SANCTIONS FIGHTS: What Tendai Biti told the Americans

Hon. Tendai Biti | Thank you, Chairman Flake, Ranking Member Booker, and other members of the Subcommittee. We thank you for inviting us to this great center of American democracy.

Tendai Biti

The 14th of November 2017 began a series major life changing events in Zimbabwe
that will forever redefine the political and constitutional landscape of the country.
On that day, military tanks invaded the streets of the capital, Harare, and other
major cities in the country. In the early hours of the 15th, the military appeared on
Zimbabwe’s sole national television and implicitly made it clear that the executive
was no longer in control.

On 18th November, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans marched alongside
military personnel in the streets of Harare and Bulawayo and demanded the
resignation of President Mugabe. On 21 November in the middle of impeachment
proceedings in parliament, President Mugabe quietly, if not in-elegantly, announced
his resignation.

With President Mugabe’s departure, Zimbabwe now faces an uncertain future, but
one which presents real opportunities for reconstructing, rebuilding and refabricating
a new Zimbabwean story, and a new Zimbabwean society.

Without a doubt, the 37 years of President Mugabe’s rule were a sad story of
capture, coercion, corruption, poverty and de-legitimization. Zimbabweans lived in
fear under a system that paid no respect to their rights and a system that saw
continuous impoverishment and suffering, loss of livelihoods amongst ordinary
citizens.

President Mugabe presided over one of the most autocratic African regimes that
stood head and shoulders with the likes of current dictators like Obiang in
Equatorial Guinea, Biya in Cameroon, Afewerki in Eritrea, al-Bashir in Sudan, and
Museveni in Uganda.

Let’s be clear: the events in Zimbabwe described above were an illegal and
illegitimate transfer of power from one faction of the ruling party to another.
However, this was not the first time that the military in Zimbabwe and the so-called
“securocrats” have subverted constitutional order in a way that merely entrenched
un-democratic rule.

For instance, on the eve of the presidential election in March 2002 the top army
generals of Zimbabwe led by then commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces
Major-General Zvinavashe issued a public statement in which it was announced that
they would never salute a leader who did not have liberation war credentials. An
obvious position meant to target Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the democratic
opposition.

In June 2008, pursuant to a victory of the MDC in the March 2008 election the
military staged a pre-emptive military coup that literally prevented political
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC from taking over, installing
President Mugabe as president of the republic.

November 2017 now represents a third occasion of a revolt against the constitution,
but this time, marked with the popular removal of an unpopular president.
Despite the illegalities of the November 2017 processes, Zimbabwe now has the
obligation of ensuring that there’s a major shift and fundamental departure from a
past of division, attrition and fear.

Zimbabwe needs a genuine break from its tortured past, not a continuation of the
old order. The new Zimbabwe, to be established now, need to be founded on the
values and principles of constitutionalism, the rule of law, a just and prosperous
society. In the new Zimbabwe, every citizen must be free to pursue life, liberty, and
happiness.

The starting point must be a return to true legitimacy, constitutionalism, and the
rule of law. The roadmap to legitimacy is the fundamental precondition to the
establishment of a sustainable, just, and free Zimbabwe. This roadmap must be
anchored on clear benchmarks. These include:

1) The immediate restoration of constitutionalism, the rule of law, and
legitimate civilian rule. The military must be demobilized from the streets.
2) Implementation of genuine electoral reforms to ensure that the election in
July-August 2018 is free, fair, credible, and legitimate. Those electoral
reforms, including: the preparation of a brand new biometric voters’ roll to
which all political parties sign onto; agreement on an independent electoral
management body; the introduction of a diaspora vote; international
observation and poll monitors; defined role of the UN and its agencies; full
access to media; and a safe environment for campaigning and voting free
from intimidation.

3) Political and institutional reforms, which include aligning the country’s laws
with the 2013 constitution, and in particular actualizing the provisions
dealing with devolution and the land question.

4) Major economic reforms that focus on restoring livelihoods, growing a
shared economy and addressing the huge challenge of unemployment and
under-development.

5) Restoring the social contract, including the renewal and rebirth of a new
Zimbabwe that shuns corruption and promotes national healing and
reconciliation.

The above road map must be guaranteed and underwritten by the international
community. In this regard, the role of the African Union and the United Nations will
be critical.

The new authorities must show some signs of a commitment to real transformation
other than cosmetic statements on the economy.

The real danger is that they will pursue a Beijing model, in the respect of which
there are nominal improvements on the economy while political space is closed and
democracy is muzzled.

It is therefore important that the new authorities show signs of commitment to real
change.

They could, for instance, begin by openly acknowledging and apologizing for the
major human rights abuses of the past four decades, in particular the massacres in
Matabeleland known as Gukurahundi, the illegal and inhumane urban land
clearances of Operation Murambatsvina, and the vicious 2008 post election violence
against the opposition and ordinary citizens.

They could for instance order an inquiry into the disappearance of human rights
activists, including Patrick Nabanyama and Itai Dzamara, who has been missing
since March 2015.

Authorities could for instance mollify many Zimbabweans by ordering a judicial
inquiry into Zimbabwe’s missing diamond revenues, estimated to be around $15
billion.

We have lost a lot of time in Zimbabwe, fighting amongst ourselves. One hopes that
the fresh beam of light that we saw on 18 November 2017 becomes a permanent
bright shining star that shows us the path forward. Zimbabweans must fix our own
country and repair the wounds of the past. But we can’t do this alone.
As Zimbabwe begins this quest for transformation, it will need the support of the
international community, including the United States and Congress in particular, at
this crucial stage.

We ask the international community and the U.S. to keep us in your hearts. Do not
allow our country to be forgotten in our battle against tyranny and poverty and for
democracy and human rights. Our election requires active support and oversight
from the international community, including our American friends.

Further, once we show signs of an irrevocable and irreversible trajectory towards
legitimacy, democracy, and the rule of law, we shall require your full support as we
re-engage key international institutions.

We know that this struggle has been long and difficult. But we are confident that we
will complete what we started in 1999 when we formed the Movement for
Democratic Change with the aspiration of establishing a truly democratic, just, and
free Zimbabwe.

Thank you. Zikomo.

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