Monday, June 17, 2013

(TALKZIMBABE) Biti poisoning public discource on Zimbabwe
by Our reporter

Now that the official Southern African Development Community (Sadc) official 'communiqué is in the public domain, we know that the one issued by the MDC-T Secretary General, Tendai Biti on his Facebook page was not just a wishlist, but a blatant lie.

It was not a white lie, but Biti turned reality completely on its head, and it undermines public faith in politics. What Biti, or any leader or government employee for that matter, says on his Facebook page matters.

It matters that government should be trusted, for the health of civic society depends upon a mutual trust. We who do not spend our lives making political decisions should be able to have as our most basic understanding a belief in the integrity of those who do, and an acknowledgement that they will at least speak the truth to us. Biti and a few friends of his in the legal fraternity have ruined this, and ruined far more.

The poisoning of public discourse is never a small matter, and it infects the body politic for years.

The crucial questions emerging from Biti's outlandish, premature and trigger-happy announcement are: Why did Biti issue an incorrect document and passed it off as an official Sadc document? What does this say about Biti as a leader? What does this say about the MDC-T and its attitude towards serious institutions like Sadc? What does it say about the MDC-T's attitude towards the people of Zimbabwe, when it can blatantly lie to them on such a serious matter? Do we still have confidence in the MDC-T leadership? Can we have confidence in them to run serious affairs of government on their own? What else have they lied about?

The Sadc Communiqué is a way away from Biti's "personal communiqué" which included language that would never be used by a membership organisation like Sadc. For instance, Biti wrote in his “personal communiqué” that Sadc resolved that “Government through the Ministry of Justice is ordered and directed to make an application to the constitutional court following consultations by all political parties, seeking to move the date of the election from the 30 July 2013”.

Such language will never be used by Sadc. The principle of non-interference in internal affairs of member states, especially in legal and constitutional matters, is a very well respected one.

These are some of the knee-jerk reactions that many analysts were warning against when Biti put his "personal communiqué" in the public domain.

Now that we know the actual Communiqué bears no resemblance to the outlandish claims made by Biti, who sat in the plenary of the Maputo Summit, what do we do and how do we view the leadership we have?

Coming hot on the heels of another revelation that Biti was involved in the cobbling of a “Strategic Litigation Document” together with other lawyers in Zimbabwe, it undermines the credibility of the MDC-T and the lawyers who purport to fight for human rights in Zimbabwe.

Biti’s preposterous announcement is also tantamount to undermining the position of Sadc if a Finance Minister of a member state issues a wishlist and puts it into the public domain calling it an official Sadc Communiqué.

This takes us back to Biti's premature announcement that "Morgan Richard Tsvangirai is the next President of the Republic of Zimbabwe" in 2008. Biti did not only undermine his credibility by such a claim, but the position of an important institution in the country, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission – an institution the MDC-T may need to rely upon in future if they were to ever win an election.

The production and circulation of knowledge is very important, especially coming from a country’s leadership as it is the basis upon which they are not only judged, but on which the people are likely to make decisions that affect the nation.

While Biti may have become infamous by his provocative statements, Zimbabwe has lost a a chance for serious debate on issues of national interest. His frequent premature outbursts on serious issues and the provocation that they attract, have hampered the process of moderation in political discourse that Zimbabwe's transformation agenda badly needs, and makes the call for media reform sound hollow.

Biti is also inadvertently undermining the credibility of the MDC-T in Zimbabwe and also making the MDC-T leadership look infantile on governance matters, despite having spent five years in the inclusive Government.

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