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Africa

Zimbabwe's opposition defends by-election boycott

Zimbabwean voters went to the polls on Wednesday (10.06.2015) to elect 21 new lawmakers in a by-election. The seats were left vacant following the expulsion of MPs by the ruling ZANU PF and the opposition MDC-T party.

President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF is widely expected to win and increase its majority in parliament after a boycott by MDC-T. One of the lawmakers kicked out by MDC-T is Zimbabwe’s former finance minister and outspoken politician, Tendai Biti. Isaac Mugabi has been speaking with him to find out what he thinks of the by elections and Zimbabwe’s political future.

DW: The MDC is boycotting these by-elections, isn't this putting the party's future at risk?

Tendai Biti: Look, you can't keep on participating in flawed electoral processes that serve to give big benefits to dictators such as Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has perfected the art of winning elections. So it will be very foolish for the opposition to continue legitimizing these sham elections which don't deliver. This country will go through a serious economic crisis in 2020 caused by Zanu PF. And yet, this is the only country where a government doesn't perform, it is encouraged by a super majority in parliament.

So you can't continue subjecting Zimbabweans to processes where their hopes just get crushed. The electoral process is also flawed and regional countries like South Africa and people like Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwean Minister of Internal Affairs are also quiet. So let Mugabe have his own little victory which won't put bread on lives of ordinary and suffering Zimbabweans.

But this will help Zanu PF to increase its majority in parliament; do you think this is a wise decision to boycott the elections, Mr. Biti?

Zanu PF has already a super majority in parliament with or without these by-elections. So, extra seats won't change the fact that they already have a super majority necessary to change the constitution. Your question should be is that the boycott sufficient without doing anything?

Of course the answer to that is that the boycott alone is not sufficient. We ought to have organized proper campaigns which clearly define demands for electoral reforms. We didn't do this and a boycott that doesn't have any delivery, that doesn't cause the other party to pay attention or listen to you, is pointless. So, from that point of view the criticism of the boycott position is valid.

Aren't you worried that the international community will cease to take you seriously as the opposition in Zimbabwe?

The international community, starting point, can't be not taking the opposition seriously because it doesn't participate in elections. If the international community is to be true the first point of attention is acting on the consensus that Mugabe has been stealing the elections. What is the international community doing? Secondly, the attention of the international community must be focused on the increasing closure of [democratic] space and the preditoriness [authoritativeness] on the part of Mugabe.

A photo showing Prasident Robert Mugabes and wife Grace Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

People are disappearing. Only yesterday, a person not liked by the state was killed. So, the international community, before it starts accusing the opposition, must start loosing the chain with the ruling party. Instead there are all sorts of lobbying and finding shortcuts to support the regime. If that is happening then it is a shame to be the international community.

Why is it been so difficult for the opposition in Zimbabwe to unite and work together as a team in order to achieve its main goal, which is to unseat President Robert Mugabe?

The main reason is the collective foolishness on the part of the opposition, the lack of leadership and due to egoistic people who are content with just saying I am the president of a political party. But also our situation is unique. We are under a terrible and unique dictatorship and this dictatorship tries to divide and corrupt members of the opposition.

So, we are a mere reflection of a very contradictory, a very, very divided and polarized space. So the opposition just reflects the decaying moral that is arresting the rest of the country. But Zimbabweans too deserve better. The opposition doesn't get the ruling party that it gets. I think Zimbabweans must stop putting faith on any individual or individuals or collectively simply say we are tired of our time being wasted by the stupid opposition party and the stupid ruling party.

Is there a possibility that there could be reconciliation among the different factions within the MDC?

I don't know about other possibilities but what I can tell you is that there is no choice but to reconcile and find each other because Zimbabwe is bigger than all of us.

If you are to face the current President Robert Mugabe, what would you tell him?

I would tell him resign and go home and rest to his farm. I will tell him to resign like yesterday and allow Zimbabwe to begin a new chapter of reconstruction. He has failed, that's what I will tell him.

And how about your former boss, Mr. Tsvangirai?

I would also tell him to resign to allow section 40 to prevail as well. So, it's not only the ruling party that needs a new political party. Morgan Tsvangirai has been the face of the opposition and Mugabe has been the face of the status-quo. Those two have failed Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe needs new faces -the new and the rigorous.

Tendai Biti is Zimbabwe's former minister of finance and ex-secretary general of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change.

Interview by: Isaac Mugabi

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