Zimbabweans are being hit by skyrocketing fuel prices as well as rolling power cuts as the country’s economic woes deepen. In an exclusive interview with DW, the opposition politician and former finance minister Tendai Biti called for a national dialogue in Zimbabwe under the auspices of a regional or international confederation of states. He gave a scathing assessment of the performance of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was elected after the ouster of Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
DW: Mr. Biti, how would you describe the current situation in Zimbabwe?
Tendai Biti: I think it’s an absolute mess, an absolute dog’s breakfast. Emmerson and his lot have failed. People are suffering, the economy is in a recession, there is also inflation, hyperinflation. We have never been in such a situation since the creation of modern Zimbabwe. This is the worst leader we have had and the worst government we have had in the history of government in this country.
Some put the blame on sanctions imposed by the West. What role do they play in the current economic crisis?
That’s just a slogan, just travel bans on a few people. Zimbabwe trades with every country in the world. It has a huge trading account with the United States, so sanctions are a fiction. The real sanction in this economy is ZANU-PF, the real sanction in this economy is Emmerson Mnangagwa and that’s why we are in this fix. Mnangagwa is a disaster. Mnangagwa is so bad he makes Mugabe look like an angel. And Mugabe was certainly not an angel by any standard.
Mnangagwa has been calling for dialogue with the opposition to discuss solutions to the crisis. Why hasn’t the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) responded to that call yet?
We believe in genuine dialogue and we’ve been calling for dialogue through our leader, Nelson Chamisa. But dialogue must be genuine. The crisis in Zimbabwe is a crisis of legitimacy arising out of the coup of November 2017, which Emmerson benefited from. It’s a crisis of legitimacy arising from an election on July 30, 2018 which Emmerson stole. He who stole can’t live dialogue. Dialogue must be done by an international, mutually agreed arbitrator through a framework guaranteed by the region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union or the UN. What Zimbabwe needs is a genuine dialogue and dialogue under Emmerson’s terms is not genuine.
Have you tried to communicate this to ZANU-PF?
We communicate every day. Our position is clear.
So why do you think you are not being listened to?
Because Emmerson is not ready for genuine dialogue. There are cartels that are running this country, cartels in fuel, foreign exchange, agriculture, mining.
Let’s talk about possible solutions. What solution does the opposition have, especially the main opposition, your party, the MDC?
We have offered broad solutions. On the crisis of legitimacy, we have said: “Let’s dialogue.” On reforms we have proposed serious political institutional reform. For the economy we have proposed massive reform which includes macroeconomic stability, fiscal consolidation, resolving the debt crisis and the unemployment issue. We have proposed ending Zimbabwe’s isolation. On the lack of social cohesion, we have proposed a program of national healing. We have solutions but we need dialogue so we create a soft landing for Zimbabwe. If we don’t have a dialogue, then there will be an implosion in this country. And that could include people being killed while demonstrating, people starving or another military coup. This country needs dialogue urgently to avert an implosion. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has a key role to play. The African Union has a key role to play.
The MDC congress is coming up this weekend. There have been divisions in the party – is this an opportunity to make the party stronger for the next elections.
The congress will come up with a strong leadership that will define a new course, a new agenda for Zimbabwe. Our people have suffered for so many years, not just the 40 years of ZANU-PF but also the 60 years that the white man was running this country. Our people need a break. They need a government that understands them, a government that respects the constitution and the rule of law. And only the MDC under Nelson Chamisa can provide that.
Is the MDC ready to govern?
The MDC is ready to govern. It was ready yesterday, it is ready now, it will be ready tomorrow. Under the able and undisputed leadership of Nelson Chamisa.