SABC talk show host Dali Tambo has lashed at accusations that he was sprucing up Robert Mugabe’s image in a rare interview with the Zimbabwean leader who took a swipe at Nelson Mandela’s reconciliation policies.
In the interview, Mugabe insists that Zimbabwe’s people still need him and that Mandela was “too much of a saint”.
Mugabe, 89, said: “Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of (blacks)… That’s being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.”
Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory chief executive Sello Hatang said he would comment only after watching the interview.
The interview will be shown on Tambo’s revived series, People of the South, on SABC next Sunday.
It includes footage of the Mugabe family at lunch and interviews with Grace Mugabe at the dairy farm she took from a white farmer in 2003. Tambo filmed in Zimbabwe before Christmas and showed the family the final edit last weekend in Harare.
Soon after he finished filming, Tambo told The Sunday Independent that he didn’t mind who was angry with him for interviewing Mugabe.
“I interviewed Rhodesian leader Ian Smith in Cape Town in a previous series. This programme is not HARDtalk. It isn’t a political programme. “We all have a nice lunch together,” he said. “Mugabe is an icon.”
Mugabe talked briefly to Tambo and his wife, Rachel, about the land reform programme, which began in 2000 and caused the economy’s collapse.
The octogenarian also spoke about the pleasure his family have given him and said he couldn’t retire from politics because Zimbabweans still needed him.
“My people still need me,” Mugabe told Tambo. “And when people still need you to lead them, it’s not time, sir, it doesn’t matter how old you are, to say goodbye.”
Mugabe is slowing down and leaving some key state duties, such as the cabinet, to his deputy, Joyce Mujuru.
On the UK, Mugabe said the former colonial power “will praise you only if you are doing things that please them”.
Mugabe said he trusted late former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who organised the peace talks that led to Zimbabwe’s first democratic elections in 1980.
“Mrs Thatcher, you could trust her. But of course what happened later was a different story with the Labour Party and (Tony) Blair, who you could never trust. You couldn’t compare them to Thatcher and the others… Who can ever believe what Mr Blair says? Here we call him Bliar.”
While kissing and cuddling his second wife, Grace, 47, Mugabe admitted he cheated on first wife, Sally, because he needed a child before his mother, Bona, died.
“It was not just the fact that one was attracted (to Grace). After Sally was gone it was necessary for me to look for someone and, even as Sally was still going through her last few days, although it might have appeared to some as cruel, I said to myself ‘well, it’s not just myself needing children, my mother has all the time said, ah, am I going to die without seeing grandchildren’.”
Sally’s only child with Mugabe, Nhamodzenyika, died of malaria in Ghana while Mugabe was in detention in Rhodesia. He was not allowed out of prison to attend his five-year-old son’s funeral.
When the couple returned to Rhodesia after the 1979 ceasefire, Sally was already ailing with the kidney disease that would later kill her. After he began his affair with Grace, who was herself married with a child, Sally told some Zanu-PF women she was close to that she was unhappy but that there was nothing she could do as she was dying.
Asked if he had told Sally about the affair with Grace, Mugabe said: “I did tell her and she just kept quiet and said ‘fine’, but she did ask: ‘Do you still love me?’ I said yes. And she said: ‘Oh, fine.’”
Mugabe kept his first two children secret until a Zimbabwean magazine, Horizon, broke the story with a photo of Bona on her way to attend the Dominican Convent in Harare. The story was written by veteran journalist and author Ray Choto, who was later to be arrested and tortured with editor Mark Chavunduka, over a story The Standard newspaper carried about an alleged coup plot hatched by the army. Choto now lives in exile in the US. Chavunduka is dead.
A third child, Chatunga, was born after the couple married.
Chatunga was expelled from a Catholic school last year for bad behaviour and is being home-schooled. Mugabe told Tambo he had been faithful to Grace.
Tambo said he believed Mugabe had been misjudged and that he was “warm, charismatic and very humorous”.