Posted on October 26, 2005

Tanzania’s Mkapa Lauds Mugabe The ‘Elder’

Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), Oct. 25

Tanzania’s outgoing President Benjamin Mkapa has said African leaders should be guided by continental “elders” like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe instead of being dictated to by former colonisers.

Mkapa, who steps down later this month after a decade in power, was speaking late on Monday at a farewell banquet in Harare.

“A new leadership is emerging in Africa that cannot accept tutelary relationships with our erstwhile colonisers, a new leadership which should rather listen to its elders such as President Mugabe, thus being faithful to the counsel of Africa,” he said.

Mkapa, whose country goes to the polls on October 30, also questioned why reports by African electoral observer teams were not taken seriously if they contradicted the assessment of Western missions.

“Does it mean that only observers from rich countries can objectively see what is happening during our elections? That only their opinions count? That attitude is too condescending for us to bear,” Mkapa said.

Mkapa who has openly defended Mugabe’s controversial policies on land reforms and the recent housing demolitions, vowed he would not give in to pressure to condemn Mugabe.

“There are governments — some of them very good friends and development partners of ours — which are upset with me because of my steadfast refusal to censure the Zimbabwe government for what they claim are human rights abuses and democratic deficits in this country,” he said.

“I think we have reached a point where . . . we have agreed to disagree on Zimbabwe,” said Mkapa.

He said the land reforms which have seen tens of thousands new farmers apportioned tracts of land expropriated from white farmers, was the main reason why relations between Mugabe and the West had soured.

He said land was one of the key reasons why Zimbabweans waged their war of liberation.

“How then could one expect comrade Mugabe to leave office before resolving this unfinished business?” Mkapa said.