Biti overestimated his influence

HARARE - The political circus unravelling in the country’s opposition politics needs no introduction.

The tag of war between the Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti camps over control of the opposition MDC has dominated news headlines over the last few weeks.

Social media platforms are awash with heated debates over the developments.

Although the end circumstances are not yet known, logic would suggest that Tsvangirai’s camp has an upper hand on the tussle and that despite all the rhetoric coming from Biti and his supporters, it appears his political career is coming to a sad and abrupt end.

There is a very sarcastic but interesting analogy doing the rounds in the social media which somewhat captures the rise and fall of Biti and his allies.

It is the biblical story of Jesus and his entry into Jerusalem.

The Bible narrates how Jesus rode on a donkey upon entry into the city.

Some people who were part of the crowd welcoming Jesus spread their garments for the donkey to tread on.

Zimbabweans who are overly comical have added a humorous comparison to Biti’s rise to political fame.

Their narrative talks of the donkey’s mistaken belief about its popularity to the extent of going back to Jerusalem on a solo walk without Jesus.

The donkey got a rude awakening. It was shocked by the hostile reception it got, including some thorough beatings.

It had mistaken Jesus’ popularity for its own.

Biti’s rise to fame is partly due to the man he eventually decided to turn his sword on.

Tsvangirai, as a trade union leader, helped Biti in getting a firm grip on the political pedal.

As a lawyer, Biti was given a number of labour cases to handle both from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and its affiliates.

His work relationship with Tsvangirai saw him getting involved in the formation of the MDC, a labour backed movement to which he belongs.

To his credit, Biti proved to be a fighter. He spoke fearlessly against the regime of President Robert Mugabe at a time when doing so was risky.

He also handled the nation’s finances at a time when the country was virtually bankrupt in spite of his limited financial background and, until recently, he has been among a breed of young and promising political leaders whose future was firmly secure.

It is reasonable to suggest that Biti’s positions as both MDC secretary-general and Finance minister eventually contributed to his downfall.

At party level, Biti was the chief administrator at Harvest House.

He supervised staff at both provincial and national levels.

He hired technical staff, some more educated than him. He was a signatory to the party’s bank accounts.

He is reported to have registered some party assets in his private company, the final custodian of assets belonging to the party.

His appointment as Finance minister during the Government of National Unity (GNU) era elevated him to an even more authoritative status.

All of a sudden the young politician had ministerial aides and butlers.

He was invited to speak in places far from home.

He had the powers to decide on the country’s financial matters, including the powers to borrow on behalf of the country and mortgage future generations.

He became the only minister whose authority affected the work of an entire nation through his budget planning.

He dined with the rich and famous, graced corporate corridors of the world’s most iconic institutions; the IMF and World Bank.

He was even admired by Mugabe who described him as the best finance minister since independence.

The man was big, exercising his powers with reckless abandon.

In Parliament he became part of the furniture, not losing his Parliamentary seat since the formation of MDC.

He became part of the legislative establishment, a member of the august house tasked with the responsibility of crafting the country’s laws.

Who can blame him for feeling big, powerful, wanted and important?

Indeed Biti felt very powerful, walking in political glory, exuding an aura of invincibility and living in grandiose and opulence.

His political stardom was monumental. But then politics has a cruel way of bringing people back to earth.

The July 31 elections turned tables and fortunes on many opposition figures.

Ministerial assignments came to an end, together with associated benefits. Butlers and aides vanished.

After losing his new—found fame, he became disillusioned with the leadership of Tsvangirai and started scheming and plotting the leader’s downfall.

How could he continue reporting to Tsvangirai, a man who had lost elections with no powers to appoint him minister anymore?

He found company in the equally ambitious but little—known Elton Mangoma in his quest to topple Tsvangirai.

Mangoma was not known within MDC structures until after the 2005 split.

His reasons for joining MDC may have been influenced by his personal knowledge of Tsvangirai rather than by any philosophical urge.

Mangoma was an audit partner with Kudenga and company, a firm which audited the books of the ZCTU where Tsvangirai was secretary general.

Biti and Mangoma’s fidelity to the movement was based on opportunistic allegiance, one that was based on the benefits accruing from siding with Tsvangirai.

Mangoma decided to act and he did so compulsively. It was his letter to Tsvangirai which ignited and inflamed the situation out of control.

It is common knowledge that Tsvangirai is no easy pushover and a number of politicians who tried to oust him before such as Welshman Ncube can bear witness to that.

However, Biti and company committed one cardinal sin; that of forgetting the powers of party structures and grassroots support.

He organised what turned out to be a bogus national council meeting which suspended Tsvangirai and the entire leadership of the party.

Suspending the entire party leadership was shear madness and was bound to backfire.

If Biti’s camp had suspended Tsvangirai alone, maybe their cause would have picked sympathisers.

Considering all the opposition politics which supposedly should have matured by now, one wonders how Biti, a senior lawyer and experienced politician committed such a blunder in his strategy.

Biti and company distinguished themselves from Tsvangirai’s camp in three respects: naivety, arrogance and wilful stupidity.

His strategic mistakes are entirely instructive regarding his future in politics.

There is no doubt that Biti overestimated both his power and influence.

Democracy and all its merits is a fight. Tsvangirai and his associates fought back.

Some political analysts and commentators do not seem to understand why Tsvangirai survives one coup plot after the other.

The answer lies in his trade union background. The man is a unionist and an organiser par excellence.

His ability to woo crowds makes up for his strategic short comings. His deputy Thokhozani Khupe, also a unionist, compliments his grassroots appeal.

The charisma of his loyalists in Nelson Chamisa and Douglas Mwonzorwa and the cool heads of Lovemore Moyo, Tapiwa Mashakada and Morgen Komichi were sure to seal Biti’s fate.

Whilst some would want to call it a split, the extent of fissures in the MDC-T suggests otherwise.

Unlike the 2005 split which left the party somewhat evenly divided between the Ncube and Tsvangirai camps, the current impasse is characterised by few low key members on Biti’s side with the majority backing the former prime minister.

Judging by the number of MPs supporting the so-called renewal team, Biti’s agenda appears to have died a still birth.

Some of Biti’s associates, who fronting the leadership renewal agenda, are nonentities with no political profiles of their own.

Jacob Mafume who doubles up as both spokesperson for the group and lawyer for the expelled Mangoma has no political CV of his own besides working as a staffer in Tsvangirai’s office.

Having shared the same work corridors with Tsvangirai, he felt strong enough to challenge him, going as far as calling himself a democrat.

How such a junior staffer who never won an election even at ward level could call dare themselves a better democrat than Tsvangirai boggles the mind.

Biti is yet to test his grassroots support. Recent media reports of him attracting as little as 50 people at one of his first solo rallies in Manicaland are indicative of his lack of public appeal.

It is especially worrying considering Manicaland is home to both Mangoma and Biti who are leading the breakaway.

Their political future is certainly in doubt.

His position as an opposition figure is worsened by his widely publicised personal admiration for Mugabe.

At one point, Biti described the Zanu PF leader as a “fountain of experience, fountain of knowledge and, most importantly, a fountain of stability who was unflappable”.

At this year’s independence celebrations, Mugabe surprised everyone by defending Biti and his camp. The two appear to have a soft spot for each other.

The renewal camp’s public castigation of Mugabe and Zanu PF is therefore mere political posturing and grandstanding meant to hoodwink the public into believing the group is genuinely opposed to Zanu PF policies.

At the recent debate series organised by the Sapes Trust, Biti is widely quoted as having expressed admiration for Zanu PF’s robust policies, citing this as the reasons behind the party’s July 31, 2013 election victory.

It will not surprise anyone if Biti and his group finally come out in the open to form some sort of political alliance with Zanu PF or join the party altogether.

For now, the renewal team may enjoy support from the donor community.

They may meet donors and diplomats at popular cafes in Avondale and Borrowdale.

They may meet in air conditioned offices in Harare’s Milton Park and its surrounds.

But donors and diplomats are funny creatures. Soon they will demand results.

They will not continue supporting a movement with no grassroots support. Soon, phone calls to donors and diplomats will not be answered.

Messages will not be returned. Funds will dry up and the camp will start to crumble.

Some argue that Biti has a better chance in court since our judiciary is staffed with judges sympathetic to Zanu PF who have an interest in the demise of Tsvangirai and his camp.

Whilst there is no denying that some of our judges are compromised, past court cases point to a relatively competent judiciary.

The instructive case in point is that of Tsvangirai who was acquitted of treason charges despite Zanu PF’s pressure to convict him.

Judges are professionals who are not keen on soiling their bench reputations.

If Biti and Tsvangirai end up in court, it is more likely that judges will rule against Biti.

The strength of both sides’ arguments lies on the legality of national council meetings conducted and the authority of members who attended.

Biti’s case is weak. By all accounts, it is fair to say Wananchi has fallen.

Comments (29)

Without grassroot support,Biti cannot go far. It is clear,not only from his recent poorly attended rally, but from people's conversations that the Biti camp has very little public support.Their best option is to enjoy donor funds as long as it last because sooner rather than later, the funds will dry up. It is very sad that a political carrier, which had so much promise has to end this way for Biti.

Dzingai - 7 May 2014

Apa wanyora zvomenemene MARIHWEPI WEZHIRA iwe. keep up that standard BOY!

tk - 7 May 2014

shallow minded Biti's political carrier is heading to a natural death. kuputsa chirongo vave kusvika pamusha ndokwawaita uku.

igwe - 7 May 2014

shallow minded Biti's political carrier is heading to a natural death. kuputsa chirongo vave kusvika pamusha ndokwawaita uku.

igwe - 7 May 2014

Biti is one big dissapointment for the nation at large. The unfortunate truth that one can learn from this episode is that Education is not Wisdom . Funny isn't it?

mambo - 7 May 2014

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boreholes - 7 May 2014

what a gud analysis . Biti overistimated his popularity he is too young to match save,

obert jeranyama - 7 May 2014

Why didn't Biti push for an early congress, why? There is so much discontent within the opposition regarding leadership which would have given Biti a strong case. A coup makes Tsvangirai look good just like the blunder ZANU PF made when they beat him up. Congress presents a democratic grand stand to state your case but Biti never openly declared his intentions for the Presidency anyway, which makes the man look like a snake in the grass to the grass root support. Sad. I would prefer Biti and Tsvangirai fighting in one corner. Because in my mind prefer someone else to stand as the Presidential candidate and Morgan stay as party President.

taps - 7 May 2014

Is it Biti leading or it's Mangoma or Sekai Holland or Sipepa Nkomo or Mafume. Please help me i want to identify my leader??????

Jori - 7 May 2014

For a very long time I hadn't an excellent journalistic analysis. This is a master stoke which if Biti reads will wet his pants. I particularly liked the biblical analogy. Tsvangirai is a rare breed of a politician. Had it not been for the Zanu crooks our country would have been much better with Save at the helm. Case of a leaf blaming the tree for lack of water, falling off only to dry drastically and get absorbed into the ground. Biti cannot see neither can he reason. Sikhala discovered his errors that without the sanctuary of Chematama, the political winds will blow them out. Case closed.

Ndakaronga Dondo - 7 May 2014

There we go again attacking an individual & praising another who has not delivered. Both Biti & Tsvangirai have done their best & we should acknowledge them accordingly, however they have failed at the last hurdle of dislodging Mugabe. Articles like this don't advance the fight of a better tomorrow so I question just what the writer is hoping to achieve. Typical behaviour in Zimbabwe of 'pull him down' so wonder we make no progress.

saundy - 7 May 2014

I see ppl tripping over each other fawning how this is a 'brilliant analysis'. Sorry folks - what this is is a nice little hatchet job on Biti and co. The missing conclusion to this article is 'Pamberi ne MDC-T. if this article was to be fair, where is the objective analysis of Tsvangirai's political strategy blunders? Where is the examination of Tsvangirai's personal aggrandizement once he got in govt? What about Tsvangirai's personal moral failings which all contributed to public apathy not just with him but with Zim opposition politics in general. Notice how the writer is quick to celebrate Tsvangirai's org skills and showers him with all kinds of adulation. Well, as the saying goes 'no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig - at the end of the day it is still a pig'.

Themba - 8 May 2014

POLITICS is about who gets what and how? The end does not always justify the means. Biti and company failed in the last MDC Congress to dislodge Tsvangirai after the end of his second tenure at the helm of the MDC as per constitution. All they are doing now is the best way to attract ridicule and failure through miscalculations and lack of political stamina to stand by themselves.They are now fish out of water.

florence - 8 May 2014

This is the beginning of the end for Biti, he has dug his own grave what is left is to backfill it with him in it. An opposition with both Biti and morgan in the same corner is much stronger but i dont see that ever happening again.

Dalaz - 8 May 2014

Once again the nay sayers are dead set against Biti. Daily News continues with its hatchet job on Biti. How scurrilous !

bollo billings - 8 May 2014

I am impressed by this candid illustration of the MDC saga. Can the Daily News reveal the identity of the individual who penned this piece? One again, hats off Sir!

ndanga - 8 May 2014

A person does rally with about fifty people aaah

protestor - 9 May 2014

Wezhira, sorry to advise you that you got it all wrong. If you think Tsvangirayi's blundering can be covered up by his popularity. You are lost. Time will tell. Zimbabweans need leadership that has a vision not this donkey riding moron from Buhera.

papaya - 9 May 2014

Pamberi na President Tsvangirai.The road has been rough already It cannot be any rougher.Siyana ne mbiti.

GM - 9 May 2014

such journalism is worth my praise,so detailed,every point with a supporting fact,after reading,i find no questions on this article,but to just wish this writer all the best in this field,as for Biti i hope when he wakes up,,the dream will continue

General Basset,Cape Town ,SA - 9 May 2014

This article has simple facts, daring, and not simplistic. All that is happening with Biti and his crew is very obvious, but we ask, why the foolhardy moves? Is this the Zimbabwean foolhardy DNA at work, that has left our beloved country completely asset stripped? Its all like watching a boring predictable amateur movie. I agree with all that have said that Biti and his crew should have been strong enough to go to early congress for leadership renewal. What we are seeing in Biti is a young, strong, aggressive, ambitious, assertive stupid man!

Mbareboy - 10 May 2014

wagona wena

achy - 11 May 2014

wagona wena munyori

mnmn - 11 May 2014

Biti u a nw sitting on the edge of a knife. u a nw disappearing frm the political arena coz of greedy and overambitiousnes. u shud hv learnt frm Makoni and Welshman. Tsvangirai has the public appeal u hv education in politics u a finished. thnk the GNU fr dat little opportunity u get othewys Biti u were gn to die a dog or a disappointed comrade lyk Mutambara. Nyc article Wezhira kip the fire burning

diaspora - 24 May 2014

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