Biti annoys Robert Mugabe

HARARE – The embattled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has launched an astonishing attack on Finance Minister Tendai Biti, while repeating his demands for elections to be held this year.\r\n

Mugabe accused Biti of allocating himself presidential powers; cutting support to black farmers and failing to help struggling businesses, particularly in Bulawayo.

\r\n

“This man we gave the job of managing the country’s finances does not think along the same lines as us,” Mugabe said, speaking in Manicaland where he was meeting traditional leaders.

\r\n

“To him and some of his colleagues, agriculture is not an important area because they think that if they finance this sector, they will be strengthening Zanu PF.

\r\n

“They don’t want to see the economy prospering.”

\r\n

Mugabe bemoaned the factory closures hitting Bulawayo – saying the country’s second largest city’s economy was now rivalled by Mutare’s.

\r\n

Mugabe claimed Biti was sitting on US$250 million received from the IMF, which could be used to prevent more companies closing down and help farmers maximise production.

\r\n

“He told us that the US$500 million is being kept for strategic reserves and we understand that only half of it has been used so far, yet the factories are closing down,” he said. “Mutare is better than Bulawayo where 10 factories were closed, while 75 are almost closing.

\r\n

“Some of the companies need small amounts ranging from US$500,000 to US$2 million, yet Biti is continuing to give empty promises.

\r\n

“Biti is even trying to grab some of the Presidential powers in various ways. We now want this Global Political Agreement to go and this should happen this year.

\r\n

“If we fail, then elections should be held during the first few months of next year. What we want are elections this year.”

\r\n

Mugabe’s calls for elections this year have unsettled regional leaders and his Zanu PF party’s partners in a coalition government formed in February 2009.

\r\n

The two MDC factions say Zimbabwe is not ready to hold elections, pointing to work required in adopting a new constitution; updating the country’s voters’ roll; reorganising the role of security services in elections and agreeing election monitoring mechanisms to avoid a repeat of a violent election in 2008.

\r\n

Regional leaders from the Southern African Development Community [SADC] meet in South Africa next week to receive a report on talks between negotiators from Zanu PF and the two MDC factions over an election “roadmap”.

\r\n

The six negotiators, two from each party, met in Harare on Thursday and signed the document which establishes the minimum conditions to be met before elections are held.

\r\n

Zanu PF negotiator, Nicholas Goche, said: “Our meeting went well. We just looked at the minutes of our last meeting [in Cape Town] and corrected the document and signed it. It is now clean.”

\r\n

The roadmap will be presented to Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, leaders of the three coalition government parties.

\r\n

Thereafter, it will be presented at the SADC summit to be held in Johannesburg. Zimbabwe is on the agenda of the next week’s Comesa-Sadc-EAC Tripartite Summit.

\r\n

South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC-appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe political crisis, has been pushing for a firm agreement on the elections charter.