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Zimbabwe’s Government Defies International Pressure on Run-off Vote

June 24, 2008 at 6:35 PM EST
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Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, explains his country's plan to host a run-off presidential election Friday, despite the U.N. Security Council's declaration that a fair election is not possible during the present political crisis.
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GWEN IFILL: Next, the latest on Zimbabwe.

Yesterday, we spoke with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad about the deteriorating security situation in Zimbabwe. Last night, the U.N. Security Council condemned what it calls a “campaign of violence” that will render free and fair elections impossible.

Now, the other side of the story, from Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku. I spoke with him a short time ago.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome.

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU, Zimbabwe’s Envoy to the United Nations: Thank you.

GWEN IFILL: The United Nations where you sit has called for Friday’s elections in Zimbabwe to be called off. Will they?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: No.

GWEN IFILL: Why not?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: Well, the United Nations has no mandate to give instructions to member-states on when or where they should hold elections. That is the prerogative of a sovereign state, to decide when and when it suits them to do elections.

GWEN IFILL: So how do you conduct a free and fair election without an opposition candidate?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: The opposition candidate has been playing to the media. He deliberately saw defeat in the face and he realized that the only way out was to jump ship and appeal to the international community, who have accepted his antics. And he’s now galvanizing international opinion against the government of Zimbabwe.

But as far as we are concerned, we need a mandate from the people, because, on the 29th of March, that mandate was not given to any of the candidates that aspired to be president of Zimbabwe. And as per our constitution, that requires a runoff.

And we have put the systems into place that Friday there will be a runoff. And we are proceeding ahead.

Cause for violence in Zimbabwe

Boniface Chidyausiku
Zimbabwe Ambassador to U.N.
The violence in Zimbabwe, from our perspective, there's been intra-party violence. And that violence -- the MDC and ZANU-PF have been found to be guilty of some acts of violence.

GWEN IFILL: I don't have to tell you what it is that folks in the United Nations and other southern African nations are saying. They're saying 85 people have been killed; 200 are missing; 30,000 have been displaced in what they call political violence in your country during this runoff election.

Who's responsible for that?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: The violence in Zimbabwe, from our perspective, there's been intra-party violence. And that violence -- the MDC and ZANU-PF have been found to be guilty of some acts of violence.

And on the statistics part of it, we have read more incidences of violence perpetrated by the MDC on ZANU-PF supporters than ZANU-PF against MDC.

And furthermore, when I speak to the police headquarters in Harare, they tell me that 10 percent of the country has had some incidents of violence and 90 percent has not seen that.

GWEN IFILL: So let me just clarify for our viewers. The MDC is Morgan Tsvangirai's opposition party, and the ZANU-PF is Robert Mugabe's party. Morgan Tsvangirai has been detained five times, separate times in the last few weeks. Was that not a political detention?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: That's what the international community has been told. But the times that he has been asked by the police to visit a police station, he has been transgressing the laws of the land for -- for instance, in one case, he was driving in a public road escorted by vehicles that were disturbing other road users.

So the police called him and told him that you don't travel like that in the country. And he called that a detention.

Battling food shortages and AIDS

Boniface Chidyausiku
Zimbabwe Ambassador to U.N.
In Zimbabwe, the average international assistance to an AIDS patient is $4 per annum, but our neighbors get something in the range of almost $200 per AIDS patient per annum.

GWEN IFILL: So if you choose not to believe, as you do, Morgan Tsvangirai's version of events, what about what the nongovernmental organizations say who have been trying to provide emergency food distribution in Zimbabwe, but have been told not to?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: The issue of NGOs -- you know, we have an agreement with the World Food Programme where NGOs have to observe a certain conduct of behavior in their carrying out of their activities.

And we believe this government in Zimbabwe that the primary responsibility to feed the people of Zimbabwe rests with the government. NGOs can only supplement or complement what government does.

GWEN IFILL: And the government is, indeed, feeding those people?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: That's not correct. We have imported 600 tons of maize into Zimbabwe, which we are giving to the people. That's not "beating the people." And the international community tends to ignore that.

We have been importing food and we have been distributing it to the people in Zimbabwe. The international community or the NGOs do complement what the government of Zimbabwe is doing to feed the people of Zimbabwe.

And for your own information, last year, when the United Nations made an appeal for humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe, the response of that appeal was 17 percent. And that 17 percent is a reflection of political consideration by the very countries that are crying foul today.

They did not even give their money to Zimbabwe because of political considerations. And today, they are shedding crocodile tears about humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, when you respond 17 percent.

There are countries in the world where humanitarian assistance appeal has been put and there's been 100 percent response.

Furthermore, furthermore, Zimbabwe, like other countries in Southern Africa, are suffering from the scourge of HIV and the AIDS, right? There has been an international response to the needs of these people.

In Zimbabwe, the average international assistance to an AIDS patient is $4 per annum, but our neighbors get something in the range of almost $200 per AIDS patient per annum.

GWEN IFILL: Do you think -- pardon me...

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: AIDS does not know boundaries. It's only political considerations. And it happens...

Negotiations on political impasse?

Boniface Chidyausiku
Zimbabwe Ambassador to U.N.
They want President Mbeki to be condemnatory, which he has refused. And that's why they've discredited his activities. In fact, the international community has become to be an impediment to the efforts of President Mbeki.

GWEN IFILL: Pardon me, Mr. Ambassador, because I do want to ask you about what your neighbors have been saying. The Southern African Development Community has also said that the situation in Zimbabwe is out of control.

This is not just Western nations. It is not just the United Nations which is directing this criticism at you.

What do you say to your neighbors who say that there needs to be renewed negotiation or at least a halt to what they see as political violence, as well?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: There was a summit in March in Zambia where the Southern African Development Community met and commended the work done by President Mbeki. And they gave a mandate to mediate on the political impasse, which he is doing.

But the problem is some people are so -- you know, they don't like that President Mbeki is conducting the work. They've been undermining that work. They want President Mbeki to be condemnatory, which he has refused. And that's why they've discredited his activities. In fact, the international community has become to be an impediment to the efforts of President Mbeki.

GWEN IFILL: If Mr. Tsvangirai were to leave the Dutch embassy, where he is currently holed up right now, would he be safe?

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: Tsvangirai has always been safe in Zimbabwe. You remember, after the March 29 elections, he left the country and claimed that his life was in danger. He was out of the country for six weeks claiming that, in order to go to Zimbabwe, because, you know, his life was in danger.

He went back to Zimbabwe. What happened to him? The guy is a pathological liar. He's duping the international community that his life is in danger. There's no (inaudible) interested in getting Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe.

GWEN IFILL: So the election will go on, on Friday. Mr. Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku, thank you so much for talking with us.

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU: My pleasure.