Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti has warned that SA "must literally and metaphorically not cross the Limpopo".

"You do not want it," said Biti, speaking in Johannesburg at an event organised by The Daily Maverick and Nandos, two days after former president Robert Mugabe resigned following a "soft coup" by the military. He was referring to Mugabe’s 37 years of authoritarian rule.

Biti, a prominent lawyer and a member of the opposition, was finance minister during the short-lived government of national unity. He warned that the presence of the military on the streets of Harare proved that Zimbabwe is still a securocratic state.

"What happened last week [to Mugabe] was a recall of someone who was no longer acting for the securocratic state," Biti said.

He said South Africans should be proud of their Constitution, while also praising the Constitutional Court judgment of the UDM v Speaker of Parliament, in which the court found that the speaker does, indeed, have the discretion to order that a motion of no confidence against the president take place by secret ballot.

"But you have dangers, and I am glad you can see that," he ventured, adding that, among other things, the capture of the country must be stopped.

Biti said the struggle in Zimbabwe was very painful as citizens had suffered. Zimbabwe currently has 95% unemployment, Biti said, while 82% of the country lives in extreme poverty.

With regards to Zimbabweans celebrating Mugabe’s departure he said: "Some people think we are celebrating a new era. We are not celebrating a new era. We are celebrating the fact that president Mugabe is gone."

He said South Africans don’t know what it’s like to live under a dictator. "He gets into your skin. He gets into your underwear."

For now, however, Biti said Zimbabweans are free from their dictator. "On Tuesday, we breathed. Tomorrow is another day. But today, we are just happy that president Mugabe’s beautiful wife and his beautiful, well-behaved children are out of our lives."

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