On August 17, 2016, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Zimbabwe to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Titus M. J. Abu-Basutu.
Education and Language (Madoka)
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu commented that Zimbabwean education begins for children from an early age. He explained that the government of Zimbabwe has reviewed the curriculum so that the educational system produces students to understand theoretical aspects as well as skills needed for everyday life, such as growing crops, cooking, building, or carpenting. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu added the fact that the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are also incorporated in the curriculum from a lower level, as there is also a focus on education from a technological approach.
Zimbabwe is a very diverse country. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned that we must realize that because of globalization, “we don’t live in isolation”. There are many foreign languages taught in Zimbabwe, including English, French, Portuguese, and a few Asiatic languages. As a nation of 16 official languages, local languages are taught in the country depending on the region. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu explained to us that many of the national boundaries that exist in Africa today were not created in account to the location of ethnic groups; there are various related groups of people who live on either side of national boundaries. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu prefers to address his country as a “land-linked” country instead of a “landlocked” country. Zimbabwe is dependent on its neighbors for access to the sea, so H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned that it is especially important that the country maintains friendly relations with other nations and focuses on building good road infrastructure, so that the economy can “breathe”.
Protecting Nature (Kurumi)
When asked about how the government and people of Zimbabwe works to preserve nature, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu began by stating that Zimbabwe is a “nature-conscious country”. He commented that rural houses in the countryside usually depend on natural sunlight for “fifteen to seventeen hours a day” and during the night, their sources of light are “kerosene, solar [panels], and candles but not electricity” for “two to three hours before going to bed”. Additionally, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned that since the Zimbabwean people “live in an environment with domestic and wild animals”,there is a sort of “consciousness” within the community.
For example, The Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is a community-based natural resources management programme that protects wildlife by setting national parks and camp rangers. Quite often, tourists come to Zimbabwe during hunting season. There are hunting competitions that tourists are able to participate; however, each hunter buys quotas to shoot animals. “The local quantitative fund looks after the management,” H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu spoke. Moreover, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) ensures the sustainable development of natural resources and protection of the environment. The Zimbabwean people and government work “hand-by-hand” for the “benefit of the local community and the government”.
When mentioning Zimbabwe, one cannot miss the Victoria Falls, which was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage in 1989. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu also recommended a visit to Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake that also generates hydroelectric power. He added that one can enjoy the fresh water and “see the wildlife and plants”. In addition, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned that Lake Kariba had flooded twice and this, the people of Zimbabwe is due to a ‘Kariba Legend’ that “Nyami Nyami, the goddess of water was not happy” of the dam construction that took place in the 1950’s.
Spectating traditional performances such as dance and staying at national parks that have campsites and lodges are also interesting things to doscenic”. in Zimbabwe. “Wildlife is plenty”and there are nzou or elephants.
During the interview, it was also revealed the word for ‘elephant’ in Shona sounds the same as ‘elephant’ in Japanese, which is zō (象). Furthermore, there are “plenty of golf courses” in “every district and prefecture”. Zimbabwe also holds “a sea of granite”. By climbing mountains, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu states that visitors can “look and see the trees and rocks” and the view is “very
Apart from the basic tourist course, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu spoke that recent tourists prefer ‘rural tourism’ to “interact with the people and understand their culture and way of life”. He commented that the “diversity of tourism” is what allures visitors.
The national motto of Zimbabwe is ‘Unity, Freedom, Work’. When asked what the ultimate source of unity was for the Zimbabwean people, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu stated that it was indeed the “history”. “After the war of liberty, the political consciousness was increased,” he began,”the nationalists were fighting for African independence and suffered from discrimination”. During this period, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu spoke that “all Africans” were “discriminated” and that it was “the same for [all] Africans”. Yet, in the present day, the “society has grown”. There are intermarriages between people of different nationalities and there is the issue of urbanization that “kills ethnicity”. Now, the Zimbabwean people may hold “different political values but at the end of the day, we are Zimbabweans,” H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu added. The same “experience, history, and culture” is continuing to connect the Zimbabwean people together even today.
World Peace (Madoka)
When asked about his interpretation of world peace, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu started by comparing the words “war” and “peace”. He stated that “war” is just three letters, but it can bring the “worst agony to mankind”, whereas “peace” of just five letters can bring out the “best”.
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu shared with us his belief that education is the “foundation of world peace”. He hopes that people can be more knowledgeable of the definition of war and peace, and how different societies are structured. “We need the world to be informed”, he explained, “(so that) countries can be respectful for one another.” He expressed that it is important for people to engage in dialogue with one another, in order to “transform societies qualitatively”. According to H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu dialogue and engagement are key to continuous improvement and peace.
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu also explained to us the importance of peace for the development of a nation. The development of people can only occur in a peaceful environment, he explained. Without peace, too many resources will go to waste.
Ambassador’s Impressions on Japan (Kurumi)
Initially, we asked the question: “What surprised you when you first came to Japan?” To this, H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu replied, “Can I change it [the question] to what ‘struck’ me?” He began by stating that the unique aspect of Japan is its “orderly society”. As a diplomat, he has been to many countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Brazil. Thus, he considers himself to have a “fair view and experience of what [he sees] in different countries”. “I can therefore say that each [countries] have their own structure, but you don’t see the same order [seen] in Japan,” H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu spoke. He was “struck” by how the Japanese people form “ques automatically” and due to this, he feels that “things move faster”. He also added that he finds Japanese people “respectful”.
Goals / Message to Japan (Madoka)
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu’s goal as the Ambassador is to “foster good relations between Zimbabwe and Japan”. He explains that he wishes to strengthen relations especially in the economic aspect so that the countries can gain a closer relation for advancement of peace and development.
The message H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu has for Japanese people is to cherish Japan as the “beautiful country” it is. “[It can be] only as beautiful as you make it to be,” he commented. He explained that what is admirable about the nation is what is made by the people, therefore it is up to the people to preserve it.
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned that Africa is a huge continent, with almost four out of five of the people being young, due to the rapidly increasing population.
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu explained that there is a lot of movement of African people, both within the continent and outside the continent. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu wishes for more people, especially Japanese people, to read about Africa and the world.
Zimbabwe and Japan cooperate “hand in hand” through JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), being part of the (Southern African. Development Community) SADC area. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned that JICA in Africa is working on infrastructure quality, sponsors posts, and traffic for importing and exporting. H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu hopes that the Japanese private sector can make more investments in Africa. He explains that not only the government but also the private sector of Japan should work with Africa as a triangular relationship, especially because JICA and its efforts are funded by the Japanese government. He says that it is for the good for everyone if the Japanese private sector can gain profits from JICA’s efforts, while at the same time the Africans countries can gain not only jobs and income but also skills.
H.E. Mr. Abu-Basutu mentioned his hope for Japanese students to visit various places in Africa. He wishes for a program that would allow for students to then share experiences they gained at different countries with their classmates to further spread to Japan the understanding of Africa and the continent’s diversity.