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Finance Minister says an MDC-T Govt Would Push for Debt Cancellation

Finance Minister Tendai Biti

Finance Minister Tendai Biti

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says a government led by his MDC party would push for the cancellation of the country’s foreign debt. Assuming his party wins upcoming elections, Mr. Biti said a post-Mugabe era might bring support for debt cancellation, helping government create jobs and lift people out of poverty.

Mr. Biti, the MDC-T secretary general, says the country’s foreign debt has ballooned to $10.7 billion, a situation he says cannot be allowed to continue. He says his MDC formation will ask global lending institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to write off the debt.

Biti told the closing rally of his party’s national policy conference at the weekend that Zimbabwe can only experience an economic boom if the country's debt is cancelled. He said his party would lead efforts to revive the country’s industrial capacity.

He says government coffers are empty, adding there’s no way Harare can repay what it owes to international financiers. Biti has in the past complained that most revenue generated from diamond sales is not being channeled to the national fiscus. He said an MDC government would maintain the use of the US currency until 2018.

Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai told supporters at a rally in Highfield, Harare, on Sunday that Zimbabwe requires at least $14.5 billion to revive its ailing economy.

But, he said, this depended on the rule of law and an end to self-enrichment by "the elite class." He accused partners in Zanu-PF for using the indigenization program to enrich themselves, saying his party would reverse the empowerment process.

Biti said his party would rename the security forces Zimbabwe Security Services, promising the country would create a leaner army to reflect the peaceful time being experienced in the region. He said the current military is too expensive to maintain.

Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya, Director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, says the proposed re-branding of the security sector is a welcome move.

The Tsvangirai MDC formation has repeatedly said security chiefs should not meddle in national politics. Senior military officers have lately criticized such statements from Mr. Tsvangirai, accusing him of being a “sell-out” trying to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle.

The party seems to have successfully lobbied the Southern African Development Community (SADC), guarantors of the Global Political Agreement that gave birth to the unity government, to push President Robert Mugabe to implement a number of reforms before elections are called this year. These include security sector and media reforms.

But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa says senior military officers are free to participate in national politics, especially since they championed the 1970s struggle for independence to rid the country of colonial rule.