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Sunday Opinion: 2016 — The difference may be the same

In true Zimbabwe African hospitality, myself, the MDC national, provincial, district and ward executive committees leadership wish to convey sincere gratitude to our thousands of members for their support of the party in 2015. We thank you for toiling with the rest of the oppressed Zimbabwean masses – both at home and in the Diaspora – against almost insurmountable principalities and hurdles strewn on our development path by an unrepentant and shameless Zanu PF authoritarian dictatorship. For most of us, there was very little to celebrate during the last holiday period, because our pockets are under great strain from years of mis-governance by a ruling party with questionable legitimacy and credibility.


However, mid-month of a brand new 2016 year and as leader of a progressive political party, my responsibility is to ensure that we remain hopeful that change will come sooner rather than later, to inspire courage and keep the desire for change burning in all of us. This is why the MDC leadership at all levels wishes you a prosperous and fruitful 2016. We Zimbabweans are known for our hard work, innovation and courage, yet, under the 35-year-old governance of Zanu PF — directed by a 92-year-old grandfather — it is almost impossible to perceive a scenario of drastic transformation in our lives.

I cannot recall who said it, but they reminded us that we are our own liberators. Things do not change on their own. In our party — the MDC — we do not thrive from the disintegration of or factional conflict in other parties. As a government in waiting, we have our own transformative agenda. But there is only one problem: the political party in power has no capacity to respond to our demand for change. Just like in 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2013, their mentality, pre-disposition and paradigm is fossilised in 50-year-old nationalist liberation ideology that can no longer deliver exponential economic, social, political and technological transformation. Zanu PF is a coal-powered steam train attempting to compete with a modern bullet train propelled on magnetic levitation! Zimbabweans have 21st Century expectations while the ruling party prescribes 18th Century solutions. We ought to have moved from the era of fountain pens, ox-drawn ploughs, chalk boards, wheel burrow ambulances and lessons under the tree — but that is exactly what one is confronted with in rural areas today.

After 35 years of self-rule, millions of our people still walk five or more kilometres to fetch drinking water. They still need firewood to cook while in the cities, they light their homes with candles and kerosene. Fifteen years after the so-called “land revolution”, Zimbabwe has no strategic grain reserves. We still rely mainly on rain-fed agriculture while millions of acres are engulfed in tall grass because those who claim ownership of that land have neither the expertise nor resources to farm. Thirty-five years after “independence”, thousands of desperate professionals stream out of the country in pursuit of survival, while millions remain tucked in foreign lands. This is a government that pretends to change industrial and investment policies, yet that “change” does not change anything by way of creating employment, attracting local and foreign investment or supporting young innovators. Just like in 2015 and years before, this week, millions of parents have failed to pay school fees because they have no money. Their gluttonous government that prefers to spend $100 million purchasing expensive cars for top army and government officers is struggling to pay salaries for nurses, doctors and teachers. Nothing has changed.

What hope do we have for 2016? Like I did last year, my writings will continue to prescribe alternative solutions that project optimism. This cannot be said in one article, but I always hope that you emerge confident — after reading my weekly message — that all is not lost. Zanu PF have an irritating sense of entitlement that projects a false image of invincibility. What invincibility when they have presided over the total collapse of industry, power outages, poverty, hunger and constricted democratic space? They will not continue fooling us in 2016. The reality of failure has caught up with them. Of course, just like we say in strategic planning, there are factors that are beyond our control. But we will not throw our hands up in hapless despair, because even if we cannot change certain things, we can craft strategies to mitigate their negative impact.

Our party, the MDC, believes in effective electoral democracy, but unless we cause electoral institutions to be independent from the control of Zanu PF, come 2018, we will still encounter electoral fraud. 2016 must therefore be an opportunity for all Zimbabweans — especially opposition political leaders and civil society organisations — to put relentless pressure on the government to fulfil all constitutional provisions to ensure the independence and functionality of electoral institutions. We must do everything in our power to push for the independence of public broadcasting, freedom of the press, free association and social justice. As long as our people are dependent on the benevolence of Zanu PF, we will struggle to deliver change in 2018. We must exorcise the fear of political activism in 2016.

MDC is not in power, so we cannot decide on the implementation of economic policies. However, we can put pressure on government to focus on improving conditions conducive to employment creation, instead of wasting time talking about indigenisation and threatening to take over or close companies. The arguments between the more sensible Patrick Chinamasa (Finance minister) and superficial radicals like Patrick Zhuwao (Indigenisation minister) do not help Zimbabwe in any way. Right now the country needs billions of dollars to resuscitate our ailing factories, mines, railway, roads and electrical power. The MDC will put pressure on government to focus on economic development policies rather than valueless factional wars.

This year the rains have been weak. Millions of rural citizens will require food aid. Government has to allow civil society organisations and political parties to contact international partners who can support us in preventing mass starvation. 2016 must be a year when Zanu PF should be reminded that their agriculture policies of expropriation have failed. They have spent millions of dollars in so-called mechanisation, but we have no irrigation to show for it. We need to learn new ways — in 2016 — of harnessing water, repairing dams and teaching citizens new methods of intensive agriculture. A nation that is hungry cannot go to school. It becomes vulnerable to opportunistic diseases. We are living in the age of technological revolution, so we must adopt new methods of telephony, internet business, digital broadcast and communication, so that newspapers, books, phones and cars become cheaper and accessible to everyone. In 2016, we must fight for true and effective democracy through affordable technology, more community radio stations and more young people using social media, running blogs and personal websites. Supa Mandiwanzira is taking us backwards by wanting his Information Technology ministry to control all internet gateways and infrastructure. This is medieval and counterproductive to free expression. If Zanu PF does not want to change, the people of Zimbabwe will move ahead and leave them behind to wallow in their misery of nationalist deception.

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