Monday, June 03, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE, VOA) Interview: Biti on land and election coalition
28/05/2013 00:00:00
by Violet Gonda

In this, the final part of Violet Gonda’s interview with Finance Minister Tendai Biti on SW Radio Africa, the MDC-T Secretary General explains his party’s land policy and how and MDC-T government would deal with multiple farm owners. Biti also discusses how his party would address problems at the Marange diamond mines where billions are reportedly being diverted away from the government and responds to concerns that the MDC-T has been damaged by individuals who have been seduced by the trappings of power. Biti also says contacts are ongoing between the leaders of various parties over the possibility of establishing a broad coalition to fight elections expected later this year.

VIOLET GONDA: Welcome to the final segment of the two-part interview with Finance Minister Tendai Biti, where the MDC-T Secretary General continues to detail his party’s policies ahead of elections, including their land policy. The MDC-T also alleges that billions of dollars have been stolen from the diamond sector. So I started by asking Biti to explain how his party will deal with the powerful individuals who they say continue to siphon off the money from the country’s minerals.

TENDAI BITI: First let’s be very clear, it would be foolhardy for any government, the MDC or any government, to anchor a policy based on vindictiveness and retribution. ART and JUICE are not based on vindictiveness and retribution. So we are not going to set up a ministry to arrest people, prosecute people, it doesn’t work. The first thing you have to do is to make sure that you stop the hemorrhage. If people are stealing diamonds - how and why - and you stop that so that; it doesn’t happen again and you offer incentives so that people don’t steal.

So pay people decently, have accountability, create incentives so that people can invest in that new society through trust, which is why we are saying the key issues that the MDC will do together with the new constitution is the restoration of the social contracts in Zimbabwe - the building of a new society based on inclusivity and virtual cycles of growth not vicious cycles of predatoriness. That’s number one Violet you want to move forward.

Secondly the thing about money and so forth, everything to do with an audit trial, they don’t go away, they don’t go away. If you steal you are committing an offence and pachiShona tinoti mhosva haiwori - that’s also true in English as well - crimes don’t go away. There are laws that are there, the new constitution has created an independent national prosecuting authority.

It will be the job and duty of whosoever is the director of prosecutions, the director of the independent prosecuting authority to make sure that justice is done but the focus of government must be to ensure that there is food on the table, there are jobs, industries are working, there’s power in the country, there’re roads in the country, the maternal mortality rate has been brought down, the infant mortality has been brought down. So we want to uplift our people, we want to uplift the generality of Zimbabweans and ART does that, JUICE does that and that’s the future.
GONDA: I’m asking what incentives will you offer to the people currently controlling the diamond sector?

BITI: It’s very easy to do – the law must be respected. If anyone doesn’t respect the law, he must be prosecuted. No-one should be above the law, the constitution is speaking to that. So stop the leakages, stop the hemorrhages, that’s number one, that’s how you control order.

Number two - you as a government must be fair, you must treat everyone equally. Three - you as a government must consult. That’s why one of the cornerstones of ART is the social dialogue that is codified along the lines of NEDLAC in South Africa. The government must be able to listen to itself.

Number four - the government itself must be very clear on anti corruption which is why one of the things that we are saying in ART is that all public officials must declare their assets every year: Guys I have four underwear. Guys I’ve got four vests. Guys I’ve got four bras – size 46B. That must happen at the beginning of every year. Those are the incentives that we find in every other modern democratic state and we are going to do that.
GONDA: And what exactly is your policy on the security sector?

BITI: A lot of the work has actually been done and is in the new constitution. The new constitution is very clear that security forces are subject to the constitution, the president and to parliament. That is very clear, Violet. In other words, security forces must salute whatever president is there, that is a key important.

Number two - the new constitution makes it very clear that in the implementation of their job, in the implementation of their task, the security forces are subject to the constitution, in particular to the Bill of Rights – that’s very important, that’s key. Number three - is the issue that if the public has got any complaints against the security forces, there’s that Complaints Commission which we have created in the constitution.

Number four - no member of the security forces should be an active member of a political party. Now this is the biggest mischief in Zimbabwe - that a small section of our security forces are an extension of a certain political party. That’s not good but the constitution has outlawed that.

Number five - is the issue, which is so important - that all leaders of the security forces are subject to term limits, that is critical. Then the other things, which you need now are: one - to make sure that the security forces stay in barracks; two – that security forces, their conditions of service are looked after because sometimes what causes some of these things, is bad conditions of service and three - is the total demilitarisation of Zimbabwe.

So those are some of the few things that are already covered by the constitution which need to be done. The constitution itself also has to make it very clear, and we said it in the GPA, that the syllabus, the curriculum of, the training of our security forces must have a human rights bias and a constitutional knowledge bias. That’s important. So these are some of the things that have to be done under security sector reform.

GONDA: You heard army general Constantine Chiwenga recently said he will not work with puppets of the west, meaning your party, and he’s on record together with several other service chiefs saying that they will not salute Prime Minister Tsvangirai. So what process are you going to use to isolate parties or individuals who do not want this concept of realignment or …. (interrupted)

BITI: Violet, there is no-one on earth who is higher than the people. If the people of Zimbabwe say they want Morgan Richard Tsvangirai there, they have spoken. So if you are a functionary when Morgan Tsvangirai is president, you resign, it’s a constitutional right to resign.

So for me it is not an issue that I will ever lose sleep over. People will speak and what the people have said, we live in a democracy, what the people have said is a democracy and if you don’t agree with that, then resign and go and farm. What we will not accept is a coup or some other destabilization. Zimbabwe doesn’t need further blood to be spilled in the name of politics.

GONDA: Well some people say that the law has always been there but it would appear that certain elements in society are above the law and even your party said in 2008 that the people spoke and voted for you but that Zanu PF refused to recognize this and that is why you had the GNU. And even the army generals have been consistent since day one saying that they will not recognize what they describe as MDC puppets. So I’m asking what is your party going to do to ensure that there is no repeat of 2008?

BITI: I’ve answered that question very clearly. There is no-one in Zimbabwe, there is no-one anywhere in the world who will be able to reverse what the people have said, there is no-one in Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai is the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe for Christ’s sake. I don’t think they wanted that, I don’t think they wanted that. Lovemore Moyo is the Speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, I don’t think they wanted that. I’m the Finance Minister of Zimbabwe, I don’t think they wanted that. So they couldn’t stop that. So, once the people have spoken, they have spoken, no-one will disobey that.
GONDA: And if they do? Because many skeptics are saying it is going to happen again.
BITI: It doesn’t happen and it has never happened anywhere, Violet. It doesn’t happen and it has never happened anywhere.

GONDA: But Mr. Biti, you said you won in the last elections but Zanu PF refused to relinquish power so how are you going to ensure that those things don’t happen again?

BITI: On the 8th of March 2012 we published a document called “The Conditions for Sustainable Elections in Zimbabwe”, Violet. That document answers the question you are asking me. When we go to an election, when we go to this election, there are going to be three things guaranteed. Three things, and we’re going to make sure they are there through international law, through SADC, through the African Union.

Those three things are the integrity of the vote; those three things are the integrity of the voter; the third thing is the security of the people’s will, the people will must be respected. And if you look at what we have been doing in SADC, we are doing those things to ensure that the people’s will be respected in this country.

So we have answered that question over and over and over and over again. The one thing that I will tell you we will not do – we will not take up arms. We are a peaceful constitutional party, that is what we will not do but the people are there, the people will speak and there is nowhere in history where the people’s will has been subverted, it doesn’t happen Violet.
GONDA: So Zimbabwe is not heading for a second GNU?

BITI: The worst thing that can happen to Zimbabwe is another GNU. The coalition such as the one we have had is painful, is frustrating, is killing because things don’t move but what I can accept, that which must happen is that we must have a national government. Some kind of inclusive government, representative government but what is key is that we must have one leader in respect of whom the buck stops with but another coalition government such as the GNU – ah my friend – it’s not on, it will kill the country.
GONDA: I was actually going to ask you that – what has the MDC learnt from the experience of trying to share power?

BITI: You know a coalition government is like a marriage so if you are in a marriage you have got a faithful partner who loves you and looks after you, it will be a happy coalition which is why, I was just speaking to some European parliamentarians the other day and I was saying coalitions are ugly. They looked shocked because in their countries they’ve got coalitions just because the social contract is there, they can trust each other but that is not the experience, which we have here. We’ve had an unfaithful partner. We’ve had an unfaithful partner in the form of Zanu PF, a dishonest partner in the form of Zanu PF, an abusive partner in the form of Zanu Pf, a wife-bashing partner in the form of Zanu PF. So this marriage has been a nightmare Violet.
GONDA: So why did the MDC go all over the world campaigning for the removal of sanctions if it’s been a nightmare, being in this GNU?

BITI: Ah you see you mix issues. We have gone out in the country to say Zimbabwe must be integrated! Zimbabwe can’t be isolated. That has nothing to do with Zanu PF. It is important because we are looking after the people of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe matter. The people of Zimbabwe suffer because we are being isolated. It pains me as Minister of Finance that four billion dollars, seven billion dollars of investment is going to Tete and we can’t even get a billion dollars. Integration is important so don’t mix issues.

GONDA: So how do you respond to people who ask you if the sanctions have done much damage to Zimbabwe as the people in Zimbabwe who have stolen diamonds in the country?

BITI: This conversation is about our programme. In ART the MDC want to have, to be fully integrated. Zimbabwe wants to be a full member of the international community, the African Union, SADC, the UN, the African Development Bank, the Commonwealth – we want to be a full member of the international community that is what we say in ART.

GONDA: So since you want Zimbabwe to be a full member of the international community, what about the way the MDC is being viewed by the international community? A lot has also been written about the MDC becoming Zanu PF-like or adopting this culture of chef mentality, with some newspapers, international newspapers such as the Guardian, the UK Guardian or even recently the New York Times wrote an article saying that the MDC seems to be enjoying the trappings of power. What’s your reaction to this?

BITI: We’re a people’s project Violet, we are accountable to the people; this is a party that was formed into, you know, 13 years ago so it can’t suddenly mutate into a sobriquet that was formed more than 40 years ago that is used to predatoriness and violence. So that’s crazy, you can’t compare Zanu PF and us. We are not Zanu PF - that’s why I am having this conversation with you, which you will never have with a Zanu PF person.
GONDA: I’m sure you will have seen the reports… (Interrupted)

BITI: I have answered your question! Yes I’ve seen the Guardian, I’ve seen the New York Times, I’ve seen opinion polls, I’ve seen everything.
GONDA: Is the MDC building its entire fortune round the brand which is Morgan Tsvangirai in the same way that Zanu PF did to Mugabe?

BITI: Morgan Tsvangirai is the undisputed leader of the MDC. Morgan Tsvangirai is the face of change in this country. He is a simple man who grew up in a village in Humanikwa and had the guts, despite all other Zimbabweans with their degrees, who had the guts of standing up to a dictator. He did not blink. He has been beaten up, tortured, he has lost his wife. So, to suddenly say Morgan Tsvangirai this, Morgan is that is ahistorical. We have got a bridge to cross and we are going to cross it and, mark my words, that same Morgan Tsvangirai is going to win this election by 78%. Mark my words.
GONDA: So what about criticisms that Morgan Tsvangirai is morally and organisationally weak? How would you respond as a party?

BITI: I’m, you know, I’m discussing the MDC’s policies and ART and JUICE. Morgan Tsvangirai is the undisputed leader of our party and Morgan Tsvangirai is going to be the next president of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe will speak, the election is here and very soon the people of Zimbabwe will speak.

He has led us all through these years you know in the deep end against all odds and these things that you are saying are not new. We have been accused in the past of violence, of breaching our constitutions and so forth. Everyone has said all kinds of things against us; we are stupid, we are indecisive, we are disunited. The only thing we haven’t been accused of is incest with our sisters or our mothers. That’s the only thing.

So all these things that you are saying are not new and once again we’ll prove the critics as we did yesterday, we’ll prove them today, we will prove them tomorrow, prove them wrong. This was the people’s project, it was not formed in a hotel. The people’s project; owned by the people, accountable to the people with the durability of the fact that it was fueled by the people. So it is lasting and it will last.
GONDA: How do you respond to people who say there is serious infighting or factionalism in the MDC-T?

BITI: They have been saying this for years. They’ve been saying this for years. They said this when we went to our congress – ah the MDC is going to split. They said it at our congress, we remained standing. They said it when we went into government, they won’t last. They said it when we went to our congress in 2006, these people won’t last particularly after Welshman (Ncube) and others had left but we are still there, stronger than ever, united than ever.

GONDA: There are reports saying that there are sharp differences between yourself and Prime Minister Tsvangirai and also sharp differences between you and Nelson Chamisa. Are these just differences amongst friends or is there more to it?

BITI: That’s foolish, that’s foolish. These are things that you’ve been writing for years, for years. We’ve had one leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the deputy Thokozani Khupe. So if you ask me about the issue of succession, we’ve got a number two – Thokozani Khupe. These things are clear and straightforward, read our constitution. Let me state again – this is a people’s project, this is a people’s project and that’s why this we’ll be celebrating our policies, we’ll be celebrating the Agenda for Real Transformation and we’ll be celebrating JUICE. No other party in Zimbabwe has got a single paper of its policies - a single paper, certainly not Zanu PF.

GONDA: I understand that there are at least 29 political parties that are going to participate in the forthcoming elections so as MDC what do you make of this?

BITI: What’s new Violet? Every time we have an election, everyone comes out of the woodwork and says I’m a political party. When we have to go to an election everyone comes out of the woodwork and says we’ve got this party - me and my wife are now this party - so there’s nothing new. I’m actually surprised that there’s 28, I thought there would be 128.

GONDA: Some observers say you should form a political pact or an election pact with some of the smaller political parties. What’s your reaction to this?

BITI: We are very clear – all democrats must work together. It’s important, we don’t dismiss that.
GONDA: Is there any movement towards that?

BITI: Ahhh, I know that there are various levels of dialogue taking place, remember there are so many political parties – Dumiso Dabengwa and so forth. I know that the parties are talking to each other. I know that. Whether they are talking to each other in terms of a concrete agenda, I’m not sure about that. But the bottom line is that the principals of the parties are talking to each other and working with each other on a broad popular front, no-one can (inaudible) that.
GONDA: Land is one of the issues that many people have been talking about and they want to know what the MDC policy is on this.

BITI: Yes. Look we are the ones who said in April 2000 - and I’m the one who actually wrote that policy, that we want to take eight million hectares of land from the 15 million hectares of land being held by members of the Commercial Farmers Union. Five million will be used to resettle agricultural people, three million will be used to deal with urban houses. Zanu PF, from 1980 to 1990, over 20 years, they’d only taken 3.2million hectares. So they only latched onto the land because they were defeated in the referendum and then they pretended to be revolutionaries when they were not revolutionaries.

Incidentally I was reading minutes of the Lancaster House constitution, not on a single day do you see them raising the issue of land at Lancaster and so it’s shocking. So this issue about Zanu being a party of the land is nonsensical. But anyway to answer your question specifically, this is what we propose to do with the land question; the first thing - the acquisitions of land that took place between 2000 and now, no-one can reverse them, they are irreversible.

But number two - you need to democratise that and you will democratise that by the following: a) de-racialise land ownership so every Zimbabwean, black, blue, white, green and yellow must have the right to own land in Zimbabwe. Fortunately Chapter 16 of the constitution, which we have signed, does that. Number three – give title, give title to everyone who owns land right now. Zanu PF is refusing to give title even long leases because it is using land as a political field. Once you have left and you belong to another party, they will take away that land. So we are saying everyone who is on land must have security of tenure.

Number four – restore the market for land. There is no market in Zimbabwe for land at the present moment. Land is a dead asset just with use value but with non-exchange value. Let land be hypothecated. Let land be used as security in the banks. By 1999 74% of bank lending went into agriculture, went into farms. Now it is not there, 19% of bank lending is going into flat-screened televisions and other things like that. We need to restore land market in Zimbabwe, that’s so critical, that’s very, very critical.

And number five – let us have security of tenure. Any person who is on land must be secure. People are not secure right now – look at what is happening in the Save Conservancy and so forth. Number six – let us have adequate compensation for the former landowners. At the present moment Zanu is saying we pay them for improvements; the MDC’s policy is that there must be full compensation including even where there is arable land that is not being used by anyone.

If a former white farmer says - look, I know you are not using this land, give me as compensation, there’s nothing wrong with that. So let’s have full and adequate compensation. Number six – land that was covered by BIPPAs should not have been subject of the land reform programme, the issue of BIPPAs. So that’s only land as the political question.

Then I want to come to agriculture. On agriculture there are a number of things that we must do. The first one is yield management. This current situation where the average yield in the communal lands for maize is now 77 kilograms when it used to be four tons per hectare, seven tons per hectare is not on. So let’s have yield management so that we can have yields of something like 12 to 15 tons of maize per hectare.

Number two is the research and technology. We are being affected by global warming but there are no monies that are being put into research and technology. Zanu PF is not interested in research and technology; Zanu PF is not interested in GMOs for instance - everyone is feeding on GMOs. We need new breeds of seeds for instance. When I grew up planting seeds started in October, now it’s not the case so let’s have research, research, research.

Number three is extension services. Our extension services have become dilapidated so let’s deal with the issue of extension services. Number four is the issue of financing. This government is too small to adequately finance agriculture. So what can substantially finance agriculture is the commercial sector, is banks. So let’s be clear on that. Agriculture is a business. So let’s have a business model in our farming not this issue of seeing that even twenty years after the land reform programme people are still called new farmers and they look to government for subsidies. It’s not on.

Number seven – let’s define clearly the government subsidy policy. It’s important for the poor and vulnerable sectors – are we subsidizing at input level or are we subsidizing at market level, that must be made clear. So let’s have a clear subsidy policy. Number eight is marketing. This issue that we have GMB as the buyer of first resort is not on. Let’s have commodity exchanges where a person will know that I’m going to sell my potatoes, my mbambaira – it’s very critical.

Nine is value addition. It pains me that we are exporting out our tobacco, we’re exporting out our cotton. I live along Enterprise Road and I see women from Mutoko everyday carrying tomatoes and vegetables – they are poor. Let’s have a Budya Factory that will make tomato ketchup in Mutoko. Value addition is very important.

Number ten – let’s have dams, let’s make agriculture a 365 business. This business of agriculture that is seasonal, that depends on the rains alone is not sustainable. So let’s have a 365, so let the infrastructure of agriculture must be revolutionized. Electricity, roads because they facilitate access to markets, those things are clear. Then let’s have a fertilizer policy, let’s have a fertilizer policy.
GONDA: What happens to multiple farm owners?

BITI: Oh no, no, no, no. The MDC policy is very clear. There should be number maximum sizes of farms per region and one farm for every household. That is very clear and part of that is that the MDC will introduce a land tax, which will discourage people from hoarding land. We’re very clear on that.
GONDA: So you will take away the farms from people who took multiple farms?

BITI: That’s very clear. We said that as way back as 2004 when we launched our Restart, that land must be distributed on the basis of need and ability. Do you need the land and can you farm it - and not the current situation where it’s accumulation for the sake of accumulating and some people that I know have got four farms and they are not using them.

I went to Kariba on Sunday and all the way to Kariba I hardly saw any meaningful farming activity on any farm. That’s not on, that’s not on. So it’s from need to ability - it’s very clear. Even the new constitution speaks to the issue of one household for one farm and the issue of maximum sizes of land per region, that’s key.
GONDA: And what about on the issue of land audit – is the MDC going to embark on a land audit?

BITI: That is clear. Even the new constitution speaks of that. Even the GPA speaks of on the issue of an audit. You need an audit to rationalize as how else are you going to know who is a multiple owner other than through an audit? How else are you going to know how many women own land because genderising land is also important unless through an audit? So an audit is inevitable as inevitable as it is desirable.

GONDA: Because the Lands Minister Herbert Murerwa recently told a committee in the senate that the government will not conduct a comprehensive land audit but that there will now be a land use audit.

BITI: That’s a different view of Zanu PF and MDC. Zanu PF want to protect the chefs who are holding onto land, which they are not using. I know of one particular chef with eight farms, some in Mashonaland Central, some in Mashonaland West so it’s not on.

GONDA: That was the MDC-T Secretary General and Finance Minister Tendai Biti. Thank you very much for speaking to us on the programme Hot Seat.

BITI: Alright, thank you.

To contact this reporter email violet@swradioafrica.com or follow on Twitter


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