prime minister supposedly in control of the police. It seems to me a recipe for conflict.
ALEC HOGG: If you have watched our country, other parts of the continent in the past few years, perhaps lurching – not our county, thankfully – but lurching from one problem to the other, how could we see Zimbabwe unfolding?
FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT: Well, if one looks at it comparatively speaking, Latin America, Africa and so on, one of the most determining influences has always been the military. The military is owned by a particular political section – a party or a president or whatever, and they are the source of stability in that county. It’s a kind of repressive stability. Now, you’ve had repressive stability in Zimbabwe for quite a long, long time, and for the first time they have a general election which, from all accounts was fair and free, and Tsvangirai won hands-down. I mean, Mugabe never expected that in his wildest dreams. He was outmanoeuvred. And so now the question is, will Mugabe really share power as an executive president with control of the army, or will he outmanoeuvre Tsvangirai? I’m very sceptical, as I say.
ALEC HOGG: Then what signals should we be looking out for, and I say “we” because a lot of South African businesses do have investments in Zimbabwe?
FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT: Well, I think the most important signal would be that they agree on some form of economic development and economic policy, and that they cooperate and work together. But, as I said, Alec, I am very sceptical about that, because this kind of agreement has never really worked elsewhere. But let’s give it a chance, let’s hope for the best. Obviously the best thing that can happen is that Zimbabwe stabilises, it start with economic development. But then investors would have been at the door now, knocking, saying: “Here I am, what can I do?” And it’s not happening.
ALEC HOGG: You are also the chairman of Caxton. I presume you are not going to be putting too much money from Caxton’s side into Zimbabwe any time soon?
FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT: Well, I don’t know. I’ll see. Caxton is there to sell newspapers, and if they want to print and sell newspapers, I suppose Caxton will look at it from a purely business point of view. But I must stress I am not an executive chairman. I don’t set policy for Caxton.
ALEC HOGG: But you won’t be taking money out of your own pocket just yet?
FREDERIK VAN ZYL SLABBERT: Unlikely, very unlikely.
ALEC HOGG: Dr Frederik van Zyl Slabbert is a political analyst and the former leader of the opposition in South Africa, one of the most respected political analysts in this country.Post published in: Economy