Morgan Tsvangiryi Speaks

On Saturday, the Churches in Zimbabwe held a National Convention to debate the crisis in Zimbabwe and the way forward. The meetiung attracted a large number of delegates - 300 plus - and representatives of the Unions, Civic groups and 5 political parties attended. The meeting was chaired and fascilitated by the Christian Alliance.

Morgan Tsvangirai played a key role and this is his address to the Convention. Because of time constraints he did not read this at the meeting but spoke to it. It makes interesting reading and I commend it to you. In addition to this speech, Morgan called all five political leaders to the podium to pledge their commitment to unity of purpose and action in the weeks ahead. The road map was accepted as was a draft "democracy charter". All constituent bodies are now being asked to register as part of a "Broad Aliance to Save Zimbabwe" and within 7 days the leaders of this Alliance will meet to agree on a combined action progragramme designed to force Zanu PF to come to the negotiating table.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 31 July 2006.

Tsvangirai address the Save Zimbabwe convention Political Perspectives to the national crisis

Address by Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the Movement for Democratic Change at the Save Zimbabwe Convention, Harare, Zimbabwe.

29 July 2006

May I open my address by thanking civil society and the people of Zimbabwe for staying the course? Against all odds, civil society has never wavered on matters of principle. You are with the people, as always. The record speaks for itself. In colonial times, it was the church, student movements and trade unions that spearheaded the struggle for freedom. After Independence, the people remained vigilant, constantly demanding their democratic space.

At the end of the first decade of our Independence, it became clear that our revolution was fast losing track. An avaricious nationalistic clique had abandoned the ideals of the liberation struggle. Corruption began to flourish. Our nation's political leadership began to lose their focus. The labour movement came under pressure from the workers to de-link itself from that ruling elite. The ZCTU declared its autonomy from Zanu PF. We were informed and guided by the workers whose welfare was now on the block.

The workers were concerned by a steady erosion of their gains since Independence and decided to confront both their employers and the government. The people raised their voices and demanded their space.

Part of Zanu PF's response included far-reaching legislative changes to restrict academic freedom. This invited the anger of students and progressive intellectuals. They, too, like the workers, declared a rights dispute with the government. After the unification of Zanu PF and PF ZAPU and the declaration of intent to establish a one-party state, Zimbabweans realized that they faced a hard transition and began to search for political alternatives.

The introduction of Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in 1991 heightened the ideological confusion in Zanu PF and opened the way for even greater confrontation between the workers, the church, students and all advocates of free political space. We felt then that part of the problem lay with the Lancaster House Constitution. We began to agitate for a new Constitution. This led to the formation of the Constitutional Movement in the mid-nineties. After years of struggle along this route, we met as the National Working Peoples' Convention to debate our fate. The National Working Peoples' Convention In short, the National Working Peoples' Convention decided then to form an alternative political movement to take on Zanu PF. We agreed, as civil society, to challenge Zanu PF and to attend to pressing governance issues whose contagion cut across our political, social and economic life.

Seven months later, the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, became a reality. In February, Zanu PF tested his first defeat in a national referendum to decide on a government drafted Constitution. That was another major turning point in Zimbabwe. It was a people's victory. This was the first victory for civil society. It is not my intention at this forum to chronicle six years of struggle and intense political activity in Zimbabwe. But let me place on record that a wounded Mugabe, in response to the crisis, targeted the people. Mugabe declared a war with the people. Mugabe declared a war with the world. The aim was to stretch the MDC and to test the people's resilience and seriousness. Unlike his peers, Mugabe failed to work out an exit strategy when it was clear that he had outlived his usefulness.

For two decades, our national and institutional systems failed to address growing internal frictions and tensions arising from a self-created crisis of governance. The existing institutions and governance methods no longer worked. To this day, Zimbabwe finds itself saddled with persistent political imbalances, which can no longer be sustained because of numerous political deficits. However, these imbalances and policy flip-flops, which have affected all of us, show a dictatorship flame-out that should offer us a superb opportunity to start afresh.

Together, we are bearing the brunt of the social, economic and political costs of the dictatorship. The MDC, as you all know is an institution that arose from a resolution of the National Working People's Convention. The MDC is the political face of the people's struggle. The MDC is a mere symbol of the people's resistance. But the bulk of the work rests with all of us, with the people, through the party, civil society and through you. The view of the National Working People's Convention was that a political alternative should challenge the status quo and to bring about change. The birth of the MDC was a people's response to an unbearable set of circumstances around them.

Our main strategy was to take on the regime at the ballot box. We succeed in this approach. But the people were unable to assume power. The dictatorship responded in a manner that has surprised the world. It is fair to note that on our part, we seriously under-estimated the dictator's ability and determination to defy reasonable opinion. As we review the performance of the entire democratic movement, an opportunity presents itself for self-introspection. It is a fact that the MDC is still more of a broad-based movement than a political party in the strict sense of the word. We draw our support from everywhere, literally. Our support emerges from any person keen to see a new dispensation, a new democratic framework, and a New Zimbabwe. While some in civil society may argue that they have no vested interest in attaining political power as individuals, they remain an indispensable part of this liberation culture.

After February 2000 and the wholesale destabilization of commercial agriculture and the rule of law, the MDC attracted millions of new members, new supporters, new sympathizers and new allies whose ideological positions were at variance with the thrust of the initiators of the MDC project. > Conservatives, liberals, democrats, socialists, patriots, anarchists and extremists in our society and beyond found a home in the MDC, creating a mix that was not only difficult to manage but highly open to infiltration, manipulation and opportunism.

The mix became pronounced more glaringly in our international relations regime. Liberal democrats sought an association with us; so did the conservatives and liberals. They invited us to join their international solidarity groups and to take up membership of the same. But our ideology, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, is social democracy. Quite often we were embarrassed to be lumped in the same basket with rebel African rag-tag and ornamental opposition forces and extremely conservative and racial units. These contradictions have earned us a lot of misunderstandings and sometimes open hostility.

Our goal is to complete the unfinished agenda of the liberation struggle: to extend the people's freedoms. Our objective remains and has always been to search for a lasting solution to the national crisis. Our vision is a New Zimbabwe.

We have tried everything: elections, dialogue, local and international lobbying, symbolic mass action, judicial redress and the law, and Parliamentary pressure. We know something out of all that. While we made some inroads here and there in exposing the weaknesses of the dictatorship, we believe we now have to break new ground in order to make real progress.

The experiences of the past six years are instructive. Countrywide, the people are demanding a short final phase of the struggle. We all realize that a long struggle wears down its own activists and supporters. A long struggle tends to be overwhelmed by unexpected challenges and changed circumstances. Many expected a short and clean sweep, but that was not be. We have to be realistic: you can't put time frames to a struggle of this nature. Together, we have been exposed to a serious onslaught from the regime. That onslaught almost disorganized us.

The final phase of our struggle As we enter the decisive and final phase of our struggle, allow me Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen to reflect on my experience and to attempt to place a forecast on what lies before us. The roots of this struggle reside on a serious national grievance: a grievance that is at the heart of our national politics. The MDC represents a rallying cry for the fulfilment of an uncompleted national agenda, a national assignment and a national revolution. We cherish a value system that bound us together to confront colonialism. Zimbabweans always believed in, and even fought for, justice. We respect our dignity. The concept of hunhu hwe munhu or ubuntu, has guided our relations in our homes, in our communities and in our natural interactions with our neighbours from time immemorial. We long for liberty and personal advancement. We aspire for a society with equal opportunities. Our culture calls on us to support each other. We believe in stability and empathy. As a people, we are natural social democrats.

Zimbabweans look in hope and a deep longing for a united nation. Inside our chests moves a spirit that seeks to express freely the basic traits of our common humanity and togetherness, which for so long has been suppressed and negatively exploited by a variety of political parasites. We feel betrayed because we never expected the nationalistic elite to simply replace the colonial administrator at Independence and perpetuate inequality, political corruption and divisions in our society. We question the seriousness and the changed, modern-day credentials of the new minority in our midst, the new elite in power. We realized that Zanu PF's equality debate was flawed right from the beginning - it was based on a narrow principle of equality across race and colour. The party failed to see beyond this, such that today, we live in a society soaked in black-on-black oppression.

Colonialism taught us that a minority always tampers with our national values. A minority thrives on a patronage system. A minority develops cartels and breeds corruption. And when challenged, a greedy minority in power often retreats into a distorted form of nationalism and invokes fears of the unknown; a minority looks to our colonial past for opportunistic and comparative defence. As I said earlier, after 20 years of abuse our national institutions and systems gave in. The crisis of governance reached a stage when it was no longer possible to keep the lid on. The people refused to be cowed into submission. Today, Zimbabweans desire and demand a leadership, at all levels, with a clear vision, a national sense of modesty, and much courage, born of honest and patriotic concern to articulate our common humanity, our common goals and our Zimbabwean identity within the global community.

Zimbabweans are keen to restore their confidence in the concept of public service and public good. After a serious bruising and more than two decades of unfulfilled promises and political deception, the people eagerly wait for leaders with hearts and minds large enough for the urgent task of attending to our immediate humanitarian emergencies, national healing, national reconstruction, justice and equality. There is a national consensus accepting that it will take a great deal of hard work, personal humility and patriotism to bring us together and rebuild our tattered lives and our shattered nation. Zimbabweans expect an extension of a system of values that celebrates the sanctity of life and an unfettered extension of freedom. As a people at the heart of danger and struggling with hard transition, we must exercise caution and demand irreversible safeguards to insulate the nation against possible future abuse, regardless of who is in power. The people expect a permanent opening for liberty, personal security and collective advancement. We risk sliding into a form of generational irrelevance; we risk permanent national disability unless we show leadership and confront the dictatorship at a time when literally the nation is fully behind us.

More than at any juncture in the past, this is certainly the time we must take a proactive stance and work out the necessary political and institutional arrangements that will form the basis of a broadly shared sustainable solution to the crisis. The crisis here may be clear to every Zimbabwean, but not to Robert Mugabe and a few of powerful cronies and associates. Their mental block has become a major source of national implosion. Mugabe and his team are failing to connect with something larger than their personal egos. As a result, their leadership is unable to give Zimbabwean life any meaning at all.

We believe the time has come for Robert Mugabe to step aside because he has become an unacceptable national liability. He has lost himself. He seems stuck in a time warp and within the myth of measurement, propelling him to think that if he goes, Zimbabwe will varnish. In life, you cannot measure what you have done, especially that which is good. We recognize Mugabe's contribution to the liberation struggle. However, we differ with his apparent reluctance to take an exit package and to enjoy, in retirement, an otherwise noble position as one of the icons of the liberation struggle and a founding father of modern Zimbabwe.

We find discomfort in his insistence to cling on to power, run the country aground and destroy the future of millions of young people. We believe he no longer has the ideas and the energy to grapple with the needs of a new generation to pilot the ship of state in the right direction. But, we still need him to assist us in this transition because while he is the source of the problem and he is also part of the solution.

With his concurrence and influence, we can soft-land the crisis; achieve our main goal of completing the unfinished business from the liberation struggle and realize our vision of a new Zimbabwe. If Mugabe allows Zimbabweans today to search for an honest national solution, the discussion will be over in a few hours because we all know and agree on what needs to be done to impel the nation out of the woods. Leadership must give meanings to the lives of others. Leadership requires an honest application of love and an open heart.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the MDC is fully behind an orderly transition to a new Zimbabwe. We are against any form of retribution. We are against the use of force to settle political scores. We pledge to allow the past to guide, and not to derail, us as we work into the future. We shall never allow history and our personal preferences or grievances to interfere with this vision. We support a democracy charter as a moral, contractual barometer for our society and a guiding expression of our national values, regardless of who is in government. We are unhappy with the unnecessary delay in resolving our national crisis at a time when all Zimbabweans, across the political divide, are agreed on the fundamental issues confronting our country.

We are dismayed that despite the national consensus on the need for a new Zimbabwe, some among us wish to see Zimbabwe burn when we know our problem and politically we have the solutions. For instance, the nation accepts and expects a new Constitution, good governance and a compassionate state, economic revival, land and agrarian reform, respect for private property rights, direct foreign investment and international legitimacy, food security, an open government, strong national institutions and jobs. We sincerely believe Zimbabwe must move fast and sort itself out because of the geo-political, social and economic developments facing the SADC region. In 2010, the region, led by South Africa, hosts the soccer World Cup.

As I said earlier, there is a real possibility of creating a dangerous political vacuum in Zimbabwe. Together with Mugabe and Zanu PF, we must seek a way to avoid further damage to our nation. We need everybody in this delicate transition. As a nation, we must manage that process; otherwise the 2010 World Cup shall be marred by a political blot. A military junta could step in to fill the possible political vacuum. Already Mugabe, conscious of his advanced age and with a view to increase his own security, has militarised our main national institutions: power generation and supply, food production, food procurement and food security, fuel management and distribution, national parks and wildlife management, agriculture, industry and commerce, election management and administration, key civil service departments and parastatals, land distribution and local government. The entire state sector is now in the hands of the military.

In theory, there may be nothing wrong with military personnel offering assistance to a beleaguered regime on behalf of the people. But our experience in Zimbabwe is unique. In 2002 and thereafter, the military took over the administration and management of national elections, with disastrous results. We have it on record that some ambitious elements in the military harbour a negative view of the people's sovereign right to elect a government of their choice.

International attention shall shift radically to Southern Africa over the next four years as the region prepares for the international soccer competition. Our crisis shall interfere with regional harmony if we continue to postpone the inevitable. A solution is urgent because of the historic task ahead. Zimbabwe needs to embark on a major reconstruction agenda and to re-set its mind and consciousness in order to play a meaningful part in the hosting of the World Cup.

History will judge us harshly if we allow our own internal problems to soil this critical event with, as expected, haphazard migration across the Limpopo, squabbles over disputed elections, lack of political space, a flawed Constitution, starvation and insecurity and bad governance. Although Germany played host to the 2006 World Cup, 13 European nations participated and assisted in one way or the other. Europe housed and provided facilities to various national teams, visitors and official delegations before the official kick-off of the competition. We are hosting the World Cup. Let us join the region in the preparations for this event.

We are therefore proposing that we deal with our national issues way before 2010, better still three or four years before this international showcase to allow us to rehabilitate our nation, recover our national pride and dignity and play our complimentary role in hosting the World Cup. Let us avoid alienating ourselves further from our neighbours. We must work together to re-open our links with the rest of the business community and participate, as a stable community, in international events. At the moment, we are simply an irritant, a gadfly ready to muddy a noble cause in 2010. We hope and pray that Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF understand that as Zimbabweans we have a responsibility, a duty to our people and to the region.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, while some in this struggle may feel tortured and betrayed, powerless and hopeless, my sincere advice to the people is: stay the course and lead with an open heart. Let us remain compassionate in our search for a lasting solution to the national crisis. Let us pay attention to the people's pain, against all odds.

I thank you.