Mugabe will cling to power until the last, says minister
Politician tells Alex Duval Smith in Harare why President will never quit
President Robert Mugabe "will never step down", Zimbabwe's Finance Minister told The Independent, creating an image of a lonely man with few interests outside politics, and a determination to cling to power to the bitter end.
Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change, who entered the government in 2009 as part of a power-sharing deal with Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF, said he felt "pity" for the 88-year-old President, who is criticised for human rights abuses and the slow pace of democratic reform.
"After 32 years in power, he knows nothing else," Mr Biti said. "I know the joy of walking into a supermarket, watching the Black Rhinos [football club] or going to church without anyone raising a furore. He does not know there is a beautiful life outside politics. He would never want to retire. I think he will never step down."
Mr Biti, a 45-year-old lawyer who is deputy to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the MDC, also launched a spirited defence of his party's record in government. He rejected suggestions that his party had lost credibility by cosying up to Zanu-PF, which entered the fragile coalition with the MDC after disputed, violence-plagued elections in 2008. But the power sharing has proved bitter and fractious.
"We have not stolen money. Zanu-PF has tried to trap us. There are many temptations in politics. They have thrown everything at us except incest," Mr Biti said in an interview in Harare.
"The people of Zimbabwe know that we are the party that has given them time-out [economically]. The past 39 months have shown that we are nobody's puppets and we are ready to govern on the basis of a simple decision-making matrix: what is best for our people and the country."
International donors refuse to pay aid directly to the Zimbabwean treasury. As a result, Mr Biti presides over a peppercorn budget of US$4bn (£2.5bn), 70 per cent of which he spends on civil servants' salaries.
He said the country's new diamond field, Marange, had brought in only $19m to the treasury since the beginning of the year, whereas he had expected $77m.
Human rights groups have expressed concern that Mr Mugabe's party plans to use the proceeds from diamond mines to fund violence and intimidation in upcoming elections – accusations denied by Zanu-PF.
Mr Biti said the country urgently needed to put in place structures – such as a state diamond exploration company – to ensure that "those diamonds sweat for us and not for thieves and middlemen".
Under the deal that followed the disputed elections in 2008, Zimbabwe is expected to move towards fair elections. But the process of writing a new constitution has become mired in infighting. President Mugabe has suggested he will call elections with or without a new constitution.
This month, Mr Biti said elections probably could not be held this year because the state coffers were too low. Mr Mugabe had reportedly insisted "money has to be found". Mr Mugabe is currently slated to be the sole presidential candidate in the elections.
Mr Biti repeated the MDC's call for international sanctions to be lifted, and criticised the Obama administration. He suggested the US should apply the same "constructive engagement" policies – sweeteners rather than sanctions – that were used by the Reagan administration in its dealings with apartheid South Africa. "When you have a difficult situation you must engage," he said. "Some countries are refusing to engage. Their approach is primitive and amateurish."
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence's own witness contradicts athlete's version of events
Oscar Pistorius trial: The case against Oscar Pistorius – and why the prosecution claims his story doesn't add up
Almost 40m gallons of drinking water discarded – because a man urinated in it
Peaches Geldof funeral: Private ceremony to be held at same place as her mother Paula Yates on Easter Monday
Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...