echoes CONWAY TUTANI
Those familiar with former Finance minister Tendai Biti’s track record were not exactly surprised by his latest outburst against current Treasury boss Mthuli Ncube.
It seems insults come as second nature to Biti.
Biti last week told an audience in the UK that “Mthuli is a loudmouth that doesn’t have a connection with its brain, and the economy has found him out”.
Such over-the-top language detracts from the issue that austerity has caused immense suffering among the majority of Zimbabweans. And by definition, austerity necessarily causes hardships, so what is at issue here is to alleviate the suffering while austerity runs its two-year course because there is no way austerity
can be avoided for Zimbabwe to get out of the woods.
And no one is saying Ncube does not err, but that the austerity prescription he is administering is the economic template used the world over, given one or two
situation-specific fine-tunings. So, there is nothing uniquely incompetent or outrageous about how Ncube is going about it.
Of course, some people take comfort in such insults – and for a short time, this makes them feel better. But we can only keep the reality of the matter at bay
for so long.
These insults cannot erase the fact that Ncube is doing the best he can under the circumstances. And people should disabuse themselves of the notion they are
being fed that nothing works until everything works. One does not need to look at the situation with rose-tinted glasses to see that some steps have been made
although there is still much to be done.
To his immense credit, Ncube did not stoop to that low gutter level. In the wake of that vicious attack, he did not lower his ethical standards. He did not
react in a malignant and despicable manner. If Ncube was as crude as Biti, he would have shot that.
Instead, it was Biti requiring lobotomy, a surgical operation involving incision into the prefrontal lobe of the brain, formerly used to treat mental illness –
but Ncube did not allow himself to stoop to that low level of slander.
The urbane Ncube replied: “Biti’s choice of crude language not only reveals his analytical defiencies, but also demonstrates lack of sophistication and poise
normally associated with a global platform such as Chatham House. He has much to learn. However, this may take a while.”
Yes, this may take a while because Biti does not seem to have learnt any lessons to curb the excesses of his acerbic tongue, which has not spared anyone across
the political divide.
For a long time, Biti has not examined his own abusive and toxic behaviours. Maybe we should actually be sympathising with Biti. There is a high correlation
between people who have experienced abuse and people who are abusive. When people grow up around abuse, they frequently don’t have the opportunity to develop
healthy coping skills such as problem-solving and the ability to regulate their own emotions. On a 1 to 10 scale regarding the regulating of one’s emotions, I
give Biti 1 out of 10.
If that is not the case, then Biti could be driven by an ulterior dishonest and insincere motive; that of trying to undercut Ncube because he knows that if the
Finance minister succeeds – of which, according to how I see it, he has a 70% chance – then the myth that Biti has been Zimbabwe’s best Finance minister so far
will be exploded.
Why do I say so? It’s because when the talk of an opposition grand coalition began in 2016, Biti immediately threw his weight behind then Zimbabwe People First
(ZPF) leader Joice Mujuru. This was calculated to undercut the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai because Biti’s feud with Tsvangirai was still fresh or raging
after he noisily broke away from the MDC, spitting insults. In his calculations, Biti saw Tsvangirai sidelining him because of that animus, that bad blood,
which was mainly because of Biti’s making.
ZPF soon found what Biti was really up to. On December 5, 2016, the then ZPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said: “We know there are individuals who are
politically drowning who see a coalition as the last straw they could possibly clutch onto in order to save their sinking political career. We should not be
rushed by such characters because what we want to achieve is not a rescue package for failed politicians . . .”
On the very same day, Tsvangirai’s then spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka condemned Biti’s “tendency” to insult other leaders, saying: “How do you go about saying
Tsvangirai is a fool and then talk about a coalition with the same person? . . . How does a leader whom we also know has been deserted by his whole institution
talk about a coalition? Are we supposed to look at a coalition of individuals?”
As one can see, it was in Biti’s political survival interest for Tsvangirai and Mujuru not to form a coalition. Not that Biti particularly preferred Mujuru,
but that he intended to outflank Tsvangirai.
On September 23, 2015, PDP deputy secretary-general Tongai Matutu urged party leader Biti to stop verbally attacking fellow opposition leader Tsvangirai and,
instead, concentrate on growing the party’s support base. Matutu called for “a paradigm shift” among the leadership, if PDP was to entertain any hopes of
making an impact in the 2018 elections.
“The leadership should stop attacking Tsvangirai by calling him names like (jailed serial rapist Robert) Gumbura each time they are given a platform to say
something about the party and Zimbabwe,” Matutu said.
Earlier, Biti had laid into his former boss Tsvangirai, describing him as a thief.
“While (former President Robert) Mugabe is a thief who stole our collective dream of a prosperous nation after independence, Tsvangirai is a bigger thief who
nicked our dream of a new nation, our dream of re-birth in our lifetime, I must say, though we make no (apology) for what we did (breaking away). In fact,
looking at what Tsvangirai is doing now, we feel vindicated and thank God for showing us that we were being led by the greatest fool of our generation,” Biti
Everybody is a fool, except Biti, seems to be the operative rule. Within months of aligning with Mujuru, Biti was at it again, accusing Mujuru and her party of
fomenting divisions in the opposition ranks, following a split in his own PDP.
Mujuru shot back: “How many times has such leadership (Biti) visited the Dr Mujuru homestead begging her and her party to form an alliance for purposes of what
Dr Mujuru has clearly seen to be ego-based objectives, with sole purposes of looking for donor funding instead of the real cause of liberating Zimbabweans? Is
it a crime if NPP refuses to be part of processes that are self-centred, instead of people-driven decisions? Being a lawyer does not make one the ultimate
judge of other political players’ capacities.”
That slippery streak again of shiftiness and slipperiness. Indeed, there is a method to it.
But Mujuru might have zeroed in on the real problem by concluding: “Clearly, such unfortunate behaviour exhibits perennial student activism trapped in bodies
of adults,” Mujuru further said.
Well, this abnormality of insulting everyone gives rise to such talk.