Sunday, September 01, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Biti's economic policies led to MDC-T rout: Gwisai
The way forward ... The MDC-T top leadership address reporters after poll result
06/08/2013 00:00:00
by Gilbert Nyambabvu

OUTGOING finance minister Tendai Biti’s economic policies, praised in the West but unable to create jobs or improve livelihoods for the poor at home, were largely responsible for the MDC-T’s comprehensive electoral defeat, one of the party's former MPs has claimed. Biti was handed charge of the country’s economy after his MDC-T party formed a coalition government with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF following violent but inconclusive elections in 2008.

With hyperinflation stemmed after the ditching of the Zim-dollar, the MDC-T secretary general was soon winning praise in the West for his stewardship of the economy which enjoined sustained, if modest, recovery and growth over the last four years. But there was no electoral dividend for his efforts as the MDC-T suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Zanu PF in last week’s elections.

University lecturer and political activist, Munyaradzi Gwisai, said instead of blaming alleged rigging by Zanu PF for its woeful performance, the MDC-T might want to look at its policies in government which pleased the West while civil servants and other workers “suffered with starvation wages” and the rural poor were largely ignored.

Neo-liberal policies

Said Gwisai, who leads the local chapter of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO): “In charge of the economic and social ministries, MDC, led by Finance Minister Tendai Biti launched a fanatic IMF-inspired neoliberal offensive to kick-start the collapsed economy, which Biti dubbed – ‘We eat what we kill’.

“Its central elements included: slashing of all quasi-fiscal subsidies to the poor, wage freezes for civil servants and starvation wages for other workers; rigid adherence to the US dollar without safeguards for the poor, keeping inflation below 5%, cash-budgeting and attacking unions.

“Whilst Biti was being lauded by the West as ‘the best Finance minister in Africa’, the austerity knife was piercing deepest into the hearts of the rural poor through: GMB going for over a year without paying for maize delivered, dying cattle because of lack of dipping facilities, an end to the maize seeds, fertiliser and relief food previously given by Western NGOs and the Reserve Bank, thousands of pupils failing to write examinations, clinics without nurses even as 2000 nurses were jobless due to a job freeze and MDC Minister Madzore even trying to export them!”

Biti continuously complained that his efforts were being undermined by the alleged diversion of Marange diamond revenues from the treasury by Zanu PF but Gwisai said the senior MDC-T official was also not prudent with the use of what he managed to receive.

Diamond revenues

“Even as Biti pleaded lack of money, especially diamond money, the truth was that state monthly revenue shot from $60 million in 2009 to $250 million by 2013 and he had received a special IMF bonus of half a billion dollars,” said Gwisai.

“Whilst berating civil servants that money does not grow on trees, Biti showered MPs with $15 000 bonuses, luxury cars and endless foreign trips for ministers, Tsvangirai and Mugabe.”

Gwisai said it was not surprising that “the defining character of these elections is that the rural voters, across the country have rejected and abandoned Tsvangirai and the MDCs”.

“Mugabe and his ministers, using diamonds money and proceeds from indeginisation, dished out seeds, fertilizer, food to rural farmers, recognized informal miners, the informal sector, gave out urban housing stands and projects for youths and women,” he said.

“As agriculture recovered driven by 80,000 new tobacco farmers who in 2013 produced 164 million kg worth over $600 million, Zanu PF’s rural base soared nation-wide but especially the agriculturally-rich Mashonaland belt, just as that of Tsvangirai and MDC massively shrunk.

“On the eve of elections (local government minister Ignatius) Chombo announced a hugely popular cancellation of council debts which was denounced by MDC … Zanu PF’s 40% strong showing in the towns shows that many urban poor are following (the party).” The MDC-T has rejected the election outcome, accusing Zanu PF of carrying out a “monumental fraud”.

But Gwisai said the MDC-T’s defeat was “predictable” adding that while there may be some credence to claims of intimidation “the massive scale of the MDC’s defeat points to other and deeper reasons”.

Tsvangirai blunders

“Unlike 2008 Zanu PF came into this election as a cohesive unit around its “bhora mughedi” theme,” he said.

“Zanu PF had its most democratic primary elections ever, resulting in popular local candidates running, many of whom, small capitalists who had been on the ground sponsoring local projects.

“Tsvangirai blundered by protecting unpopular incumbents, of up to three terms but hardly visible in their constituencies. MDC wrongly assumed that the 2008 protest vote, which was driven by economic melt-down would continue. Tsvangirai’s own sex scandals and the corruption of MDC-run councils did not help.

“(Again) as Tsvangirai and his ministers were busy telling the world that they were lucky to be Mugabe’s apprentices, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda camped for a year in Masvingo terrorizing villagers.

“Then the MDC’s made a huge blunder in pushing forward-based polling and counting of ballots. This terribly exposed rural opposition voters to intimidation. With no protection from MDC and aware of June 2008, many rural people voted for their security.

“The massive turn out in the Referendum in Zanu PF strongholds, huge Mugabe rallies and primary elections, all showed that Zanu PF had recovered and that its June 2008 Presidential Run-Off terror machinery was still intact.”

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