Behave, Biti tells Mugabe, Tsvangirai

HARARE - Finance minister Tendai Biti has told President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to keep violence at bay ahead of forthcoming elections, warning that the economy will suffer terribly if a repeat of the 2008 bloodshed happens.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a 2012 government workshop programme review and 2013 budget consultations held in the capital yesterday.

With the warning coming two weeks ahead of his 2013 budget presentation — which is likely to show a slowdown in economic growth due to political bickering — Biti warned that Zimbabwe’s economy could contract by eight percent per annum in the next five years if the country proceeds with a violent election next year.

The country is expected to hold a watershed plebiscite next year following the expiry of the tenure of the fragile coalition government.

Biti said political leaders should desist from violent election campaigns and called for “peaceful elections and incontestable election outcomes”.

“What we are afraid of in Zimbabwe are elections that are to be held next year. And I am appealing to the principals to preach peace to their supporters during election campaigns,” he said.

“If we continue with our political fighting we risk plunging the economy into an abyss. Studies have shown that all warring economies lose eight percent of their gross domestic product for the next five years.”

Zimbabwe's coalition government between rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai was formed after violent elections in 2008, when Zanu-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence and Mugabe lost first round voting to Tsvangirai.

Mugabe returned as president after Tsvangirai withdrew from the subsequent runoff citing gross violence which he said was perpetrated by the military and left over 200 of his supporters dead.

Mugabe has repeatedly said elections should be held by March 2013 but Tsvangirai says while elections are definitely on next year, no actual date has been set.

Part of the aim of the coalition government was to promote reconciliation and lower political temperatures.

Biti yesterday warned that premature talk of elections usually increases political risk and this had the potential to affect the growth of the economy.

“We need sustainable peace for us to consolidate the economic gains of the past four years. Considering our past history of election violence, elections must be done in one day not in one year,” he said.

Political analysts fear a rushed election may drag the country back to the conflict that obtained before the formation of the coalition government four year ago.

Back then, capacity utilisation in industry had dropped to below 10 percent with job losses and the flight of skills taking a toll on the economy.

The situation was even worse in the two most critical social sectors, health and education, which virtually collapsed because of staff shortages and lack of funding.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently predicted that Zimbabwe’s economy will only grow by 4, 7 percent this year from a targeted 9, 8 percent due to key risks that include political instability, a decline in exports, fiscal slippages, financial sector stress and policy uncertainty. - John Kachembere

Comments (1)

People like Tendai Biti have to realize that they will have to come out in the open sooner or later: and stop all this double talk of calling for free and fair elections one minute and the next minute telling the people to vote for the COPAC draft constitution because it will deliver free and fair elections. MDC leaders do not want to come out and admit that the COPAC draft will not end the country’s culture of violence and deliver free and fair elections – the Holy Grail – because they will be forced to answer some awkward questions. Why then did MDC waste three and half years writing this COPAC draft if it is rubbish? And, what has MDC been doing these last four year since the COPAC draft is rubbish and not even one of the GPA agreed democratic reforms has been implemented? By appealing to Mugabe to ensure the next elections are free of the usual violence Minister Biti is tacitly acknowledging that there is nothing in the COPAC draft to ensure there is no violence. In other words the new constitution cannot guarantee Zimbabweans their basic and fundamental right to a free vote; it will be left to the whim of a ruthless dictator whether or not they enjoy that right! But since Mugabe has no intention of losing the next elections that leaves the nation with a simple choice hand election victory to the dictator in a silver platter or he will use violence to snatch the victory. Either way the ordinary Zimbabwean will NOT have a free and democratic vote! If MDC leaders told the people the truth that this COPAC draft will not end the violence and safe guard their free vote; then the people will vote no in the upcoming referendum. A no vote will force the nation to draw up another constitution, one acceptable to the people, one that will guarantee their basic right to vote free of fear of political violence. People like Minister Biti will have a simple choice of coming clean and admit the COPAC draft is rubbish and thus give the nation a realistic chance of writing a democratic constitution or try to keep up the charade that the COPAC draft will deliver free elections and hope the dictator commit the kamikaze and allow free elections to take place!

W Mukori - 30 October 2012

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