LAST week the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T successfully recalled 21 legislators who entered parliament on the party’s ticket following the July 2013 general elections, but were now associating themselves with the breakaway MDC Renewal Team led by Tendai Biti.
The MDC Renewal is in the process of consummating a coalition with another splinter formation, the MDC led by Welshman Ncube to form the United Movement for Democratic Change (UMDC). The expelled members — 17 MPS and four senators — are however challenging the expulsion and have since filed a constitutional court application in that regard. Zimbabwe Independent political reporter Elias Mambo (EM) spoke Biti (TB) on a variety of issues including the court challenge. Find below the interview excerpts:
EM: Where to after your dismissal and other MDC Renewal MPs from parliament?
TB: We have made a point on numerous occasions that the decision to recall the legislators is unconstitutional. Section 129 (1) is not a general recall provision. A Member of Parliament elected by about 10 000 to 15 000 people cannot be recalled by an executive made up of 20 people. The Speaker (of the National Assembly) made a political decision and we are challenging that.
EM: How are you challenging the expulsion?
TB: We have exercised our constitutional rights by bringing a constitutional application.
EM: We hear that you will not contest the by-elections. Why?
TB: We took a decision at Mandel (Training Centre in Harare) that there is a crisis of legitimacy in this country. Mugabe stole the 2013 elections using all kinds of sophisticated shenanigans, including rigging and unless and until we attended to genuine electoral reforms then any participation in elections is simply legitimising a flawed process. It eludes one’s wisdom that more than 36 months after the July 2013 elections we still do not have copies of the electronic voters roll. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), a body which runs the elections, has also not received its copy of the electronic voters roll. The issue of elections in Zimbabwe has been a circus. It is time to confront the beast and demand far-reaching electoral reforms.
EM: How are you going to demand such reforms having failed to do so during the inclusive government when you were in a better position as state actors?
TB: There is clearly unfinished work from the inclusive government era. We should have completed that and I believe at the negotiators level that work was done but the reform process died a natural death at the level of principals because they had other agendas. We need a complete overhaul of the electoral framework. We need a new voters roll and we need to modernise our electoral system. Let us ensure that the electoral process is demilitarised, but Zec itself is a securitised body. We need to demilitarise it and other institutions.
Zimbabwe is a member of the international bodies, so we need them to observe our elections seriously. We need international standards to prevail. The electoral reform agenda must be the demand of every Zimbabwean and outsourcing it to political parties alone, many of them led by sycophants of the Zanu PF regime who have passed their sell-by dates, is failure. We, Zimbabweans, must understand that the salvation of our country must be led by us. Civic society and political parties must converge on this issue. Let us form an alliance on electoral reforms. Sadc and African Union are sick and tired of a Zimbabwe that has been soiling its pants for the past 35 years and also have a duty to make sure we achieve this.
EM: How will you achieve the results when you are divided and fighting from different fronts in the form of MDC-T, MDC-N and MDC Renewal? Why not form just one formidable front?
TB: You know … the issue of a popular front is immutable because as long as there is no common front to fight this dictatorship, Zanu PF will continue to win by hook or crook and to misrule. A common front has to be formed, but my suspicion is that it is expecting too much from old, tired, selfish and egocentric politicians who have specialised in failure in the last 15 years to hope that you can teach them new tricks so as to abandon their hubristic mind-set, their arrogance and narrow mindedness. This is why I am always saying to people and the Zimbabweans in general, the debate must be beyond political parties because they have been a huge embarrassment, particularly those of the big tent inclination.
It is a waste of time to listen to them. A waste of generations. In 2018, it would be 18 years of fighting in the trenches. Now let us go beyond politics. Let us go into the churches, trade unions, students and knit a concise fabric based on principle, values and clarity of the objective of a sustainable democratisation agenda.
We have not learnt lessons from the past. In Africa, founding presidents have been difficult to remove because they have been the States. (President Robert) Mugabe has been the State. Founding presidents have been removed by military coups or some kind of guerrilla war. We don’t want that in our country. We want a democratic solution, but that will never be achieved unless there is purity in the idea and purity in the execution which I don’t see now.
EM: As former finance minister, how do you see the current state of Zimbabwe’s economy?
TB: If Zimbabwe was a company with limited liability, it could have long been placed under judiciary management. The economy is in the middle of a deep recession. Since 2012, the economy has been on a downward slump captured by structural regression and that recession is characterised by massive stagnation and an unprecedented deflationary period. There is no output. Growth rate will be between 0,8% and 1,2%. There is massive de-industrialisation and the revenue collection has collapsed.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is not meeting its targets. I do not know how they are paying the civil servants and each morning I pray that they are not raiding the Real Time Gross Settlements (RTGS) in the Reserve Bank. With Zanu PF this economy is going nowhere. In 2013 prior to the July general elections, Zanu PF made huge promises but they have failed beyond measure and they must apologise to the people.
The problem is that Mugabe and Zanu PF are driven by one agenda only: power retention. They worship power. Anything else is an inconvenience to the power retention agenda. In the case of Mugabe, I regret to say that the biggest tragedy characterising his legacy of ruins for the past 35 years is that he has never really been president of Zimbabwe but Zanu PF. He has never put Zimbabwe first but power retention and his personal interests ahead of everything.
EM: So what should be done?
TB: I have always said there is need for a National Technical Transitional Council if this economy is to be rescued. This amounts to an economic judiciary management. You are entrusting the economy that has failed and is in comatose to a group of experts. It has happened in Italy, it happened in Greece, so we will not be the first country to do it.
It cannot be business as usual when every street in Harare is dominated by tomato, by banana, juice card and phone charger vendors. So the country is reeling under dictatorship of informalisation, thanks to Zanu PF.
Zanu PF is not seeing the great Armageddon that is coming. This time around we will experience our worst period of food shortages. Estimates show that the Grain Marketing Board is not going to receive more than 600 000 metric tonnes of maize when the country requires, 1,8 to 2 million metric tonnes a year.
We have always survived by borrowing or picking up the crumbs from South Africa but this year it has its own problems and there is a deficit in Malawi and these failures have absolutely no idea of this. The current account keeps on ballooning. We have become a dumping ground of China. There is even a Chinese mall in Harare. We have been betrayed and failed by official stupidity.
Audio of full interview