Tendai Biti

Durban – Constitutional lawyer and Zimbabwean opposition MP Tendai Biti, on Tuesday night told a Durban audience that South Africa had refined state capture, after Zimbabwe invented it.

The former Zimbabwean finance minister was speaking at the Hilton Hotel during the launch of the book ‘Democracy Works – Rewiring Politics to Africa’s Advantage’.

The book is co-authored by Biti, Brenthurst Foundation director Greg Mills, former president and CEO of the Washington DC-based Newseum Jeffrey Herbst, and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Also at the launch was former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – who wrote the forward.

“I come from a country called Zimbabwe, in respect of which for 39 years, power has been monopolised by a political party called Zanu-PF, on which decision making has been based on the desire and agenda for power retention and the desire and agenda for personal aggrandisement.. That which you call state capture, we invented it in Zimbabwe, you just refined it,” said Biti, to laughter from the crowd. 

According to IOL.co.za,  Biti said that while writing the book, the connection between sustainability, development and democracy was made clear. “Here in the southern African region, the superiority of that narrative should be so self-evident.”

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He added that almost 4 decades after independence, 75% of Zimbabweans still lived below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. “In fact, the majority are living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than 35 US cents a day, which is equivalent to R5.” 

“Some of you don’t know what is north of the Limpopo and some of us live north of the Limpopo. Democracy is key, the capacity to choose is key.”

Still on democracy, Biti said that what Zimbabweans craved for was more than an election day every 5 years.

“Democracy must be substantive, it must be more than mere mascara and lipstick. That is why the issue of making a democracy with economic development is key. The issue of ensuring that that democracy actually uplifts the ordinary citizen from poverty is key.
 
“Democracy must be guaranteed and safeguarded by a number of things, the first one is a good constitution. Here in South Africa, you have a decent constitution, one which recognises the citizen,” he said.
Additional reporting by African News Agency