4 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Rejects MDC-T New Coalition Call

THE MDC-T is welcome to help set the country's struggling economy right, but from the opposition benches in Parliament, a top Zanu PF official said Tuesday while rejecting a call for talks that would likely lead to another coalition government.

"It is understandable that Tendai Biti (MDC-T secretary general) should want to be a Cabinet minister again but the voters said not for another five years and we should respect that," Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told New Zimbabwe.com on Tuesday.

Gumbo was reacting to a call by Biti for a new dialogue between the parties to help rescue the country's failing economy.

The former finance minister told reporters that, six months after its purported landslide victory in last July's elections, it was clear Zanu PF was foggy on the economy.

The liquidity crisis was worsening, companies closing and not much of the promised one million new jobs near materialising.

"It is clear that Zanu PF is directionless, and clueless and there has to be dialogue in this country. It is very key that there has to be dialogue," Biti told reporters during a press conference at the MDC-T's Harare head office.

Zanu PF and the MDC parties worked together from 2009 in a coalition government facilitated by the SADC grouping which intervened to prevent the country's political and economic woes sparking a region-wide crisis.

Despite being riven by bitter political disputes, the coalition is credited with easing tensions stoked by the violent 2008 vote and forcing some kind of economic stability and recovery.

The economic progress however, appears to have stalled following last July's elections.

Still, Gumbo denied his party was out of its depth over the economy and said it was unrealistic of Biti to expect the problems he left behind to be resolved in six months.

"It is terrible for a former finance minister and lawyer to make such wild suggestions. It is unrealistic of him to expect us to turn around an economy he left in tatters within six months of the elections," said Gumbo.

The Zanu PF official conceded that the economic situation looked "dire" but said the framework was in place for a turnaround that would necessarily take some time.

"Recovery will necessarily take time some but the framework is in place with ZimAsset (the government's new economic blueprint). Ministers and everyone in government are working hard, every day, to ensure ZimAsset's success," he said.

"We can't just jump to concluding that the government has failed after six months. It is regrettable that a former finance minister should make such wild statements about the economy."

Biti also warned that the current cash crunch would force the government to bring back the Zimbabwe dollar which was ditched back in 2009 for more stable foreign currencies.

"We cannot print the US dollar," said Biti. "They (Zanu PF) will have no option ... the only way out will be to revert to the Zim dollar."

But Gumbo said Biti should not think that he can secure political capital for his party by talking the economy down and trying to cause "alarm and despondency".

"Our problem is that we have an unpatriotic opposition who think they can benefit politically from the economy collapsing," he said.

"Yes, ideally we all wish we could have our own currency but that will not be possible for a while and the government has made it clear that we will maintain the multiple currency regime for the next five years.

"The MDC-T need to understand that their role, as a political party, is not just to criticise and wish the country ill, hoping that helps them politically. They will only be seen as a potentially competent alternative when they present themselves as such.

"In other words, instead of just saying what they think Zanu PF is doing wrong, they must also come up with concrete proposals on what can be done to help turnaround the economy. They must put their ideas on the table so that the electorate can compare for themselves.

"That is what a patriotic opposition does. Instead of just being negative we need good ideas; we need to hear them articulate policies they think can help the country. You can't just say what Zanu PF is doing wrong and not tell us what you'd do different."

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