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Economic Lockdown Ahead, Biti Warns

FORMER finance minister and MDC Renewal leader, Tendai Biti, has warned that Zimbabwe is heading towards a virtual economic lockdown.

Biti made the chilling warning while addressing a Southern African Political and Economic Series (SAPES) discussion on Thursday.
He said Zimbabwe needed dialogue sooner rather than later to unlock the economic malaise.

“Zimbabwe can only come out of its current disastrous economic state by having a national dialogue, which will ensure that a new people-centred economic blueprint is drafted.
“The economy is in a crisis and the solution is that there is need for a national dialogue,” he said.

“I am not pitching for the return of the inclusive government but let’s find some convergence and write a proper economic document not the ZimAsset political document.”

ZimAsset is a policy document crafted by President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party in the run-up to last year’s elections.

Zanu-PF said under the programme the government would reverse Zimbabwe’s economic slide and create 2.2 million jobs for the thousands of unemployed people.

But a year after the election, Zimbabwe is in a free-fall with thousands of companies being forced to shut down. The banking sector is also in crisis as demonstrated by a fresh liquidity crunch.

The government last month said recent deals it signed with China and Russia would help breathe life into the comatose economy.

Biti however poked holes into the much-vaunted mega-deals arguing the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) signed by Mugabe and his government will not help turn the country’s economy around because they “are not bankable”.

“These shouts by Zanu-PF of mega deals from China are mega lies as the MoUs are not bankable.  Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa brought a suitcase full of MoUs but they are useless.

“We need a new narrative in this country.  We need broad-based empowerment that is inclusive as the current one is exclusive” Biti said.
Biti added that the current infighting in Zanu-PF was further affecting the country’s economic recovery.

Zanu-PF is battling serious internal divisions. Two rival factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are at each other’s throats as they fight to position themselves for a strike at the country’s top job.

The differences have of late burst into open warfare as the party heads towards a key elective congress in December.

Critics say the infighting has stalled efforts to deal with challenges on the economic front as leaders battle to outdo each in the succession fight.

“We are already in the middle of an economic crisis and the government is very weak at the moment, lacerated by infighting in Zanu-PF.

“There is no revenue flowing in so we are a State that is in a crisis but the biggest crisis is the economy that is caused by leadership infighting in Zanu-PF,” Biti said to applause.

The Harare East lawmaker said he feared a return to the near implosion of 2008 given “Zanu-PF’s predatory response to the current socio-economic crisis”.

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