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Biti challenges Ramaphosa – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary

MDC Vice President Tendai Biti says President Cyril Ramaphosa has a key role to play in resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe. And he warned: ‘If Zimbabwe implodes South Africa will suffer’.

Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube
Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube

Biti was speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London at the launch of a book, Democracy Works: Rewiring Politics to Africa’s Advantage, to which he contributed.

He said Ramaphosa was in the same position as President Mbeki a decade ago when he helped put in place the Government of National Unity in which Biti served as Finance Minister.

Ramaphosa must get talks going between President Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa – and London, Washington and Brussels must help ensure a ‘soft landing’.

Biti, sitting next to another contributor to the book, former president Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, said a very cynical landscape was developing in Southern Africa about elections in the light of what he called the prevailing power-retention agenda.

The situation had been worsened by the military coup which brought Mnangagwa to power. There had been an expectation of genuine change but the opportunity for a transitional government had been missed and most people now believed that the situation was even worse than under Mugabe.

He described as ‘disastrous’ a recent IMF report on Zimbabwe which – as he put it – ‘painted lipstick on a crocodile’. In reality, conditions were now so bad that it was a daily struggle to survive.

He spoke of state capture and said it was essential that cartels exploiting the situation were broken up. Biti added a warning to both Ramaphosa and Mnangagwa: the military coup that toppled Mugabe was now ‘copybook’ for the whole region.

The UK government has assured the Vigil that it will only support the readmission of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth if it complies with the values and principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter.

‘We have been clear that the disproportionate use of force by security forces, as seen in January 2019, is inconsistent with the Commonwealth Charter’ it said in a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/1017-letter-to-the-vigil-from-foreign-office-may-2019).

The letter was in response to a Vigil petition which also demanded that the Zimbabwe government acknowledges the Gukurahundi genocide. The Foreign Office letter says ‘We welcomed President Mnangagwa’s signing of the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill in 2018.

However, this needs to be enacted and form part of a more comprehensive plan of credible national dialogue and healing for Zimbabwe. The UK stands ready in friendship to support a Zimbabwe that fully embraces the rule of law, human rights and economic reform. We have been clear that international support will be based on genuine political and economic reforms.’   

The Vigil petition reads: Zimbabwe must reform: Zimbabwe wants to rejoin the Commonwealth. Although Mugabe has gone, his fascist Zanu PF party with the backing of the military remains firmly in power. Zimbabweans in exile urge the UK not to support readmission to the Commonwealth until the regime reforms and acknowledges the genocide of some 20,000 Ndebeles by the Zanu PF regime in the 1980s.

Other points

  • Vigil activists were startled at the sight of hundreds of nude cyclists riding along the Strand. They were part of an annual global protest against oil dependency and car culture and to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists.
  • Thanks to those who came early to help set up the front table today and put up the banners: Marvellous Chinguwa, Pamela Chirimuta, Beaulah Gore, Patrick Hale, Josephine Jombe, Jonathan Kariwo, Tatenda Mandiki, Dambudzo Marimira, Patricia Masamba, Joyce Mbairatsunga, Margaret Munenge, Richard Munyama, Mary Muteyerwa, Evangelista Ndlovu, Casper Nyamakura, Hazvinei Saili, Sinkiwe Sigola, Ephraim Tapa and Bridget Zhakata. Thanks to Josephine for looking after the front table, to Hazvinei and Marvellous for handing out flyers, to Mary and Margaret for drumming and to Casper, Jonathan and Patricia for photos.
  • For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website. 

FOR THE RECORD: 24 signed the register.