Tendai Biti was finance minister of Zimbabwe
under the unity government from 2009-2013

 

By Tendai Biti

Zambia’s leadership seems intent on destroying the 50 years of work post-independence to build democracy by replicating actions we have routinely seen in Zimbabwe, notably the systematic harassment and intimidation of press, civil society and the opposition.

While in the past Zambians have looked to the rule of law to protect their rights when under threat, today they find there is little prospect for protection or redress.

Despite the popularity of the “Africa rising” narrative that has sounded over the past decade regarding the pace of Africa’s economic growth and the prospects for development, the continent continues to face significant challenges in unlocking the benefits for the majority of its citizens.

While there is no singular reason for this, the one with the greatest explanatory power is the mindset of self-enrichment at the cost of social development among the elite.

There is little doubt in my mind that the solution to turning this around also lies in the hands of leadership and the choices they make. And getting the right leadership in place, to make the right choices, is a question of democracy.

As a former minister of finance in Zimbabwe, the proposals that came on to my desk for government financing of projects that would make a significant impact on our country were countless.

Yet there was – and continues to be – absolutely no money made available by the government for any of these projects.

It was often a difficult pill to swallow when all around the country malnourished families were starving while the lavish lives of those in the president’s inner-circle were there for all to see.

Zimbabwe is used as a case study of a broken society; a country in which those in power concern themselves only with maintaining power and amassing wealth.

Zimbabwe is also often cited as an exceptional case.

However, while it’s situation undoubtedly has its own peculiarities, Zimbabwe has not followed a path that is impassable for others. It is dangerous to think otherwise.

People often ask me how it is possible that we have been able to get ourselves into this position as a country where everything is so fundamentally broken.

You cannot break things overnight, I answer, but you can slowly chip away at the fundamentals and if no one does anything to stop you then quite quickly all expectations of a democratic society are abolished.

The increase in the number of elections taking place in Africa since 1990 has frequently been read as a positive indicator for the continent’s future development prospects.

Elections are only a necessary but not a sufficient component of democracy.

Yet this is undermined if the international community adopts the convenient fallacy that at least by going through the motion of holding elections a country will get it right eventually, and so the extent to which they can become a smokescreen has largely been overlooked.

The frequency of elections is much easier to observe and tick off a checklist than adherence to the rule of law. However, it is the rule of law that determines a country’s ability to function properly.

When the law is undermined and eroded, countries can follow a downward spiral that leads to total collapse and from which it is almost impossible to recover without outside support.

The rule of law in Zimbabwe has long been considered broken. The same can now be said of our neighbour north of the Zambezi, Zambia.

Zambia’s leadership seems intent on destroying the 50 years of work post-independence to build democracy by replicating actions we have routinely seen in Zimbabwe, notably the systematic harassment and intimidation of press, civil society and the opposition.

While in the past Zambians have looked to the rule of law to protect their rights when under threat, today they find there is little prospect for protection or redress.

Zambia’s major independent newspaper has been closed, with its editor on the run; reports of intimidation and bribery of legal and electoral officials have become widespread; and, now, as of a week ago, popular opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been incarcerated and charged with treason.

Shocking as this bold attempt to charge the opposition leader with an offence that in theory could carry the death penalty appears, as well as the violent and shocking manner in which the arrest was conducted, if you look at the pattern of activity by the authorities in recent months and years it is less surprising.

Over time Zambia’s leadership has become more and more confident that they can sit above the law.

While cases in which people have spoken ill of the president or alleged corruption in public institutions result in arrests and court charges, justice is slow and often elusive for those outside the ruling elite.

The manner in which last year’s contested election was handled by the Zambian authorities is a landmark case in this history. It’s a story of the cost of electoral authoritarianism.

Today, with Hichilema behind bars, it is also testament of how the region and the international community missed a critical opportunity to stem a tide of poor governance by speaking out against an electoral sham.

When Hichilema’s party, the United Party for National Development, challenged the 2016 election result on several grounds he was advised to call on his supporters to remain peaceful and petition the outcome in the courts, as is his constitutional right.

The petition was never heard, however, on the basis of a technicality that his party continues to challenge through various appeals and court submissions to this date.

This stands in stark contrast to how events played out in Ghana following the 2012 elections.

Then the opposition challenge of the outcome led to a lengthy court case. While the outcome was ultimately upheld by the court, the case revealed several failings in the process for addressing ahead of future elections, and it enabled the opposition a chance to present their evidence.

The process upheld the rule of law, and sent a clear signal to elites and citizens alike that they can expect to be held accountable to the law.

This helped to pave the way for the peaceful transfer of power to the opposition subsequently in January 2017.

The consequences of the soft approach of observers and the international community following last year’s contested elections in Zambia appears to be coming back to haunt them, however.

Their cautious approach and hesitancy to challenge leadership has been taken as a near enough blank check for the elite to step by step deconstruct the rule of law.

While national sovereignty must be respected we must not forget that if the government in question is itself undermining the rule of law and the rights and safety of its own citizens then it has already undermined the grounds for sovereignty in a democratic nation.

Moreover, the more states that are allowed to continue down this path unchallenged, the fewer voices there are left to speak out against such infractions and the more leaders elsewhere that will be motivated to preserve their stay in power through illicit means.DM

Tendai Biti was finance minister of Zimbabwe under the unity government from 2009-2013.

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63 COMMENTS

  1. Yangu! Even Zimbabwe is now laughing at Zambia. LUNGU’s PF00Ls have made himself a laughing-stock of the world. 1st it was Nigeria, then RSA, then Kenya, now Zim.

    Lungu is a visionless Museveni Wanna-be.

    That’s what happens when you surround yourself with advisors like kaizer Lungu, Amos Chanda, Kapyongo (Ex-Katondo Street illegal forex dealer)

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    • Yangu tata lesa eee. even those who know nothing want to lough at Zambia.. Nothing is broken in Zambia insisted this Mans heard is broken.

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    • Brother Tendai Biti has gone sensational. In an age of liberal political order, the rule of law remains a prerequisite. Democracy does not mean lawlessness. I believe President Lungu deserves our support. He is compleat* a steady and progressive hand of a leader on the circuit of new age patient and tolerant statesmen in emerging liberal Africa. The man is ever serene, methodical, consistently consultative, precise and very thorough in his decisions of keeping mother Zambia unified while nurturing our democracy all for the common good. He needs support of Zambians and not curving in to bitter obstructionists.

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    • Here comes another case study: How Zambia Became a Dictatorship Overnight after 51 Years of Democracy…Imwe baiche imwe mulefwala ama funds…Any Master of PhD applicant in Economics and Policy Studies will be funded by Commonwealth to dig into this matter

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    • Tendai Biti may not know a bit about the difference between Zambian and Zimbabwe. Zambians bid their time and give any government a chance to rule. But once Zambians are tired with misrule, they cannot be stopped from changing their leaders the way Zimbabweans fail to change the leadership of a grand grandfather in Mugabe. Zambians, even those in PF, know that should PF under Lungu become autocratic, they will change government. Hichilema had every reason with his UPND to be the next government in 2021. But the manner HH has decided not to acknowledge the current leadership and disrespect them does not sit well with most Zambians. This is Hichilema and UPND’s undoing. Most Zambians are not as tribalistic as we think. HH and his UPND have a lot of non-Tonga supporters. But it is their…

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    • “reports of bribery of legal and electoral officials have become widespread…” Where is this man writing from? Can a honest person in all his right compare Zambia’s state of affairs to that of Zimbabwe? Clearly this man has not been to Zambia or if he’s been, then he’s seeking some attention. Of course we always have some ignoramus Zambians who will always agree to any negativity against Zambia due to their disillusionally misconceived frustrations but this one is a non starter. Mr Tendai, you have uncle Bob to deal with, please don’t drag Zambia into your mess.

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    • Which Zimbabwe? This is a failed Zim politician who graces the same podiums with HALEYA HALENYA (HH)…they were together at the Anglo American sponsored Mining Indaba in SA…so what do you expect from Birds of the Feather?

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    • Tendhai has NO credibility.

      I have spoken to Zimbabweans here and they are comparing him to William Banda who was in PF an flashed to UPND.

      Ignore this man

      Thanks

      BB2014,16

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    • @Pompa Umone: You couldn’t have said it any better!! All these people talking about the Zambian situation are upnd/hh network partners or the tongas locally. Obasanjo, Odinga, Maimane are all connected to organisations that are pushing for regime change but have shady capitalist financiers and backers who have very ulterior motives for this country. All these people backed hh to win the presidency like the Brenthurst Foundation which Obasanjo chairs. TO ME ALL THESE CHARACTERS LACK CREDIBILITY!!! Ti bvirei apa, Mr. Biti!!!

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    • Tendai is stating a fact that all of us can verify. As usual well paid cadres or may be just plain stup!d people are disputing this documented evidence. May be they will only believe it when finally Robert mugabe, Joseph Kabila and José Eduardo dos Santos voices their concerns against Lungu’s stup!d methods of governing.

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  2. but sir didn’t you steal money and bought a house for cash in Llundudno in Cape Town and got fired? You expected to be protected? Uri mbava, shut up.

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  3. I dont know if i am the only one who has noticed that since the publication of the new Press Attaché’s (and it had no one from Lusaka times) mentioned.Lusaka times has been giving balanced news.My opinion

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    • What do you expect Zambians can only see what is on their nose and not beyond[Anyone who will try to oppose will be a threat]

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  4. Tendai Biti is spot on. With illegitimate Dictator Lungu at the Helm Zambia is descending into a Totalitarian Regime just like Zimbabwe. Mugabe is Lungu’s Mentor and is doing in Zambia exactly what Mugabe did in Zimbabwe. If Lungu gets away with rigged Elections in 2016 then the 2021 Elections are as good as rigged and there is no point in Zambians going to the Polls to vote in future. The Petition must be heard so that ECZ and Concourt can be reformed and overhauled. Without Hearing the Petition and reforming the Zambian Electoral Systems Constitutional Democracy in Zambia is as good as dead. Under Sanctions the Zimbabwean Economy is dead and with inevitable Economic and Travel Sanctions on the Illegitimate Lungu coming the Zambian Economy will collapse. Wait and see.

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    • You’re not Mwansa just use your tribesmen name or show some reasoning in your contribution. The problem with us zambians today is that we get frustrated like babies when we don’t get what we need . But we just hating ourselves because life is not like that.

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    • @Mwansa! you are very right, if the petition is not heard then it is pointless to vote in 2021, because these idi0ts will surely repeat what they did last year even on bigger scale! Zambians wake up we cant let this directionless f00l to destroy this country completely. this is not for UPND but for the future of this country.

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    • Everyone is talking about the idiocy in Lungu but no one of the 13 m + are doing anything about it except some chiefs who are standing up to the little dictator that ivs arising.

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    • Any party that sides with foreigners in Zambia will never win the hearts of the majority Zambians and that’s a fact…Zambia will never be like Zimbabwe because its more advanced in terms of democracy…

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    • “…Any party that sides with foreigners in Zambia will never win the hearts of the majority Zambians…”

      Those were the exact tactics mugabe and his supporters used in Zimbabwe….
      Zambia is headed for worse times then Zimbabwe. At least Zimbabwe is minerally a very rich country and mugabe survives because of that.
      As for lungu he only has copper to support him….

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    • @Zakeyo! uli cikopo sana if you cant see sense in what this man has written. Tel me what good Lungu has been doing to this country apart from amassing wealth for himself and his cronies since coming to power. Yes the man is right! Lungu and his tandem of thieves now think they are above the law. to start with, when parliament was resolved Lungu advised his ministers to continue occupying the offices and continue drawing salaries and allowances, when this was overturned by the concourt and ministers told to pay back the stolen money they arrogantly refused and nothing has been done to them. when opposition UPND petitioned the election result, Lungu refused to do what the law requires him to under such circumstances- to hand over power to the chief justice. mwanakatwe and Luo’s seats in…

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    • @ Kaputo Davies,I can’t see any sense in what you are lamenting above…But I can advise you that in court you should provide hard evidence and the onus was for the UPND to do that which they failed to do in 14 days as per our constitution due to their incompetence and lack of evidence…So brotherman take it easy as the world is roving around the sun… and don’t let your bitterness blind you from being objective

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    • @ Zakeyo,

      Just learn a little about how things work in Court.

      It is THE JUDGES that control the process, and what they did was flip flop until the time was up!

      The 14 days was WASTED BY THEM! Not by HH and his team.

      If the judges were serious and not partisan they would have heard the case in 14 days, but NO, they decided to take weekends off, then change their position so many times. You would think that this may have just been incompetence by an unqualified bench, but to anybody that understands what happened it is clear that they were pressured or BRIBED to sabotage the case.

      Is this JUSTICE?????

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  5. PF is proud with the torture they inflict on majority Zambians with repression and poverty – its called good governance, the rest of the world is foolish.

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  6. Lungu has demolished all democratic norms in Zambia.
    Corruption , moral decay and bad governance now rule.
    NO one can rely on the law to protect them against lungu and his thugs.

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  7. Frustrated woman, ZAMBIA is one of the best performing economy in Africa, too many options from fools.

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  8. Focus on your failed attempt to govern with ZANU-PF. Zimbabwe is not your extended province of lawlessness. If you were principled you wouldn’t have agreed to form a government of national unity with Mugabe. Blood was shed for ZANU-PF to assume power you want to get away from the old man by selling out to Britain & USA. If you were genuine in your opposition politics Mugabe would have long stepped down. Childish political trying is not what we need. Bit and all your kind you are shame of opposition politics. hence I support Julius Malema. HH is a sell out people died for Zambia’s independence he wants to bring the imperialists disguised as investors. Makaka

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  9. Leave Zambia to Zambians. Sort out your own mess there and will sort out ours. You have so much to sort out with Uncle Bob.As Zambia we will emerge as victors,no ruling and no opposition but victorious Zambia.No matter what happens, Zambia will never reach the Zim levels of democratic breakdown because no one is allowed to stay forever in power,with or without manipulation.There is always time for everything.

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    • Me too! ===== That makes THREE Zambians!

      This man has laid it out clearly. He is giving us a very timely warning. Don’t follow the Mugabe Zimbabwe path, it will lead the Nation into destruction!

      Only F00LS will not learn from others mistakes, and are doomed to repeat them.

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  10. The sad fact is that Lungu and his cronies are getting richer every day, signing away mineral rights and resources and taking on huge loans. This gap teeth alcoholic has no idea how to govern so people like Phiri and Banda run the country with instructions from Mugabe and Museveni. who stole the elections for him. But Zambians will have to suffer like other Africans before they stop acting like sheep and begin to speak truth to power. The Police Chief thinks he is president now instead of being a servant of the people. Treason for going past a motorcade? A Ticket violation would have been the right thing to do. The security chief should be fired for not clearing the road ahead of the motorcade.

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  11. No brainer. Focus on your failed attempt to govern with ZANU-PF. Zambia is not your extended province of lawlessness. If you were principled you wouldn’t have agreed to form a government of national unity with Mugabe. Blood was shed for ZANU-PF to assume power you want to get away from the old man by selling out to Britain & USA. If you were genuine in your opposition politics Mugabe would have long stepped down. Childish political trying is not what we need. Biti and all your kind you are shame of opposition politics. hence I support Julius Malema. HH is a sell out people died for Zambia’s independence he wants to bring the imperialists disguised as investors.

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  12. RULE OF LAW (as espoused by 18th century Victorian jurist AV Dicey) entails that ALL CITIZENS BE EQUALLY SUBJECTED TO THE LAW – subject and governor alike. It is thus the duty of every citizen to obey the law. In the same breath the doctrine emphasizes that – No ruler is above the law, a point eloquently expressed by Pliny in the first century:
    “non est princeps super leges, sed leges super principem”
    [The prince is not above the laws but the laws above the prince]. IT IS THUS MISCHIEVOUS TO CHAIN THE STATE TO THE TENETS OF THE RULE OF LAW WHILE LEAVING THE CITIZEN AT LARGE. Tell Biti this for me pls.

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  13. Tendai Bitirici……pleasse shut up…we have a working economy in our country….whilst you were FM in ZIM….what did you do to rectify the droping pants of your currency……

    Iwe Bitirici…

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    • If we have a “working economy” why is Mutati going with a begging bowl like a street corner beggar to the IMF for money just to pay off THE INTEREST on the money that the PF Government have ALREADY BORROWED?

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  14. Tendai Biti is fighting for relevance in a foreign land. This is extremely laughable! It only shows that the man does not know the meaning of democracy. It seems, according to him, democracy entails that those in the opposition should break the law with impunity; that the freedoms and rights espoused under a democratic dispensation must be unlimited. I wonder what kind of president he would be , if given a chance to lead Zimbabwe. Am sure the country would be full of chaos.

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    • “….It seems, according to him, democracy entails that those in the opposition should break the law with impunity; …”

      It seems, according to you, democracy entails that those in power should break the law with impunity like Kaizer zulu ?

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  15. This is an interesting development. The former cabinet minister in a former Central African Federation member country taking the lead in a political revival. The views are pro-democratic more than anti-democratic. This is really good news for the entire region. Communication channels must be kept wide open.

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  16. ZAMBIA WAS ONCE A BEACON OF PEACE BUT AS AT NOW NOTHING IS GOING ON WELL FOR ZAMBIA. A FEW PEOPLE LIKE MUSHOTA AND OTHERS LUNGU’S FORTUNATE HENCHMEN WHO ARE GETTING FROM HIS TABLE DROPPINGS ENJOY AND YOU CAN SEE HOW THEIR BELLIES ARE.

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  17. in zimbabwe how many activists have “disappeared” because of speaking against mugabe? how many opposition members have died in “mysterious” circumstances? at least here we treat them with “kid” gloves and let them live so shut and sort out your mess in zimbabwe

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  18. @SEMEKI, the ‘beacon of peace’ tag is a kind of misnomer. We’ve all along sung the ‘beacon of peace’ song without taking tangible steps to folster the peace. The feeble efforts we’ve made have all been a window dressing exercise couched in the ONE ZAMBIA ONE NATION SLOGAN and exploited by politicians to amass votes or perpetuate their stay in power. Sometimes this ‘plastic’ peace has been sustained through the manipulation of our inert fear of God. Evidence of the manipulation is found in the move to declare Zambia a Christian Nation while continuing to lead lives of demagogues. More proof is seen in the habit of couriering the clergy to endless feasts at State House, thus converting Men of God into President’s Praise Singers and leaving the flock without the shepherd. So…

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  19. For give him he is from an opposition party where everything that they do even if they kill some one to them it is right. It is only in Zambia where every Jim and jack can pass comments without being followed or arrested. What this idi.ot is saying can he say it in Zimbabwe? We Zambians are free to say any thing as long as it is within the law this is what we say democracy. So Mr. go to hell we don’t need you.

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  20. Zambians , in life learn to listen to criticism even it harsh to your soul…..
    Take no offence to what Tendai Biti has said. In the world great leaders don’t call others names when they are criticized …..
    As a believer, insults don’t stick and never insult back…..
    tell me if it is written that JESUS insulted? never and why should not I insult….

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  21. Are you sure you can critics this govt and go Scott free? Are PF cadres not free to demonstrate even without notifying ZP but the opposition are not. Is it not only the opposition being falsely accused by ZP like in the Garry Nkombo and other UPND members over murdered PF cadre and other similar cases. Be serious. Zambia is becoming like Zimbabwe in human rights abuses. I agree with Biti that
    “While national sovereignty must be respected we must not forget that if the government in question is itself undermining the rule of law and the rights and safety of its own citizens then it has already undermined the grounds for sovereignty in a democratic nation.”

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  22. Anyone who remembers that clip on TV when Bowman Lusambo and Scorpion Kadobi beat up Richard Kachingwe and bundled him a vehicle and drove away… (in 2012 I think) He is a ‘respectable’ Copperbelt Minister! Wonders shall never end….

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  23. Whether you like it or not, and the truth hurts, Zambia is one a one way journey to Zambabwe ruins. Tendai has seen the route and he knows when he sees a nation embarking on that ruinous journey towards doomsday. Mufuna simufuna, mwanya ba mambala ba Zambia imwe.

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  24. Tendai does not understands the political dynamics that have evolved in Zambia. We can now confirm the mind sets of some Zimbabwean Trade Unionists. The activities of Unions in Zimbabwe and South Africa’s NUMSA are treacherous for being funded by some Western powers.

    The fact is that Tendai has never forgiven the Presidency of the Late Sata who openly exhibited a friendly rapport with President Mugabe in the light of the need to maintain good relations between states that share long borders. If he is a true Trade Union breed and former Finance Minister, why has Tendai ignored the plight of Post Newspaper workers. Yet he supports HH who is linked to Mmembe the Tax evader?

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  25. Those close to the corridors of power in Zimbabwe will tell you what the so called Tendai Biti did in Zimbabwe as former finance minister?? a Job he would not want to take up in Zimbabwe after Mugabe gave him (Tendai) enough rope to hang himself. This chap (Tendai) failed lamentably. Ask any Zimbabwean will tell you. A typical case of African leaders like him. Today is holier than though not even analysing issues properly but just brushing on the surface. It is a sad story of African leaders. One would have thought that he would touch the core issues but as a typical case of failed leaders he takes only one side of the story. He (Tendai) still living in opposition syndrome. He cannot even analyse the Zimbabwean situation, except opposition.

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