Biti Courts Masiyiwa to lead United Front


Harare: Tendai Biti’s camp is said to be actively courting South African-based business mogul, Strive Masiyiwa to lead their proposed new party.


Strive Masiyiwa

Biti is considered astute and a brilliant lawyer, but there are concerns that he lacks mass appeal. A source said that after Biti indicated his reluctance to lead the new party, several names had been suggested. Masiyiwa, the millionaire owner of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, is respected both locally and internationally for his business acumen, but the source said he was unlikely to accept the position because active politics might negatively affect his business empire.

“It is not a secret, though, that Masiyiwa prefers Biti to Tsvangirai. He also had a soft spot for Welshman Ncube and the team that broke away from Tsvangirai over disagreements regarding whether or not to participate in the Senate,” said the source. “Biti was also initially part of that splinter group but he went back to Tsvangirai when he was nominated for the position of Secretary General.” Masiyiwa also enjoys support from many in the Renewal Group because he would provide much-needed funding.

Mawere, a prominent businessman who is based in South Africa after being muscled out of his investment in Shabanie Mines by the government, was reported to have formed a political party ahead of the general elections last year, but he repeatedly denied it. As part of its broad plan, the Biti faction is said to be mobilising other political parties and their leaders, among them Ncube, to join the rebel movement as a way of weakening Tsvangirai’s support base.

Simba Makoni, the leader of Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD) who joined hands with the MDC in last year’s elections, is also likely to become part of this united front. Sources say he could be chosen to lead the new party in the event that neither Masiyiwa nor Mawere are forthcoming. Jacob Mafume, spokesperson for the group, said consultations were already underway before a stakeholders’ meeting that would choose party leaders and structures. “We are already in consultation with all those you mention (Masiyiwa, Mawere, Makoni and Ncube).<

We are seeking to unlock all democrats and hold a stakeholders’ meeting in the next four months where leaders will be chosen by consensus,” Mafume told The Zimbabwean. The stakeholders meeting will decide whether to form a party or a loose but broad coalition, he added. The group is said to have already received informal endorsement from various civil society organisation, even though the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions prefers Tsvangirai. “Civil society sees Biti and other top members in his camp as progressive and likely to meet the expectations of the middle class. There is general disillusionment with Tsvangirai, especially among women’s organisations which disapprove of his controversial love affairs,” said a senior officer at one of the CSOs. Civil society was instrumental in the formation of the original MDC in late 1999.

Mafume said of civil society: “We are looking at civil society as part of our broad movement. It would help in formulating a new leadership model that is consensual and not based on cult heads. We want to do away with a culture of building leadership around personalities”. The Biti faction will use legal fights as a way of weakening the Tsvangirai faction, according to another member of the group. “A strategic legal battle for control of the party has been mooted by some of our members. The strategy is to bleed the Tsvangirai faction and render it broke beyond repair,” he said.

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