9 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Biti Warns of Violent Elections, More Coups

Photo: Herald Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Former Finance Minister and People's Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti. (file photo)

Opposition leader President Tendai Biti has predicted a violent 2018 election and further warned the November 2017 "coup" against then President Robert Mugabe was certain to recur as the military has tested power.

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader was speaking during a panel discussion at SAPES Trust in Harare Thursday evening when he vowed that the opposition would put up a strong fight to resist military intrusion into the country's polls.

The discussion on elections transparency was organised by SAPES in collaboration with the Information for Development Trust (IDT), a local NGO focusing on investigative journalism around corruption.

In his remarks, Biti said the high stakes elections set for mid this year were certain to turn violent as the military-backed Zanu PF government fights to retain state authority.

"The issue of violence is going to be a factor in this election. They did not plan this coup in order to lose power in July or August 2018," Biti said while referring to the military seizure of power which dislodged Mugabe.

"They (military) have been marrying designer wives; they have been sending themselves to school. There are now more per capita PhDs at the army than anywhere else.

"And they were not getting those PhDs in order to get a job at Econet or Delta Corporations. They were getting those degrees in order to lay their hands on the State. So, this is going to be a fight of our lives."

Biti added, "I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a violent election".

The former finance minister described the current administration as a junta, insisting it would be folly if the opposition did not raise a hue and cry about the "coup" which propelled Mnangagwa to power.

The PDP leader said an opposition defeat in 2018 will see the military consolidate its stranglehold on power.

Biti, whose party has signed up to the MDC Alliance, warned the country risked future coup episodes if locals failed to confront the military over its overbearing influence on civilian affairs.

"There is nothing that will stop the tanks from moving again no matter who has been elected in July 2018.

"So. it's critical that we find an answer to making sure that the barrack remains sealed off from interfering with the process because that's the elephant in the living room."

How did it happen?

He added: "The election is academic unless we resolve the fundamental basis of November 2017.

"How did it happen? Why did it happen and how can we stop it from ever happening? And this question is key because whenever the boys (military) come out, it tends to be cyclical and self-reproducing.

"Ask people in Ghana, ask people in the Central African Republic, ask people in Nigeria. When you test, you want to test more, and these guys tested in November 2017 and they will want to test more."

The tough speaking politician said the opposition shall demand a public commitment by the military that they will respect the outcome of the polls even if it meant Zanu PF losing power.

He urged the involvement of the United Nations in ensuring the Zanu PF-led government does not brutalise civilians.

However, despite the threat of a violent poll, Biti vowed the MDC Alliance would romp to a thumping victory this year.

He said the victory shall be bolstered by a vote from a despondent population, a visible increase in the young vote and Mnangagwa's soiled reputation replete with tales of his involvement in the mass killing episodes.

Biti's co-panellists on Thursday were lawyer and rights activist Tony Reeler as well as journalism and media lecturer Wellington Gadzikwa.

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