Saturday, January 20, 2018

Transcript of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa's Interview With the Financial Times
January 20, 2018

This is an edited transcript of an interview between President Mnangagwa and Alec Russell of the Financial Times in Harare on Tuesday January 16.

Mnangagwa’s relations with Mugabe now

Q: Do you still speak to the former president? When did you last speak to him?

A: Just before he left for Singapore [in mid-December] we chatted. Before he left for Singapore. He said he wanted to go to Singapore, I said, Sir, you’re most welcome. I will give every facilitation for you to proceed to Singapore. Then that was that. Then the list of people going to Singapore came to me. They were 38. A delegation of 38. So I phoned back and said, chef?.?.?.?That’s what we call each other. Boss, you’re going for a medical check-up; why do you want 38 people? Then he says, Emmerson, I don’t know that list. No one even told me. I never told you? Yes, OK. He says, I don’t know that there are 38 people. I know it’s myself, my wife, and my family. And we are hardly 10. I don’t know where the other 30? I said no, I have a list here of 36 plus yourself and the wife will be 38. So I can’t just approve 38 people just for you for a medical check-up; no. You know the new dispensation, I mean, we are trying . . . I have cut down the cabinet. It’s a leaner cabinet. And I’m also saying no minister travels first-class and so on. So I’m cutting expenses and that can’t be understood if you are going to go for medical check up with a big number. He says, Emmerson . . . He never says Mr President, he just calls me . . . Just said Emmerson. Emmerson, send me that list. So I called the protocol people.

Then they sent the list to him and they reduced the number down to 21. He says I can’t reduce any further; this is the number. That’s the number that then went. With him, it became 22, but the others were 21. He was then the 22. Then he went . . . But when he went in a 767 it carried these 22 people also to Singapore. Then when I was told I said no, this is not good. If the Press hears that we’ve taken the former President on this huge plane, it’s extravagant and so on. And it was published that it cost $6m. So we then said we must look for a smaller plane to go and pick him back when he finishes. Fortunately, when he was there, he then phoned back but he didn’t talk to me; he talked to my directors. He said, you see, it’s very absurd that the President allowed me to come with a 767 when we’re so small a delegation. Can you look for a smaller plane to pick me back? This is him. So the message arrived. So I gave instructions to the Minister of Transport and my officials. Somehow, the communication didn’t reach Air Zimbabwe on time. Then they sent again the 767.

Q: But how is he now? He was in power for 37 years, and now?

A: Just now he’s OK. Because when he came last week he sent me a summary of his medical report showing that . . . Just thanking me for having gone there, and then a small written report by Dr Matenga showing that he had a very successful and satisfactory medical check-up and he is back and he will be going back in April. This time when he goes back we will make sure he goes with a smaller plane as he asked.

His history with Mugabe

Q: When and how did you first meet Mugabe?

A: We’ve been together for about 54 years when I was a student and also when I went for military training in Egypt as well as in China. He was responsible for sending my group in September ’63 for military training in China, where I spent some time in the military academy in Nanjing. Graduated from there, came back to Rhodesia then, and attended the first Zanu conference in Gweru where he was elected secretary-general of the party. Our main task was to recruit young men at the time for military training abroad. We were called the Crocodile Group.

Q: Who called you the Crocodile Group?

A: Reverend Sithole. I’m the only survivor. We received communication from Mugabe that there will be a liberation committee meeting in Dar es Salaam; can you do some sabotage in the country to show that the battle was active in the country. So, as a result of that, I blew up a train.

Prison and torture

A: I was later captured. I was put in this Butcher House A20, yes. Butcher House A20: it’s a room at Harare Central Police Station. No, Salisbury Central Police Station. We were then tortured there. What they do is there’s a bar. See, like, that one doesn’t cross. There’s a bar from one end of the wall to the other end of the wall. Then there are hooks like in a butchery. Then they put a leg, then one leg goes through the hook, then the hook on the other side of your leg. Then they pull the table away so you have your head hanging down with your legs up there. You are hanging upside down. Then they hit you and they hit you. So I become unconscious, of course. They take you off, then they say again, you trained in China? I said no. On one occasion they took me to a room; they were foolish. They took me to a room, opened a window on the second floor of the building. A TNT slab, then a fuse with a blasting cap. Then they put the blasting cap into the TNT slab. Then they light it.

Now, because I was trained in military engineering, I knew that the size of the TNT, if it blows, we’ll all perish. And there was Inspector Beans, Bradshaw, and Smith. These are the guys who are doing this. So they knew that. They opened the window. They knew that when the fuse comes and of course before the blasting cap blows, I would throw it away. But I knew that I would keep it. And they know that if it blows, if they allow it to explode, they will all die. So, I kept it. Before it could blow, one of the guys jumped and threw it! They said you will go to prison but before that we will castrate you. Then you go for five years. I said in my mind, if I’m castrated, I’ll be in jail for five years, then I’m released. Then I’m nobody. It’s better to die a man. Then I said, OK. Of the crimes you listed here, I’ve done one, two, three. They said, just the one is enough: you will get hanged. That’s why I was not castrated. Then I went to court, sentenced to death. But then when they came to the question of age . . . At that time the age of majority was 21, and I wasn’t 21. That’s how I survived; then I got 10 years’ imprisonment.

Last year’s showdown with Robert and Grace Mugabe

A: There was this group called the G40 group, led by the former First Lady, using the former First Lady as their means to achieve their objectives. But the man who was an obstacle to their agenda was myself. I was the most senior person after Mugabe in the party and I had so much support and popular among the people, and they knew they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve with me in the party and with me on my feet. So, this is what happened. Then they mooted an agenda of rallies. One thing emerged very clearly: that the only two people who would address the rallies, that is the First Lady first, the former First Lady, and then the President. The First Lady began just attacking me from nowhere: that my body language shows that I’m ambitious, the way I dance. At the Gwanda rally, I was taken ill.

Former First Lady Grace Mugabe addresses a zanu-pf Youth Interface rally where she denigrated then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Former First Lady Grace Mugabe addresses a zanu-pf Youth Interface rally where she denigrated then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

The alleged poisoning

A: Then I was airlifted to South Africa, where it has been proved that I had been poisoned.

Q: Did the doctors work out what the poison was?

A: Yes; they say it was called a hard metal arsenic toxin. Arsenic toxin, something like that. That’s the class of poison. And it’s not easy to come round with it. They say it is colourless, it is tasteless, and the areas where it could be found are possibly two. Three initially, professors in that area eliminated this one, and it was left with two countries. Russia and Israel. So it’s possible it came from Russia.

They were surprised that I survived because then you’ve heart attack, what they called cardiac arrest. Then the verdict of death would be death by cardiac arrest. So they kept me, you know, washing this out, I had something like 28 one side, you know, what do they call these sachets? In one side. And then the other side to wash the stuff out. So last week. This was in August. Last week I went there. They have now declared that I am now OK. It’s not visible anymore. The poison was testable, but not totally clear. But it means it’s not testable. That’s what they said. So maybe I’m the same club with you.

Q: Have the police worked out what happened? Is there an investigation?

A: Maybe doctors did. It could be food poisoning. There are nine categories of food poisoning. All the nine were negative. Which means the poisoning was not food poisoning. Then the second category is three categories. That is from your urine, from your blood, from your tissues. They took those again, and the type of poisons which they could identify, it was all negative. So what was left are these. What they say, hard metal poisons. Which, then, they had to seek external expertise to identify. So after about two months, six weeks or thereabouts, they were able to identify the type of metal.

Q: Do you know who did it?

A: I suspect. I suspect as to who did it. They are still good friends of mine. I now suspect that they now know that I know. They now know that I know.

His firing

A: After the First Lady castigates me (at a rally), I shake her hand. I said thank you very much. She becomes even more annoyed. Then the next day there was a rally. I didn’t go to that one, but I listened. So, I was being castigated there as a snake. And to deal with this snake you must crush the head. And this snake is Mnangagwa, we must crush the head, not beat the tail or the body. She went berserk on that one. At that stage now I believed she was not mentally OK. Then the next day I was fired at about four o’clock. I got a letter. In the terms of section so and so, you are fired with immediate effect.

Q: Signed by the President?

A: By H.E. former President. So I then left my office immediately; I went home. But when I arrived home within two hours or so some colleagues . . . Some officers from security services came and said, Sir, we are part of a group which is charged with the task to eliminate you. So you must leave now. To where? Said just leave, don’t know where you can go, but just leave. Because we are going to pick you tonight and we will poison you, we will kill you, then put a string around your neck and say you hanged yourself. That’s the end of story. But we felt you have not committed any crime, so leave. I said, look, I can never leave my country; you can go and do what you want to do. They pleaded, you must leave. Then they left. After they left I decided to leave. When they were saying so, my wife was there. Then I left. My two sons . . . Three. No. My elder son, twin sons. They said they will accompany me. I said OK, come with me to the border. So we drove over the night. We reached the border by the morning.

We arrived at the border. This side of the border, Zimbabwe border, they clear us. Passport was cleared. But there’s a boom; they lift the boom for you to cross on the Mozambican side. They didn’t lift the boom; they said, no, no. You can’t go through; we have instructions that you should not go. You should not leave the country. Oh, OK. If I am not leaving the country then I go back. They said, no, you can’t go back into Zimbabwe. I said, oh, you’re crazy. What crime have I committed? I must just go back. So as I was walking back to my car this guy says, no, no, you can’t go. We must get. No, I’m not arrested; I have no crime. So I’m going back. You’ve stopped me from going to Mozambique so I’m leaving. Then they said, police, police, police!

Q: Did you think at one moment, why don’t I ring the President? This must be a terrible mistake. If I speak to him, it will be all right?

A: I knew he was not in control of himself. I was aware he was under the grasp of this group. Then I went to a friend’s house. In the evening around about eight o’clock I took off with one of my sons. We went through about 30km or so because we walked from about half past eight in the evening until 7:30 in the morning. We reached Mozambique. A friend sent a small plane and it picked me to South Africa. Once in South Africa, after about two days, there was a lot of speculation where I was. I was in Mozambique, I was in China . . .

Q: For the record, did you go to China or not?

A: No, no, I was in South Africa. Then things began happening back home here. I think the first thing was the army making some statements here.

Q: Did they contact you before making the statement?

A: No, there was no contact at that stage; there was nothing. Then later there was another statement by the Chief of Staff, General. The first one was made by CDF, Commander Defence Forces Chiwenga. Then the second. I think on the second day or so I saw another statement by chief of Staff, Major-General. At the time he was a Major General SB Moyo. Then talks began. You should know better; some talks began. Now, I was seeing this from outside so the sequence may not be very accurate. Talks began, negotiations conducted. There was this guy from the Roman Catholic Church, Father Mukonori; he was the intermediary between the military and the First Family. When the party began to institute impeachment proceedings, I think the President realised that this was not a joke and if they proceed he would be stripped of all the powers and perhaps even be arrested.

At that stage I also phoned the president from South Africa. Then the president said, Emmerson, chef, he said where are you? I said I was in South Africa. Why are you in South Africa? I said, but you fired me. You’re forgetting you fired me. Come, come, come. I said, no, it’s my security there. He says, no. I want you here at State House because I want to resolve these issues with you here. So I realised the old man was not clear of what was happening. Perhaps he’d even forgotten that he had fired me. So I said no, I couldn’t come. But he was imploring me to come back and join him in the State House to resolve these issues. The following day he stepped down. Then I was contacted by both General Chiwenga and SB Moyo. Both contacted me and we discussed, they said, come. Oh no, no, I said no, I cannot come immediately. I have to pay my respects to the people who have kept me for the last 14, 15 days in South Africa.


Q: Will Mr Mugabe have amnesty for?.?.?.?If there are any judicial investigations into any abuses that may have happened under him? Is that?.?.?.?

A: In terms of the Constitution, a sitting president is immune. But a retired president loses that immunity. But I don’t see any possibility of us taking to court or prosecuting him for anything. As far as I am concerned, as far as my administration is concerned, he’s our father figure, he’s our?.?.?.?The father of our?.?.?.?The founding father.

Q: The founding father of the nation

A: The founding father of our nation. We will respect him; we want to keep that legacy. He is our icon, we’ll do everything in our power to keep him happy, to keep him secure, to keep him comfortable to the end.

His drinking policy

A: In 1978, one of our members of the High Command in Zanla forces, Peter Baya, member of the High Command, died of liver cirrhosis. One day at night, our commander called us senior commanders and said, look, we are in this war not to die from drink. We must die from bullets and not from drink or landmines. So each one must take a vow to say perhaps for a week you don’t drink, another week you drink. Or a month you don’t drink and a month you drink. I chose to drink six months and abstain totally?.?.?.?No wine, no beer, no whisky, for six months. I took my oath that time. I’ve kept it up to today. From 1978 to date, yes, I’ve kept it up; never broken. This is my wet season. From July 1 to December 31 is six months. That’s my dry season. From January 1 to June 30 it’s my wet season.

Q: And does your family say?.?.?.?Is your character different in the different six months?

A: I think they are happier during the wet season.


Q: What about international monitors for the election, will you accept Commonwealth monitors?

A: After pronouncing that Zimbabwe’s open for business, Zimbabwe wants to reintegrate with the international community; Zimbabwe will accept those who accept her. We want fair, free, credible elections. In the past the countries who imposed sanctions on us, we would allow them to send an observer if they so desired. But those who had pronounced themselves against us, who predetermined that our elections would not be free and fair, were not allowed to come in. But now with this new disposition I don’t feel threatened by anything. I would want that the United Nations should come, the EU should come. If the Commonwealth were requesting to come, I am disposed to consider their application to come. The same with other countries; the more we have observations across — and I don’t think we have anything to hide. I’m preaching this day in, day out; I would contradict myself if I say, I will be discriminatory. But of course if some people made conclusions now, we know the elections will not be free and fair, so they cannot come and observe; they have made decisions before the election’s taken place.

 Q: The opposition criticise your party over the voters’ roll, the independence of the head of the election commission and the role of state media. Will you change your approach on that?

A: The election commission is called ZEC, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Currently there’s no head. The head resigned, the chairperson of the commission, Justice Rita Makarau, resigned. I believe that by Friday I will have appointed another — this week. If the vice-chairman is a man, the chairperson must be a woman, so I’m looking for a woman. Secondly, the woman must have been a judge or a lawyer qualified to be a judge. I had names brought to me by the chief justice to say which judges — the head of the Law Society — which persons. So we of course have several women who sent in their CVs and I believe by tomorrow or Friday — because there must be consultation between me and, in Parliament, the speaker and the Justice Commission — I believe that by Friday this will have been completed because I gave them the names last week. Then I’ll appoint one.

Q: Will it be an independent person or someone from Zanu-PF?

A: We believe that we need somebody with integrity, an impeccable record in terms of his or her CV. That’s what will guide us.

 Q: You’ve been criticised for donating vehicles to tribal chiefs, which has been accused of being an act of?.?.?.?vote-buying. A mistake?

A: The chiefs are on the government payroll. One of their conditions of service is to give them motor vehicles. Whether there’s an election or there’s no election we’ll still give them the motor vehicles and their salary or allowance, whatever. This was done by the former administration, except that they had not been given so I’ve gone ahead to give them. In fact the later vehicles I’ve given have not been bought by this administration; they were bought by the former administration. It has nothing to do with vote-buying and so on; it’s a part of the conditions of service of those chiefs.

Q: You mentioned the possible Commonwealth observer mission. Are you going to apply to rejoin the Commonwealth?

A: It’s not my priority but I believe that when we shall have interaction with the British — because when I had the envoy from Prime Minister — is it May, Theresa May? — they raised that issue. When we have engagement they want to raise the issue about us joining the Commonwealth. I said I’ll be happy to deal with that. At the time of that envoy I had just been inaugurated and didn’t even have a cabinet. I can’t make a sole decision on my own but I believe after the AU (African Union) in February or thereabouts we should be having direct discussions with the UK and that issue will arise. I personally have nothing against the Commonwealth club so we will discuss that issue when we come to meeting the British. I personally have no hard feelings against the?.?.?.?because the issue on which we differed is behind us. We had differed with the Commonwealth on the land reform programme. That is behind us. I don’t see what difference [?] us any more now.


Q: You’ve talked about possible compensation for people who had to leave their farms. How is this going to be funded?

A: That is an ongoing exercise. In terms of our law we are obligated to compensate any developments on land which was compulsorily acquired under the land reform programme. And some farmers have been already compensated but the large number of them have not and we are continuously raising funds on the fiscus for that compensation, although the persons affected are not too happy because the pressure’s very strong. So I have promised that I will not breach that commitment by government; we shall continue to honour the compensation on the improvements on land as a result of the land reform programme, yes.

Q: If you are to attract the foreign investors that, most people would agree, Zimbabwe’s economy needs, title and property rights are incredibly important. This is the big thing on the minds of would-be investors. How will you reassure them?

A: To the extent that we honour property rights in relation to land, we’ve introduced the 99-year lease tenure. We don’t have freehold any more, although we still have people holding freehold land but we have now legislated for 99-year leases which are transferable. This is where we’re going and we don’t see a person getting worried, being granted a 99-year lease; very few people live beyond 99 years but if they do they can always renew. That is with regard to agricultural land. Of course our land has different categories. The communal lands which have [unclear] people on them; there is no limit, it is a freehold. But agricultural land is a 99-year lease, yes.

Q: The economy is in a fragile state.

A: Absolutely.

 Q: How are you going to attract these fabled foreign investors back if you want them?

A: We must look at how our economy is in that state. The answer is that, from the year 2000, when sanctions came in — the year 2000? It’s now 16, 17 years — 18 years of sanctions where our currency crashed totally to be meaningless totally, where lines of credit were cut overnight, where our lines of credit with countries literally or almost literally again came to a stop. That affected overnight — 44 per cent of our programmes suddenly were denied access to finance, access to lines of credit and the economy slumped, both the mining sector and the agriculture sector, and so on. But the last four years have seen the resurgence and recovery of our agricultural sector.

You know our country is primarily an agricultural economy. Fortunately two years ago or thereabouts I was made responsible for agriculture and value-addition and appreciation, food security and nutrition. I was made responsible for those. Then I introduced “command agriculture”, you must have read about it. It was criticised?.?.?.?that it would fail and so on. But this is voluntary. What we did was that we said — Zimbabwe had insufficient food, it had food insecurity. For the last two, three decades we have suffered from food insecurity; importing food into Zimbabwe. But from this last season going forward, that won’t happen again. We have created a model which I championed or created where we say how much grain we want for the year to feed the country. We want 1.5m, 1.6m metric tonnes of grain to feed the nation and we need 0.5m metric tonnes of grain as a strategic reserve if anything happens, so altogether this gives you 2m metric tonnes. Now we say, how much land, how many hectares of land do we need to produce that amount of grain if a hectare gives you five tonnes as a minimum?

This gives you 400 000 hectares of land to be put under grain. Then you say, now I want people to volunteer their land, if you have 200 hectares, 400 hectares, you may decide to say, I’m putting 50 hectares into the programme or the entire farm on to the programme or just a portion of the farm on to the programme. If you give us 100 hectares into the programme, my people worked out, they know how much diesel you’re going to use on 100 hectares, how much fertiliser you’re going to use on 100 hectares, how much seed you would want on 100 hectares, how much chemicals you’d use on 100 hectares and how much ploughing power you need for 100 hectares. We give you all that. So the farmer has not time to go and look for finance from the bank or go and look from a line of credit from an oil company or from a fertiliser company or from a chemical company; everything’s brought to your farm and there’s a programme which shows you how to prepare your land, when to plough and when to irrigate, when to spray and so on. You are guaranteed a minimum of five tonnes per hectare. The majority of us get far more than five tonnes per hectare. I am a farmer myself. If I get nine tonnes I will have failed but I always get 10 or more tonnes per hectare but the cost of running a hectare is about US$1,000 so three tonnes can pay for the hectare. If you have produced the minimum yield of five, you still have two tonnes for yourself after clearing your loan.

 Q: So it’s about productivity?.?.?.?

A: Yes, the cost of productivity. I had an oversubscription of members coming on board and then how different is it? This is a six-month period. The fiscus, the Ministry of Finance has no capacity to provide that financing so what we did was at first I called all the oil companies, financial houses, fertiliser companies, chemical houses, the trade unions, farmers’ unions and so on, the stakeholders in agricultural production, all of them, for two days we met. Initially they were not co-operative; they said, government or this government was?.?.?.?We said, well, this is a new — we want to have a new situation and this is a model, you are guaranteed to get your money this time around. After interrogating the process and the model, they all agreed. Those who supply fuel have supplied it in advance; those who supply fertiliser supplied it in advance; chemicals the same?.?.?.?Everything was supplied in advance because they knew it’s tight. Every farmer would obviously produce five tonnes.

The three tonnes will pay their loan — actually it’s two-point-something tonnes, which would pay the loan, so there’s an excess of two tonnes, so it went ahead. When the farmer produces, he wants to be paid. Where do I get the money from? So I called the 11 major millers in the country, sat with them and said, how much money do you spend on importation of grain? About $1bn; 980 or so per year for importation of grain. I said, now we are banning you from importing grain — each one buys grain not for the full year but in quarters, so we give them money for the quarter — so give me money for the quarter, if you are giving me money for the quarter I pay the farmer, the farmer delivers the maize to your grain marketing boards and then you go and withdraw your maize and we deduct it from what you have given in advance.

So through the funds from the millers I’m paying the farmer and the farmer delivers the maize and the miller takes the maize to mill for that quarter, deducting it from the amount. So if you wanted 6,000 a year and in the quarter it’s just about 15,000 metric tonnes, for the three months they can go and withdraw maize from the grain marketing board, 15,000 tonnes is [unclear] and deducted from the amount he’s given me so everybody’s happy. Then that goes well if there are good rains but in the event that there is no rain, we said, OK, we must have a model which gives us food security whether it’s a good season or there’s drought. When there’s drought, we said, how much land under irrigation do we need to produce the same quantity of grain? We discovered that we need just in excess of 300,000 hectares of land, which will be irrigated and obviously the yields will be above five tonnes. But at this stage — two years ago — no, last year in 2016 — or two years ago — we only had about 159,000 hectares of land under irrigation but we need 300,000 hectares of land under irrigation.

Whether there’s rain or no rain if we irrigate that amount of land we have more than two million metric tonnes of grain. So we’ve now increased the number of hectares under irrigation. I’m sure now they’ve increased the number of hectares under irrigation but the minimum we want is 300,000. When they restart, it doesn’t matter whether there’s good rain or there’s drought, we will feed the country. In the area of agriculture and beneficiation we are saying, yes, we are now at production level with a model, now we’re moving on to the second cost; this is processing, value-addition and beneficiation. Then the marketing; these are the three steps we are following. I can say, we have said bye-bye now to food insecurity for Zimbabwe, which will be a food-basket again for the region.

Indigenisation law

Q: Is it dead now?

A: Not really in the mortuary. It is at the departure lounge rather than the mortuary.

 Q: It’s an important point this. Readers of the FT are very interested in this.

A: It was broken into three. The first part relates to depletable resources or the extractive resources sector; that is the mining sector, depletable or extractive sector — that’s mining. Then the second is — what do you call it? — non-depletable resources. Under the first one, the depletable, the extractive sector, the law was that it must be 51 per cent government, 49 the investor. The minute you land at the Harare airport, 51 per cent of your money is ours, 49 per cent of it is yours. But if you go into manufacturing, it’s negotiable. There is local participation but there is no insistence on 51/49. Then if you go into the reserved sector like salons for the girls, that is reserved for — small groceries — reserved for our local people. I have revised that and say the entire economy is open, except for two minerals: diamonds and platinum. The rest you can think about — it could be lithium, coal, gas, chrome, nickel, whatever, manufacturing, industrial, infrastructure — it’s open.

 Q: That part is dead.

A: No. It’s in the departure lounge, going to get fresh air, to be alive. That’s what is there now but of course we still have the reserved sector but even the reserved sector are saying if there are specific requirements like technology coming in, skills coming in, we’ll open it to people to come in. But otherwise now the indigenisation applies only in relation to those two minerals.

 Government spending

 Q: What about government expenditure? The consensus view is that it’s too high.

A: Correct.

 Q: It’s impossible to sustain at this level for an economy of your size. What are you going to do about government expenditure?

A: Two facts stick out: when the economy was doing well it catered for broader social requirements; heath, education, infrastructure, housing and so on. Suddenly the economy collapsed but the health needs did not collapse, the need of education did not collapse, all social needs never collapsed, they remain the same. So the level of expenditure still remained but the revenue base collapsed so if you understand that then you appreciate what we are going through.

His economic model

Q: What’s your vision? The China model or the western model?

A: Let me say that we introduced the Look East policy but that was a survival policy. The east stood by us through thick and thin. This is why in my inauguration speech I said, we shall maintain our old friends and take on board those who are willing to become our friends. This was to take care of those who stood by us when the west closed doors against us so countries like China, Brazil, perhaps Russia, India did not close doors on us, they continued to trade with us. They continued to give us soft loans and so on, make projects with us and to some extent they helped us to survive. So although now there is a green light from most of the western countries — talk about Britain, talk about Germany, talk about Spain, talk about France — they’re all showing green, indicative, positive lights for co-operation, opening doors for us in the way, impressing that but we are not forgetting our old friends. We will continue to impress them and continue to interact and deepen our economic co-operation with them but there’s now a broader spectrum where we can go fishing.

Q: Some people I’ve spoken to in the last day or so — talk about Deng Xiaoping as being a model to you, someone who transformed an economy and China’s trajectory, but a strong hand at the tiller. Another analogy would be Paul Kagame. Do you have a model?

A: No. I know I met Deng Xiaoping with President Mugabe, I think, around 1977 or 1978 but let me assure you, I am not Deng Xiaoping?.?.?.?but people say the way we are looking at reviving the economy is similar to how Deng Xiaoping did it. But those are their analyses and I think we are doing it on the concrete situation and the facts and the environment existing in my country and if the way we are doing it becomes similar to what Deng Xiaoping did, let it be. But this is what I think is best for my country, best for our people; we open up, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We must impress those of technology, skills, ICT to assist us to move forward, jump and catch up with the rest of the world.

Q: So you’re open to everyone.

A: Yes.


 Q: China’s relationship with Africa has expanded massively in recent years and Zimbabwe’s had a very good relationship with Beijing. But there have been the critics. Thabo Mbeki when he was president sounded a note of caution. He suggested there is a risk of a new colonial relationship. Do you agree?

A: From what I know — I am a graduate from a (Chinese) military school. There’s no history of colonisation by the Chinese — except Tibet might argue on that score. There’s no indication of (China) colonising any country. They may have different reasons for their embracing the continent, the African continent, because they’re offering various platforms for funding. From their point of view they may have other reasons why they’re doing it. In my view, I think they would also want to have markets. And Africa, the continent is over a billion now. And the huge economy would want to participate in that market of that number. And of course, in terms of influence, most African countries are reluctant and wary about their relations with?.?.?.?Most want to break away, like we did ourselves with the British. But now we feel more strong in that issues, the British should now respect us.

They know Zimbabwe is quite independent, the independent thinking, and their own?.?.?.?At that score we can relate and move forward. So I believe that China would also want a foothold of influence on the African continent, but through economic relations, economic co-operation, rather than political and domination of that nature. I think this is how they look at it. From our point of view, in particular from Zimbabwe’s point of view, this is a country that has stood by us in critical times, and will continue to relate to them. And for my administration, I’ll be going to China in April. I hope when I go there to be able to negotiate mega-deals in the area of infrastructure development, the construction of railways in the new networks in Zimbabwe. Dualisation of the highways in Zimbabwe.

Also, attracting the Chinese in the area of agriculture where we need to do beneficiation. Although, in some cases, they would want to take the raw materials to China. But we would want to pursue them, no, the companies should come here. And also, we are aware, with over 400 British companies in Zimbabwe, but most of them went down, they suffered, because when sanctions were imposed they stopped financing and supporting the domestic British companies in Zimbabwe and they’ve gone down. They are very much behind in terms of the machinery and the tools. There has not been any retooling of these factories. So that point is that most of the machinery in China, they range from the poorest into the best. You can go low, you can go middle, you can go high-tech. With China.

Ties with Britain

 Q: What about the old colonial power? What’s your relationship with Britain?

A: Breaking out of, Brex?.?.?.?How do you call it? Brexit, yes it’s a good thing because they will need us. And we will make sure we become very close to them. So what they’ve lost with Brexit they can come and recover from Zimbabwe. And we benefit them, the benefit, that’s the way. It’s a win-win situation. It’s a win-win situation. This is how I look at it myself. I don’t think they’ve any question of domination, no, which I think is a question of mutual relationship. And most importantly, the education system is British. And it’s easier to develop more scientists here with Britain, English-speaking and so on. So it’s far much easier.

But we will not put our eggs in one basket as before. Because for instance now I have no doubt we’re going to fly our Hawks again. But for the last 18 years we could not fly our Hawks because Britain was the only country which could give us the spares. And so for the last 18 years they were down. But now with the good lady who is there?.?.?.?And with this guy, Johnson?.?.?.?Boris. Next year at our independence we’ll be flying Hawks. Because we’re going to now have good relationships with this good lady. And something very interesting as well that Zimbabwe has enjoyed the best relationships with Britain under female prime ministers. They should have continuously female prime ministers. Because they are more sensible than their male counterparts. Yes, I think they are more sensible.

Q: What’s your message to the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth?

A: I can assure you, the Queen has never had any hard feelings towards this country. And we are clear, even our former president was clear, and he told us that the Queen has no hard feelings towards us. We have no hard feelings towards the Queen. The guy we didn’t like is that young man, Tony Blair. I don’t know where he is now.

The economy

Q: The economy is heavily indebted. Some people suggest that maybe there should be a scrapping of the bond notes? Has anyone suggested that?

A: No. Fortunately, for instance when the AfreximBank came to visit us on the table was a discussion for a loan of 600m to advance to Zimbabwe. But when I presented my programme and my vision they were so impressed and they upped the facility to 1.5bn. You see? Because they are happy with the way we are going. They are happy with our vision, the way we intended to open up the economy and so on. So we believe that given time we are going to recover. The biggest bad thing we have is the arrears that we have with the banking [?] institutions and so on. But we believe that with what we are doing, for instance, our diamonds, after what we have done now, the projection is that it is going to double from about one million to three million?.?.?.?Triple. Yes, from one million to three million carats next year. Or is it this year or next year? That is very important. Also, we have opened our chrome.

We banned in the past the exportation of chrome, we’ve opened that. And so far we are three times more than before we opened in terms of the revenue stream coming from that sector. The same with tourism. I think we’ve increased by 20 per cent or 23 per cent, I don’t know. It is also increasing. Now you can see these are indicative indicators to show that the economy is?.?.?.?Actually, the minister of finance has raised up the GDP growth. It was 2.7, it came to 3.5, now they are talking about 4.7. And it’s selected to continue to go up. So with that I believe that we should be able to build capacity to deal with our arrears.

Q: But you’d still be looking for a debt relief programme from the IMF and the World Bank?

A: One of the things Britain would want to discuss. May want to review and discuss with us is the question of looking at our debt. I’m now very excited with that. Very excited. Yes. And actually Britain supported us during the Lima, conference in Lima. And they would want us to go back to those promises and move forward. So it’s very promising.

Politics of liberation movements

Q: Can a liberation movement that’s been in power for 30 or 40 years, can it change? Or does it need to leave office, as happened to Congress in India, before it can change?

A: A liberation movement is a question about people. And the ones who formed it are not the same people who are still there now. As time passes, new persons, new generations of persons, of leadership, come to the helm to lead forward. We take on board their exposure to international trade, to international markets, to international best world practice. And that comes on board. And that helps them to modernise themselves, otherwise they remain behind. So I believe that as long as we allow the internal democracy in our party we shall continue to have these young girls and boys coming into leadership. We have been exposed to Oxford itself, to Harvard, to various institutions abroad, and they bring these skills into the party, and they can be assured that who is alive.

His nickname and his faith

Q: The Crocodile name. Does it bother you?

A: No, it has been given to me for a long, long time, during the war and so on. But it arose from what I have explained when in 1964, when we were deployed. That’s how we?.?.?.?Perhaps I’m the only surviving member of that group. So it doesn’t bother me. But we, the African people, have totems. I’m not a crocodile, I’m a lion. I’m a shumba. Yes. So that doesn’t bother me at all. No, I’ve got used to it. But many people think that I’m of that totem. No, it was a result of a deployment back in 1964.

 Q: People have said you have a strong faith. That you are a very committed Christian. How important is this?

A: I am a Methodist. But because I’m president I go to various church occasions. When I’m invited, I attend the other churches. But as a family we are Methodists. Yes, we are Methodist.

 Q: And why did you adopt this faith? Because I think you’re a born-again, aren’t you? You came to it late in life?

A: I was baptised a long time back. When we were young we became so revolutionary that we felt that the churches or missionaries, when they came to Africa or to our country, they helped us, they helped our people, to be docile. And not to fight colonialism. So there was a period when we revolted against missionaries and Christianity. And then also when we went to train in China there is no Christianity there. They believe you produce food and eat. There’s no question of this ideology. So we went through the war and so on. But after the war and so on and you were back home, and you are back with your parents again, then you get again readmitted into the faith, like that. This is where they say born-again.

The past

 Q: Have you considered on behalf of Zimbabwe formally acknowledging what happened in Matabeleland? And even making an apology?

A: Not as an individual. Though the incidents, the commission or omission of that period by the government of the day, of that period, both are to the former vice-president, Joshua Nkomo, and the former president, Mugabe, they have pronounced themselves on behalf of the administration of the day, that it was a moment of madness. And as a result of that position we all came together, all sides came together, and agreed on the Unity Accord, and put this thing behind us. And any individual complaints or need for assistance can be treated that way. So that it can be attended to like any other citizen in the country. That will be done.

We have passed the bill called the National Healing and Reconciliation Bill, that’s passed, I signed it into law. That will be a platform where these complaints or challenges can be addressed, and they were taking elderly people from the entire community, who are elderly, who can deal with these issues. And advise us precisely on these issues, this is how we can deal it, and how we can handle these issues. So, but overall we don’t want to live in the past. We can never go back to the past. We need, from the past we must carry on what is good. But never what is bad. We must promote that which is good and go into the future expounding on love, unity, hard work. That’s what we need now.

Q: But if you acknowledge the past, don’t you think that will make it even easier to move forward?

A: This is what I’m saying. From the past we must take the good that the past has in our history. And leave behind that which is bad. We don’t want that to be repeated, ever, this is what I am saying. You follow?

 The death penalty

A: For instance in my administration I don’t think I will allow the death penalty, which, as an individual, I dislike. I think this time in cabinet I might win the game.

 Q: So you will annul the death penalty?

A: This is not a party issue, it’s a national issue. But I am convinced that it is not?.?.?.?It is time that Zimbabwe moves away from death penalty. You can have life imprisonment, you can have long sentences. But I’m against the death penalty. But I must convince cabinet to move forward and join the rest of most of the countries in the world. Well, some of the developed countries still have death penalty. But I think on that score they are still medieval.

 Q: So how soon could that happen, that could happen quite quickly?

A: Sorry?

 Q: Ending the death penalty, that could?.?.?.??

A: No, I’m saying if it were party policy it would end quickly because it’s a party decision. This we have declared is individual processes on the matter. We must allow people not to work on the basis of party directive but on personal conscience.
Population Living Below Poverty Line Falls in Botswana
January 20, 2018

GABORONE. – Preliminary findings of a household survey shows that the proportion of people living below poverty line has been declining over the years, from 30,6 percent in 2002-3 to 16,3 percent in 2015-16 in Botswana.

This was revealed by the Statistician General Anna Majelantle in Botswana’s capital Gaborone on Thursday.

Majelantle said that the survey was one of the periodic surveys undertaken by Statistics Botswana in discharging its mandate of providing official statistics to facilitate evidence-based planning and decision making.

The survey was conducted over a one-year period from November 2015 to October 2016. The primary objective of the survey was to provide a comprehensive set of indicators for labor market and poverty.

Majelantle added that eradication of extreme poverty continues to be a priority area for the southern African country.

According to Majelantle, the proportion of people living below $1 a day has also been declining over the years, from 23,4 percent in 2002-3, to 5,8 percent in 2015-16.

She further revealed that the gender disparity in poverty levels which was observed over the previous surveys still persists and it showed that females-headed households constituted more than half (55 percent ) of the poor households.

– Xinhua
Patrice Lumumba in His Own Words
January 20, 2018

The official potrait of Patrice Lumumba

Regina Jane Jere Correspondent

WHILE in incarceration just weeks away from his 17 January 1961 horrific assassination at a tender age of 36, the Congolese liberation hero and Pan-Africanist Patrice Lumumba, put in poignant words his final views on the state of his beloved country and Africa, in this heart-rending letter to his wife Pauline.

On the 57th anniversary of his murder, we republish it from our archives in full as some food-for-thought on the plight of Congolese people many years after his death and the country’s independence.

My dear wife, I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst certain high officials of the United Nations that organisation in which we placed all our trust when we called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence in to dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable.

I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!

Regina Jane Jere is a Zambian-born London-based journalist and founding Editor of the New African Woman magazine the sister-publication of the New African magazine of which she was the Deputy Editor for over a decade. This article is reproduced from New African magazine.
Let Africa’s Voice Be Heard at Davos
January 20, 2018
Joram Nyathi Spectrum
Zimbabwe Herald

ON Wednesday this week I posed a question, rather a sort of rhetorical question: Did ED promise an economic turnaround in 100 days?

This was caused by the noise we hear or read around, noise so loud one would think President Mnangagwa had in fact claimed to be a miracle worker who could work magic with the economy, and a myriad other challenges the nation faces.

Many readers responded with a plain “no”, to say ED never said that. A few said they were making inferences from the 100-project plan.

The most hilarious response came from one Ranga Mberi. First he merely said “no”. Then some criminals around his brain got the better of him, and came back to state; “Stop boring us with facts cadre.” I rarely laugh so hard as I did.

Mberi clearly had got my drift.

It’s been a euphoric two months since Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn-in as president of the republic on November 24, 2017. Since then there has been a sense of euphoria mingled with the surrealism of the miraculous.

That’s how I have interpreted what amounts to an epitaph to ED’s supposedly promised and failed economic recovery miracle in some local media.

What Mberi was saying, tongue in cheek of course, was don’t interrupt our reverie, our midmorning self-created fantasy. There are people so angry with everything Zanu-PF they will blame it for the erratic rains. So they will lie and distort what ED promised just to feed their anger against Zanu-PF.

That’s it about the humour and malice issuing from events since the launch of Operation Restore Legacy mid-November last year. There is also the more serious side to the euphoria.

There are many nations falling over each other to win favour with Zimbabwe. It is a most dangerous time and yet most promising for our nation; if we can play our cards wisely. There will be suitors of all kind, yet not so kind, not so well meaning, but taking advantage of our glazed look to make their hay.

It is a time when there is risk of dropping our guard in the interest of being accommodating and open for business to everyone that our eyes might skirt over the small print in trying to clinch fast deals. Hyenas are coming draped in woollen suits. The temptation to be pleasant to all is too great to resist.

We should therefore not be surprised that in trying to set apart President Mnangagwa from former president Robert Mugabe, the line of attack is the indigenisation policy. At the centre of that attack is the lie that the land reform programme was a mistake, that indigenisation is bad not only by implementation, but even in principle and therefore chases away investors. All this is founded on the racist lie that Africans are incapable of running a country, that they can’t produce enough to feed themselves, and that the only investment which makes an impact on an economy is FDI.

So when President Mnangagwa recently modified the indigenisation thresholds in respect of local investment, there were celebrations locally and abroad. The 49/51 ratio would now apply only to platinum group metals and diamonds.

Foreigners have every reason to be excited. They put the interests of their countries first, not those of foreigners, whether investor or tourist. We are talking here of people who think and plan long-term.

Not so Africa, the motherland. And that is why even those countries which gained their independence in the 1960s are not too far ahead of Zimbabwe in terms of economic advancement. The competition is about putting foreign interests first, then we pick the crumbs under Dives’ table.

I raise the red flag on indigenisation deliberately because that is one policy which puts the Zimbabwean at the centre of discourse, not on the periphery of job-seekers. It is one policy which allows us to negotiate fair terms of engagement for ourselves.

But there is an even deeper concern. While the terms for foreign investors have apparently been relaxed in all other sectors except platinum and diamonds, there is now almost incomprehensible silence on beneficiation and value addition. I am not hearing sufficient noise around that key area of the production chain. Is it because the subject is also inimical to foreign investors; that it’s ok for them to come and extract raw materials in Zimbabwe so they preserve industries and jobs in their own countries?

The point I am making is that while Donald Trump might be seen as a maverick, his fault is to verbalise a shared currency. Foreign investors put their country first, not just America.

When it comes to Africa, policy pragmatism means leaving the natives clutching at insecure jobs. Anything that seeks to put the almighty investor in his rightful place is attacked as populist. And so we remain a rich continent of poor natives. Let Africa’s voice be heard at Davos.
Government Shutdown Begins as Budget Talks Falter in Senate
New York Times
JAN. 19, 2018

WASHINGTON — Much of the federal government officially shut down early Saturday morning after Senate Democrats, showing remarkable solidarity in the face of a clear political danger, blocked consideration of a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating.

The shutdown, coming one year to the day after President Trump took office, set off a new round of partisan recriminations and posed risks for both parties. It came after a fruitless last-minute negotiating session at the White House between Mr. Trump and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

With just 50 senators voting in favor, Senate Republican leaders fell well short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed on the spending measure, which had passed the House on Thursday. Five conservative state Democrats voted for the spending measure. Five Republicans voted against it, although one of those, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, did so for procedural reasons.

As the clock ticked toward midnight, when funding for the government was set to expire, senators huddled on the floor of the crowded Senate chamber, searching for some way forward.

Then, in the early morning hours, Mr. McConnell proposed a measure that would keep the government open for another three weeks, not four as the House measure would have done, and said the Senate would come back to into session at noon Saturday.

“Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans.”

Democrats, calling it the “Trump shutdown,” countered that Republicans were responsible for the management of a government in their control.

A deal to avoid closing the federal government hinges on Senate Democrats, and some Republicans, who want to include protections for young undocumented immigrants.

In addition to funding government operations through Feb. 16, the House-passed bill would extend funding by six years for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, a provision intended to secure Democratic votes.

But Democrats were seeking concessions on other priorities, such as protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation, increasing domestic spending, securing disaster aid for Puerto Rico and bolstering the government’s response to the opioid epidemic.

Federal agencies had prepared for the shutdown; on Thursday night, officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget instructed federal agency leaders to give their employees informal notice of who would be furloughed and who would not if funding lapsed.

Formal notifications are to be given as early as Saturday morning, budget office officials said, insisting on anonymity to brief reporters about the details of what the White House called “lapse planning and shutdown operations.”

More than one million active-duty military personnel will serve with no lapse, they said, but could not be paid until the shutdown ends. Agencies like the Energy Department that have funding that is not subject to annual appropriations can use that money to stay open, the officials said, and the administration is encouraging them to do so. Most mandatory programs — entitlements such as Social Security that are automatically funded rather than subject to congressional appropriations — can continue without disruption.

Officials said Mr. Trump may travel on Air Force One to carry out his constitutional responsibilities, including a planned trip next week to Davos, Switzerland — although it was unclear whether trips to Mar-a-Lago — his exclusive club in Palm Beach, Fla. — such as the one he had planned for this weekend, would fall into that category.

Mr. Trump canceled plans on Friday to travel to his Florida resort and will stay in Washington until a spending bill is passed, a White House official said Friday morning.

The Senate’s vote, late Friday night, came after a day of budget brinkmanship in Washington that included the 90-minute Oval Office negotiating session between Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer.

“We had a long and detailed meeting,” Mr. Schumer said at the Capitol after leaving the White House. “We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.”

Just hours later, the negotiations collapsed.

By Friday night, a last-minute congressional deal to stop a rare shutdown of a federal government under one-party control remained elusive.

“Our Democratic colleagues are engaged in a dangerous game of chicken,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, warned in a speech on the Senate floor.

Mr. Trump, who described his session with Mr. Schumer as an “excellent preliminary meeting” in a Twitter post Friday afternoon, did not appear able or willing to suggest his own solution.

Mr. Cornyn said Mr. Trump had rejected a proposal by Mr. Schumer to fund the government through Tuesday to allow negotiations to continue.

“The president told him to go back and talk to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and work it out,” Mr. Cornyn said, referring to the House speaker and Senate majority leader. A spokesman for Mr. Schumer, Matt House, said that was not true.

Senate Democrats still held out hope that Mr. Trump, scorched by the firestorm prompted by his vulgar, racially tinged comments on Africa last week, would be willing to make concessions.

“It’s time for us as Democrats and Republicans to sit down in a room together, think about this great nation and the frustration they have with our political system and those of us in political life,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Around the country, state and local officials were left scratching their heads at the dysfunction in Washington.

“We’re the United States of America,” Gov. Matt Mead, the two-term Republican governor of Wyoming, said in an interview on Friday. “We should be able to figure out these problems without going to the cliff every so often, whether it’s with Republicans or Democrats in office. There certainly has to be a better way.”

Democrats delivered speeches on the Senate floor in front of a huge placard that blared, “Trump Shutdown.” At the White House, Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said the Trump administration was preparing for “what we’re calling the ‘Schumer shutdown.’”

Tempers were flaring in the Republican Party, as well. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a moderate on immigration who has been trying to broker a deal with Democrats, laced into Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Friday, deriding him as “the Steve King of the Senate” in an interview with MSNBC, a reference to the Iowa congressman who is perhaps the most virulent anti-immigrant voice in Congress.

Mr. Cotton, who has helped thwart Mr. Graham’s efforts, retorted by referring to Mr. Graham’s failed 2016 presidential bid.

“The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is that Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa,” Mr. Cotton told reporters.

Mr. Cotton went on to argue that it was Mr. Trump’s views on immigration that powered him to the Republican Party’s nomination, while Mr. Graham was relegated to the “kiddie table” at the primary debates.

For Democrats, voting against the stopgap measure posed undeniable risks. Ten Senate Democrats are running for re-election in states that Mr. Trump won in 2016 — including Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia, where some voters may hold little sympathy for one of the primary causes of the looming shutdown: protecting the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

Five of those Democrats introduced legislation on Friday to withhold pay from members of Congress during a shutdown. “If members of Congress can’t figure this out and keep the government open, then none of us should get paid,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri.

Earlier in the day, Mr. McConnell warned that the Senate was “just hours away from an entirely avoidable government shutdown.”

“This vote should be a no-brainer,” Mr. McConnell said, “and it would be, except the Democratic leader has convinced his members to filibuster any funding bill that doesn’t include legislation they are demanding for people who came into the United States illegally.”

The standoff on immigration dates to September, when Mr. Trump moved to end an Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which shields the young immigrants from deportation. Democrats have been eager to enshrine into law protections for those immigrants.

At the same time, congressional leaders from both parties have been trying to reach an agreement to raise strict limits on domestic and military spending, a deal that would pave the way for a long-term spending package. So far this fiscal year, they have relied on stopgap measures to keep the government funded.

“At some point, Congress needs to do better than government-by-crisis, short-term fixes, and sidestepping difficult issues,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. “That time is now.”

Reporting was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Lisa Friedman and Alan Rappeport from Washington, Julie Hirschfeld Davis from Palm Beach, Fla., and Eric Schmitt from Casper, Wyo.
US Government Shutdown: Blame Game Begins As Chaos Marks Donald Trump's One-year Anniversary in White House
Donald Trump was hosting the Democratic Senate leader on Friday afternoon in an 11th hour push to reach a deal to avert a government shutdown CREDIT: BLOOMBERG

Chris Graham
Telegraph UK
20 JANUARY 2018 • 7:09AM

Donald Trump cancels Florida trip as crisis deepens
What happens now the government has shut down?

The US government has started to shut down after Congress failed to overcome a bitter standoff over spending and immigration  - marking a choatic end to Donald Trump's first year as president.

Last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century.

Social Security and most other safety net programmes are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

Congress scheduled an unusual Saturday session to begin considering a three-week version of the short-term spending measure - and to broadcast that they were at work as the shutdown commences. It seemed likely each side would try forcing votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies.

White House blames Democrats

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late-night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 48 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

The White House lashed out at Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, blaming him for the shutdown "Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown," Trump's spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declared.

"Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country's ability to serve all Americans.

Senate Democrats put politics above national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans. We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands.

"We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," she said.

Schumer hits back

Mr Schumer fought back, blaming the president for leading him to believe a deal was possible on a measure to prevent the expulsion of undocumented migrants who arrived in the country as children.

"Every American knows the Republican Party controls White House, the Senate, the House - it is their job to keep the government open. It is their job to work with us to move forward," Mr Schumer told the Senate.

"They control every ounce of the process and it is their responsibility to govern and here they have failed," he declared.

The measure brought to Congress would have extended federal funding until February 16 and reauthorised for six years a health insurance programme for poor children - a long-time Democratic objective.

But it would have cut the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals programme, known as DACA, that affects Dreamers.

White House officials insisted there was no urgency to fix DACA, which expires March 5.

Mr Trump, who had made strict measures on immigration a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, last week rejected a bipartisan proposal, saying he wanted to include any deal for Dreamers in a bigger legislative package that also boosts funding for a border wall and tighter security at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The lawmakers and Mr Trump's White House had mounted last-ditch negotiations to stave off what had come to appear as the inevitable, with the parties in stare-down mode over federal spending and proposals to protect the 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Trump had brought Mr Schumer to the White House in hopes of cutting a deal on a short-term spending agreement.

Talks collapse over immigration

The two New Yorkers, who pride themselves on their negotiating abilities, started talking over cheeseburgers about a larger agreement that would have included greater military spending and money for a southern border wall.

But the talks fell apart almost as abruptly as they started. In a phone call hours later, the president raised new concerns about the deal he and Schumer had discussed, according to a person familiar with the conversation. In a subsequent phone call with Schumer, chief of staff John Kelly said the deal discussed was too liberal. The White House did not immediately comment on that account.

As word of the Schumer meeting spread, the White House hastened to reassure Republican congressional leaders that Trump would not make any major policy concessions, said a person familiar with the conversations but not authorized to be quoted by name.

On Capitol Hill, McConnell said Americans at home would be watching to see "which senators make the patriotic decision" and which "vote to shove aside veterans, military families and vulnerable children to hold the entire country hostage... until we pass an immigration bill."

"We can't keep kicking the can down the road," said Schumer, insisting on more urgency in talks on immigration. "In another month, we'll be right back here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better position to solve them."

Mr Schumer called on the president and leaders of both parties to resume negotiations on Saturday.

Mr McConnell said he would seek a new funding bill through to February 8 but a Senate Democratic source said that was too far out. Democrats had argued for an extension of four or five days to force both sides into serious negotiations on the immigration issue.

Election issue

With mid-term congressional elections looming later this year, Republicans risk being blamed by voters when the government stops functioning over lack of funds.

A new Washington Post/ABC poll found that 48 percent of Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for a potential shutdown, and only 28 percent hold Democrats responsible.

Trump had been set to leave Friday afternoon to attend a fundraiser at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate marking the one-year anniversary of his inauguration but delayed his travel.

The shutdown is the first since 2013, when tea party Republicans - in a strategy not unlike the one Mr Schumer is employing now - sought to use a must-pass funding bill to try to force then-President Barack Obama to delay implementation of his marquee health care law.

At the time, Mr Trump told Fox & Friends that the ultimate blame for a shutdown lies at the top. "I really think the pressure is on the president," he said.
Senate Rejects Funding Bill, Partial Shutdown Begins
The Hill
01/19/18 10:39 PM EST
Senators voted late Friday to reject a House-passed bill that would have funded the government until Feb. 16, beginning a partial government shutdown.

Most Democrats voted to block the bill as part of a risky strategy to force Republicans to negotiate with them on a legislative fix for "Dreamers," immigrants who illegally came to the country at a young age and now face the prospect of deportation. The procedural motion on the bill failed 50-49.

Only five Democrats voted to advance the bill — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), who are all up for reelection this year in states carried by President Trump in 2016 election, and newly elected Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

Republicans were also not united, as Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) also voted against advancing the legislation. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, was absent.

The procedural vote remained open for roughly two hours on Friday night, remaining well below the needed 60 votes to pass.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memorandum instructing agencies to begin a shutdown.

The memo said that because OMB does not have a clear signal from Congress that it will act to fund the government, it is necessary to execute plans "for an orderly shutdown" due to the absence of appropriations.

It said OMB would offer additional guidance as appropriate.

While a partial shutdown has started, Mulvaney earlier in the day suggested the negative effects of a shutdown would not completely be felt until Monday, when hundreds of thousands of workers would be furloughed.

The closure will mark the first time that the government has been shuttered since 2013, when a shutdown carried on for 16 days as a band of Republicans tried to dismantle ObamaCare.

Republicans are blaming Senate Democrats for the latest shutdown, arguing their refusal to agree to a one-month stopgap passed on a largely party-line vote in the House caused the shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed the vote until late Friday evening as part of an effort to raise pressure on Democrats.

A meeting at the White House earlier on Friday between Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and President Trump failed to break the stalemate, though both sides said some progress had been made.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said he had made concessions in the talks with Trump, even offering to consider his proposal for a southern border wall — an idea that Democrats had long called a non-starter.

"During the meeting, in exchange for strong [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] protections, I reluctantly put the border wall on the table for the discussion. Even that was not enough to entice the president to finish the deal," Schumer said from the Senate floor.

"In my heart, I thought we might have a deal tonight. That was how far we had come. That's how positive our discussion felt. We had a good meeting," he said.

McConnell in his own floor speech castigated Democrats, saying they have forced a "completely avoidable" shutdown.

"What we have just witnessed on the floor was a cynical decision by Senate Democrats to shove aside millions of Americans for the sake of irresponsible, political games," he said from the Senate floor.

The funding fight is set to spill over into Saturday, when both the House and Senate will be in session.

McConnell late Friday announced he would move to amend the government funding bill so that it funds the government until Feb. 8.

A vote on that bill could be held Saturday, but it's unclear whether it will pass. Schumer said congressional leaders should meet at the White House with Trump to finalize an agreement on immigration and the broader government funding package.

Republicans and Democrats spent most of Friday blaming each other for the looming shutdown.

“This is completely unfair and uncompassionate for my Democratic colleagues to filibuster government funding, harm our troops and jeopardize health coverage for 9 million children because extreme elements of their base want illegal immigration to crowd out every other priority,” McConnell said.

He says immigration reform should be handled separately from the spending bills and wants Trump to sign off on an immigration deal before it comes to the Senate floor.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) took to the floor after McConnell to blast Republicans for failing to make substantial progress after Trump tasked Congress with replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“So what has the Republican majority in the House and Senate done in the four and a half months since we received that challenge from President Trump? Nothing. Nothing,” he said

Trump administration officials hoped up until the last moment that Democrats would change their mind and vote for the House-passed stopgap, even though they made it clear they saw it as unacceptable.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters Friday evening that he still hoped that Democrats would let the House bill pass.

Negotiations on an immigration proposal to grant legal status to "Dreamers" and boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border seemed to go backwards.

The No. 2-ranking leaders in both chambers, Durbin, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), had been tasked with leading the immigration talks.

But a meeting of these four leaders that had been scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday, and then postponed to 1 p.m., never happened.

Instead, Cornyn and McCarthy met separately and reported making some progress.

Cornyn applauded Trump for rejecting a bipartisan Senate deal crafted by three Democrats and three Republicans, including Durbin, Flake and Graham.

“The president did the right thing. He told him look, you go back and you talk to the Speaker and the Senate majority leader and you guys work that out,” Cornyn said, summarizing Trump’s conversation with Schumer about immigration earlier in the day.

Facing a stalemate on immigration, Schumer has shifted the argument slightly by arguing that Democrats are justified in opposing the short-term spending bill because funding the government with a series of stopgaps creates uncertainty for defense and nondefense programs.

In an unusual move, the Democratic leader decried the potential impact on the military, which is usually a Republican talking point.

“The Pentagon thinks this [continuing resolution] is wrong for our military,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday night, reading a statement from a Dana White, the chief Defense Department spokeswoman, who called the succession of stopgap spending measures “wasteful and destructive.”

Schumer also wants to negotiate an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program for longer than the six-years included in the House bill, as well as higher spending caps for domestic federal programs.

But the stalemate over immigration policy is the biggest holdup.

Republicans oppose the bipartisan bill favored by the Senate Democratic leadership, arguing it does not do enough to enhance border security.

Updated at 1:30 a.m.
The Government Just Shut Down. What Happens Next?
By Daniella Diaz and Kevin Liptak, CNN
1:44 AM ET, Sat January 20, 2018

The US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC, on January 3, 2018 before the opening of the second session of the 115th Congress.

In the final moments leading up to Friday's midnight deadline, Senate Republicans and Democrats were unable to agree on a stopgap funding measure to continue government services.

So what happens next? Here's a rundown of what will happen if the government remains shut down.


Thousands of federal employees will be placed on furlough -- meaning they won't report to work Monday. Whoever works for agencies and departments that are considered nonessential, including agencies that pay out small business loans and process passport requests, will cease to work effective immediately until Congress is able to agree on a bill for the federal budget.

The employees in these departments would be placed on "furlough." In previous shutdowns, everyone who stayed home was paid retroactively after an agreement was reached in Washington.

At the peak of the 2013 government shutdown, about 850,000 employees were furloughed per day, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

White House

The White House said Friday that 1,056 members of the Executive Office of the President would be furloughed, and 659, considered essential, would continue to report to work.

Furloughed staff will still be expected to report to duty on Monday, the White House said in a contingency plan posted to its website Friday. But they can stay for no longer than four hours to engage in "shutdown activities" like setting out-of-office messages or explaining how to carry out functions to colleagues who are not furloughed.


The military is considered essential and will still report for duty. However, the troops -- including those in combat -- will potentially not be paid during a shutdown.

If the shutdown goes on for weeks, about 1.3 million active-duty military will be expected to work potentially without pay. The military is currently paid through February 1.

In addition, many civilian Department of Defense employees will not be working during the shutdown, including instructors at military academies and maintenance contractors.

Special counsel

Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation team will continue to operate, a Justice Department spokesperson told CNN.

"All employees with the Special Counsel's Office are considered exempt and would continue their operations in the case of a lapse in appropriations," the spokesperson said.

National parks and gun permits

If you had plans for a vacation to visit any national parks, zoos or museums, some of those may be closed.

The popular panda cameras at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington will be turned off, according to a statement from the Smithsonian Institution. Visitors will still be able to visit the National Zoo, as well as Smithsonian museums, over the weekend. But the zoo and the museums would be closed beginning Monday.

The shutdown will also affect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, meaning if you wanted a gun permit, you'll have to wait until the shutdown is over.

TSA, air traffic control and mail services

Essential services, such as Social Security, air traffic control and the Transportation Security Administration, will continue to be funded even if some employees of those agencies are not.

The US Postal Service won't stop serving residents -- you'll still get your mail.

DC city services

In 2013, the shutdown especially affected residents of Washington. But this time around, Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed that services in the city will continue, unlike last time.

"Washington, DC, is open," Bowser said in a statement published Friday. "DC government will continue to provide services to our residents, the services they expect and deserve, uninterrupted."
National Mall

Bowser also said the city plans to help the federal government maintain the National Mall.

"I've called on my agencies, where we are able, to step in for the federal government," she said during the news conference. "The National Mall is operated by the National Park Service, and there are many other National Service Park properties throughout Washington, DC ... we will step in and ensure litter and trash are picked up along the National Mall to keep nation's front yard clean of debris."
Federal Government Shuts Down After Senate Talks Fail
NBC News

WASHINGTON — On the eve of the anniversary of President Donald Trump's first year in office, the federal government entered a partial shutdown late Friday night as a key vote was far short from having the support needed to pass and the midnight deadline came and went.

After the vote, which was held open for two hours as senators sought to find a way out of the impasse that brought them to this moment, senators milled around the floor, huddling in various groups, as Washington waited for word of where Congress goes from here.

Meanwhile, as agencies began sending emails announcing their closure or limited capability, the White House released a statement just before midnight, saying "Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown."

"We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, gave a fiery floor speech, saying the shutdown was "100 percent preventable" and blaming the Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, blamed President Donald Trump for being a slippery and unreliable negotiating partner. "What will it take to get Trump to say 'yes,'" Schumer said.

After the public blame game and the government closed, McConnell stood at his podium and said he's "open" to a stop-gap spending measure to Feb. 8, which is a possible opening to re-open the government.

The proposal that failed was the one passed by the House Thursday, which would have funded the government until Feb. 16, extended the low-income children's health insurance program, or CHIP, for six years and suspended some Obamacare taxes for two years.

Senate Democrats, demanding progress on the fate of those covered by the DACA program, huddled just off the Senate floor for more than hour prior the vote, after prospects of an agreement between Democrats, Republicans and the White House had already fallen apart.

Democrats placed the blame on Republicans and President Donald Trump for walking away from negotiations.

Schumer presented a proposal to break the logjam to Trump in a mid-day meeting at the White House, according to multiple Democrats — a plan to fund the government over the next two years, including money for disaster aid, the low-income children's health insurance program, opioid funding, border security and relief for those Dreamers covered by DACA.

"I even put the border wall on the table," Schumer said.

But when Schumer left the meeting, the concept started to unravel when McConnell and Trump's chief-of-staff John Kelly opposed it, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Democrats withheld their support of the bill, demanding more progress on Dreamers while some Republicans, frustrated with the spate of month-long spending bills, opposed any short-term solution. Schumer also proposed a shorter stop-gap measure, lasting just a few days, to be used as a hard deadline on an agreement on government spending levels, DACA, border security, disaster aid and children's health care.

"We're inside the 10-yard line on five issues we need a process to close the deal. And we need the president to do it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, who helped to block the funding bill, said.

The day began with a high-stakes game of chicken and the president signaling that a shutdown was possible.

"Government Funding Bill past [sic] last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate - but they want illegal immigration and weak borders," Trump tweeted. "Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!"

The House, which passed a funding bill Thursday night but stayed in town, will come into session on Saturday, putting out a release that votes are expected.

"Tonight, on the eve of the first anniversary of his inauguration, President Trump earned an ‘F’ for failure in leadership," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement just after midnight.

It's the first shutdown since 2013 when a Democrat, Barack Obama, was the president and Republicans controlled Congress.

"I don’t understand why amnesty for DACA residents is an emergency. Nobody is being deported," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, called the Republican bill "irresponsible."

"I’m not going to vote for this. It’s very irresponsible. It doesn’t do what this country needs at all," Tester said.

With the finger-pointing over who would be responsible already underway, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 48 percent of Americans would blame President Trump and Republicans for a shutdown while 28 percent said they would blame Democrats and 18 percent said both parties would be at fault.