Zimbabwe: Business Leaders Grill Biti Over Sanctions

MDC Alliance leaders Douglas Mwonzora, Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa (file photo).
19 March 2018

People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader and top member of the MDC Alliance Mr Tendai Biti came under fire last week from business leaders attending a two-day CEO Africa Round Table discussion forum in Victoria Falls for lobbying the United States not to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

Mr Biti came under fire from chief executives, who felt the MDC Alliance team made up of Mr Nelson Chamisa and him that travelled to the US in the aftermath of President Mnangagwa's inauguration did not represent the sentiments of most Zimbabweans.

FlyAfrica chief executive Mr Cassidy Mugwagwa said Mr Biti and his MDC Alliance team that went to America in January owed Zimbabweans an explanation.

"What l want to know is whether your trip to America was preplanned or was a reaction to what had happened in November last year," he said.

"Are you aware of how much Zimbabwe has lost because of the sanctions regime? Do you know that there are companies whose properties have been confiscated because of sanctions? I think it's sad for you and your team to have lobbied for sanctions to stay."

A managing member of Star Distributors, Mr Goden Muoni, asked Mr Biti if he was fully aware of the impact of sanctions on ordinary people.

"The ordinary people are suffering, while you seek political expediency," he said. "In our view as Zimbabweans, your trip to US was out of order."

Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Terence Mukupe, who was part of the discussion panel, also condemned the MDC's trip, saying it was out of sync with sentiments of the majority.

"President Mnangagwa is on record saying the voice of the people is the voice of God," he said. "Biti and his team did not speak with the voice of the people. It is important that when we stand in front of people we must always be honest.

"l think when people are given a golden opportunity to speak about developments in the country, they must always be objective and not seek political expediency because the people who suffer are ordinary people."

Chief executive of the CEO Africa Round Table Mr Kipson Gundani said business executives were encouraged by positive signals coming from the new dispensation.

"We need to commend the new dispensation's efforts in wanting to revive the economy," he said.

"There is genuine efforts to listen and genuine efforts for re-engagement. The relationship between business and Government has tremendously improved and it is time we collectively define the future we want and a country we want to live in."

In response, Mr Biti said contrary to what was published in the media, his team had actually urged the US Senate not to isolate Zimbabwe.

He said they had also briefed the US Senate committee that there were tangible reforms in Zimbabwe.

"There is need for the respect of law in Zimbabwe," he said. "There is need to walk the talk and not just rhetoric."

In what became known as the trip of shame, MDC Alliance president Mr Nelson Chamisa and other opposition figures that included Mr Biti last December hastily went to America to lobby for the continued stay of sanctions in a desperate attempt to reverse the general momentum appeal of the new dispensation.

The CEO Africa Round Table is a high level platform for corporate chief executives and senior executives, in both public and private sector, created to advance economic development across Africa.

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