BM: When you unceremoniously left government, President Mugabe chided you for being spineless. What do you say to that?
NM: I invite you to think about a number of scenarios. If you a member of a football team or netball team, and you are member of seven or 11 as the case may be and you are the only one in that team that believes in a particular strategy and everybody else believes in a different strategy, do you think you are going to succeed? Does staying in that team when you don’t believe in what it’s doing indicates courage or weakness? My humble opinion is that staying where you know you are not adding value, where you know what you believe in is not going to be followed, none of your advice is going to be taken is being cowardly. So I don’t think leaving was cowardly, I think staying would have been cowardly.
BM: What political message do you want to convey to Zimbabwe under the current environment?
NM: What I want Zimbabweans to understand is that our country is not supposed to be where it is today but I also want them to understand that it is our responsibility to take it out of that circumstance. We cannot expect anybody else to do it for us and what it requires firstly is that we choose very carefully who our leaders are because we have evidence that not all leaders create a prosperous and peaceful Zimbabwe. That is why we are where we are. So we have got an opportunity next year at the elections to go back to basics and start again and make very careful choices on who should lead us, who will understand that leadership is about serving the people not about being served by the people which at the moment is happening. Whether it is the police or whatever, the system is there to take from you as opposed to enabling you to feed your family for you to succeed. I’m saying there is an opportunity next year and I’m promising Zimbabweans that if they chose me I would offer them servant leadership. I would lead to make Zimbabwe succeed, to make Zimbabweans prosper not me. I don’t need it but I’m a proud Zimbabwean and I think it’s a tragedy that our country is where it is today because I would argue that Zimbabwe does not absolutely have to be here.
BM: What is your view on the indigenisation policy and the land reform programme, policies which Zanu PF has arguably used in past elections as trump cards?
NM: In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with those policies. Our challenge in this country has always been in the execution. Most people, including white farmers and the World Bank, agreed that land in Zimbabwe had to be distributed or redistributed. The only issue was: could we do it in a principled and systematic way? That was the only debate so I believe in land distribution, I believe in indigenisation because indigenisation simply means let the citizens of the country in which an economy operates be participants in that economy. Anything else leads to instability. So those policies in themselves are very solid and reasonable policies. All I invite you to do is to look at the implementation of all these good things.
BM: What is the idea behind the Alliance for People’s Agenda?
NM: Because it is about people, that name is sending a very clear message that it’s not about me, it’s not about the leaders, it’s about the people. Once we get a leadership which really gets it, that everything you do as a leader is to be a servant of the people. So the alliance has to pay attention to the people’s agenda, to the people’s issues, then you will get real leadership.
BM: So do you see yourself as the next Emmanuel Macron of Zimbabwe?
NM: If they could do it, why can’t we? Why can’t we? Because I think we need to move into that space where our leadership gets the message that your responsibilities are for all citizens not for a part of the citizenry. And that is where you have to be careful about coalitions which implies there are other citizens on the other side of the fence. For me the competition is about leaders so you should be saying as citizens, you lead us get into a room and debate, we want to listen to the debate and then we will select who is making sense.
BM: Some critics say your bid could be tantamount to another Simba Makoni project meant to split the vote. What do you say to that?
NM: I would like to think again that we as Zimbabweans have travelled a journey. 2008 appears like a long time ago and the circumstances in this country were not the same as they are now. I would like to think and the Zimbabweans are not stupid, my mother can hardly read but she is anything but stupid. So I don’t even confuse education with the ability to analyse what is going on this country. Zimbabweans, at the time when the Simba project happened, firstly Simba was very senior in Zanu PF. I supported Simba, I took time off my work to go and support Simba but we also aware that in a lot of people’s minds, there was doubt whether Simba was a Zanu PF project. Had he really left Zanu or not? That was one issue and then the second issue was that Zimbabweans I suppose only the information available to them and the experience the country had travelled up to that point probably decided that because of that uncertainty they put their votes elsewhere. Now we know that Morgan (Tsvangirai) supposedly won that election but, like I said before, instead of Zimbabweans saying we are not accepting anybody doing anything else with our results, we collectively let it happen. We, not Morgan. And once we take that responsibility, I think we will be fine. Secondly, I have never been a member of Zanu PF so I hope that Zimbabweans are clear that this issue of ambivalence of whether I’m a Zanu project or not is clearer. More so in 2001 I left a government which was doing the wrong things, that is evidence in terms of track record. Lastly, a lot of things have happened which have demonstrated to all of us that this country is headed in the wrong direction. So, if we have got a vote and we have got all this evidence, let’s not be shifting responsibility. Let’s take the responsibility and say on the basis of this information and on the basis of the work that needs to be done to solve the problems of my country with the people who offer themselves for candidacy, who do I think is better?
BM: Why now?
NM: There is always a time for everything. Now I feel it is the time.
BM: The World Bank recently described Zimbabwe’s economy as in distress. What do you offer to change this narrative?
NM: Let’s look at why investment is not coming to Zimbabwe because remember that what happens in an economy by and large in terms of the role of government is creating a policy framework and managing your own affairs like in terms of how much the government takes from the economy. The more government takes from the economy, the less there is less to invest in the economy. So if you have a policy framework where financial institutions look at your plans and say these are credible, these plans can lead to a growing economy which will allow you to pay back your obligations on one side. On the other side where potential investors both—internal and external look at your plans and the way you conduct yourself and say wow there is an opportunity for us to come and make money in this economy. They will come in and invest. That is why now at the moment all the signals we have sent and how we have behaved has been the other way round and that is why virtually all our factories have closed. In the last seven years the Zimbabwean economy has shrunk to a tenth of what it used to be. The trend is continuing. Young people are lying idle, they are not employed, and factories have closed. We cannot afford to continue because that is so destabilising. So what it takes to get to what you were saying is to create an environment where the financial system globally has got confidence in your economy. An environment where investors, entrepreneurs—globally and domestically have got confidence that when they put their money in, they will get a return subject to their own ability not subject to what the government does or doesn’t do.
BM: You spoke passionately about the high levels of unemployment, especially among the youth. What strategy do you have to woo the youth vote in the forthcoming elections?
NM: If I facilitate for an economy, what will that do? It means jobs begin to be generated and the same young people that we are talking about all of a sudden they will perceive that going to school is an investment because when I get there I get skills and I come and I can be employed and I can begin to build my life, a family and actually succeed in life and create a foundation for my offspring to also succeed. That is what I am offering. So take responsibility for choosing a leader who will be a partner to create a future with you.
BM: What is your view on Zimbabwe’s arrears clearance programme?
NM: If you are in business and you come to me as a financier and you say can I get money to clear debt and at the same time I just read that we have just bought three planes for a billion dollars. Air Zimbabwe has just gone into the ground. You tell me rather asking me the questions—what logic does that make? And then the planes, those that are there some of them fly to Johannesburg with one or three passengers on board burning millions of dollars of fuel and then you go to somebody and say by the way can you forgive my debts. Please! Does that make sense?
BM: What are your views on the planned grand coalition of opposition parties seeking to dislodge Mugabe?
NM: Well, I have answered that question. For what?
BM: Critics say there is power in numbers?
NM: For me it depends on for what. Power to do what? Let me answer the question in a different way. I think what this country requires is a contestation for leadership. I am not setting out to fight MDC or to fight Zanu PF. I am setting out to compete with the leaders who are offering themselves to then lead all Zimbabweans. And therefore the concept of coalition—you have to tell me—a coalition to fight what? Other Zimbabweans? Just get the leaders to compete to be elected.