ZIMBABWE – The leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Tendai Biti says the only way to rescue the country from experiencing a precipitous collapse in its economy, politics and stop a military intervention is for the opposition to close ranks.
In an exclusive interview with the Voice of America’s Studio 7, Biti said he does not understand why the opposition is not speaking with one voice. “There is a danger that the securocrats with the statements that they are making, that they may actually descend into the political arena. So political stability must be dealt with and must be maintained.”
The PDP leader said there is need to restore the social contract as Zimbabwe at the moment is “at war with itself.”
Biti said the country needs a National Transitional Authority to address the crisis. “I can’t see any options, this country will implode, we will have spontaneous combustion in the form of a coup, particularly given the infantile Zanu-PF fights, now we a group called G40 (Zanu-PF Young Turks), now we have another called Behind Grace Mugabe and so forth …” The battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe is dividing his ruling party with more than three factions fighting it out publicly.
MILITARY SABRE RATTLING
His remarks come at a time when the Commander of the Zimbabwe Presidential Guard, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, was quoted in the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper earlier this month threatening to unleash violence on former Vice President Joice Mujuru vowing that she will not rule Zimbabwe.
Zanu PF spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo told reporters that Mrs. Mujuru was expelled for allegedly plotting to topple the president, orchestrating the so-called “bhora musango” campaign to boost the opposition, corruption and a whole list of other accusations. But Mrs. Mujuru has dismissed the allegations as wishful thinking.
The brigadier reportedly threatened to unleash the army to violently fight the former vice president and other senior officials purged before, during and in the aftermath of the controversial Zanu PF congress last December.
But after a backlash from the opposition, Sanyatwe flip-flopped and was quoted by the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying, “Nothing of that sort was ever said.”
In 2002, then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe, flanked by then ZNA commander Lieutenant-General Constantine Chiwenga, Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Marshall Perrance Shiri and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri held a press conference on the eve of the presidential election to make veiled coup threats if MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the polls.
“To this end, let it be known that the highest office in the land is a straight-jacket whose occupant is expected to observe the objectives of the liberation struggle. We will, therefore, not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda that threatens (the) very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people,” he said in comments carried on national television. The statement implied that the security chiefs would not accept the results of the presidential election if the MDC leader won the polls. Tsvangirai is not a war veteran.
Other senior army commanders, who have made blatantly unlawful remarks threatening the opposition, include major-generals Douglas Nyikayaramba, Martin Chedondo, Trust Mugova and General Chiwenga.
Biti said against this background, it is mind boggling to note that the opposition is divided though there are many things that can unite them.
“It behooves my wisdom that we cannot find a common platform of convergence as political parties, on one issue that we all agree on, which is that we need electoral reform among other things, just like we need media reform, just like we need to demilitarize our state … If you look at the state of the opposition it looks like we are getting more and more divided.”
Biti noted that in an endeavor to bring change he is willing to work with other political parties and an outfit fronted by Mrs. Mujuru.
“We are engaging them,(Mujuru’s People First) as far as we are concerned People First represents the liberation movement, they are part of Zanu PF. If you look at anywhere in Africa where there has been democratic change, it has been a combination of components of the nationalist movement, the past, the heritage, plus the new democrats … but on the terms of the future, on the terms of what I normally call the iPad generation.”
Biti further said the disgruntlement in Zanu-PF leading to the People First movement is an admission by some nationalists that they have failed to empower the ordinary people – a goal that had forced many to support the liberation war.
The PDP leader also expressed serious concern at the state of the economy saying it must be addressed in a holistic manner.
The government of Zimbabwe faces a number of serious economic problems, including infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, ongoing indigenization pressure, policy uncertainty, a large external debt burden, and insufficient formal employment.
“The economy is a by-product of the entire fabric and rubric of how a nation should be run. So you can actually have a factional economy, but if the other sucks are not in a row, then we do not have a functional state.”
Biti said Zimbabwe must respect the rule of law, constitutionalism and good governance. According to the World Food Programme, around 1.5 million Zimbabweans are predicted to go hungry this year after a dramatic fall in maize production.
Less than a quarter of Zimbabwean children between the ages of 6 and 23 months receive the recommended minimum acceptable diet for adequate nutrition, and 56 percent of all children between the ages of 6 and 59 months suffer from anaemia, the WFP said.
WHO IS TENDAI BITI?
Tendai Laxton Biti was born August 6, 1966, and is a Zimbabwean politician who served as Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2013. He was the secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Tsvangirai) political party and a Member of Parliament for Harare East.
He enrolled in the University of Zimbabwe law school as a freshman in 1986. In 1988 and 1989, Biti was secretary general of the University of Zimbabwe Student Representative Council.
After school, he joined Harare Law firm Honey and Blackenberg, where he became the youngest partner by the age of 26. In 1999 he helped found the MDC.
Biti fell out with Tsvangirai in 2014. In 2015, Biti joined other disaffected MDC-T members in a breakaway group, MDC-Renewal, becoming its secretary-general.
In September 2015, MDC-Renewal launched as a separate party, the People’s Democratic Party, and Biti was elected president of the new party.