President Mugabe has kept Zimbabwe’s nationhood firmly intact and “little men with little brains” will not be able to fill his shoes, opposition People’s Democratic Party leader Mr Tendai Biti has said.
In an interview in Harare last week, Mr Biti spoke of his former boss Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s shortcomings as both MDC-T leader and Prime Minister in the lnclusive Government.
He also opened up on a plan to form an opposition coalition that could include ex-Vice-President Dr Joice Mujuru for the 2018 general election.
Mr Biti broke away from the MDC-T in 2014 alongside other senior party officials such as treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma who were disgruntled by Mr Tsvangirai’s “disregard for the party constitution and tenets of democracy”.
Messrs Biti and Mangoma went on to form separate political parties but now appear to be converging around the idea of confronting 2018 under one umbrella.
The former MDC-T secretary-general and Finance Minister has previously spoken highly of President Mugabe, describing him as unflappable and “Zimbabwe itself”.
And last Friday, he singled out the President’s ability to listen to both sides before taking decisions as a good leadership trait.
“I think his greatest asset is the recognition of nationhood, the recognition of the integrity of Zimbabwe as a sovereign State. The one characteristic that a leader must not have is the capacity to listen to gossip and unsubstantiated hearsay.
“I found, when I worked with President Mugabe, that the minute I said something in someone’s absence, that person would be called. I thought that was very good. That avoids hearsay and gossip.
“You must be man enough to repeat anything good or bad about a person in their presence, and I think that’s a very good quality.”
He continued: “I’ve said that at a certain stage in our history, people are going to miss Robert Mugabe. People will appreciate that that value of just keeping the sovereign integrity, which I have referred to hitherto, was so important because you now have little men with little ideas.
“. . .President Mugabe and I used to have our fights (during the Inclusive Government era). But I learnt that he appreciates people who are intelligent and honest and put their country first. And because of that, I think I had a good relationship with him.”
Mr Biti said his differences with Mr Tsvangirai largely revolved on disregard for constitutionalism, adding that although the MDC-T worked successfully on various Inclusive Government programmes, “we scored major own goals (as) some of us became interested in holidays and beautiful things”.
“He (Morgan Tsvangirai) was my father. If my father had not died in 2000, he would have been more or less the same age as Morgan Tsvangirai. I’m an African; I respect all elders, including President Mugabe. I respected Morgan Tsvangirai as a father and as a leader of the organisation I belonged to then.
“But, of course, there were differences which then led to the split in 2014. I think what divided us was the idea of democracy itself. We formed the MDC to fight power and the abuse of power, and to promote the idea of change.
“That same principle should apply to all of us. So we differed on that. We felt there had to be leadership renewal in the MDC just as we were demanding leadership renewal at national level. We had Thokozani Khupe who was the vice-president. She could have been our president very easily. There were so many other leaders who could have been presidents. . .Morgan Komichi, Lovemore Moyo.”
He added, “Look, Morgan Tsvangirai has his redeeming qualities, and one of them is that he is very open to ideas. But like any other individual, including myself, we also have faults. I think he would have been a very different leader if he did not allow multiple levels of parallel decision-making structures to exist outside the formal structures, this thing called the ‘kitchen cabinet’.
That is a fundamental weakness.
“And I also think a leader must make decisions for right or for wrong. You must make decisions that you are accountable to.
‘‘And those qualities, to me, in a leader are very important. Leadership must be value-based. Issues of violence and disrespecting the constitution are a disaster.”
Regarding the proposed coalition, Mr Biti said, “I think the trajectory of our survival (as political parties) is that we must learn to work together as Zimbabweans. And those of us in the opposition, we must create a grand alliance.
“At the very minimum, we must create an electoral pact in 2018. Absolutely (that is what we are working on). I can’t give you the details, but day in, day out, that is what I have been doing.
“It’s a broad spectrum (of opposition elements). I think an announcement will be made, but it’s a broad spectrum of Zimbabwean political parties. We are talking to everyone — Dr Tsvangirai, Dr Mujuru.”