Solving the Crisis in Zimbabwe: A Conversation with Tendai Biti

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti argues that Zimbabwe's worsening economic crisis is fundamentally political and driven by a lack of government legitimacy that will require active SADC engagement to resolve.

Zimbabwe’s current inflation rate of 97.4 percent has raised worries that the country is on the precipice of repeating the economic crisis of 2008. However, former Finance Minister Tendai Biti argues that the current crisis is fundamentally political, not economic, and driven by a lack of government legitimacy. “You can never govern without the consent of the people. … People did not give their consent to the political outcome of [the] 30 July 2018 [election].” Hyperinflation, youth unemployment, and poverty—79 percent live below the poverty line—raise the threat of another military coup, he says.

“There is a crisis that is worsening, there is a crisis that may implode. We need a dialogue to create a soft landing for Zimbabwe.” According to Biti, the country is in urgent need of making reforms to the electoral process, eliminating state capture, increasing institutional independence, and building a military that serves the people, not the party.

Regional actors are critical to resolving the crisis, and he called on the Southern African Development Community to have extraordinary summit on Zimbabwe to ensure that there’s genuine dialogue between the government and opposition. With millions Zimbabweans residing in neighboring countries, Biti said that SADC governments need to realize that Zimbabwe’s crisis is not just a foreign policy issue for them, but a domestic issue as well. “There can be no Zimbabwean solution without the involvement of its African neighbors.”

© The Brenthurst Foundation 2019.