Dennis Norman told BBC Radio 4’s Eddie Mair in a recent interview “I think he (Tsvangirai) did make a mistake. I thought so at the time. He wasn’t the first one to make that mistake Joshua Nkomo made the same mistake. He lost all influence, having followed that path and I think, to a large extent, that has happened to Tsvangirai. I think he stood a much greater chance of winning an election if he had stood on the outside. By capitulating and joining, he lost a lot of political clout in the country.”
Asked if Tsvangiarai had the skills to run Zimbabwe, Norman said: ”I ‘m not sure that he has the total skills. Look, he’s a very courageous man and he does have a certain amount of political nuance, but whether he has the skills as a statesman, I don’t know.
But he could acquire those. There are plenty of people in Zimbabwe who do have the necessary skills, knowledge and talent to serve the county and I would like to think that following this election when the hoo-ha has died down a bit, maybe some form of coalition or national government could be constructed because there are many people in Zanu(PF) and the MDC and in the private sector who do have what it takes to put the country back on a strong economic course. I’d like to think that might happen.”
Norman was president of the Commercial Farmers Union when he was asked by Mugabe to join his first post-independent cabinet in 1980. Several other prominent whites were in the government back then, including David Smith, Ian Smith’s Finance Minister and deputy prime minister of rebel Rhodesia.
Mugabe also called on the heads of the army, police and CIO –all white – to support him, which they did for a short time before they were replaced by key Zanu (PF) officials.
Norman was asked if he liked Mugabe. The former minister and now businessman in southern England replied: ”When I first got to know Robert Mugabe, he was a different man from what he is now. He was young and vibrant.
He was keen to get the country going on a good economic path after 14 years of civil war. He took on board a lot of people to assist him who were previously considered to be on the ‘other side.’
He persuaded me to go in. He put a team together and actually led quite well. He listened a lot and took a lot of advice. But over the years that approach seems to have been discarded. If he could only return to that. Zimbabwe really does have a great future. It has lots of natural assets which are waiting to be developed.
“I always got on well with Mugabe He treated me courteously. We never had a serious disagreement. I think he trusted me. At least I hope he trusted me. I think he confided in me to a large extent. I must say, having said that, I never joined his party. Never joined any party for that matter. I was independent after Independence and had been asked to do a job which I did to the best of my ability. I think I earned his respect for that.”Post published in: Analysis