Johannesburg – Former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti has on Thursday warned South Africans not to distance themselves from the events in the neighbouring country as Zimbabweans were “right in your face” and were part of South Africa’s economy.
Speaking at the Sandton Convention Centre during the Daily Maverick’s The Gathering, which discussed the upcoming ANC elective conference, Biti singled out the ANC’s secretary-general.
“To Gwede Mantashe, this is not a Zimbabwean issue [only], it is a South African issue [too].” Should Zimbabwe implode, he said, South Africa would suffer the effects.
Turning to political changes in his country, Biti said Zimbabweans were in search of a new contract with those in power.
He said when incoming president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is sworn in on Friday, Zimbabweans would have two choices before them.
“It is either we maintain the status quo, that those coming in are coming to fill the shoes of Robert Mugabe and that corruption continues. Or the second choice is to use this military intervention to lay the foundations to a path of sustainability,” said Biti.
“I hope that no one misunderstands, misreads and underestimates what took place on Saturday. The people of Zimbabwe set a new bar of accountability” for those in power.
Call for inclusive transitional process
Biti said the country was at a crossroads.
“We have two different sources of power, the people and the (army) tanks.”
Biti said opposition parties had been discussing the road to a legitimate government.
“Let us have an inclusive transitional process which we call the national transitional process.”
Biti said some of the key areas of governance that the country needed to focus on were keeping peace and stability and economic reform.
He said the country was going through a significant moment in its history.
“We have just gone through an amazing experience which we never thought would happen in our lifetime, the removal of President Robert Mugabe.”
He said while the country had begun the process of renewal, much more needed to be done to restore the economy as 90% of Zimbabweans were unemployed and more than 80% were living below the poverty line.
He said the country’s economy faced “a huge fiscal crisis” and under accumulation characterised by recession.
He said the last time the Zimbabwean economy was in positive terrain was in 2012.
“Right now our shops are full of goods but no one has money to buy food, in 2008, there was nothing in the shops.”
Biti said in the last eight years the country had moved from one crisis to another.
During the question-and-answer session, Biti said: “South Africans do not know what they have. I think you need to be very proud of your institutions and Constitution.”
But he warned: “You have dangers. You need to stop the capture of your country.”