Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti may not be high up in the Movement for Democratic Change hierarchy.
Top is party leader Nelson Chamisa, followed by his three deputies- Elias Mudzuri, Morgen Komichi and Welshman Ncube- then the national chair Thabitha Khumalo. Biti is Khumalo’s deputy.
Of course it is difficult to place where secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora is. He could be number two from Chamisa or number seven after Biti. But the major splits in the MDC so far have been caused by secretary-generals starting with Welshman Ncube in 2005-2006 and Biti in 2014.
Biti has been in the headlines since Thursday’s hearing at the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Africa entitled “Zimbabwe after the elections”.
He has become one of the conditions for the United States to determine whether to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe which have been in force since 2003 or not. Senator Jeff Flake who was chairing the hearing made it clear that the release of Biti was quite important as he is a friend of the committee.
“Tendai Biti has been raised a couple of times here,” Flake said in concluding testimony by Matthew Harrington, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs in the State Department.
“I can say and I hope that you will take back to the Zimbabwe government, if they’re not listening now to this, that it would be difficult to move forward with any type of relationship with Zimbabwe and move forward and progress on some of these issues while charges are still leveled against him and he is not allowed to travel freely, his passport has been revoked, I believe.
“He is a friend of this committee and he’s been here a number of times, and I was pleased to see that you had that among your list of things they could do. That would be a pretty visible, outward sign that they’re ready to move forward beyond the past.”
Flake was echoing what Harrington has said in his written testimony. Harrington listed four thing that Zimbabwe could easily do without any international assistance to show its commitment to reform.
“First, it should repeal laws such as the Public Order and Security Act, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which have long been used to suppress the human rights of people in Zimbabwe and which violate Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution,” Harrington said.
“Second, the government should immediately end the harassment of members of the political opposition. It should drop charges against former Finance Minister and prominent opposition figure Tendai Biti and all those who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Third, the government should allow the Commission of Inquiry to work transparently and independently, and hold perpetrators of the August 1 violence fully accountable.
“And fourth, the government should move quickly to ensure legislation is consistent with the 2013 constitution, as well as uphold its letter and spirit.”
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