Tendai Biti: Zim’s land question must end, time to compensate white farmers

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s former finance minister, ex-MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti, had some interesting words to say during a speech at Daily Maverick’s ‘The Gathering’ event in Johannesburg on Thursday. He cautiously welcomed recent developments in Zimbabwe that have resulted in Robert Mugabe’s ouster. But he also painted a picture of the economy’s dire situation. Just about every metric has gone backwards, and Zimbabwe will have to institute market-friendly reforms if it hopes to emerge from its economic catastrophe. Among measures that Biti mooted is the return of white farmers to the country. Previous reports by Reuters have indicated that Zimbabwe’s incoming president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, also views the restoration of the agricultural sector as key and sees white farmers as playing a vital role. Change has arrived, and hopefully, Zimbabwe can emerge again as Africa’s breadbasket. – Gareth van Zyl

Read more: What’s next for Zim: Mnangwagwa sees white farmers as key to revival

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great privilege to be here in SA at a very momentous period in the history of our country, Zimbabwe. SA is a very powerful country. It’s a very culturally diverse and rich country. We are here in Sandton, which of course doesn’t have water. I think I took away the water when I came here. I’ll put it with Zimbabwe’s challenges.

We are going through a very serious experience in our life at the present moment, which is the experience of a military intervention, which the military itself described it as pacification but to which for all intents and purposes, has been a military coup. We have just gone through an amazing experience, which many of us never thought would actually happen in our lifetime, which is the removal of President Robert Mugabe and his resignation on the 20th November.

To understand what has happened I think one must understand the nature of the Zimbabwe State. What has been the nature of the Zimbabwe State since 1980, and how is it that that much has happened and that which has occurred has occurred. In my respective of view, we were born out of a war of liberation. We were born out of a guerrilla war that lasted for over 25 years, in respect of which 50 thousand of our people died, and in that independence, you had one guerrilla army replacing another army. The state that was presided over and run by ENCF from the time that it declared UDI on the 11th November 1965, has basically been a militarised state.

I don’t know what it is about November that these cataleptic events always happening in November. You will recall that on the 14th November 1997, with what we call in Zimbabwe, ‘Black Friday.’ I know the women in the room are excited about Black Friday tomorrow so, we had Black Friday on the 14th November 1997, where our currency lost 70% of it’s value due to, among other things, the misadventure of a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Zimbabwe participated in and it was costing our economy, in the time of 3 years, $1m a day.   

So now, we’re in November, starting with the 14th November, we started another process, this unique process. Last week we were all keeping our diaries, it was surreal to see tanks on the streets. To see soldiers addressing us on national television. You didn’t know whether you were coming or you were going. It was totally unbelievable circumstances, and to actually realise that you were making history and you were part of history, and that every second you were experiencing was history. It was an amazingly, remarkable feeling, which I feel we shouldn’t deny you in SA that opportunity.

Tendai Biti.

So, we have had a Century, a situation where in 1980 the guerrilla movement did not demilitarise. So, for all intents and purposes, Zimbabwe has basically remained a security state, up to the present moment. This has been heightened by the fact that at all material times the ruling party and the state have conflicted. So, decisions that are made in Zanu-PF, in the party, affect the state. The decisions that are made by the state are synonymous and confluent with the vital interests of the party, and precisely because it has been a security state whoever was the head of state was the mere nominative representative of this military order, and he/she would remain so, as long as he/she continued to serve the interests of the military. Once that person stopped serving the interests of the military they would recall.

So, in a way what happened last week was a recall of someone who was no longer acting in the best interest of this security state but that doesn’t tell the complete story. The true story is that as of now, Zimbabwe and before the removal of President Mugabe, Zimbabwe was caught up in a series of multiple crises that all converged in one particular historic juncture, which has never happened in our history. That you have these various strands or streams of the multiple crises all converged at one particular juncture. Creating this amazing moment of state vulnerability and state fragility.

So, we have the economic crises – 95% of our people are unemployed. It’s hard to imagine when you put it in figures but it’s the truth – 82% of our people are living in extreme poverty. Surviving on less than US 35 cents a day, which is something like R5.00. We have got the challenge of a huge fiscal crises arising out of the failure by the authorities to implement a strong anti-secretive fiscal regime. If you look at the economy of Zimbabwe it loves these cycles, these cycles of slumps and booms. The last time around was between 1997 and 2008, an 11-year period in respect of which the economy lost 60% of its value.

When I became Finance Minister on the 16th February 2009, I inherited an economy whose previous year’s growth rate, 2008, was -14%. I inherited an economy where hyperinflation was 500-billion percent, the second highest in the history of mankind, after Hungary in 1956. That was 2008 – 2008 was a crisis of overaccumulation. There was too much managers and too few goods, we were all souvenirs. The last note that our government printed was a ZW$100 thousand-trillion note, which could buy you two bottles of soda, and there were no goods in the supermarkets at all. It’s a crisis of failure.

Fast track that to 2017. We’ve got another crisis now, which is the opposite of the 2008 crisis. We’ve got a crisis now of under accumulation. In 2008, it was a crisis of over accumulation of the economy overheating. Too much money chasing too few goods. In 2017 now, we’ve got the opposite end of that crisis, the crisis of under accumulation characterised by recession, which is fast tracking itself into an economic depression. The last time our economy grew in positive terms was in 2012 and the recession, like all recessions is characterised by three key things – a crisis of excess capacity. In a recession there is excess capacity so, thereby the unemployed excess capacity of 95%. Industrial capacity is not being put to use. Those of you who have been to our country, in places like Bulawayo and places like Harare, you’ve seen this excess capacity where industrial factories are being converted into churces, and where long grass is growing in industrial sites. That’s excess capacity.

Then you have a crisis of weak and non-existent demand so, right now our shops are full of goods, are brought from SA, but no one has got money to buy. Whereas, in 2007/2008, there was absolutely nothing in the shops. Right now, our shops are full of goods but no one is buying. Then you’ve got a key feature of a recession, a state inflation. From 2013 to now, our inflation has been overly around 0.1% – 1%. That’s the classic status quo, the classic description of an economically recession or an economically depression. So, in other words we have moved from a crisis of accentuated of over accumulation reflected by a hyper inflation of 500bn% to a crisis of under accumulation in this recession.

Now, these two crises are almost impossible to reach. They are impossible and require such great effort and failure to achieve. But we are geniuses now. We have managed to create a third crisis now so, due to the government that’s not been able to live within its means and because it has not been able to live within its means it has been running and pursuing deficit financing. So, the budget deficit right now, this year, will be probably be about 25% of expenditure, and close to 60% of GDP. In real terms it’s about $7bn when our total GDP is about $12 – 13 billion that’s how bad it is. But all of you here, I’m sure are clever people here, you will know that the deficit per se, is not the problem. It’s how you finance that deficit, which is the problem. How you monetize that deficit, which is a challenge.

These people have been monetising this deficit through firstly, the printing of money, but you’ll say, ‘how do they print money when we don’t have the currency?’ They’ve been issuing them with toxic treasury bills. They’ve been issuing them like confetti. They have over US$4bn worth of treasury bills in the market at the present moment. Secondly, we’ve got this fictitious currency called the TT (Telegraphic Transfer) or RTGS (Real Transfer Growth System), where we can buy goods and then do transfers but these transfers are not backed by any value. They are just mirror transfers so, they’re a Ponzi scheme so, as a result, growth money supply is short about US$10bn, and the percentage of cash, money and coins, circulating in the economy is less than 2% so, it’s hot money or hot air.

Then thirdly, we’ve got something that will amaze you, with the surrogate currency called the bond note, which again it hasn’t got any value but it’s in the system. Suddenly now, we know it features of 2008, we now have multiple exchange rates. We now have cash shortages. We now have inflation rising again so, in a recession you now have all the features of 2008. So, in other words, they’ve created a third situation where you’re in a recession and you create hyperinflation, which Professor Steve Hanke is putting at 242%. You create shortages of currency. People can’t get their money out of banks at this present moment in time so, you have to be a genius to move from a crisis of overaccumulation, under accumulation, and then you make the two crises now. I was saying to Fred that we have to wake up Professor Tony Hawkins and say, ‘Professor Hawkins, what is this?’ He’ll have to say, ‘I have to phone my friend, Joe.’ He’s a graduate in business, ‘please can you describe this?’ We have to find a new lexicon for it. I don’t know how to describe it so that’s the economic crisis.

Then we have the political crisis arising out of the unresolved succession issue. How do we have someone who is 94 years, someone who is literally in diapers saying, ‘I’m the presidential candidate of this party?’ It created such an unsettling situation where the party was at war with itself and the status of the government was at war with itself. It was paralysed, factually paralysed. Then the third crisis is the generational crisis – 69% of our population are below the age of 35. Our population right now is 13 million but there is a population implosion. By 2045 our population would have doubled up yet these youngsters have no jobs. We are producing 500.000 graduates a year and we are absorbing less than 5% of them so, you’ve got these very sharp youngsters, very technologically advanced youngsters. You’ll find them on Snapchat and Instagram, and on Twitter. I don’t think they like Facebook too much but they are still there. There are sharp youngsters but they are not employed. Yet, you see their protest last year, led by Pastor Evan Mawarire. They led and formed what we call at home, #tag-movement. So, there’s #ThisFlag, #ThisGown, because you’re a graduate, you’ve got a gown but you are unemployed – #Tajamuka (Tajamuka means we are protesting), and that’s the nature of crises.

Then we’ve got a social crisis, the crisis of delivery or lack thereof. Hospitals are not functioning – 37 years, after independence we have a terrible situation where 82 mothers out of a thousand, who are giving birth are dying during birth – 96 infants out of a thousand are dying upon delivery. So, these are crises that are typical of a country that is going through war and that is Zimbabwe. So, something was bound to give and I think the outlet breaking point came and was invited by the persona of Mrs Grace Mugabe. You have this amazing woman who is totally disagreeable, whose mental and morals and/or stability is totally questionable, and she questioned the entire values of which that faith was founded upon, at least by those that are in control. One of the founding values of that faith, being the Liberation Movement. Part of the challenge with the body of politics of Zimbabwe is that we live in the past. Unless you fought in the war then you are not legitimate so, we are still fighting a war that finished 40 years ago, and we are still fighting it 37 years later.

So, those of us who were not born and were too young to go in the war, we are nothing. We don’t have legitimacy, Grace questioned that and in questioning that she questioned. She placed with alert those that would withdraw the statement, that war veterans, the army, and the military. The minute she declared that and the minute that the two of them, her husband and herself declared that the baton stick was going to be passed to her, there was a problem so, what literally happened was that Mugabe was in bed with the army but immediately when he began, literally and metaphorically, converting with another woman – there was a problem. Even if that woman was his wife. The baton stick – isn’t that the challenge in Africa that we can’t pass the baton stick. We refuse to pass the baton stick. If you ever wondered why in Africa, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Moroccans, who are very good at running, we don’t do well at short distances. There’s never been an African, 4 x 100m’s champion because they can’t pass the baton stick. Even here in SA, the baton stick keeps falling. It’s so slippery, where you can’t even hold it. Oscar Pistorius, I don’t know where he put it, but this is true.

So, we here now and where do we move from here? That is the biggest question that is concerning all of us. There are two choices to be made. There are two choices by the authorities that will be sworn in tomorrow – there is a choice to be made. The first choice is that we maintain the status quo. That those that are coming in are simply going in to fill the big shoes of President Robert Mugabe. That the status quo of corruption of patronage continues that the semi-levers of power that is dominated in the Zimbabwean political space in the last 37 years continues to be the dominant polity of the day, and the power in the last 37 years have been dreadful, primarily by three things – cohesion, or fear, or violence, or capture. I don’t think we are talking about State Capture or capture – you know ‘capture.’ Or corruption, which is an instrument of power, people are bribed and so forth. The normal discourse in all democratic countries, the normal source of power is persuasion. You persuade, you debate but in Zimbabwe persuasion doesn’t exist. We are persuaded by battle sticks, by teargas and by guns so, it’s cohesion, it’s capture, it’s corruption that’s the greatest fear of Zimbabweans – are we going to reproduce this old order, albeit it with different names? Albeit it with different characters and that’s a choice to be made.

The second opportunity or second choices that we use this military intervention. That we use the events of the past 10 days to lay the foundations of an invariable path to sustainability. We lay the foundations of a step or just inclusive democratic Zimbabwe and to borrow the language of Thomas Jefferson, ‘In which all are free to pursue happiness.’ That’s the choice that needs to be made. For the majority of people who must in Harare, in Johannesburg, in Pretoria, in Cape Town, in London, in New York or in Bulawayo that on Saturday, 18th November 2017, that is their choice. They did not march to resolve the internal succession issues in Zanu-PF. They marched for a new Zimbabwe. They marched for a new beginning. They marched in order to give themselves, their children, and their great grandchildren a new future and a new start, and that is our prayer.

So, something unique happened in the last week. You saw the armed expression of the state soldiers in their tanks on the streets on Saturday, marching with the people of Zimbabwe. So, Zimbabweans are in search of a new contract, of a new contract with those that are in power and with power itself, which is the contract that they can dialogue at an equal level with the soldiers. If you were a soldier in Harare on Saturday, all the young girls were kissing you. You were a hero. That’s the narrative and that’s the dialogue that they’re looking for and I hope that no one misunderstands, no one underestimates, and no one misreads what took place on Saturday, on the 18th November 2017… Send a new bar of accountability to power that will hold you accountable, and once the genie is out of the bottle, it is out of the bottle once and for all but it is not the only genie that was out of the bottle on Saturday. It was not just the people that was out of the bottle on Saturday, it was also military based.

You and I know that know from the status of countries like Ghana, like Nigeria, like Uganda, like the Central African Republic, like Gambia, and/or like Equatorial Guinea that once tanks have been on the streets it’s just a question of time before they are back again. Once a television program has been interrupted by a man in uniform with the National Broadcasting House – that will happen again. So, we are faced now and we are in a very dangerous position. I try to hold my speech but Zimbabwe is at a crossroads because we’ve got these two, totally diametrically opposite sources of power or sources of change – the people and the tanks. How do we ensure that we have a sustainable state and that this new contract that I submit was reflected on Saturday continues to exist in our country? We need stability and it’s not a Zimbabwean feel. It’s a Sub-Saharan feel.

Your economy in SA has been limping – 1% or 1.5%, or 1% for almost a decade now, even when my friend, Pravin Gordhan was still Minister of Finance. I remember the discussion that I had with him on the 7th July 2010, at an ugly hotel called Birchwood, just outside the airport. I hope the owners of Birchwood are not here. I apologise. So, Zimbabwe is not a domestic issue to SA. We are right in your kitchen. We are right in your bedroom. If we go to any restaurant right now, out of 10 waiters, there are 7 Zimbabweans – you know that. If a crime is committed in Yeoville, you know that out of 3 criminals there is one Zimbabwean so, we are right in your face.

You have been given junk status and a lot of that arises from the fact that a major component of your goods, Zimbabwe is not there anymore. It ceases to exist as a market for you, in retails. So, South Africans and President Zuma, and to comrade Mbeki – this is not a domestic issue. It’s not a Zimbabwean issue. It’s a SA issue. It’s an African issue. The African Union must be involved. This SABC must be involved. The UN Secretary Council must be involved because the price of Zimbabwe imploding has got multiple effects. It will affect all of us so, what we have been arguing as opposition is I wrote to the MDC Alliance led by Morgan Tsvangirai. What we have been arguing is that number one, let’s, as a matter of urgency, define a roadmap to the deepness. Let’s negotiate that roadmap to the deepness is really between the time that President Mugabe steps down and the time that we have the next election. Number two, let’s have an inclusive transitional process because Zimbabwe is in transition right now. We are moving away from Robert Mugabe to another Zimbabwe, whose definition so far is not clear. So, let’s have that.

Let’s have the definition of that transition and let that transition be managed by the inclusive transitional process, which we are calling the ‘National Transitional Authority.’ But it’s not enough to simply agree and put in different men and women and say, ‘this is the Transitional Authority.’ This Transitional Authority must be programmatic, it must work on a second agenda, which involves and centred on four things. Number one, keeping peace and stability in the Maitland Building. Number two, political reform. Number three, economic reform. Number four, the international relations reform of Zimbabwe’s re-emigration. I will quickly run through the ten things which I think that we have to concentrate on in the next few months, and few years, etc.

Number one, keeping peace and stability. This military intervention – it has been written that there’s hardly been any loss of life and I hope that they’ve the decency to leave President Mugabe and his family in safety, and that if he wants to go to Singapore he can go. I’m not sure whether you want him in Durban or in CT but it’s a democratic right in SA, but he must be given the right of free passage. And peace and stability now need to re-question the state to say, ‘the army has confirmed its power.’ How do we ensure that the constitutional provisions that says the latest civilian authorities, the outward authority in Zimbabwe is respected? That’s the challenge that we face is that KG6 is more powerful than Mugabe, and more powerful than the parliament on Nelson Mandela Avenue. How do we retrain them or request them to make sure that it complies with the fundamental tendencies of our constitution and the fundamental values of our constitution defined in Chapter 2 of our Constitution? That is a big question, which will be so difficult.

Number two is, as I say, the restorage of the social contract and part of the restorage of the social contract means a program of national healing. Zimbabwe is tattered and torn by heartfelt, by intolerance, by social decohesion. The divorce rate has gone up in Zimbabwe. With great respect to SA, in per capita terms, Zimbabwe has become the divorce capital of Sub-Saharan Africa. Homes are broken and so forth.

Number three is economic reform. In economic reform I want to submit that this government will not be able to function without major budgetary support from the international community. So, the conferences that will be held in CT, or Durban, or Harare, or Addis Ababa, or London or Brussels to find immediate budgetary support for this process. In other words, the international community including SA, must know that Zimbabwe’s stability must be monetised. Someone has to pay the price and I’ve already submitted that Zimbabwe is too important for the region and the sub-region to be ignored. So, if we don’t pay now, we’ll pay more expensively in the future. President Zuma in SA disengaged from Zimbabwe in 2013. The last summit in Zimbabwe, which was held in Maputo on the 15th June 2013. The prize of that withdrawal has been the protests of Harare so, people must know that there’s no such thing as a black ship and I hope comrade Bradley is listening – I love that man.

Number four, we have to restore economic stability. I used to say, when I was the minister of finance, we eat what we kill. That crude statement, if you kill a rat you cannot have a party as if you have killed an elephant. I know in some parties they do. If you kill a rat you eat a rat. You can’t kill a rat and eat an elephant. Economics is the only situation when 1 – 2 equals, it can’t. If 1 – 2 = -1 then we’ve got a problem. We have to depart from deficit finance and go back to the period of balancing our books.

Number five, there has to be structural reform in Zimbabwe. We have to reform our public service. We have to reform our parastatals. We have to repeal the indigenous in the empowerment head so that we attract foreign direct investment in the country. We have to liberalise our capital account. We have to revisit our commodity sector. Over US$15bn was lost and stolen in our diamonds. I used to complain to President Mugabe so, we need a new Diamond Act. We need a new Mines and Minerals Act. We have to resolve Zimbabwe’s crippled debt crises of US$11bn, over 100% of GDP. We have to resolve that. That means we have to have conversations with the IMF, the World Bank, the African World Bank, the Paris Club of Lenders because those are the ones which we owe. We have to revisit our competitiveness. I heard one of your speakers, I think Madam Nkosi speak about SA’s ranking on the Global Competitive Report. We are number 176 so, 176 out of 179 and we are only better than Syria and Afghanistan so, we have to improve our competitiveness. We have to fast track ourselves from this typical Third World economy that was stuck in the rat subway in the 60’s, and fast track ourselves.

We have to attend to the gross capital formation. There’s no energy in Zimbabwe, there’s no water. The last major infrastructure was done before independence. Our power grid supply should have been disused and decommissioned in 1983 so, we need energy of at least 4.000megawatts today to sustain a modern economy. We are only producing about 735 megawatts at Kariba and most of it is coming from Eskom. If you see our roads we’ve got a road length of 88.000kms and less than 10% of it is paved and with the greatest respect to the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have become the pothole capital of Southern Africa. So, we have to attend to gross capital formation so, the economic agenda is huge.

Number six, we have to attend this business of constitutional reform. We’ve created a monster of a president in Chapter 5 of our Constitution. We have to revisit the constitution.

Number seven, we have to harmonise our laws with new constitutions. We’ve got a very decent constitution, which has not been harmonised.

Number eight, and it speaks for itself, we have to attend to electoral reform.

Number nine, we have to put a full-stop to the land question so, we need to restore the land market. Everyone who were members have their Title Deeds so that he or she can go and borrow money from the banks. We have to bring the market to hand. Yes, we have to compensate the white man adequately, not just for improvements but for land as well because that’s what the international law and justice requires.

Number ten, we have to audit our farmers, of which President Mugabe was one of the biggest, with 15 good farms in Zimbabwe, excluding his wife. So, we have to have an audit of our Land Reform Program.

Number eleven, we have to build strong institutions. With Chapter 13 institutions it’s defined in our constitution, which are so key. This includes the Zimbabwean Election Commission, Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission, the Peace and Reconciliation Commission – we have to settle them. As you, yourselves know these institutions are so important in a democracy. Chapter 14 of our Constitution speaks to devolution. Devolution and decentralisation is so key. Zanu is not wanting that. They’ve not actualised Chapter 14 of the Constitution. I know of no country that is successful, which is not devolved or decentralised or federated, whether it be the USA, Germany or whether SA – we have to decentralise power. We have to have devolution. So, building strong institutions and the judiciary, and making the constitution a reality. Someone sent me a picture of President Mugabe, after he was deposited sitting with his wife and Bishop Mukonori, and in front of him was the constitution and I Tweeted and said, ‘Now we know that the constitution is important but it can’t be practically used.’ You only remember about it when you are in trouble. Let’s make sure that the constitution is part of our DNA because it is so important.

Number twelve, let’s deal with the entire reform of the state, this secretive state, let’s deal with that.

Then lastly, Zimbabwe must go back to the international community, Zimbabwe’s reintegration so, we have to make peace with London. We have to make peace with Brussels. We have to make peace with Washington DC. We have to make peace with the boys and girls of mining in New York, in San Francisco, and Chicago, and California. Of course, in Sandton too. We have to find new relationships and a new relationship with Beijing. One based on equality and respect. We have to find a relationship with New Delhi, Indians have become so important. Zimbabwe’s reintegration is key. So, these to me, are the key things that we have to do, in order to make our country go back on it’s feet again.

I am very hopeful. I am very optimistic. We have removed the bulb called Robert Mugabe. Robert Mugabe is going to be replaced by an acacia tree. We should never allow the acacia tree to be a bulb again. In fact, we should let the acacia tree, we should convert the acacia tree to be a ‘remembered tree.’ We need a new, sustainable Zimbabwe in which everyone lives, firstly, in a safe country, grounded by justice, by equality, by respect and, as I said, free to pursue happiness. I thank you very much.

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