State of the nation address by MDC-T leader
By Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, MDC Zimbabwe leader
*Economic crisis grips Zimbabwe
*Vote of no confidence on ZanuPF
*Zimbabwe facing humanitarian as hunger looms
*MDC supporters still imprisoned for more than two years without trial
*International isolation has driven Zimbabwe to dark ages
*MDC party is united behind Tsvangirai
*Urgent need for political reform to level the playing field
*Tsvangirai just falls short of calling for fresh national elections
Six months after the July 31 event, the national economy is bleeding as Zimbabweans come to terms with the reality of yet another stolen election. Our erstwhile colleagues in government have violated the national faith and trust in the human spirit. Even after we took a bold decision to rescue the people from the brink in 2008, they repaid us by subverting the will of the people and heading for the precipice with the whole nation’s fate on their back.
The true results of that election are the difficulties we face today, not the fudged figures announced in August 2013.
The current parlous state of the economy is the true result of that stolen election and nobody in government appears to care a hoot about the direction the country is taking and the hardships ordinary Zimbabweans are experiencing every day. In fact, the strategy is to impoverish the people so that there is no accountability for the corruption that has taken place.
The year 2014 is likely to be a tough year as evidenced by the economic paralysis. What is saddening is that even in this crisis of monumental proportions, some have sought to prioritize personal circumstances and family issues. Given the problems we are facing as a nation, the personal circumstances of individuals, whatever their status in society, pale into insignificance compared with the hardships facing Zimbabweans in the villages, on the farms, on the mines and in the urban areas.
Personal circumstances cannot overshadow the national crisis and the daily tribulations of ordinary Zimbabweans in Tsholotsho, Muzarabani, Binga and Chipinge. The national picture is saddening. Our industry is quiet and there is no production taking place there, the recently announced budget proved to be a major non-event as there is not even a pledge to fund the productive sector while the Zanu PF government is struggling even to raise civil servants’ salaries with no single cent left to do anything else.
Despite the pledge to award our hard-working civil servants PDL-aligned salaries, we saw paltry increments far much less than the PDL being announced early this week. In a normal society, given the current state of the economy and the hardships facing the people, one would have expected government to be in a panic mode and starting to take measures to reassure a restive nation that they are in control. But Cabinet is yet to meet this year, even in the middle of this huge crisis. The President even has the luxury to go on leave. At some other occasion, this would have been laughable, were it not so tragic.
State of the economy
The country’s productive sector is virtually dead and there has been zero financial commitment to revive economic production. It is difficult to conceive how government could project a growth rate of 6.1 percent given the comatose state of local industry and the productive sector. Statistics show that some 300 companies have closed since the gigantic flawed election of July 31, 149 companies have applied for liquidation while reports indicate that some 300 people are being retrenched every week. And all this is happening against Zanu PF’s election promises of creating over two million jobs in the next five years.
The liquidity crunch has meant that there is no difference between a millionaire and one with a mere $100 in their bank account because both cannot access their money.
The budget belatedly presented in December was a huge fallacy, with no meaningful resources committed to fund it. Last week, I made observations to MDC MPs that we have three different sets of documents prepared by the same party in government but with different priorities. The documents are simply not speaking to each other.
ZimAsset, the Zanu PF election manifesto and the budget all have different priorities but are supposed to be implemented by the same party in government. The budget has wrong assumptions and celebrates the informal sector to which this clueless government has committed $100 million at the expense of the formal sector. The economy has been informalized and we do not dispute that the majority of the people are in the informal sector, but no economy in the world has been driven or spearheaded by the informal sector.
Where Zimbabweans expected leadership and boldness from government, the budget was testimony to the mediocrity and bankruptcy of ideas in Zanu PF.
There is a serious humanitarian crisis in the country, with hunger affecting all the provinces. The disturbing aspect is the partisan distribution of food where other Zimbabweans are being denied food aid and farming inputs because of their political affiliation. I have travelled in the provinces, meeting ordinary Zimbabweans who have expressed concern over the biased distribution of food aid by government.
Proposals on the way forward
In light of the problems facing the nation, we hereby propose the following eight steps to legitimacy, beginning with political dialogue that must discuss and agree on political, economic and social reforms that will ensure a free and fair election that should usher in a legitimate government that will then deal with the crisis we face.
The political solution
National Dialogue/ Political settlement
It is important to appreciate that the underlying cause of our current predicament is the disputed election. The solution is unconditional dialogue. But that dialogue must be cognizant of the inherent mistrust created by Zanu PF in the days of the inclusive government.
Of concern is, even if an agreement is arrived at, who is going to guarantee its implementation? But there is no doubt that our situation demands sincere dialogue by a broad section of stakeholders, from political parties to the church, labour, industry, students and civic society, among others. Some of us have been involved in dialogue before in order to save this country and we appreciate the importance of dialogue.
While the MDC and I have done our national duty of forming a coalition government to save the people and got betrayed in the process, it is my sincere belief that the political dialogue will assist in developing national consensus on how to move the country forward.
Faced with a similar crisis in 2008, we engaged in dialogue and we carved out a home-grown solution to the problems bedeviling our country. There is no substitute for dialogue. As MDC, we believe that meeting of stakeholders from different backgrounds would be a positive start.
There is need to institute comprehensive institutional reforms that will enable free, fair and credible polls to take place in the country. In the MDC’s widely-circulated report of how the 2013 election was rigged, we note that the election was heavily militarized. We also noted the abuse of traditional leaders and the role played by the security forces to further the interests of Zanu PF in violation of the new Constitution which explicitly urges the security services sector not to further or prejudice the interests of any political party.
Most importantly, we need to ensure that ZEC is truly independent to enable it to execute its Constitutional mandate. Zimbabweans expect and will demand the institutional transformation of all state organs in line with the dictates of the new people’s charter as a prerequisite for the return to legitimacy and confidence.
All laws must be aligned to the new Constitution. It is our wish as Zimbabweans for the State and all its institutions to respect and abide by the Constitution as a major starting point for our journey to legitimacy.
Short-term economic recovery measures
On the economy, the country needs to mobilize resources to fund the productive sector in order to put back the economy on the rails. It is our hope that we must have a government that inspires confidence nationally and internationally to encourage Foreign Direct Investment and Overseas Development Assistance.
We need as a country to review our economic policies so as to attract investment, empower the people through job creation and kick-starting production to ensure economic growth. To improve and engender growth in this economy, we have to review some of our policies such as indigenization in its current form which drive away investors and Overseas Development Assistance, which this economy desperately need.
We all want Zimbabweans empowered, not through cutting our nose to spite our face, but by ensuring that we encourage investment so that we improve the economy, create jobs, widen our tax base and empower the people of Zimbabwe in the process. We need to call for more transparency on our precious minerals, particularly diamonds, so that revenues arising there-from play a part in growing our economy and improving the lives of the people of Zimbabwe.
We note that the biggest threat to this economy is corruption as recently exposed in the nauseating benefits and perks of senior staff at quasi-State institutions such as the ZBC and the PSMAS. Unchecked corruption has been the result of the incapacitation of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
In the case of the PSMAS, over a million people will go without health care as a result of graft and unmitigated corruption. As long as we don’t give the Anti-Corruption Commission teeth to enable it to execute its constitutional mandate, corruption, especially by the powerful and politically-connected, will remain a cancer to this economy.
The health sector, which had virtually collapsed in 2008, had been greatly revived under the stewardship of the MDC in the inclusive government. The Health Transition Fund had gone a long way in giving some modicum of decency to our hospitals, which had virtually shut down in 2008. In the recent budget, public hospitals were awarded $23, 8 million against debts of $36,4 million accrued in 2013, which means they have been given nothing as they still have an outstanding debt of $12,6 million if they are to use the whole of this year’s allocation to pay service providers they owe for services rendered.
This is simply tragic. There is need to prioritize health care and it is important in this regard to ensure that our partners with whom we had established the Health Transition Fund be brought back to assist in this crucial sector.
The Education Transition Fund, through which we distributed over 13 million textbooks for our schools during our era in the inclusive government, is now a thing of the past. We heard two weeks ago that one million students will not go to school this term because the Government has failed to provide enough financial support under the Basic Education Assistance Model (BEAM).
The MDC’s alternative Cabinet last week spent five grueling hours discussing this and other challenges facing the nation. The MDC has simply taken a position that education is a basic right as now enshrined in our Constitution. Every one of all those million souls has a right to be in school. Their basic right to education is now enshrined in the new Constitution, our supreme law of the land for which, as a nation we have expended blood, sweat and tears in order to achieve.
This government has no option but to abide by the Constitution and ensure all those children are in school as a matter of urgency. We ought to ensure that the Education Transition Fund is restored to enable our students to go to equipped schools and colleges. We have to restore BEAM because we cannot afford as a nation to have one million students out of school. To allow such a large number of students to be out of school would be both criminal and a dastardly act of academic genocide.
A severe energy crisis has gripped this country; it’s debilitating effect affecting various sectors of the economy from households to companies. At the core of our economic problems is the acute shortage of power but this government appears to be out of its depth to complete the projects we had started during the inclusive government to increase local power generation. We need a robust roadmap to a solution on the power crisis which has affected all sectors of the economy. Water and Sanitation
There is a dire water situation in all the major cities and we face a high risk to the dangers of cholera, typhoid and other communicable diseases. The populist Zanu PF decision to cancel all debts to the tune of millions of dollars in all local authorities means that all the councils, the majority of them controlled by the MDC, are broke. This has encouraged defaulters and acted as a dis-incentive to those who were paying their rates.
I had a meeting last Friday with all mayors and council chairpersons elected on the MDC ticket and I heard horrendous stories of how they are struggling to offer basic services. The populist decision to cancel debts has returned to haunt local authorities as almost all of them cannot afford even to pay salaries, let alone to fund service delivery.
One council is now collecting about $900 000 in revenue every month against a salary bill of $1,7 million, meaning there is nothing with which to fund service delivery. We are cruising on the inner lane to the disaster of 2008 because of these populist policies which are now starving our local authorities of the much-needed money so that they are able to offer basic services.
We must begin to put in place measures for the commencement of massive infrastructure rehabilitation of key but dilapidated infrastructure as roads, and railways, among others.
The regional bloc, SADC, the AU and some members of the broader international community may have prematurely endorsed the July 31st election and its outcome, but it has since dawned on some of them that this election was stolen and we encourage them to support the national call for fresh, free and fair elections underpinned by comprehensive reforms.
The AU and SADC observer mission reports noted serious irregularities that did not inform their conclusions. The reports noted serious breaches that would be unacceptable in other SADC and AU countries.
This country cannot afford to be isolated. We have to engage everyone, the West, the East and everyone else as this isolation is not in the best interests of Zimbabwe. There is need for a sustained programme of global engagement but what must start is the cleaning of our own house first. We have to respect human rights and shun those human rights abuses that brought restrictive measures on some individuals in the country.
As we speak, Last Maengahama and two others have been detained at Chikurubi for almost two years without trial while one of our activists died in detention before her trial. An immediate cessation of abuse of human rights and the putting of our own house in order will be the basis for global engagement if Zimbabwe is to rejoin the family of nations once again.
National Social Cohesion
As a leader denied victory in the last election, it is my duty to restate that that there are serious crises of legitimacy and leadership in the country. We are all patriotic Zimbabweans despite our diversity. No single individual or political party has a monopoly on patriotism. This country urgently needs national healing so that we can harness our diverse energies for the national good.
As a country, we have faced several traumatic experiences and we need national cohesion, healing and unity if we are to move this country forward. The MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai are working for the well-being of this nation and its people. We may have different political beliefs but this is our country and that is why today we are coming with proposals that will improve the lives of the people of Zimbabwe.
Conducting a fresh, credible election
The seventh and last step on the way forward is the implementation of key reforms ahead of the holding of a fresh election. I want to restate that the only way forward, given the current economic status is a return to legitimacy and confidence which can only be achieved through a fresh election underpinned by comprehensive reforms in all sectors.
After comprehensive economic and political reform and global engagement, the mechanics of which will be agreed through national dialogue, Zimbabwe could be ready for a truly free and fair election which can usher in a legitimate government that can begin to address the huge crisis we are faced with as a country.
The forthcoming by-elections
Before any comprehensive reforms are undertaken, it is futile to engage in any kind of election such as the three by-elections slated for this coming weekend. These by-elections are likely to breed the same contested outcome as long as the contentious issues around election management are not resolved.
Without far-reaching reforms, any election in this country, however small, will always breed a contested outcome.
What we wish for in the country can only happen if we all dispense with arrogance and a mistaken belief that the whole world can go hang. When an economy loses $1 billion in a matter of weeks, as Zimbabwe did soon after the grand theft of July 31, drastic measures have to be taken to bring back trust, confidence, legitimacy and most importantly, hope.
I wish to restate that the long-term solution to our problems is to ensure that the current environment is overhauled, that ZEC becomes truly independent, that we undertake comprehensive political reforms and ensure that the environment is truly conducive to ensuring that the people are allowed to give a fresh mandate to a new government through a free and fair election.
We will as a country engender hope if, regardless of our diversity, we work towards a lasting solution by providing interim relief while we organize for a fresh ballot underpinned by comprehensive reforms.
We must continue knocking on the door of possibility until we achieve our national dream. Power without character is meaningless. We shall continue to fight all manifestations of the unbridled pursuit of power retention for power’s sake that has nothing to do with the people. We have always known as a party that the struggle was not going to be a stroll in the park. We have remained resolute in our quest to achieve and deliver change through democratic means. Some may be fatigued and may have begun to lose faith in the ballot.
We know we have a covenant with the people which we shall not betray. We will remain steadfast in our quest to bring prosperity, hope and dignity to the people of Zimbabwe.
I want to assure the people that their investment in the MDC is not misplaced. The MDC remains alive to its obligation and generational mandate to deliver real change and transformation to the people of Zimbabwe.
I want to assure you that the party is united, alive and well. We are focused as leadership on delivering on our agenda and we are impervious to the shrill cries of those who want to kill this people’s project.
The MDC and its leadership remain a happy family of democrats committed to delivering the people’s expectations of positive change in their lives. I remain greatly inspired, at a personal level, by Nelson Mandela and his tenacity and resilience to continue with his fight and struggle despite setbacks and frustrations.
Because of his inspiration, I have since taken a decision that whatever is done by enemies of this great people’s project will not break my spirit. Yes, they may needlessly continue to humiliate me, engage in protracted press wars against my person, batter me in a police station, kill innocent Zimbabweans and torture me and the millions who believe in democratic change.
All they may achieve is to slacken my pace but I can assure you they will not in any way weaken my resolve and determination for national service and sacrifice. I will continue to boldly stride with confidence and greater willpower in my quest to bring real change, democracy and positive transformation in Zimbabwe.
They may continue with their unbridled malice and open provocation, including stealing our vote in broad daylight as they did last year, but I tell you, they will not succeed in breaking our collective spirit.
In my case, I know for certain that they will not break my spirit. I want to conclude by assuring you that the change we seek will definitely be achieved in our lifetime.
I thank you