Ministers Biti, Shamu, And Chamisa Squared Off This Evening

In this file photo, Tendai Biti is seen with Nelson Chamisa soon after the now Finance Minister of Zimbabwe had treason charges against him dropped to allow the Inclusive Government to be formed. Tonight, the two came face to face with a ZANU PF minister at a function I attended and the coldness of the air was palpable.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 30 October 2009

It has just gone pat 8p.m. as I write this and I have just come back from a very interesting function hosted by Trevor Ncube, publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent and Mail Guardian.

When I arrived at the function to commissioning of the new Zimind Publishers printing press in Graniteside this evening, Nelson Chamisa and Finance Minister Tendai Biti were already there. (Unfortunately, I was wearing my Spokesperson hat, so I had left my camera behind. I wished I had not...)

The function proceeded well with guests standing about and chatting before the speeches started. Trevor Ncube was about half way through his speech when a lady walked up to the podium and whispered something to him.

He immediately announced that we had been joined by the ZANU PF Minister of Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu. I turned around and there, right behind me stood the former Charles Ndlovu. Trevor was quite welcoming and declared himself happy to have been graced by the Minister's presence.

But the tension levels immediately rose in the tent. Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa, who were standing just in front of me, moved off and to the right.

Only then did it dawn on me what had just happened, especially after Trevor asked everybody to come inside the tent erected by the entrance to the building, saying, "Even those who are gathering intelligence, please come closer," to laughter from the crowd.

Clearly, Shamu had no intention of coming to the event. He arrived more than hour after the event had started.

So, clearly, word had been sent back to him that Nelson Chamisa was present at the event. The two ministers are still fighting a turf war, just as Chamisa is also fighting another turf war with Nicholas Goche, the Minister of Transport and Communications and a ZANU PF member.

Shamu thought that Chamisa was there in an official capacity and was trying to muscle in on his territory, Media and Information, which is charge of newspapers in Zimbabwe, so he jumped into his car and came over to the event.

The two MDC ministers did not speak to the ZANU PF minister throughout the event and when Shamu walked over to engage Trevor Ncube and Simba Makoni in conversation, Biti and Chamisa walked off with their security details.

I intended asking Chamisa about this but just as we started talking and he was joking that Makoni "has been deployed by the MDC-T and we want him back now.....", Tendai Biti arrived and said to him "Asihambe..." - Let's go...

What I found particularly touching was how Biti was very protective of Chamisa throughout the evening. It was like two brothers walking through a predator-infested forest, staying close together with their security, even when they engaged other people in conversation!

In any case, the object of the evening was a very impressive new printing machine bought by Trevor to make himself truly independent in the run-up to the publishing of his daily paper, Newsday.

He told the gathering that gone will be the days we see now, when daily papers hit the streets at midday instead of midnight of by 5a.m.

Tendai Biti gave the keynote address and specifically addressed the current "crisis" in Zimbabwe's coalition government. He said that the country should not worry because these were problems that were normal in any marriage.

"If, in a marriage, you go for six months without arguing, then that is a fake marriage," he said.

His explanation was that this crisis was simply "landmines, metaphorically speaking" that had to be de-mined in peacetime and that the Inclusive Government was not in any danger at all of collapsing.

Mind you, he was saying this soon after he had just seen the SADC delegation that called on Morgan Tsvangirai today, which delegation made it clear that it has no solutions to the crisis and that Tsvangirai will have to slug it out with Mugabe until they reach an understanding.

As he has said previously, Biti told us, "I was one person who cried on 30 January when our (MDC-T) National Council made the resolution that we must go into government. But I am here to tell you today that the government is no danger at all. We will press ahead."

A surprising revelation from him today was that the Zimbabwe Investment Centre is currently processing half a billion (US$500 million) worth of investments and that most of that is coming from South African companies and investors. He made the interesting observation that South African capital seems to have more faith in Zimbabwe than Zimbabwean capital itself.

Anyway, it was a good evening. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and I look forward to seeing the new daily on our streets (Trevor says they are still working towards launching in November, but I have my doubts about that.)

Meantime, as you hear reports that SADC is going to convene an extraordinary summit to resolve the crisis, do not take them seriously at all. The announcement was made by Morgan Tsvangirai, who says he "has been told" that this is what will happen. By whom? He does not say.

This is the same man who told us after the September SADC Summit in the DRC that SADC was going to convene an Extraordinary Summit "within two weeks" to deal with outstanding issues in the Inclusive Government.

That never happened.

You can rest assured that there will be no Extraordinary Summit. None at all.

Just today, in South Africa, Joseph Kabila, the current chairman of SADC, said that there was no alternative to Mugabe and Tsvangirai solving their problems within government and within the Global Political Agreement.

There is no Summit coming and anyone who wants to bet with me can do so, my email is at the top of this page.


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