Is Biti trying to outsmart Tsvangirai?


The media’s obsession with the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front especially the succession of President Robert Mugabe has totally overshadowed another war going on – the battle for Movement for Democratic Change secretary general Tendai Biti to outsmart his leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Biti has tried all sorts of tricks to attract media attention but he has often been drowned by events within ZANU-PF that seem to spark the more interesting debate about who will succeed Mugabe.

The events have included the death of Joseph Msika which has sparked debate not only about who will succeed Mugabe but who will succeed Msika himself.

This was followed by the death of Richard Hove who had become the provincial kingpin of the Midlands though he was often overshadowed by Emmerson Mnangagwa. Then there was the reported illness of Mugabe and the threatened failure of the Government of National Union that South African President Jacob Zuma was supposed to come and mend.

Debate about Biti’s manoeuvres was sparked by two curious events that happened within days of each other. The first was a report that the minister ha received a bullet and a threatening note at his home. Days later his gardener was reported to have been beaten up by soldiers.

While some observers said the threats were real they argued that they were aimed at only intimidating Biti and not to show that his life was in danger because if someone wanted to kill him, they would just do it with attracting any attention.

Others, however, said the bullet and the assault on Biti’s gardener were publicity stunts aimed at keeping the minister in the limelight and keeping the impression that he was someone to watch within the MDC succession game.

Biti has been trying to upstage Tsvangirai from the time the MDC leader entered into the inclusive government by acting the hardliner who could effectively deal with the “hardliners” from ZANU-PF.

Insiders say has been waging a secret war within the party to outwit Tsvangirai and has been setting up structures within the party that favour him ahead of the party’s 10th anniversary.

“There is fighting at Harvest House every time the President (Tsvangirai) leaves the country, real fist fighting not just verbal fighting and this is usually because those loyal to Tsvangirai are trying to get at those imposed by Biti at the party headquarters,” a party insider said.

Biti is said to be working in cahoots with vice-President Thokozani Khupe who has made Bulawayo her own turf and has usurped anyone known to be close to Tsvangirai. She seems to be winning the war because some executive members that were previously close to Tsvangirai are now talking her language.

Political scientist, John Makumbe, who is known to be close to Tsvangirai, brushed off the sentiments arguing that Biti was not that stupid.

“Everyone in the MDC knows at the moment that you cannot do without Tsvangirai. Biti cannot be that naïve. He knows that there is no MDC without Tsvangirai,” Makumbe said.

Asked about the fights at Harvest House, Makumbe brushed them off saying there was nothing irregular. There were also fights at Jongwe House every time Mugabe left the country, he argued.

Biti is number four within the party after Tsvangirai, Khupe and national chairman Lovemore Moyo, but he is now being touted as number two.

Some media reports have even suggested that his appointment as Finance Minister was an indication that he was likely to take over from Tsvangirai as Finance Ministers usually take over the top post – a reference to Britain’s Gordon Brown. This is, however, something that has no basis at all in Zimbabwean politics.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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