MDC: Zimbabwe's Hope?

Published on 12th September 2011

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai            Photo courtesy
Twelve years ago, we came together from various social stations led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to form this great party whose 12th birthday we celebrate. We celebrate the people's triumph, the resilience of people power and the chastity of our collective mission to fight for democracy, freedom and good governance in Zimbabwe.

We mark another milestone and look back with an odd mixture of pride and frustration at the long journey we have travelled over the past dozen years.

For 12 years, you survived violence and intimidation! For 12 years, you braved the brutality of an entrenched dictatorship and kept your faith in democracy and non-violence! For 12 years, you survived a split and retained your faith and trust in your leadership! For 12 years, you braved brutal killings, arrests and torture and kept your eyes focused on the object of your mission! For 12 years, you confounded your critics and gave Zimbabwe a Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and the majority of MPs and councilors in the country without firing a single bullet! In 12 years, you built a movement that has morphed into one of the biggest political movements in Zimbabwe, in SADC and in the whole of Africa!

Exactly three years ago, on 15 September 2008, this great movement whose 12th birthday we celebrate signed the Global Political Agreement (GPA) with two other parties we had defeated in an election which led to the eventual formation of the inclusive government in February 2009. We accepted this painful compromise because we were guided by the righteous and noble objective of stabilizing the economy and rescuing the people from the precipice of poverty, uncertainty, starvation and indignity wrought by three decades of corruption and misgovernance.

Today, we celebrate our 12th anniversary as State actors, well aware of the value we have brought into government and the role we have played in stopping the bleeding and making sure that Zimbabweans have every reason to hope again. We are not there yet and I have no doubt about the huge task that lies ahead in returning the country to normalcy and in laying the foundation for a great future for our children.
 
Over the past two-and-half years, we in the MDC have shown that it is possible to turn over a new leaf, to have some semblance of functionality in government and to bring Zimbabwe back to its years of glory. Yes, we are proud of our record.

The MDC has added value to this government. We have pulled this nation from the brink of collapse to a new potential of hope. We have averted an inevitable plunge into the abyss to set the country back on the rails; on a new path towards stability, development and growth. We are the people's conscience in this government and we have alleviated the excesses of entitlement and corruption and kept in check a stubborn political partner who has shunned the new culture of inclusivity.

The MDC has shown what a determined people can do, even in the face of open provocation, violence and intransigence. We have weathered and survived dark and sinister plots to undermine the collective government work programme and to waylay the people's hopes and aspirations. We have remained resolute, in the full knowledge that we are the true people's representatives because of the clear mandate given to us in a legitimate election on 29 March 2008.

As I take stock of the past few years, especially since the formation of the inclusive government, I am humbled by some notable achievements driven by our members in government but at the same time aware of the great strides we would have made were it not for the unstable and volatile nature of this coalition government.

We have brought down inflation to levels that are no longer a cause for national embarrassment. At least there is food on the shelves, our schools have opened and hospitals have begun functioning again. We are equally proud of the one-stop shop that will enable prospective investors to have their papers processed under one roof in less than 48 hours so that we create jobs and expand our economy.

Last year, with the support of the United Nations and other donors, I commissioned 13 million textbooks to all the 5 575 primary schools in the country. This was the largest single investment in the education sector since independence and it ensured that every primary school child will have access to textbooks. I have commissioned new medical equipment at several hospitals across the country and Zimbabweans can be guaranteed of at least some decent service in our health institutions. I am aware that more needs to be done to realize our full potential in bringing hospitals and schools to their former glory and in ensuring there is noise in our silent factories once again.

It is easy for us to forget that only three years ago, this country was on its knees and we were competing for wild fruits with animals in our forests as hunger and starvation exposed the incompetence and ineptitude of the previous government to respond to national challenges. But we are proud that we have made our positive contribution and this country has begun a slow but sure march from a dark past of uncertainty to a future full of hope and progress. We have been frustrated by the intransigence of our partners and their reluctance to obey their signatures. We are five days away from the third anniversary of the signing of the GPA and yet we are still talking about outstanding issues.

We must be ashamed as political parties that even the things we have agreed on have become outstanding issues because of non-implementation. Partisan policing, a biased justice system and violence remain rooted in our culture to the extent that rogue elements can beat up elected MPs in the Parliament chambers and escape unpunished.

As we trudge from the discredited non-event of June 2008 towards yet another election, the onus falls on all of us, SADC, Africa and the broader international community to stand by the people of Zimbabwe to ensure that their security, their freedoms and their vote is protected.

I am glad that SADC and the facilitator, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, have exerted their energies to ensuring that the parties in Zimbabwe come up with a roadmap to a free and fair election.

In the modern world of regional groupings and interconnected economies, it is necessary for peace to prevail even in the homes of our neighbours.  That is why we are heartened by the unstinting effort of our colleagues in SADC in helping us craft a roadmap that will ensure a credible election, an undisputed result and a legitimate government.

A time-bound roadmap, with clear milestones and signposts to ensure the people of Zimbabwe cast their votes in peace, with neither fear nor coercion. A roadmap that will ensure that the outcome of that election is respected and that the people's will is protected.

 I urge everyone in SADC, in Africa and the broader international community to be global citizens; to be responsible citizens of the world who will fight for freedom and democracy anywhere in the world, including Zimbabwe.

I call upon everyone to support the people of Zimbabwe as they navigate through this delicate transition into a new country, with new values and a new ethos. In 2008, the people spoke in an election that they wanted a new culture and a new beginning.

But their vote did not count. Those who lost the election were smuggled into an inclusive government that is now dysfunctional due to their intransigence and lack of a common vision.

The challenge before us is to make sure that this does not happen again. The challenge for us and the rest of the world is to vaccinate against yet another stolen election in Zimbabwe and to ensure the implementation of a roadmap to a free and fair election.

A roadmap characterized by security sector realignment, a credible and neutral secretariat of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a new voters' roll, extensive  electoral and media reforms and a new Constitution, coupled with foolproof mechanisms to ensure security of the person and security of the vote.

So the date for our next election is going to be defined by a process and not by the whims of any individual who feels they can dream a date and impose it on the people.  Only after the full roadmap has been agreed and concluded to our satisfaction will President Mugabe and I agree on the date for the next polls.

And I want to make it clear today that the MDC is ready for an election anytime and anywhere. Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC are ready for an election tomorrow, as long as all the benchmarks have been met to ensure the security of the people's vote. 

So I am ready for elections!  But we have agreed, with the backing of SADC, that we will abide by a process, characterized by clear benchmarks so that we do not repeat the ridiculous charade of 2008 when one presidential candidate contested an election against himself and proudly declared himself a winner. So I want to send a message today that we won the last election and we are ready for you! We will defeat you-again!

Only a legitimately elected government can develop and implement a common vision and programmes that will deal with the massive unemployment and poverty that we currently face. The major lesson we have learnt is that there are serious limitations to what a coalition government can do because there is no shared vision and shared values.

The world must stand by us as we try to agree and implement a roadmap to a free and fair poll.  I call for global support to the people of Zimbabwe as we walk through this difficult transition; as we wage this protracted struggle to bring back our dignity and to become part of the global family of nations once again.

I am certain that we will succeed in our struggle for a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning. A new Zimbabwe for which we have sweated, toiled and even lost some of our comrades not only in the last 12 years, but the since the liberation struggle. A new Zimbabwe where political differences are not an excuse for violence and unnecessary conflict; where state institutions promote peace and unity - not war and violence against defenseless people.  

My concerns about the Security Services are well-known but often misrepresented.  When I talk of the need for change I mean that the security sector must be politically neutral - which is, of course, exactly what is provided for in Article 13 of the GPA. The present position is that a few security chiefs see themselves as an extension of ZANU-PF. The Zimbabwe Security Services are the best trained in Africa. We all know from our contacts with members of the security services that they join the military or the police so that they can protect the people of Zimbabwe, not to threaten and abuse them. 

There are therefore a few individuals bent on tarnishing the image of our professional security services. My pledge to the Security Services is that under an MDC Government they would be properly paid, properly equipped and properly respected.  They would be trained to the highest standards and promoted entirely on merit.

The challenge for us as the new crop of African leaders is to kill the culture of violence against defenceless citizens so that governments concentrate on pressing national issues such as eradicating poverty, creating jobs, growing the economy and delivering quality and affordable services to the people.

The future we envision as the MDC is a future where women are stakeholders.  A cursory look at those people who have cast a shadow over Africa and brutalised their people, from Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko to Gaddafi and Mubarak; the architects of racism in South Africa and Rhodesia; the instigators of genocide in Rwanda and Gukurahundi; they all had one thing in common. They were all MEN. 

We must do more to promote the interests of women and the girl child. We need more women to enter politics and to take up positions of influence. One in three households is headed by a woman and the appalling figures of women dying in childbirth as well as the statistics of violence against women shame our nation.

For business, we promise a conducive environment with policy consistency and predictability to enable companies to thrive so that they improve our economy and create jobs for ourselves and our children.

For the youth, this is your country. I pledge to bring the noise back in our factories not only to create employment for young people, but to create a sound base to nurture our own business tycoons. We are ready to give you your space so that you are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but even the leaders of today. The youth, women and the business community can only invest in the future MDC government because of the reckless behaviour of some of our colleagues in the current coalition government. 

Indigenous Zimbabweans should be able to become investors in their own country, but this should not be an excuse for well-connected individuals to loot and frighten investors for their own selfish ends in the name of the ordinary people. All that prevents major, reputable investment in Zimbabwe is a complete lack of respect for the rule of law and what some Zimbabweans have called the outrageous and frankly illegal behaviour of the Minister charged with the responsibility for Indigenisation.   They are now regarding him as the Minister for Youth, Unemployment and Economic Destruction.

An MDC Government would put great effort into pro-investment policies that balance the need to empower the ordinary man and woman and the interests of the investor so that we are able to create jobs and widen our tax base.

For the farmers, we envisage a land audit to establish who owns what in order to eradicate multiple farm owners. We believe in giving title deeds to our farmers to enable them to access loans so that they concentrate on providing adequate food in the country and to ensure that we regain our status as the bread basket of Africa.

All of us must be serious about HIV and Aids, which has wrought havoc in our country and the sub-region. Only a robust health delivery system biased towards prevention will help stem the scourge if we are to guarantee a healthy nation which is the cornerstone of any economy. And an MDC government will ensure that those living with HIV/Aids have access to medicines and adequate care.

As the future government, we are preparing our economic blueprint which speaks to our efforts towards achieving a $100 billion dollar economy by 2030 so that we create jobs and set the foundation for a sound future for the people of Zimbabwe.

I may be standing before you as leader of Zimbabwe's largest political party.  But the struggle facing the country goes beyond the person of Morgan Tsvangirai or the party I lead.  It has always been an ordinary people's struggle; a collective struggle of a determined people across the political divide fighting for a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning. A struggle by ordinary people in the villages, in the urban townships, in the mines and in the Diaspora to bring back their dignity and to be allowed to express themselves in a free and fair election.

The new Zimbabwe we have all struggled for in the past 12 years is possible in our lifetime. I assure you that we are in the last mile. The signs are there for all to see that this society is pregnant with a new one.

This culture of State-sanctioned violence in this country has not taken us anywhere as a people. Let's finish it! This culture of unpredictability and policy inconsistency has cost us foreign direct investment and business opportunities. Let's finish it! Patronage, corruption and avarice have been the political game of the previous government. Let's finish it! Poor and dilapidated infrastructure, a collapsed transport system and a poor road network are the hallmark of this country. Let's finish it! Politicising food aid, jobs for the boys and girls, intimidation, grabbing people's property and multiple farm ownership had become part of government culture. Let's finish it! And on 29 March we collectively began our journey of ensuring that ZANU PF becomes history. Let's finish it!

Let us keep our hope and remain united in our political diversity as we await to cast our vote for the MDC, the only party through which we can regain our collective dignity once again.

By Morgan Tsvangirai
President, Movement for Democratic Change


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