Biti Warns Unity Government At Risk, Urges Regional Intervention

biti_tendaiFinance Minister Tendai Biti (pictured) warned that if the unity government fails to achieve key objectives including the drafting of a new 'people-driven' constitution, the power-sharing arrangement in Harare could fall apart.

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti warned Tuesday that the national unity government in Harare could collapse if so-called outstanding issues that have been troubling it are not addressed and if its founding principles are not fulfilled, urging regional leaders to intervene to break the impasse.

Biti, also secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told journalists at the National Press Club in Washington that negotiations between his MDC party and President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF had deadlocked in recent weeks and that South African President Jacob Zuma, a mediator in Zimbabwe, should step in.

He warned that if the so-called inclusive government does not achieve its key objectives, including the drafting of a new “people-driven” constitution, the power-sharing arrangement in Harare could fall apart. But Biti said he was generally optimistic about Zimbabwe’s future despite political wrangling and resistance from ZANU-PF hardliners.

“This equation can only work if those fundamental foundational cornerstones which brought the Zimbabwean parties involuntarily together are addressed,” Biti said. “If there is a fear that there is arrested development on the things that gave rise to [the government] such as democratization, writing of a new constitution and economic reforms, it will collapse. This is the time for President Zuma to show leadership and intervene.”

Appealing to the international community for help raising the estimated US$8 billion needed for national reconstruction, Biti called on Western nations to end their isolation of Zimbabwe and help the country rebuild.

Biti called for the “decimation and elimination” of Zimbabwe’s foreign debt of some $6 billion foreign with the help of multilateral creditors including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Asked by VOA to respond to complaints by ZANU-PF that the MDC was not campaigning hard enough for sanctions to be lifted, Biti declined to comment.

The finance minister is in Washington for discussions with the Bretton Woods institutions as well as senior U.S. government officials.

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