'Milking the cow without feeding it is unacceptable'.

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:Minister for youth development of Zimbabwe Saviour Kasukuwere - Interview

Saviour Kasukuwere is the Zimbabwean minister for youth development, indigenisation and economic empowerment. He is one of the youthful faces in the party that fought for political independence--Zanu-PF. Now he is in charge of one of the most ambitious programmes ever seen in Africa: the indigenisation of we Zimbabwean economy and the economic empowerment of the people. He says after political independence, the next big thing is economic independence without which we cant say we have real independence". Baffour Ankomah interviewed him.



New African: From the smiles on the faces of the young beneficiaries of the Youth Fund that we saw in Gweru, the question that arises is why did Zimbabwe wait so long, 30 years after independence, to implement the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Programme (IEEP)?

Saviour Kasukuwere: I am sure President Mugabe, first and foremost, worked hard to get the people of this country universal education, and that was key. It still remains relevant; human resources development is relevant. After the success on the education front, we embarked on the land reform programme. There was progression in terms of what to do.

Of course, we had challenges along the way, but they are part and parcel of progression. And I still say the president had a very clear vision of what had to be done. Yes, 30 years have gone by, we may have waited too long to implement an Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Programme, but we have now started in earnest and there is no going back.

But it is coming in the evening of President Mugabe's rule, and I bet he would have liked to see this programme become a huge success while still in office. Now time is not on his side.

He is a very intelligent man, and everything of his is on time. Indigenisation and economic empowerment is an idea whose time has come. And what makes us happy is that during his lifetime, he has brought about epochal moments in our nation: the land reform and indigenisation programmes, and in fact he has participated in all these very key programmes himself, and they have changed the lives of our people.

Now the young people of Zimbabwe understand the president's message of self-determination and economic development. They see themselves as economic fighters who are bringing about a new era in our nation, to the extent that today women and the elderly are now part of this growing revolution to build a new Zimbabwe.

The level of confidence in our economy is amazing. It is because the president has made it clear, he has given us the marching orders. He has said "do the following, indigenise the economy and empower the people", and that is what we are doing.

If he is not in power, will this programme continue?

Ifs don't make history. President Mugabe will be in power.

What about if he retires, he is now 89 years old, and nature says he is not going to be there forever. If he retires, will this programme continue?

There is one thing nobody can take away now: his ideas, what I call "Mugabeism", what the man stands for, the ideology. It is going to be with us forever.

President Mugabe is the founder of our nation, his ideas and values are well understood by Zimbabweans, and because of that whatever we are doing, and whatever generations will do after many of us have departed this world, including the president, will not stray off course. People can only improve on what he is doing. But to say we would move away from the course that he has charted will be very difficult to do. He is a great man.

If you look at the people who built America, the Lincolns of this world, can the current American generation say they have strayed away from the teachings of the founding fathers, the basic foundations? No. What makes China today is Maoism, the philosophy that Mao Zedong espoused and what he stood for. It remains the same.

What President Mugabe is saying and what he stands for are understood in Zimbabwe, but the impact is far-reaching, it is wider than our own nation, it is an African story. It is what Kwame Nkrumah stood for. It is exactly what President Mugabe is standing for.

Looking at the rationale behind indigenisation--to enable the previously disadvantaged black Zimbabweans to benefit from their God-given natural resources, and enable them to participate in the mainstream economy, which is a very noble cause--why have you and your ministry encountered such heavy national and international resistance along the way?

It is a transformative programme, so it evokes fear in those who have and gives hope to those who have not. It is because of this fear and hope that we have met with the resistance you talk about. They fear the programme because they think it is pushing them away from the benefits they have enjoyed from our economy. But it gives hope to us, the have-nots, and we say now there is a future for us.

The international community has always had issues with our country. It had issues with our independence, it had issues with our land reform programme, and it has issues with the emancipation of the black people.

If we say we are abandoning indigenisation today, they will say we are very reasonable people. If we preach reconciliation, they will say we are very reasonable people, though the same words are not preached in their own countries. They will not forgive, and they will not let go. We know how they are treating African leaders in The Hague, at the International Criminal Court. But the same people would not do the same to P.W. Botha in South Africa despite all that he and his government did to black people under apartheid.

Now what are we standing for? We are very stubborn about indigenisation and economic empowerment. We had to do it! Yes, they will criticise us, but we are cheered by what is happening in our communities. If the people are getting water, if they are benefiting from their resources, then we say we shall die for indigenisation if need be. We will not be shaken!

Is the international community changing its views about the programme? You have been meeting a number of Western ambassadors in recent weeks, are they changing their minds?

I have met both the current and the immediate past American ambassadors to Zimbabwe. Charles Ray [the previous ambassador] came to me and said: "Why haven't you been doing it all these years?" He actually thought we were kind of silly to have allowed the situation to continue to this day.

And the Norwegian ambassador was very kind, he was the top economist behind the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund when they discovered their oil. His predecessor also came to see us, and they said to me: "Young man, you are young, don't take your foot off the pedal. Keep pushing, they [the foreign companies] will comply."

So increasingly, we are getting Western ambassadors accredited to this country telling us "you are right". But they say the problem lies with the...

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