New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai a National Embarrassment - Biti

NATIONAL embarrassments cannot be a solution to Zimbabwe's economic anguish, former Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Saturday in apparent reference to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai who has claimed that he was the solution to the country's problems.

Some of the reasons cited by MDC-T deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma, in letter urging Tsvangirai to step-down, included the issue of the many "women in your life" and allegations that he used his time in the coalition government for "personal aggrandizement, personal wealth accumulation as symbolized by the current impasse on the Highlands residency".

The irreverent missive precipitated the split of the party with Mangoma getting whacked by Tsvangirai supporters for his cheek.

Biti did not mention Tsvangirai by name - and did not need to, as he addressed hundreds of his Renewal Team's Harare supporters, the first time he has convened such meeting in the capital since the April split of the MDC-T.

But there was no doubt who the MDC-T secretary general had in mind when he said: "There are some people who think they are the solution to this crisis ... we in the Renewal Team, our argument is that national embarrassments cannot be the solution of the country."

Tsvangirai told supporters at a recent rally in Harare that Zimbabwe would not shake-off its economic challenges unless President Robert Mugabe approached him for help.

"And when he comes, I will tell him that old man, 'rest and leave me to address the national crisis," the former premier said.

While agreeing that Zanu PF had failed to run the economy, Biti however said the solution was not another accommodation between the country's politicians in the form of a government of national unity.

Instead, Mugabe should hand over charge of the economy to a team of competent technocrats and retain control of his security apparatus over which Zanu PF is notoriously sensitive.

He said the country had plunged headlong into a critical recession which could take up to 15 years to reverse if the Zanu PF-led government insisted on running the economy on its own.

"Zimbabwe right now is entering a deep structural economic recession which is going to last at least 10 to 15 years," Biti said.

"So the Renewal Team is saying, immediately we need a national transitional technical council to run the economy of Zimbabwe.

"They can run their ministry of defence, they can run their ministry of CIOs, they can run their ministry of home affairs but on the issues of putting food on the table, they can't so let's have a national transitional council consisting of technicians to run the economy of the country ... they must step aside."

Backing renewal call ... Some of the supporters who attended Saturday's meeting

Speaking about his party, Biti said they were in the process of filling the gaps created by the failure by other MDC-T office holders to join his breakaway and were on course for the first ever party congress early next year.

"The renewal team is going forward. We are building a team of collective individuals that would come together in a united front to and renew the democratic struggle," Biti said.

"We are against the personalisation of the movement that you go to a rally you are always seeing someone's ugly totem, even the name of the party is now someone's totem, even the symbol of the party is someone's handsome face, we are drawing a line, we are moving forward."

The Renewal Team's Harare inter-structure meeting was attended by over 300 Biti followers. None of the delegates wore anything that resembled the conspicuous red MDC colours.

The party has also abandoned the Zimbabwean national anthem and has opted for the old "Ishe komborerai Africa" which was discarded years ago.

Biti arrived at a hall in Harare's show grounds, venue for the structures meeting, in a chauffeur driven vehicle together with party deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma.

The two masterminds of the MDC-T split were met with standing ovations by party followers as they proceeded to shake hands with some of the delegates.

The Harare meeting is a culmination of similar meetings Biti has had with structures in Manicaland, Masvingo and Gweru.

Other noticeable party figures who were present were MPs Paul and Solomon Madzore, Willius Madzimure.

Also present were Evelyne Masaiti, youth secretary general Promise Mkhwananzi and former Harare deputy mayor Emmanuel Chiroto.

We do have support ... Elton Mangoma and Tendai Biti greet supporters on arrival

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