5 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Fired Up Biti Blasts Absentee CEO Mugabe

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti hit out at a clueless and mediocre Zanu PF government on Thursday, saying the economy was tanking while a seemingly indifferent CEO (President Robert Mugabe) nonchalantly spends his time abroad with struggling Zimbabweans picking up the tab.

The 90 year-old Mugabe, who insists on regularly travelling to far-away Singapore for what aides downplay as "routine eye check-ups", spent US$2 million while holidaying there in January and another US$3 million when he went back in February to have his eyes looked at, said Biti.

The MDC secretary general, who is part of an effort to force leadership renewal in the beleaguered opposition party, was speaking in Harare Thursday at a press briefing on the state of the economy.

"The CEO of the country (Mugabe) is hardly in the country, which is a reflection of the deterioration," said Biti.

"The economic figures are not looking good. What is worrying is the gross lack of leadership. The current Zanu PF government is clueless and mediocre. It is arrested by inertia and they do not care.

"The Zanu PF government has become a robber economy and it is not sustainable. The biggest crime that this government of the day is doing is failing to pay civil servants their monthly salaries on time.

"The government payday is now fluctuating and the government is failing to honour civil servants' deductions. It is not coping. We are seeing the government's desperation in the increases in health fees and toll gate charges."

Biti, treasury head in the last coalition government, said the country was effectively in "shut down" mode, a problem worsened by divisions in Mugabe's government and Zanu PF party.

Pay days regularly shifted ... The government is struggling to find money for salaries

Discord in the government and ruling party was now affecting the day to day lives of the people with the informal sector now becoming the biggest employer.

"Zanu PF should agree that it has failed and apologise to the people of Zimbabwe. The country is now as bad as it was in 1950," said Biti.

"It cannot be business as usual and we need a national dialogue because Zanu PF is there only for the purpose of violence. We need to address the suffering of the people."

The government admits the economy is not performing to its own expectations but insists its ZimAsset blueprint should be given time to right the many challenges.

However Biti said, ten months after last year's elections, ZimAsset had failed to force any meaningful development in the economy.

Instead, thousands of people are losing their jobs every month as companies close down and "there is no foreign direct investment coming into Zimbabwe".

"ZimAssest is a total waste of time. It is taking us nowhere and is the worst economic document that has been drafted since independence," he said.

Biti proposed a National Technical Transition Council (TTC) as an urgent solution to " the national crisis the country is facing".

The TTC would be mandated with turning around the economy over the next five years and carrying out political reforms that would help Zimbabwe return to legitimacy.

"The TTC has to be made up of capable Zimbabwean technocrats who are not necessarily interested political players and who have no interest in seeking public office at the next election.

"This is not something new. Technocratic governments have helped countries like Italy and Greece to weather the Eurozone crisis," said Biti.

The Zanu PF government had shown that it was clueless and mediocre in running the affairs of the country.

"We firmly believe that the government, business and labour must come back to the negotiating table in the spirit of the Kadoma Declaration to work towards the establishment of a lasting social contract that benefits everyone," he said.

He said the MDC Renewal Team strongly believed that Zimbabwe needs a grand coalition of democrats who will create space for redistributive approaches and bringing about equality of opportunities for all Zimbabweans.

"As the MDC Renewal Team, we believe that as part of the completion of the ideals of the liberation struggle, a redistributive policy of the country's wealth to the majority is now long overdue.

"However, it has now dawned that a few petty bourgeoisies in Zanu PF have sought to replace a monopoly capitalist through the patronage system, clientelism and corruption, excluding the majority who continue to wallow in poverty.

"As a result, the Community Share Ownership Schemes that were lauded by Zanu PF as symbols of community empowerment have turned out to be nothing but a grand political con to lure voters ahead of the July 2013 elections."

Biti was flanked by the MDC Youth Assembly President, Solomon Madzore and the National Spokesperson, Jacob Mafume.

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