MDC Vice-President Tendai Biti says Chipinge people are witches




(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 01, 2018 MDC Alliance Spokesperson Tendai Biti speaks during a press conference during which he announced that Zimbabwe's opposition parties are calling for electoral reforms ahead of the July 30 general elections and that there will be street demonstrations in the capital Harare on June 5. Senior Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti was arrested as he tried to flee to neighbouring Zambia to seek asylum, his lawyer said on August 8, 2018. Biti allegedly faces charges for inciting violence over the disputed result of last week's elections. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

THE motor-mouthed MDC Alliance Vice President Tendai Biti has labelled as witches people from Chipinge while responding to constitutional lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku during a debate over interpretation of a section of Constitution.

The statement drew a heated reaction on social media, leading to Biti pulling it down and saying he regretted his actions.

Madhuku, who hails from Chipinge, has been at conflict with lawyers aligned to the MDC Alliance over the interpretation of a law cited by former Vice President Kembo Mohadi when he resigned last week Monday in shame.

Biti accused Madhuku of resorting to witchcraft, saying “But then again, you come from Chipinge”.

The statement has triggered a storm on social media, with prominent political analyst Chofamba Sithole, who also hails from Chipinge, demanding an apology for the “cruel stereotype”.

“Cde @BitiTendai you owe us an unreserved apology for bludgeoning us with this cruel stereotype in your legal debate with @ProfMadhuku.

“It beggars belief that you cld wilfully deploy such a gratuitous insult against an entire ethnic group barely a day after your Chilonga presser!” Sithole said.

Others who felt offended by the tweet also joined in to voice their concerns:

Biti, coming heavily under pressure, pulled down the offending tweet and said it was meant to be a metaphor.

“Comrade Chofamba, my initial tweet and its reference to witchcraft and Chipinge was obviously metaphor, zest and humor But upon realizing it could be misunderstood I obviously took it down. Any misunderstanding is therefore regretted,” he said.

Still not impressed, Chofamba said: “The original tweet was deleted, but no apology was given for effectively suggesting we the people of Chipinge are into witchcraft.”

In 2018, Biti referred to the people of Manicaland as polygamists who needed an education. This was after President Mnangagwa held a hugely attended rally in the Marange community, where members of the apostolic sects form the bulk of the community.

Meanwhile, Biti spent time in Chilonga a few days ago where the minority Shangaani people face eviction by a Kwekwe-based dairy firm with the support of a Statutory Instrument.

“We spent a few days in the Chilonga area of Chiredzi, visiting and listening to compatriots in Chiredzi South and East constituencies. We met with ordinary citizens, community leaders and traditional leaders,” said Biti.

“We travelled huge distances to places such as Chikombedzi, Malipati, Boli and Gonarezhou. We saw and heard from a tortured, insecure and angry citizen in the Shangaan communities so dominant in this part of the Lowveld.

“This is a community that has suffered displacements twice before. In the 1960s, they were removed from the Hippo Valley area to make way for sugar estates. They were then ejected to pave way for huge wildlife reserves – Gonarezhou National Park and Malilangwe Reserve. They subsequently rebuilt their lives in the south eastern Lowveld in areas mulcted by tsetse fly, high temperatures, wild animals, poverty and infrastructure deficits.

“Years of alienation, isolation, exclusion and reification make these communities feel like outsiders. Without access in some cases to Zimbabwean services such as radio, mobile phone networks, gas stations – never mind jobs, hospitals and schools – there is greater connection with Mozambique and South Africa.”

The Harare East legislator said the displacement of minority populations planned by “the regime to make way for a Dendairy project to grow animal fodder – lucerne” is thus the “ultimate invasion and insult to these communities”.

“They have been told 12,500 people will be ejected and 9,000 hectares taken under Phase One. When Phase 2 and 3 are completed, a massive 21,000 hectares of their land would have been confiscated.

“In view of massive pieces of underutilised agricultural land dotted in their region, they don’t understand why the same land is not being used for the lucerne project. They don’t understand why cattle grass has become more important than people or the small grains they produce. They strongly feel that that they are victims, not just of greed and avarice but also of tribal rejection as an ethnic minority.

“The Shangaan people of Chiredzi know that the regime has, in 41 years, been cruel and extractive against ethnic minorities. They have suffered displacements, genocide and exclusion.

“They only demand to be left in peace with their land, their graves, their shrines and their livestock. They demand schools, bridges, hospitals and jobs. They simply ask for respect and the right to be treated as equal citizens. They simply ask for the right to be called Zimbabweans,” Biti said. — Zimbabwe Voice