via Biti praises Zanu PF – DailyNews Live by Lloyd Mbiba 9 MARCH 2014
MDC secretary general Tendai Biti could be in hot water after admitting his party lost to Zanu PF in the watershed July 31 elections due to poor electoral messages.
Biti, who was addressing a meeting of civic groups and academic leaders in the capital Thursday, had previously alleged they lost the polls due to massive rigging, claims outrightly rejected by President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
He was one of the most vocal proponents of a poll-rerun and alleged in an August 3, 2013 op/ed (reproduced on Page 2) that Zanu PF has “stolen this election to the extent that they themselves are so embarrassed”.
Biti spent months championing the cause.
But on Thursday night at a policy dialogue held at the Sapes Trust in Harare as Zanu PF spurned MDC calls for another coalition and amid intensifying intra-party clashes over leadership renewal, the lawyer praised the Zanu PF campaign and claimed “we didn’t do well in 2013.”
His dramatic volte face, lavishing praise on Zanu PF’s campaign, has left his party to keep fighting over what it insists was electoral fraud anyway.
Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe won 61 percent of the presidential vote on July 31, followed by Tsvangirai at 33 percent, securing the 90-year-old in power for 34 years, another five-year term in office.
Biti claimed Zanu PF’s “bhora mugedhi” message resonated with the electorate.
He said the MDC’s economic blueprint dubbed JUICE – an acronym for Jobs, Upliftment, Investment Capital and Environment – launched by Tsvangirai at his 8th national policy conference held at the Jubilee Christian Centre in Milton Park, in Harare a month before the poll, was too complicated for the electorate.
JUICE aimed to make Zimbabwe’s economy robust once the MDC takes power by creating one million jobs by 2018, increasing economic growth rates exponentially, further reducing inflation, delivering a $100 billion economy by 2040, improving electricity generation and building a social contract.
The former trade unionist laid much emphasis on criticising Mugabe’s handling of the economy
Biti told the policy dialogue: “I think that it is important as Zimbabweans that the democratic movement has a message. The message of NO to the big man has been exhausted. Let’s have a message, messages are key.”
An attempt by the MDC to end the “big man” syndrome, where the winner of an election is all-powerful and virtually impossible to remove, has all but failed.
“Zanu in the last election had a very simple message, bhora mugedhi,” Biti said. “Even a little woman in Chendambuya or Dotito just knew one thing, bhora mugedhi. Perhaps we were too sophisticated, but what was our message because the message of change of 2000 is not the message for now.
“We were selling hopes and dreams when Zanu PF was selling practical realities. We (Zanu PF) are going to give you a farm, it’s there. We are going to give you $5 000 through (Saviour) Kasukuwere’s ministry.”
Biti said his party needed to marry the message of hope and immediate delivery if it is going to win an election.
“How do we transit and balance the message of hope with the message of immediate delivery?” Biti asked.
“I think we didn’t do well in 2013 (elections). A message is a slogan, it’s mascara and it’s a makeup. What is the substance? This is where we need to articulate an alternative value system.
“What was our position on indigenisation? We had JUICE, yes, it was good but trying to explain it to mai Ezra in Chendambuya, you understand what I am saying? So the issue of articulating an alternative discourse which is walked and lived is very important.”
Biti said the opposition movement needed to change its strategies because the political economy has changed. He said the 2013 elections proved that the message of change was now a hard-sell.
“We must learn from 2013 and the lesson from 2013 is that the political economy of Zimbabwe has changed dramatically,” Biti said. “Whereas in 1999 when the MDC was formed, 60 to 70 percent of the working people in Zimbabwe were in the formal employment, in 2013 and 2014, 84 percent of the population is in the informal sector.
“So whereas the MDC could be successful, formed on the basis of the structures that the labour movement had, there is hardly any formal workforce worth talking about now.
“The challenge with the informal sector is that it operates on prediction, it operates on patronage if you want to get a table at Mupedzanhamo (flea market) in Mbare, the local Zanu PF chairperson has got to give you. If you want a place to dig for gold in Chegutu, some Zanu PF official has to give you that.
“If you are cross border (trader) and you want to walk through the airport or the border post unchallenged, there has to be some patronage somewhere. The economy has changed and destroyed the social base that the official opposition relied upon.
“So, it cannot be business as usual. The lesson from 2013 is this, how do we respond to this changing political economy of the county.”
Aides and allies to Tsvangirai, where leadership has already been struggling to keep the party together on the poll fraud allegations that have precipitated calls for Tsvangirai’s ouster, were beside themselves. And once granted anonymity, they didn’t mince their words.
“Why is he admitting defeat?” fumed one senior Tsvangirai aide. “He’s a joke, plain and simple.”
Another aide said Biti’s comment “exposes how (we) have deliberately misled our constituents and the grassroots for the past seven months. This isn’t leadership, it’s hypocrisy.”
A request for comment from Biti regarding the dust-up caused by his remarks was not returned.
MDC leaders have passed their poll grievance to Southern African leaders with a view to review elections in Zimbabwe, to stage a dramatic fight over the issue, even if it cannot pass.
To be sure, observers say Biti is correct that the MDC did not have an appealing manifesto as compared to Zanu PF’s, and of course the MDC president would never sign off on such a claim. But staunch MDC officials keep insisting on the poll rigging issue.
One insider said Biti’s statement, beamed on State TV for a record 10 minutes, was simply a tactical error.