Democracy must not be a mere slogan: Biti

MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti says the MDC-T should dissociate itself from dictatorship and intolerance by refocusing on core values and principles which include “tolerance, respect, dialogue and love”.

Owen Gagare

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Biti said the MDC-T and other democratic movements should not merely focus on removing Zanu PF from power, but should work towards getting rid of the “Zanu PF system and culture, which includes violence, intolerance, corruption, predatoriness, rumour-mongering, gossip and character assassinations”.

Biti’s comments come in the wake of last Saturday’s assault of MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma, who has called for leadership renewal in the party — a move that has deeply split the party.

Biti was also a target of the attacks, but escaped after jumping into MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s car.

Although Biti refused to comment on the merits of Mangoma’s case or his assault, he said it was important for the party’s values to be respected.

“The values upon which this movement was founded; the value of democracy, the value of tolerance, the value of freedom of speech within the confines of our constitution — these values must be respected,” he said.

“As a matter of fact, I know no debate that has been suppressed, but we need to safeguard these values. We need to walk the talk.

Democracy should not be a slogan, it should be lived.”

Asked whether the incidence of violence and intimidation in the party were an indication that the party had failed, Biti said: “Collectively we have to do better.”

“After all, we have been victims of violence and intolerance from Zanu PF … So for us to then seek to inflict that on ourselves, I think it’s simply not good enough and it’s not acceptable,” he said.

Biti said democratic forces needed to guard against contradictions which are common in any prolonged struggle which can result in organisations assuming the character of institutions they are fighting.

He cited the violence, assassinations, arrests and rebellion which took place during the liberation struggle as examples of the contradictions.

“The other problem is because Zimbabwe has been under dictators since 1891, what has changed is the colour of the dictator’s skin … Zimbabwe has not known other value systems other than Zanu PF, Ian Smith and the repressive colonial state so it’s very easy for people to reproduce themselves asymmetrically to Zanu PF,” he said.

“It’s easy for people to behave, think and talk like Zanu PF. Put in simple terms Zanu PF has normalised the abnormal. So violence is normal, gossip is normal, rumours are normal, lying is normal. You see that happening in civil society and democratic forces.”

Biti said it was important to focus on the values and principles upon which “the movement was founded” while also paying attention to the central strategic objective, which is to achieve democratic change in Zimbabwe.

“The aim should not only be to remove Zanu PF but the culture of Zanu PF, to de-Zanunise the Zimbabwean state and institutions.”
Biti said if the MDC-T and other democratic forces failed to stick to their values they would be unsuccessful in fulfilling their objectives.

He cited Zanu PF as an example of a party which has managed to survive for a long time despite divisions and said this was because the party stuck to its values.

“For all its weaknesses, Zanu PF is still alive since 1963 under circumstances where it’s more divided and fractured than civil society in Zimbabwe because it has stuck to its core principles of sovereignty and power retention.

“It has been loyal to those values and we of this generation must be loyal to our values of justice, solidarity, humility and emphathic leadership and ofcourse attaining democratic change which is value based.

Biti said a struggle without content would produce an outcome which is worse than that which “we are seeking to remove”.

30 thoughts on “Democracy must not be a mere slogan: Biti”

  1. Wezhira Wezhara says:

    The same way we know Mugabe&ZANU will do nothing to stop corruption/political violence We KNOW Tsvangirayi/MDC-T will do nothing to weed out violence and intimidation of non supporters of Morgan.

    This is because Morgan benefits from it and wants to stay in power until hameno..Morgan has no intention of ever leaving his post.

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  3. wamaromo says:

    Maybe the top 4 of MDC must resign Tendai don’t you think so and take responsibility for the loss not the Nikuv you were telling us. Your colleague Mangoma told us you lost because of MT’s zip but alas I don’t know if all the losing candidates had their zips open.May be you can also tell us if democracy is just calling for leadership renewal every time someone feels like or you have set time tables.. i thought as the SG of the party Biti also can call for a special congress and if 2/3thirds say no to Morgan he goes is that so or you want leadership renewal through letters and opinion pieces in newspapers.We read this letter in newspapers so is it MT who sent the letter to the newspapers or he wrote the paper sent it to newspapers and then decided to give MT his copy in the meeting, I don’t think that is how democracy works. I know Tsvangirayi has dictatorial tenedencies but that is normal for a leader to function you cannot just be pushed from your position. Ask one of the leaders of the match during the first Match for a New Constitution in the Africa Unity Square when he wanted to give a speech what happened, he was almost stopped by who? I know by who because I was standing near.

  4. Boorangoma says:

    Yes the democratic movement has too many wolves in sheepskin and they need to be confronted. Such wolves like Morgan Richard Tsvangirai are a burden to the democratic movement. They all shout, “Chinja maitiro. Guqhula izenzo.” but they have not changed their own ways. They are all steeped in the Zanu PF culture of violence, double-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, corruption and general immoral conduct. Before we can change our ways we need to change our thought processes!

  5. fatso says:

    I agree that Tsvangirai should go but disagree with the methods being used by Mangoma and co. because it is undemocratic. U want to bring democracy by using undemocratic means! How naive

  6. Friends,

    It has been said, that, if a lie is repeated often enough, it will be believed, and, the bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed.
    There is a lie, that has been circulating in Zimbabwe since 1980 and probably before, and that is that Ian Smith’s government was colonial and repressive. Biti repeats it here.

    Zimbabwe has not known other value systems other than ZanuPF, Ian Smith and the repressive colonial state

    He even equates Ian Smith’s ‘dictatorship’ with Mugabe’s dictatorship. First let’s look at the overall picture. When the pioneer column came to this country, it came to a trackless, war-torn, disease-ridden waste. In 90 years the Rhodesians turned into it virtually a first world country – peaceful, prosperous and productive. In fact it was one to the best run countries on earth. Everything worked.

    Look at law and order; look at infrastructure – roads, railways, electricity, communications, dams and water development; look at government buildings – schools, hospitals, clinics, universities. Look at agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, hunting. Everything worked.

    In the last 34 years the country has been taken back almost to where we found it. Look at law and order; look at infrastructure – roads, railways, electricity, communications, dams and water development; look at government buildings – schools, hospitals, clinics, universities. Look at agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, hunting. Nothing works.

    Please note I am not comparing black with white here; I am comparing the rule of Ian Smith with the rule of Robert Mugabe.

    If we want to get ahead in Zimbabwe, we need to combine the talents of the good blacks and the good whites.

    And we need God, and the leader/s who God chooses. Democracy without God is no better than dictatorship without God.

    Hosea 8:4.
    They set up kings without my consent;
    they choose princes without my approval.
    With their silver and gold
    they make idols for themselves
    to their own destruction.

    Kind regards and blessings

    David Wheeler.

    1. GOGODERA says:

      Never compare the pre-independence and post independent era. Smith was inhuman to the black people. For all his errors, Mugabe is a saint compared to Smith.

      1. Musona says:

        @GOGODERA – writing nonsense. David Wheeler is spot on. Just regurgitating tired nationalist tosh. Can you give an example of Smith’s inhumanity to blacks. Is this what you read or what you experienced? How old were you in 1980? Over 20 000 unarmed civilians were slaughtered by Mugabe’s Fifth Brig*de in Guk*rahu*di. Is that saintly?

      2. Zwide Ka Langa says:

        Incorrect. Mugabe was inhuman to those of us from the Midlands and Matebeleland. In fact. Mugabe killed many more of us than Smith ever did. So Mugabe is indeed worse than Smith on all accounts!

      3. simon says:

        True Gogodera. Mugabe has performed poorly from about 1983 going on a downward gradient. However, his regime put infrastructure in Zimbabwe which reached the previously forgotten groups. Smith concentrated on less than 20% of the population and territory. He gave bare minimums to blacks. Mugabe’s disposition towards people can be compared to Smith’s, but his rulership uplifted the worker and peasant (though that has been reversed greatly). Indeed Smith was inhuman racially- blacks first, 2nd coloureds, lastly Asians in that order. Mugabe favours on party lines but resources are a bit more open to the wider population.

    2. Musona says:

      @David Wheeler – excellent stuff. I could not agree with you more.

  7. TICHAZVIONA says:

    I agree with what Wemaromo said. Let a special congress be called. Those who want to challenge whoever it is should take it up there. If Morgan is saying he still wants to lead the party, let there be room for whoever wants to challenge him. One can not just come up with his/her paper and say so and so resign. Can we really blame Morgan for failing to make any impact in unity government? Did any of the MDC ministers had any powers to make any meaningful changes in that government? Lets have people deciding weather they still want him Morgan or not. We all know Morgan did not have any influence at all. Can we really blame Morgan for the failure of Bennet taking up his post? We all know how arrogant Zanu pf is.

  8. Muporofita says:

    Tsvangirai should go kupi? Anobviswa ne Congress not netwuvanhu turi ku UK twusingavhote chinhu nxaaaaaaa.

  9. e.rugu says:

    biti be careful to spoil yo career u are formenting factional discord.u are the problm and we will take u out at wil u feel after being elected at congress and i say u must resign

    1. Question Mark says:

      Biti never said anything bad. What are you afraid of e.rugu?

    2. Beyond says:

      Like you did by replacing the best ever MDC organising Secretary Engineer Elias Mudzuru and replaced him with a sell-out who has presided over the disorganisation of the century in the MDC and desruction.Sorry yayaya sorry.e.rugu

  10. Musona says:

    What a load of garbage from Tendai Biti. This chap was around 12 years when Smith left office in 1979 and at that age would not have been politically conscious of what exactly was happening and therefore not at all qualified to talk about the Smith-era. I would not waste my time listening to what Biti has to say about the political situation round 1979-80. It’s de riguer for any lazy and cowardly politician who has nothing to say to mention Smith when they want to attack ZanuPF so that the criticism can be viewed by ZanuPF as “constructive” and coming from a “patriot”. I don’t know where Smith fits into the leadership battles in MDC-T. Smith regime and ZanuPF regime are/were as different as chalk and cheese. It would help the young generation if politicians can give concrete examples rather than generalise. For example, saying what it is they were denied and when it occurred and where. I have found out that some of the people who write and talk very authoritatively about the pre-ZanuPF era were not even born around 1979-80 – all based on hearsay evidence.

    1. Question Mark says:

      Biti has read history just like Wheeler above who is talking about the Pioneer Column and Rhodes. You do not need to have been around when Hitler was killing the Jews to criticize Hitler. The evil that Ian Smith and his racist regime performed is well-documented for all to peruse.

      1. Musona says:

        @Question Mark – documented by who you fool? I was around you fool. I do not need to read what I witnessed with my own eyes. Dummy.

        1. Question Mark says:

          It is documented by serious historians. One can be around when things are happening but fail to comprehend them. I’m surprised that you choose to ignore the open racism that the Rhodesian front government propagated. Lastly, Mr Musona, just say out your points without being emotional. Being angry does not do your health any good!

          1. Musona says:

            @Question Mark – serious historians like who for example? Most of the stuff is all from brainwashing. I want you to give me 5 examples of open racism. Don’t confuse racism with poverty as most people do.

          2. Question Mark says:

            Serious historians like Ngwabi Bhebhe and Terence Ranger. Open racism included refusing capable students to undertake studies of their own choice such as medicine, engineering etc. Remember the whites had reserved areas of residence where even rich Africans such as the Machipisa brothers were not allowed to live. The likes of Borrowdale. Blacks were deliberately denied access to good education. Do you remember that there were Central Primary Schools and for the rest of poor blacks they had inferior primary schools. Do you remember the existence of Group A Schools as well as Group B Schools? Group A Schools were public schools reserved for whites. Open racism also included the refusal by racist whites to let the majority blacks partake in the voting process as well as aspiring for political office. Open racism extended to farming. Rich blacks were limited to African Purchase Ares (Matenganyika) while whites could access vast farming areas with the Oppenheimers having ranches bigger than Belgium!

    2. Beyond says:

      History is not hearsay but is well documented chronogical of past events.Musona you are silly just like dunderhead Mwonzora.

      1. Musona says:

        @Beyond – documented by who you stupid fool? Give examples moron.

  11. Musona says:

    Someone said the other day his grandma told him she had problems during Rhodesia with Pa*s Laws and Chitupa when there was no such a law in Rhodesia and Chitupas were mere paper Identity papers for males aged 18 and above only seeking work in towns. This person was lying. I had a chitupa myself and the only time the police ever asked me to produce it was around a 2 week period during the state of emergency when they surrounded Highfields with ba*bed wire and residents going to work had to show these IDs to the police when the authorities were trying to root out Zapu vs. Zanu viol*nce which had gone totally out of hand in the township. This is why it is important to give concrete examples which can be verified. Why should people say something happened when it didn’t happen or say something didn’t happen when it happened? The truth should start with politicians like Biti.

    1. Beyond says:

      Musona your obsession with Biti gives away who”s payroll you are on.

      1. Musona says:

        @Beyond – which payroll are you talking about? Obsession with Biti? The article is about Biti, whom I regard as a useless and naive politician, this is why I made the comments.

    2. simon says:

      The Chitupa law (Chitikinyani – Juvenile certificate for under 21s- not 18) was required because all Juveniles and adults had to pay a tax of a dollar or so per year whether in the rural areas or in town. I witnessed it in rural areas in 1973- I wasn’t told by my grandmother, but was with ‘juveniles’ who were arrested for that by police.Biti is right in this case, like or hate him.

      1. Musona says:

        @simon – lying fool. Your grandmother must have had a sex change because Chitupas were for males only 18 and above not 21. I never paid any dollar idiot.

  12. unendoro says:

    biti haana chaati aita chakaipa weduwe

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