Biti on the defensive after being slammed for ‘empty coffers’ statement

Tendai Biti on the defensive

By Alex Bell
31 January 2013

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has been put on the defensive in the wake of stating that the government’s coffers were running on empty, a statement that has seen him being slammed from different quarters.

Biti told journalists on Tuesday that, after paying civil servants salaries last week, only US$217 remained in the government’s public account. He said this was the reason why he was looking to international donors for funding ahead of a referendum and an election.

“The government finances are in a paralysis state at the present moment. We
are failing to meet our targets,” Biti said.

The revelation of the desperate state of Zimbabwe’s economy was reported across the world. But a day later, Biti changed his tune and accused journalists of deliberately taking his comments “out of context.”

He told the UK’s BBC that he made the comments in order to emphasise that the government was unable to finance elections, not that it was insolvent. Biti said his statement was ‘metaphorical’.

“You journalists are mischievous and malicious – the point I was making was that the Zimbabwean government doesn’t have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum,” he said.

He added: “To dramatise the point, I simply made a passing reference, metaphorically, that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with US$217… but even the following day we had US$30 million in our account.”

Biti’s turn-around is believed to be a result of castigation from both his colleagues in government and others. The state media, in particular, immediately used the opportunity to slam Biti for trying to “create a false state of insecurity.” The state broadcaster, ZBC, said this was “a reflection of his party’s fear of elections.”

The ZBC quoted political analysts as saying that Biti’s comments were a “clear testimony of his party’s failure to deliver on its promise to secure financial aid from their western masters.”

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri said that the situation has exposed the hypocrisy in government, which has repeatedly said it has no money for elections. He said while some Zimbabweans might “feel offended” that their Finance Minister has announced how desperate things have become, “this is no different to begging for international support to civil servants salaries.”

Mashiri said that Biti’s comments regarding the media’s role in the situation are concerning, because it comes so soon after the Minister reportedly threatened to sue the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper. Biti and Chamisa have both reportedly threatened the paper with litigation over a news story it published, and have been criticised by media groups for this behaviour.

“Biti has lost the plot in engagement in attacks on the media. He is playing a dangerous game by turning the cannons on the media and it is the worst thing he can do,” Mashiri said.

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5 Responsesto “Biti on the defensive after being slammed for ‘empty coffers’ statement”

  1. super mondo says:

    dont worry tendai after the new constitution it will get worse.

    • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

      How would you know Mr Buffoon? Perhaps it is time you can show your talents by explaining why it will get worse after the enactment of a new constitution. Only a paragraph for you will do.

  2. bluefish says:

    No money left with all the diamonds you guys have ??? No sympathy from my quarters and don’t cry out for donations – Mugs will help you.

    • Chimbwidos Warvets says:

      My friend, we have the capacity to go it alone without donations from any quarter. We have done it for years and have survived to this day. We do not really care, mate. Which diamonds that you know? It seems to me its pure speculation on your part?

  3. Chimbwidos Warvets says:

    Whatever the financial position of this government, no serious cabinet minister can reveal such details to the outside world. These are guarded secrets which you do not even hear from the United States and most of the European Union countries that are in serious debt crisis. We all know they are in enormous economic difficulties but we never get to know the statistical details. But not with our Biti, who does not know how to spruce his own waning political fortunes by telling the world how he sleeps with his wife in bed. No rational and logical man can tell the entire world how good or bad his wife is in bed except Biti our finance minister.
    Biti is simply a lawyer who does not know what he can tell members of the public and that which he should keep close to his chest. These are people who were hand picked to run government without any experience whatsoever of the operations and functions of government. The outcome is there for all to see.
    I do not think he is suitable to hold that ministerial position and neither can he go back to his law. He has the potential for being a poor legal practitioner who can sent his clients to prison for crimes they never committed. Perhaps it is time he goes back to his village to look after his goats and cattle in Tsholotho or is it Gwanda?

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