Biti compares Zimbabwe to Rwanda before the genocide

HARARE – Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe's finance minister, reacts to a bomb attack on his home which he blames on his Zanu-PF coalition partners

A senior government minister in Zimbabwe has warned of “an atmosphere of poison” reminiscent of Rwanda on the eve of the genocide that left 800,000 people dead in the 1990s.

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Tendai Biti, finance minister in the fragile unity government, was reacting to a bomb attack on his home that he said could have killed his young children.

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Biti blamed the incident on the military, the Zanu-PF party and president Robert Mugabe. He said the power-sharing agreement between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, of which he is secretary-general, is now effectively dead.

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“My fear is that Zanu-PF will create an atmosphere of hate and an atmosphere of poison,” said Biti. “There are shades of Rwanda in January 1994. I just hope we avoid a Rwanda where the military is in control, law and order breaks down and there is total violence.”

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The petrol bomb exploded at Biti’s official residence in the capital, Harare, at around 1am on Monday, destroying part of a wall and frightening neighbours. The minister and his wife, Charity, and their children Zoe, 10, and five-year-old Thabo, were some 250km (155 miles) away at the time.

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“When I drove back and saw the damage, I realised someone could have been killed,” Biti said. “To the extent that I have children who run around the garden, I felt quite cross. I understand what they are trying to do; they are trying to intimidate me. It’s not Santa Claus any more.”

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He said the trail of suspicion ultimately led to Mugabe’s door. “My place is supposed to be guarded, but they have not been providing guards since March. They [the attackers] would have known there were not guards.

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“It was clearly someone with skill, clearly not an amateur. The only people with that skill in Zimbabwe is the military. They will have been acting on the instructions of Zanu-PF. The president is head of Zanu-PF.”

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In 2009 Biti, effectively Morgan Tsvangirai’s No 2 in the MDC, was sent a 9mm bullet and a death threat telling him to prepare his will. Last year he was nearly killed in a car crash. Yet he denied suggestions that the threat to his family might prompt him to walk away. “I’m not afraid of Zanu-PF and I’ll not be afraid of Zanu-PF. They will never intimidate me to resign.

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“But what I’m really worried about is where are we going as a country because of selfish leadership. There is a leadership vacuum. The reality is we are working with people who are incorrigible, who are living in another century, who are interested only in looting.”

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He gave one of his most pessimistic assessments yet of the coalition government, formed in February 2009 after a disputed election in which, the MDC says, 253 people were killed and thousands tortured. Mugabe has suggested fresh polls should be held next year, raising fears of another wave of violence.

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“Any member of the MDC would have to seriously consider whether this inclusive government is working,” said Biti . “To a large extent, it isn’t. To a large extent, it’s a waste of time.

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“Some of us who went into this government were against it, saying Zanu-PF is not ready for a genuine partnership. The events of the last few weeks show those who said this have been proved right. These people [Zanu-PF] are on a different planet.”

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On the other hand, he acknowledged, the government has provided some stability for millions of Zimbabweans, rescuing the economy from collapse and slowly rebuilding public services.

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But asked about the future of the power-sharing agreement, Biti said frankly: “I think this thing is really dead. It’s a shadow, a pretence of something that is dead. But my suspicion is it will linger on.” –The Guardian