We meet amid a serious national crisis, now worse than what it was a month ago when I issued my end of year statement. Since then, things have gotten worse, as exemplified by the promised bonus for civil servants still to be paid out, with the chances of it ever being paid out getting slimmer and slimmer by the day. In the countryside, poverty levels have worsened and people have no money in their pockets, a situation exacerbated by the food shortages that are set to worsen following yet another bleak farming season.
As a region and as a country, we are bearing the brunt of climate change, a serious issue that needs attention at policy level, especially now as the entire Sadc region faces a burgeoning food crisis. Millions are staring starvation in the face unless we get urgent assistance to import about 1,8 million tonnes of grain for both people and livestock.
In Matabeleland South, Masvingo and other parts of the country, Zimbabweans face imminent hunger. But amid all this looming starvation coupled with an economy on the ropes, no one is paying attention to this national crisis. There is no government response as Zanu PF is busy with what has become the grand preoccupation of everyone in this government — the fight to succeed [President Robert] Mugabe.
We in the MDC have no intention to join their debate as Mugabe declared at the recent African Union (AU) summit that he will die in office. Our only concern is that whoever is in charge of the country at any given time must commit themselves to ensuring a stable, democratic country characterised by tolerance and prosperity.
We are currently battling to meet our pledge to multilateral financiers to service billions of our external debt by April, there is 95% unemployment in the country, internal power generation capacity has drastically gone down; civil servants are on the edge because of unpredictable pay dates and their outstanding bonus while our public hospitals have run out of basic essential drugs.
As ordinary people, all we hear of are mega deals with China, amid this mega poverty in the country. These mega deals have not had any meaning and significance outside the government pronouncements in the State media. These billion dollar deals remain mere newspaper content that has not changed the lives of the people. From where the people stand, all they see around them is poverty, suffering and looming starvation!
Just over a year ago, I published a treatise on my personal reflections, in which I described the country as having been turned into a huge mall of vendors; indeed a highly informal economy in which everyone is trying to sell something to someone. The situation is now even worse and the high unemployment level in the country and the economic collapse have become the most portent threat to national stability.
As political parties, we have joined hands in demanding electoral reforms. More than 10 political parties have signed up to the National Election Reform Agenda (Nera). Indeed, a truly credible election is now a precondition for the return to legitimacy, which must become an issue of national priority.
As a party, our decision not to participate in elections until the implementation of far-reaching reforms has resulted in a fruitful debate in the country and important steps being taken in the correct direction. That Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) itself has acceded to a biometric voters’ roll and the debate around the involvement of the United Nations in running our elections are all issues on the front seat of the national debate because of the decision, we in the MDC, have taken against participation in mere rituals disguised as elections.
We note the disturbing statements from Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the United Nations (UN) and other countries, except only those in Africa, will not be invited to observe our elections. He also disputed the ZEC position that it was seriously considering using a biometric voters’ roll, raising suspicion as to whether the electoral management body is really independent at all. The law is very clear that it is ZEC, an independent body, which must run elections and invite observers.
We welcome new, positive developments around elections and urge ZEC to reassert its independence. The electoral management body must adhere to Sadc and AU standards governing the conduct of elections. They must proceed with the biometric voters’ roll in line with regional standards and, with the involvement of all stakeholders, come up with a comprehensive and cogent framework to facilitate voter education, a fresh voter registration exercise and other election logistics. The UN must not observe the elections, they must run them. Given our unique situation, the UN remains the only credible international body that should be involved in the actual management of the election to the satisfaction of all the parties.
Our government is not only struggling to meet its basic obligations, but has abandoned all pretence at democratic governance. Chief among its many crimes is the failure to align the country’s laws to the new Constitution, crafted and overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Zimbabwe in May 2013.
I also wish to advise that the current demolitions of people’s homes in Harare are diabolical and a gross violation of human rights. The people must know that it is government that is demolishing their houses. We have directed our councils not to destroy people’s homes but to ensure that those with destroyed homes are relocated to properly planned settlements under the direct authority of an elected local government. Most of these settlements now being demolished were unplanned dwellings encouraged by Zanu PF.
Related to this is the partisan distribution of food. We in the MDC have had our supporters denied food handouts in most parts of the country because of their political affiliation. In parts of Manicaland, our people have stormed the Grain Marketing Board depots and bravely demanded that food handouts be given in a non-partisan manner. There is, indeed, going to be a huge national demand for transparency and non-partisan distribution of food by our supporters in all parts of the country. Zanu PF should stand warned that we have told our supporters throughout the country to be vigilant and to boldly demand their share of what they should legitimately get from government.
Until very recently, Mugabe was the chairperson of the AU and Sadc. It appears some in Africa and the broader international community had allowed his occupation of those rotational positions to cloud them from making an objective and rational judgement regarding the situation in Zimbabwe. Only last week, he was breathing fire and brimstone on the need to reform the United Nations Security Council.
Yes, Mr President. We agree that the UN must be democratised. But charity begins at home. There must also be reform in Zimbabwe in every aspect of our lives. This country must also be democratised so that no one lives in fear of being another Itai Dzamara.
I am aware that the European Union has decided to re-engage Zimbabwe and I know that the people of Zimbabwe stand to benefit from any form of re-engagement. But I wish to restate our position that the international community must demand a framework. They must insist on implementation of agreed electoral conditions and the embracing of universally acceptable standards by the authorities in Harare. The world must insist on the need to respect the rule of law and the conditions sanctioned by Sadc to ensure that the next election is free and fair.
I want to warn Zanu PF under the ambit of Nera, we will collectively do everything — and I mean everything — to ensure that we have credible election in 2018. I thank you
This is an abridged version of Morgan Tsvangirai’s statement at a press conference in Harare on Friday