The Nordic Africa Institute

Didymus Mutasa

ZANU—Deputy Secretary of Finance ZANU-PF Administrative Secretary

The interview was held by Tor Sellström in Harare on 25 July 1995.

Tor Sellström: When did you first come into contact with Sweden or any other Nordic country?

Didymus Mutasa: I started my serious political involvement in 1963. At that time, there were quite a number of Swedish missionaries in Rhodesia who had come to work with the American Methodist Church, for instance in our area. We used to go to meetings organized by different churches.

There was a meeting at Waddilove in 1957 or 1958. I do not remember the exact date. The missionaries insisted that they did not want to have separate accommodation from the African delegates and that they did not want to eat different food from the African delegates. They said that they were the same people as the Africans, and if Africans were invited to the conference they should be treated in the same way. So they packed their bags and slept with us in the same dormitories. They opened our eyes to the fact that, really, the white people that we had in Rhodesia were not different from others. They were people of the same class, and sometimes even people of a very much lower class, who—certainly when they settled in Africa—however, pretended to enjoy a status which was higher than their class. Instead of looking at themselves as workers, they wanted to become masters. I think that that problem was set out in my mind through our involvement with the missionaries, and particularly with the missionaries from Sweden.

Tor Sellström: Did you also meet missionaries from the other Nordic countries?

Didymus Mutasa: No, unfortunately. I only met missionaries from Sweden, but during the later period of our involvement in the liberation struggle we met all sorts of people. We visited Sweden and got support from a group called Emmaus Björkå. They were young Swedish people, full of enthusiasm, hoping that their work— collecting bits and pieces of clothes—would help the Zimbabwean refugees in Mozambique. They lived a very simple kind of life, which we enjoyed. Like a community. We were sent there from the bush. And there we were in Sweden, experiencing a bit of bush life!

Tor Sellström: When was that?

Didymus Mutasa: That was in 1976. There were three of us who left Mozambique and were told to go to Emmaus Björkå. We went around collecting some clothes, packed them and sent them to Mozambique. Then we went to another little group in Stockholm. We also worked with them, going from one office to another. We were a scruffy little liberation movement and not very many important people wanted to see us. But those youngsters were very keen. They would telephone around and say: ‘Why do you not want to see this people? Why do you not want to know what their wishes and their demands are?’ And then, occasionally, they were told: ‘You know, we give quite a lot through SIDA. Why do you not go and see SIDA?’ So we went to SIDA and talked to them, which I believe people like Herbert Chitepo, President Mugabe and comrade Simon Muzenda had already done. So we were updating SIDA on our needs. Back in Mozambique, the SIDA representative in Maputo came to see us and said: ‘I understand that you have been to my country. I am sorry that you did not tell me before you went, but what are your needs?’ We then sat down and discussed with him.

Tor Sellström: With Jan Cedergren?

Didymus Mutasa: Yes, Cedergren. He would sit down with us and very generously give us the things we asked for. I think that SIDA also paid for the freight of the clothes from Emmaus Björkå. They also supplied us with the food that we needed—tinned food particularly, beans, meat, milk—partly for the children and partly for us. When we started working with SIDA, the budget for ZANU was in the region of two million Swedish Kronor. We then had people who were running away from Rhodesia and we went to Cedergren and said: ‘Now, this is a problem.’ He said: ‘Fine, I can raise your budget to about 8 million.’ We thought that this was tremendous. It was a lot of money. He said: ‘Well, as long as you can account for it and as long as you can give me a list of the things that you need, I will buy some of the things and give you the money to buy the other things. But you must definitely account for it.’ It was our responsibility together with the late Ernest Kadungure to provide that information to Cedergren.

After that we did not find it really necessary to make long journeys to Sweden and the other Nordic countries any more, because SIDA was right in our midst. The man was absolutely sympathetic to our cause. It was the same sort of experience as I explained about the Swedish missionaries. Here was a Swedish man, who—because he trusted us and we trusted him—actually was walking with us more than just one mile. You asked him to go one mile and he came two miles with us. That was absolutely good for us. By the time we left Mozambique, I think that the Swedish assistance to ZANU-PF alone was somewhere in the region of 16 million Swedish Kronor.

Tor Sellström: Yes, it was. Then you got an extra allocation for the repatriation of the refugees of 5 million.

Didymus Mutasa: Exactly. That is true.

Tor Sellström: How did you view this? Sweden was a Western country. You were a liberation movement which had adopted Marxism-Leninism as the guiding principle and you were using armed warfare to get rid of the colonialists.

Didymus Mutasa: Well, all Western governments were clear on one question. They could not give us arms, but they could give us food and after they had taken that stand there were a few who did that, like Sweden, Belgium to some extent, Norway again to some extent and Holland to quite a great extent. In Holland it was not the government, but non-governmental organizations, as in Denmark. Those countries gave us clothes, food and many of the things that we wanted, but not arms. But we understood why, because the racist regime that we were fighting against was to a great extent white and many of the people who came to settle in Rhodesia were not from England. Some had come from Italy, some from Holland and others from all over Europe. It was very difficult for these governments to give us arms to fight against their own people. But they did not mind giving us food, because I think that in their own argument we had to exist.

But the Swedish government went a little further in that their support was much greater than the others. In fact, at one time it was greater than all the other Western governments put together. We explained that as due to the understanding of the Prime Minister, Olof Palme. He himself was a socialist. Although he wanted change through non-violent means, I think that he understood our cause when we explained that we were really getting enough arms from China and that we were not fighting a conventional war which needed huge supplies of arms, but just a few guns to protect ourselves. Our mission was not really to go and kill people, but to protect them. In the course of the events, we might find it necessary to kill the enemy, but that was not the objective. The objective was to change his way of thinking and let him see that what was going on in Rhodesia was wrong.

Tor Sellström: Do you feel that there were political conditions attached to the Swedish and Nordic support? Was there a hidden agenda attached to it?

Didymus Mutasa: None whatsoever, but I do not know whether this is just a feeling which I developed from my own experience with the Swedish people. When I was in detention, I was adopted by a Swedish group of Amnesty International. A young fellow called Peter Malmström used to write to me all the time. He also used to write to Ian Smith almost every month, asking him to release me or try me. That experience gave us an understanding of the Swedish people, which was very different from others. We could see that they were absolutely concerned about us and would like our situation to change. When we found that extending to the Swedish government, we realized that they must have the same heart because with Amnesty International and the schools that were involved in sending letters and clothes, adopting children or detainees and their families, it was tremendous, absolutely tremendous. It could not come from any other group of people, except those that had the correct heart.

Tor Sellström: Did you or your family members receive support through Christian Care or IDAF?

Didymus Mutasa: Yes. My family received assistance from Christian Care here in Zimbabwe. My children were educated through Christian Care and all my legal fees were paid by IDAF. The man who was instrumental in the setting up of these funds was Guy Clutton-Brock, who was a very close friend of mine. Right at the beginning—when I was still a ‘free’ man in Zimbabwe—I was also involved in setting them up. I never knew that I myself would be a beneficiary!

Tor Sellström: There were a lot of Swedish funds via Christian Care and IDAF?

Didymus Mutasa: Indeed.

Tor Sellström: I know that some families were supported, like the Chinamano family. Others got scholarships, among them President Mugabe. I think that he studied law and economics at the University of London with that funding?

Didymus Mutasa: Yes, that is very true. Through Reverend Collins at IDAF. His wife is still running that fund. Yes, I am aware of that.

Tor Sellström: Coming back to the assistance to the refugee camps and for the running of the ZANU office in Mozambique, do you think that the principles of accountability were both sufficient and flexible?

Didymus Mutasa: Oh, yes. They were simple and convenient. Cedergren was in Maputo and rather than us going to Swaziland to buy vehicles or whatever we needed, on occasions we would ask him to do it for us. He actually used the money, showed us the receipts and said: ‘This is the amount of money that I am subtracting from the budget that we have put together.’ The accountability was, as far as I am concerned, absolutely perfect.

Tor Sellström: There was, of course, the alternative to channel the SIDA funds through the OAU Liberation Committee, but in the case of Zimbabwe both ZANU and ZAPU explicitly wanted the funds directly. Was it because you had a modus operandi with the local Nordic aid offices?

Didymus Mutasa: We had already established good contacts with SIDA and the other Nordic countries. We had to a great extent also experienced the bureaucracy within the OAU. They would say that we must wait for the summit meeting of the Heads of States, which then would take quite a long time to decide whether it was necessary for us to pursue the liberation struggle. In the meanwhile, we would be sitting under the sun, waiting and hoping that the assistance would arrive. Why should assistance from Emmaus Björkå, first of all, sit in Stockholm for three or four months before it was sent to Dar es Salaam, where it would remain for another three or four months before finding its way to the OAU man, Hashim Mbita, who then, ceremoniously, would bring it to our President? It would take about eight months to get the money and the struggle would be delayed or slowed down for that length of time. So, we felt, well, why do we not get the money directly?

When we got the money directly, we also became more enthusiastic. You could then say to the youngsters: ‘Go inside the country. You can take this amount of food, and when you need it you can use it.’ And when there were areas within the country that needed food, they could actually come and get some from us. During the later stages of the struggle, the liberated areas inside the country needed food. And sometimes the food was brought from Mozambique.

Tor Sellström: Did the Nordic countries support ZANU and the Patriotic Front diplomatically? When you met in diplomatic fora, did you consult with them?

Didymus Mutasa: Yes, we did. To a great extent. Most of our time was taken up by explaining the activities of the British government, because it was the main actor vis-à-vis the regime in Rhodesia. It was to a great extent the stumbling block, being a colonial power which did not accept that situation, at the same time stopping the international community from having anything to do with Rhodesia. We found that it was necessary to explain the situation to our friends and we believe that they in turn quietly approached the British and said: ‘Why are things happening that way?’

There were many fronts in the war. Within the country we had to make our people understand what was going on and within the liberation movement itself all of us had to understand the purpose of the war. We also found that our friends needed people who could work with them almost on a full time basis. Our external relations office in Maputo was very busy, collecting newspaper cuttings and giving out information to the people that assisted us.

Tor Sellström: You invited both Emmaus Björkå and SIDA to the independence celebrations in 1980?

Didymus Mutasa: Yes. By the time of independence, we had made quite a number of friends. As the saying goes, success breeds more success. The small beginnings in Sweden were noticed by people in Holland and the Holland Committee on Southern Africa started to work with us as well. In Germany, there were about four groups that helped us. The Communist Party of West Germany worked very hard. A group of enthusiastic youngsters went around with us from one town to another, collecting funds. I think that at one time we must have raised somewhere in the region of two million US Dollars, with which we bought Scania trucks to transport food and other materials. These people sent out their information material in the German language, which also could be read in Switzerland. The German part of Switzerland then started to be interested and to organize assistance for us.

There was a proliferation of these solidarity groups. The only country where they did not appear was Britain. I do not know why. Aid organizations like War on Want, Christian Aid and others actually gave us assistance, but the organized solidarity groups were not to be found.

Tor Sellström: How about Finland?

Didymus Mutasa: For some reason unknown to us, Finland was more connected to ZAPU than to us. The Social Democratic Party in Germany was also giving more assistance to ZAPU than to us. But we did not mind. We felt that it really was for the same cause. We were very pleased that assistance was forthcoming and that it was going to people who needed it and made use of it.

Tor Sellström: In the case of the Swedish government, the same amount was given to ZANU and ZAPU. How did you look upon that?

Didymus Mutasa: I used to joke with Cedergren and say: ‘I do not think that there are as many refugees in Zambia as there are in Mozambique.’ And he would say: ‘Yes, I know, but this is the decision by my government.’

Tor Sellström: You could live with that?

Didymus Mutasa: Oh, yes! We knew that the Swedish government gave 32 million Kronor to the liberation movements. That was a lot of money. We were most grateful for the 16 million that ZANU received, although it did not come as cash, but as material support. Otherwise we would have been inundated with people that we could not have fed and the Mozambican government, which helped us, would have absolutely found it difficult to carry on. Some of the economic problems the Mozambican government was facing were due to the support of our war effort. They were bombed and their infrastructure was destroyed by the Smith regime.

Tor Sellström: After independence, you hosted SWAPO, ANC and PAC. In the case of the Nordic countries, SWAPO and ANC—but partly also PAC—were recipients of official support in Zimbabwe. Did you view this as a problem?

Didymus Mutasa: No, we viewed it as a duty, a duty which earlier had been carried out by Tanzania and Mozambique throughout our own liberation struggle. We had been received by FRELIMO. They hosted us and in turn we felt duty-bound to host the other liberation movements. We were very pleased to have them here. We did not have much trouble from them as liberation movements. They had a purpose. They were really keen to work hard for the benefit of their countries. We were, in a way, proud that we were able to give them sanctuary.

Tor Sellström: You yourself worked hard through the Cold Comfort Farm and other organizations to link the South African liberation movements with the democratic forces inside South Africa?

Didymus Mutasa: That is very true. We did that, and again thanks to the help that we received from Sweden. We were able to get people from South Africa to experience Zimbabwean life after independence. We used to say to our South African friends: ‘Our boundary is the Limpopo. When you go beyond the Limpopo, you must realize that you are going beyond apartheid and when you return we hope that you will keep it that way and start to influence people who will not be able to cross the Limpopo, but nonetheless should leave apartheid behind.’ It was important for them. We had some South African farmers who came here and lived with fellow Zimbabwean farmers, sharing the peace and quietness and the development that these communities of farmers were experiencing. We brought in students. The students’ programme went on a little longer, because it involved not only students from South Africa, but from Southern Africa. We had students from Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Namibia. It was very interesting to watch these youngsters discussing and thinking about the future.

But the funniest meeting that we organized was with a group of women from South Africa. They came to the airport in Harare and as they were waiting in the hall, the white South African women thought that the black South African women were their Zimbabwean hosts. We then drove them to Cold Comfort Farm and said: ‘Well, ladies, you may not realize this, but we have brought you here together because we think that it is necessary for you to live in your own country in this way.’ One woman raised her hand and said: ‘What do you mean? Are you saying that these ladies are from South Africa?’ We said: ‘Yes.’ And she said: ‘Fancy, we have come all the way from South Africa to meet here in Zimbabwe. Why can we not do this in our own country?’ We found that absolutely important. Indeed, we think that it was crucial.

When we met with the white South African women we said: ‘You know, it is your children who are being involved in the war and they are being killed. What are they dying for? It is not that the South Africans are poor and have to fight for food. South Africa is one of the richest countries in the world. So what is your son fighting for?’ Those who had grown-up children in the war started to shake. We found it necessary, because when they went back home they decided: ‘We have had enough. We cannot let our children suffer. We cannot let this war go on.’ It was very important for us to undertake that programme.

Tor Sellström: Did Sweden or the other Nordic countries support these programmes?

Didymus Mutasa: Yes, tremendously. I think that we got the biggest assistance from SIDA. We ought to talk to them now to let us do a programme for rural development. That is our next struggle.