A SENIOR opposition figure has described Zimbabweans as hopeless cowards who seek salvation in a “piece of carpet” mislaid at Harare International Airport.
Former Finance Minister and MDC-Renewal secretary general Tendai Biti was referring to the gleeful response of Zimbabweans to President Robert Mugabe’s fortuitous trip and fall at the airport as he returned home from Ethiopia.
Biti was addressing a public discussion organised last week by the Southern African Political and Economic Series saying that the factional problems besetting the country’s political parties were a reflection of a divided citizenry.
“You (citizens) accuse us of being weak, the opposition of being weak but we are just a mirror reflection of the country,” he said.
“We are just a mirror reflection of the citizens’ fatalism and cowardice. The last time there was a demonstration on Zimbabwe it was in Zambia.”
Zambian opposition activists recently staged a protest against Mugabe after he turned up for the inauguration of President Edgar Lungu in Lusaka.
Turning 91 this month, the veteran leader has not, in recent years, faced any serious protests back home despite widespread disgruntlement with his 35-year autocratic and, according to critics, economically disastrous rule.
Said Biti: “At least we (opposition politicians) are better because we are standing up to the regime.
“You (citizens) spend most of your time this week looking for pictures of Mugabe falling at the airport. We have become so hopeless that a piece of carpet is our salvation.
“The argument that Zimbabwe’s solution lies in the death of Mugabe does not cut it, we cannot put our fate in an individual, an old man for that matter.”
He told his audience, among them former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who sat quietly and, later, walked out without a word, that it was unfortunate that Zimbabweans want to “outsource your struggle to political groupings or other citizens”.
“We have reduced Zimbabwean politics to a binary concept and binary construct – MDC in all its manifestations against Zanu PF. I do not buy that construction because it is wrong,” said the former treasury chief.
“We must present an alternative policy position to that mediocre sobriquet called ZimAsset (government’s latest economic blue-print the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Sustainable Economic Transformation).
“We must present a social charter that gives definitive direction on water, electricity and deliverables. We can write degrees, genuine degrees on the failure of Zanu PF.”
He added: “One of the key components of our struggle is how we are going to form united and popular fronts.
“We can differ and we do not have to be Zanu PF but surely we should be able to identify that the catastrophe is Zanu PF and its 35 year-old legacy.
“If we cannot unite at that elementary level then we are a write-off and deserve to have our graves kicked by our grandchildren.”
Biti said with elections only 30 months away, Zimbabwe’s splintered opposition risked being stampeded into another poll under the same conditions “we have long described as a foundation for the electoral rigging we have endured in the past 15 years in particular unless we find common ground and coalesce for a better tomorrow”.