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Tsvangirai, Biti mend relations

By Mugove Tafirenyika

Amid Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic rot, which critics blame on President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his erstwhile lieutenant Tendai Biti continue to reach out to each other “in the interest of the country” — as the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections beckon.

Zimbabwe's opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, right, and the then MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti, left, look on during the opening of the emergency summit of the Southern African leaders at the Mulungushi International Conference Center in Lusaka, Zambia, Saturday, April 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Zimbabwe’s opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, right, and the then MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti, left, look on during the opening of the emergency summit of the Southern African leaders at the Mulungushi International Conference Center in Lusaka, Zambia, Saturday, April 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

It emerged yesterday that Biti, who left the MDC after falling out with Tsvangirai early in 2014, has extended yet another olive branch to his former boss, as opposition parties edge towards forming a united front against Mugabe and Zanu PF — inviting both Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru to his party’s first anniversary celebrations this coming weekend.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume told the Daily News that their party wanted to use its anniversary — to be held under the theme “Together Another Zimbabwe Is Possible” — to further mend bridges with their former colleagues in the MDC.

“The theme is based on the realisation that all political parties need to form a united front to resoundingly defeat the Zanu PF regime in free and fair elections. So, we will be inviting all the opposition leaders, including Tsvangirai and Mujuru.

“We have been co-operating with the MDC on several activities in the past few months and this is just a continuation of that process which we think will lead to a coalition of all Zimbabweans who genuinely are committed to national progress.

“We must build bridges and begin to move in one direction if we are going to overcome the challenges we face collectively as a nation,” Mafume said.

On his part, Tsvangirai welcomed Biti’s invitation, although he will likely miss the event as it clashes with his current medical treatment schedule.

“We wish the party (PDP) well as they turn a year-old. It is unfortunate, that the president will be away to receive treatment when the PDP celebrations are held,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said.

Sources within the PDP also told the Daily News a few weeks ago that leading lights within the MDC off-shoot had now come to accept that the quest for democratic change in the country was unlikely to “go anywhere” without Tsvangirai and the MDC being key players in the process.

“This is simple political pragmatism, borne out of the realisation that notwithstanding any differences that people may have, Tsvangirai is an important player in Zimbabwe’s democratisation project. After all, (President Robert) Mugabe and Zanu PF are the sole authors of Zimbabwe’s problems, and not Tsvangirai.

“Indeed, you will also know that for quite some time now, our party has taken a decision that it will no longer bad-mouth Tsvangirai and the MDC, but focus our guns on the real authors of our country’s pain and anarchy, Mugabe and Zanu PF.

“While I can’t speak for the party, and depending on how Tsvangirai and other players move, all this could be the basis for the mooted grand coalition of opposition forces against Mugabe,” one of the PDP sources said then.

As if to confirm the PDP bigwig’s sentiments, Tsvangirai and Biti ganged up against Mugabe at the time, as their parties released a joint statement calling on international financial institutions to hang back on doling out aid to the Zanu PF government, until fundamental electoral reforms were in place.

In the statement issued via the MDC’s and PDP’s respective finance secretaries Tapiwa Mashakada and Vince Musewe, the parties expressed grave reservations about the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) “agenda to re-engage and assist what to us is essentially a rogue regime whose time to go has come”.

The statement came as the broke Zimbabwean government was making frantic efforts to re-engage international lenders in a desperate bid to stem the country’s accelerating economic collapse.

“There is no doubt that the only viable solution for Zimbabwe is for Mugabe to go and the replacement of his looting machinery with a new team that will take our country forward.

“There is no other alternative to that and yet it seems to us that ‘stability’ as opposed to substantive political change is more important to the IMF and its Western backers. We do not agree with that paradigm,” the MDC and PDP protested.

During the era of the stability-inducing government of national unity, Tsvangirai was prime minister and Biti was minister of Finance — with the duo spearheading the process of re-engagement with the IMF, which resulted in the country’s ongoing “Staff-Monitored Programme”.

But since the GNU ended after Zanu PF won the hotly-disputed and controversial 2013 national elections, the Zimbabwe economy has collapsed spectacularly, even as Mugabe’s administration has continued with negotiations with the IMF.

“Unfortunately, the pursuit of appeasement and not confrontation of the dictator continues to fuel some false hope in the minds of this regime that everything is going to be okay, even when it is evident that it is time for fundamental political and leadership change in Zimbabwe if we are to see any economic revival.

“Zimbabwe is bankrupt and is unable to meet its day-to-day needs and is therefore a failed State, thanks to Mugabe and his coterie of praise singers. Only substantive political and economic reforms can save Zimbabwe,” the MDC and PDP said.

The “false hope” that the West was giving to Mugabe, they added, had resulted in the government contemplating the issuance of a “pseudo and proxy currency termed bond notes” as a means to escape the urgency of implementing substantive economic reforms” as promised to the IMF last year.

“Almost nine months later, no reforms are in place and we have actually seen an increase in corruption, confusion and bungling within the financial services sector which has now run out of cash, continued occupation of agricultural properties, corrupt infrastructure development deals with inflated costs to fund the Zanu PF looting machinery, the continued collapsing of small companies due to non-viability, declining productivity and export earnings and lack of new capital investment inflows.

“On the political front, we have seen activists getting arrested without cause and the deliberate subversion of the will of the people by interfering in the management of city councils. We have also seen a deliberate dithering to align our laws with the new Constitution. That is unacceptable,” the two parties said.

They added that there was a crisis of leadership in the country and that far from being stable, the status quo reflected paralysis and regression, with Mugabe “seeking to buy time through empty promises and postponing the inevitable”.

Delivering his end of year address last December, Tsvangirai also promised Zimbabweans “a Christmas gift” of unity among all opposition parties.

The former prime minister in the government of national unity said the envisaged “unity gift” would include former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) and the PDP, all in a bid to end Mugabe’s 36-year hold on power and the country’s myriad crises.

“Zimbabweans want to see unity of purpose and I can assure you that a broader, collective agenda will soon be unveiled to the nation by the relevant people after the relevant consultations,” Tsvangirai said.

He added that Zanu PF had failed to resolve the problems that it had created, as it was swamped by its factional and succession wars that had plunged the party into a crisis, and with the “supposed mega deals” that the government had recently signed achieving nothing.

“As political leaders, we know what Zimbabweans want and expect in the wake of a party in government so out of sorts that the fixation with succession issues and positions have taken centre-stage at the expense of a despondent people.

“Together, we are stronger. Together, we are better. We resolved at our last congress that we will work with others in the broader democratic movement to deal with the national challenges,” he said.

He further blamed all the challenges facing Zimbabwe on the “crisis of legitimacy” surrounding the disputed 2013 national elections, saying only electoral reforms would bring back confidence in the country. Daily News