Mugabe will cling to power until the last, says minister

Politician tells Alex Duval Smith in Harare why President will never quit

Harare

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."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Traffic Planner

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the successful candidate you...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Designer - Graduate Scheme

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join one of the UK's leading de...

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor