The Only Way Forward
We spent the past weekend working on the issues facing the MDC in
We have come a long way in five short years - we have a national
over 8000 branches, elected executives in all 120 districts and 12
and permanent offices in all major centers. All this from zero in 2000.
are one of the best-known opposition movements in the world and
hold the position of the most significant parliamentary opposition in
Despite being up against people "who have degrees in violence" and who
had hundreds of our members murdered, thousands tortured and imprisoned
with the whole State machinery lined up against us - we have not only
survived, but remain the greatest threat to the ruling Party in 25
dominance in Zimbabwe. Not only have we survived, but also we have
steadfastly kept to our principles of non-violent political action as
sought political change through the ballot and normal legal procedures.
Many regard the latter position as being "weak" and accuse our
being spineless. Many in the media would love to see a bit of action
with people being gunned down on the streets and thousands throwing
and more at the armed forces. In fact all of our leadership has gone to
for their principles in the past 5 years - some on several occasions,
including our President, Morgan Tsvangirai. Others have paid with their
lives for their principles.
This weekend we agonized over what to do following the third defeat in
years at the hands of a corrupt and sterile regime which will do
stay in power, no matter how great their failure. At the end of it we
agreed - without exception - to stand firm on our principles and not to
endorse calls for violence and extralegal activity. We also agreed to
our congress in January 2006 and to set in motion the process of
elections in all the branches, districts and provincial assemblies that
precede such an event. It will be a significant event for us in the MDC
will renew our mandate as leaders, share pain and joy with 14 000
and celebrate our faith in the ballot box as a means of securing a
life for all our people.
What I find so remarkable about the MDC is the fact that although we
Party of the poor and disadvantaged, we share a belief that only
and the rule of law can offer us a better life. It is awe inspiring to
simple peasant people taking a principled stand on issues that were
preserve of the rich and the west.
But what is the way forward - more of the same? No! We agreed that it
not be business as usual, we simply cannot afford to wait either for
old man" to die or for the next election. We agreed there was only one
forward and that was to go back to the issue of the constitution.
Our present constitution was not home grown; it came out of our
past as a bi-product of the Lancaster House process, which preceded
elections and independence in 1980. The present political turmoil has
roots in the campaign started in the mid 90's for a new constitution.
culminated in the referendum in March 2000 which the government lost -
simply because they ignored what the people had demanded of any new
With the emergence of the MDC in 2000, the issue of the constitution
been put on the back burner in the expectation that democratic
would usher in a new administration more sympathetic to the call for
home grown constitution. This has not happened and with the failure of
elections in Zimbabwe, due to electoral fraud, to yield any kind of
change, the MDC decided it was time to go back to the issue.
We are told that Zanu PF intends to table three amendments to the
constitution in the next sitting of Parliament - formation of a Senate,
entrenchment of the Electoral Commission in the constitution and a new
provision which will allow the State to take over any land which it
to designate for acquisition.
Such changes do nothing to improve the present situation - the Senate
not broaden political representation in Parliament, ZEC will remain an
instrument of the State controlled by Zanu PF functionaries and the
provisions will simply compound our economic and political
resolved to reject such piecemeal amendments to the constitution and
to call for a national conference to develop a new constitution which
embrace the ideas and desires of the nation as a whole. Such a
would make decisions on a consensual basis and the final product would
give us the legal framework required to guide us back into the regional
global community of nations.
The leadership of the MDC is now consulting others in Zimbabwe and
outside the country about the way forward and resolved to throw its
behind a demand that Zanu come to the table for such a debate with
representatives from the whole country. After a new constitution has
adopted we would expect a period of time to lapse while we restore
confidence in electoral procedures and organise ourselves for new, free
fair elections in an environment that was also free of fear.
In the meantime we are reminded daily of the collapse of the economy in
form of long queues for fuel, food and transport. Government seems to
frozen in its tracks - like someone who finds themselves on thin ice
freezes, scared to move forward in case they fall through the ice and
to go backwards. Export industries are crumbling, the services to the
and towns are in dire straights, the exchange rate at 824 to 1 is
of kilter with the real market rate of 22000 to 1 and the Mozambique
currency now buys more than one Zimbabwe dollar!
Faced with the need to feed half the population and unable to procure
resources required to keep the economy going, the State is going to
move soon. Its options are few and to my way of thinking it is deeply
significant that the Secretary General of the United Nations is coming
at the month end. He would not do so unless it was the view of major UN
power blocks that action was needed to resolve the crisis. There is
peculiar silence in South Africa about the impending implosion of
society and the serious consequences for the region as a whole and
Africa in particular.
With Mr. Blair and his team back in the drivers seat and also occupying
position of Chairman of the G8 and President of Europe and a resurgent
changing regimes across the globe by one means or another, the regime
has every reason to be nervous. By rejecting change and renewal within
PF they have committed the fatal mistake of restricting their own team
those who are at the end of their careers. By insulting everyone who
capacity to help resolve our crisis, they have cut off all other
they were wise, they would take our offer of a chance to come back to
shore and off the ice before it engulfs them.
Bulawayo, 12th May 2005