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Biti says military role in Zimbabwe politics cannot be wished away

by Staff reporter
21 Aug 2020 at 19:34hrs | Views
AS EFFORTS continue to end Zimbabwe's decades-long political crisis, MDC Alliance vice president Tendai Biti, pictured, says any meaningful national dialogue that is to take place in the country should necessarily involve the military.

Speaking to the Daily News in an exclusive interview yesterday, the shrewd lawyer-turned-politician said the military were an important factor in Zimbabwe's politics - which demanded that they be involved in any talks aimed at fostering democracy and national stability.

This comes as more and more people inside and outside Zimbabwe have been putting pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF to yield to talks with other key stakeholders, in a bid to end Harare's long-standing political and economic crises.

It also comes as the government has come under growing criticism from long-suffering Zimbabweans over its failure to mend the country's broken economy and the State's alleged gross human rights violations.

Biti disclosed to the Daily News yesterday that the military had raised a number of issues with the much-loved late MDC founding father, Morgan Tsvangirai, after he won the 2008 elections - issues that he said never received sufficient attention during the talks which led to the formation of the stability-inducing government of national unity in 2009.

"There must be dialogue that takes care of military concerns. In 2008 after the MDC won the elections, the military sent envoys to talk to Morgan Tsvangirai and they raised six key issues, including concerns about transitional justice.

"They wanted to know if a future government would not prosecute them for crimes they had been made to commit in the past, and we gave them assurance on a transparent programme of transitional justice.

"They also wanted guarantees that the future government would not dispossess them of their land and reverse the land reform programme," Biti told the Daily News.

"Of course, the answer to that one is obvious because no one wants to reverse the land question and I don't think it is possible to reverse the land reform programme.

"The next question was about their conditions of service, decent salaries and that their pensions be not affected, which again is not a problem.

"They also wanted to know if they would be allowed to participate in the spheres of the economy, including joining the civil service should they quit the military," Biti further told the Daily News.

"So, their concerns need to be addressed in any dialogue that is meaningful.

"Their fifth question was whether those who wanted to leave the country would be allowed to do so, and again that is obvious as there is freedom of movement in the country," he added.

This comes after Tsvangirai and the MDC were forced into an uneasy coalition government with the late former president Robert Mugabe, following the bloody 2008 run-off campaign in which opposition supporters were brutally attacked in a retributive exercise that was allegedly led by war veterans and military elements.

The controversial run-off was prompted by Mugabe's heavy shellacking at the ballot by the popular late trade unionist, who was then said by authorities to have failed to get the required 50 percent plus one vote to become Zimbabwe's new president.

Tsvangirai subsequently pulled out of the run-off days before polling - citing the unprecedented orgy of violence against his supporters, leaving Mugabe to participate in an embarrassing one-man election which was roundly condemned locally and internationally as a sham.

This eventually led to the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which birthed the shortlived but stability-inducing GNU in February 2009.

Now a decade later, Zimbabwe is once again attracting the attention of the international community, with South Africa at the heart of efforts of those trying to mediate in the myriad crises that are engulfing Harare.

This comes as the government has been accused of gross human rights violations, following the State's heavy deployment of police and soldiers ahead of the foiled July 31 mass protests.

Rights groups have claimed that dozens of opposition figures and activists have been tortured and assaulted in a retributive exercise by suspected security agents.

Tensions were further stoked last week when Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe issued a stinging letter in which they accused the government of carrying out human rights abuses and instilling fear among the populace.

The bishops said the country was suffering from "a multi-layered crisis" - including economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.

"Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented. Is this the Zimbabwe we want? To have a different opinion does not mean to be an enemy," the bishops said.

In the meantime, President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed special envoys - former South Africa vice president Baleka Mbete and ex-ministers Sydney Mufamadi and Ngoako Ramatlhodi - to try and end Harare's decades-long crisis.

Source - dailynews

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