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”.
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”.