THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Hon. Tendai Biti’s speech at Chatham House: Hall marks of potential political consensus on key issues
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
April 25, 2013

On Wednesday 24 April 2013, Hon Tendai Biti, Minister of Finance, Republic of Zimbabwe spoke at Chatham House on ‘Prospects for Regional Cooperation and Investment Opportunities in Zimbabwe'. The Minister was en route to Harare from Washington where he had met the IMF chief Christine Lagarde, among others. This article will only cover those parts of the Minister’s views which are not protected under the Chatham House Rule. The article begins by a summary of the key issues the Minister addressed and then our analysis.

Among the key issues, the Minister provided impressive figures of economic growth on the African continent including Zimbabwe and stated that Africa’s current capacity is greater than where the Asian Tigers were in the 1970s. He spoke about Zimbabwe’s potential, particularly the huge deposits of iron ore, surface platinum, gold and diamonds but emphasised that in order for Zimbabwe to realise this mineral potential, there is need for Zimbabweans to take care of the political hygienic issues since this realisation is contingent on a credible election that reflects people’s will.

He struck a note of optimism by stating that given the work that has been done on the new constitution; the remaining reforms are well within reach. The outstanding work, he said, relates to those issues that would ensure the security and integrity of the vote. They include electoral hygienic issues to put the house in order such as cleaning up of the voters’ roll to ensure that those who are dead do not suddenly surface during voting, adequate polling stations, equitable access to the media, security of the voters from violence, arson and displacement, security of the people’s will through the respect of the voting outcome.

A credible election would usher in a massive reconstruction agenda, the Minister said. Some of the major infrastructural development will include roads, dams, manufacturing (industry), mining, power supply etc. In respect of land, the minister stated that since Zimbabwe’s industry is agro-based, security of tenure is crucial, which the new constitution tries to address. The current land regime in terms of which expropriated land is now part of state land only ensures good usage value but the land does not have exchange value, which is a key to investment in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, the minister said.

With regard to the economic growth drivers, the Minister was of the view that information and communication technology as well as the financial services sectors are key drivers. However, he emphasised the need to audit the sovereign debt, which his ministry is currently working on, since this is necessary to improve Zimbabwe’s credit rating which currently stands at (D-).

Regarding political and institutional reform, the Minister stated that a number of needed reforms are codified in the new constitution and what will be needed is constitutionalism – a good constitution is not good enough but there is need for a debate on the rule of law in order for the country to re-establish social contract (trust) with its citizens. ‘There is need for dialogue to address people’s feelings’, the minister said. A frank and healthy discussion is required in connection with transitional justice, land reform; issue of assets obtained illegally, inclusion: encompassing respect of the rule of law, caution on making irrational political statements and democratisation of the economy.

More importantly, he emphasized that there should be a debate on what it means to be African and Zimbabwean in particular, which in our view is a debate on shared values based on similar debates elsewhere.

On security sector reform, the minister spoke on the need for re-alignment but emphasized the need for a broad based approach, which entails sector-specific dialogue, for example, security reforms, legal sector reforms etc. In approaching the issue of the security sector, he emphasized the need to address some of the concerns which some within this sector might have such as fear of prosecution.

In speaking on the meeting he had with the Americans and IMF chief Christine Lagarde, the Minister stated that he demanded equality of treatment by the international community. He emphasized the need for the international community especially western countries and multilateral institutions to respect the agreed benchmarks and not to shift goal posts.

During the Q&A segment, when he was asked why he hadn’t mentioned the term ‘indigenisation’ in his speech, the Minister responded that it was necessary at some point for Zimbabwe to democratise its economy although he didn’t agree with how it was done.

He was also asked a question on whether civil society is allowed to operate in Zimbabwe. He responded that while there are issues with pro-democracy civil society organisations that should be looked into under the sector specific approach alluded to above, there is civil society operating in Zimbabwe. He explained that civil society extends beyond pro-democracy organisations.

On the issue of the diaspora, the Minister stated that Zimbabweans in the diaspora do not require any special permission from the government to participate in the economy. He explained that the new constitution does not only allow dual citizenship but multiple- citizenship.


Judging by the Minister’s tone and the way he addressed some of the key issues, it is our opinion that the gap between Zanu-PF and the MDC-T on key issues appears to be narrowing. Similarly, the Minister was quite diplomatic in trying to demystify the myth that the MDC and pro-democracy civil society organisations are synonymous and are working together towards the so-called regime change agenda. He obviously did not want to alienate pro-democracy civil society organisations which traditionally helped the MDC in its formative years.

However by expanding the definition of civil society organisations beyond the usual narrow definition and stating that there is an operational civil society in Zimbabwe, the Minister sought to, in our view; keep a healthy distance between the MDC as a political party and other pro-democracy groups. This, it appears, was his counterpoint, against the Zanu-PF argument that all pro-democracy forces are bent on a western-sponsored regime change agenda.

The view that points to a political convergence is supported by the plea the Minister had made to the USA and the IMF that Zimbabwe ought to be treated equally according to the same measure that has been used on countries with troubled pasts such as Burma. By saying this, he echoed his strong views for the lifting of sanctions by the European Union in July 2013.

On the issue of indigenisation, the Minister again struck a note which doesn’t quite resonate with some of the sentiments from the Western countries.

It would appear that behind closed doors, both the MDC and moderate Zanu-PF Ministers agree on key issues than they disagree in public. That’s how politics work. The current widely held view that President Mugabe hasn’t softened on his legacy ignores anecdotal evidence that indicate that lately he has been softening his clenched fist, so to speak. An example is his calls for peace, which has widely been dismissed by most people as rhetoric which doesn’t match what is happening on the ground. However anecdotal evidence from various sources including Zimbabwean equivalent of Wikileaks appear to suggest that the President’s attempts to soften are negated by some within his party who fear what might happen if Zanu-PF softens on its legacy inspired by its liberation war credentials.

Although the Minister spoke about the current issues of concern, he was very measured in his approach. He exhibited every sign of a principled man, who, despite having undergone the vagaries of his difficult job and the incarceration he underwent in 2008, has matured, forgiven his persecutors and might even have undergone a paradigm shift. This shift, which is also reflected in the entire MDC, has seen it move from its widely perceived Eurocentric roots to the moderate pan-African approach. It also appears that there are some within Zanu-PF who have softened on their legacy by moving to the centre ground although there are still some still on the far right. Those on the far right are in our view, the ones the Minister referred to when he said there are Ministers within the government who make irrational political statements that affect the economy.

In light of other pieces of evidence we have gathered, particularly the likelihood that the US is to announce policy shift on Zimbabwe, there is every indication of a national and political consensus on key issues, which might see an unexpected political landscape after the elections.

Visit the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum fact sheet

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.