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Tsvangirai’s End of Year Statement

Twenty three months ago, the MDC helped form the inclusive government in Zimbabwe. We were guided by the righteous and noble objective of stabilizing the economy and rescuing the people from the precipice of poverty, uncertainty, starvation and indignity wrought by three decades of corruption and misgovernance.

This month, we all celebrate the birth of Christ and look positively to the year ahead, well aware of the value we have brought into government and the role we have played in stopping the bleeding and making sure that Zimbabweans have every reason to hope again. We are not there yet and I have no doubt about the huge task that lies ahead in returning the country to normalcy and in laying the foundation for a great future for our children.

But over the past two years, we in the MDC have shown that it is possible to turn over a new leaf, to have some order in government and to bring Zimbabwe back to its years of glory and to earn respect from its peers in Africa and beyond.

•        We have added value to this government.

•        We have pulled this nation from the brink of collapse to a new potential of hope.

•        We have averted an inevitable plunge into the abyss to set the country back on the rails; on a new path of stability, development and growth.

•        We are the people’s conscience in this government and every day, we are mitigating the excesses of entitlement and corruption and keeping in check a sulking minority unused to working in the interest of the people.

•        We have shown what a determined people can do, even in the face of open Zanu PF provocation.

•        We have weathered and survived dark and sinister plots to undermine the collective government work programme and the real change agenda.

•        We have remained resolute, in the full knowledge that we are the true people’s representatives because of the clear mandate given to us in a legitimate election.

Tsvangirai addressing the media with VP Thokozani Khupe and Secretary General Tendai Biti.
Tsvangirai addressing the media with VP Thokozani Khupe, Secretary General Tendai Biti and Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo.

As I take stock of the past year and look at the priorities of 2011, I am humbled by some notable achievements but at the same time aware of the great strides we would have made were it not for the needless tension in this government. Our positive impact is a matter of public record. Inflation has been tamed and we are now poised for a growth of 8,1 percent after having spent the past 24 months concentrating on stabilizing the economy.

There is food on the shelves, schools have opened and hospitals have begun functioning again. Only recently, we led an investment revolution when the ministry of Economic Planning and Development opened a one-stop shop that will enable prospective investors to have their papers processed under one roof in less than 48 hours so that we create jobs and expand our economy.

Civil servants have started receiving a salary but I am still not happy with their remuneration considering their patriotism and their great service to this country. Great work has already begun to rehabilitate national infrastructure. The dualisation of some major roads, the fibre-optic link to Mutare and the commitment of resources through the fiscus for major dams such as Mtshabezi is a departure from mere lip-service about some of these national projects.

The constituency development fund, where each constituency will receive $50 000, means that parliamentarians will have a chance to embark on major projects with the direct input of their constituents.  The elderly and the vulnerable will receive assistance through the department of social welfare. Money has also been set aside for the rehabilitation of tertiary college infrastructure such as halls of residence while government has also resumed student loans and grants to assist in laying a sound educational base for these future leaders.

In September, with the support of the United Nations and other donors, I commissioned 13 million textbooks to all the 5 575 primary schools in the country. This was the largest single investment in the education sector since independence and it ensured that every primary school child will have access to textbooks.  In October, again with the support of partners, I commissioned new medical equipment at Harare hospital as we sought to improve the health delivery system which is the bedrock of any serious government committed to real change.

For the first time since independence, we commissioned new and modern audio equipment in our Parliament and our MPs have steered the first private member’s Bill that will bring new, democratic amendments to the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Our local authorities have worked hard to mitigate three decades of misgovernance, cronyism and corruption to bring back clean water and other services to residents in the wake of needless meddling from the Minister of Local Government.

I am aware that more needs to be done to realize our full potential in bringing hospitals and schools to their former glory and in ensuring that our silent factories start working again. But we have made our positive change in this government amid renewed tension which is threatening our collective march from a dark past of uncertainty to a future of hope and progress.

However, it is also true that as I reflect on the events of the past 23 months, I have my own frustrations about many things in this government. Chief among my frustrations is the failure to implement the Global Political Agreement, the resurgence of violence in the country and President Robert Mugabe’s unilateral and unconstitutional acts which have blighted the dawn of possible progress.

I am frustrated because these things have stood between us and the great things we could have achieved as a coalition government. I am frustrated because we have taken Zimbabweans for a ride and betrayed the trust bestowed upon us by you, the people of Zimbabwe as well as SADC and the African Union as the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement.

I am frustrated because we cannot implement the 24 issues we have agreed upon for the simple reason that President Mugabe has chosen to run away from his signature and treats fellow Principals with utter disdain and contempt.

I am frustrated because the noble-constitution-making process has failed to stand the test of legitimacy after Zimbabweans were disallowed from freely expressing their views. However, we must continue with this process of crafting a new charter for ourselves while awaiting the making of a truly people-driven Constitution in a post-transitional environment.

It is a shame that 30 years after independence, we still use a Constitution given to us as an order of the Queen at Lancaster House, albeit a Constitution mutilated 19 times. And we still have the have the temerity to call ourselves a sovereign nation while at the same time subverting a noble process of crafting our own, home-grown Constitution.

I am frustrated because those who lost the election have chosen to mistake our goodwill and benevolence for a weakness. They have deluded themselves into thinking that they invited us. But we derive comfort in that while they are soaked with the blood of innocent Zimbabweans, we remain drenched in the legitimacy bestowed upon us in a free and fair election.

We are the true repository of the people’s aspirations.  But our present frustrations must not blind us to the nightmare of the past and the prospect of a better future. We have since moved on from the indignity of a hyperinflationary environment; bags of worthless money, a non-functioning social services sector and the long winding queues where we spent days and cold nights in a desperate attempt to get a service.

We are now on the home stretch-the last mile. As we go on this last mile, we remain undaunted by the prospect of an election, as this is the only route through which a legitimate government can begin to transact the business of the people and bring about real change.

We won the Presidential, parliamentary and local government elections of 2008 and we are not afraid. The holder of the heavyweight title can never be more afraid than the challenger; the one itching to inflict revenge after being humiliated in the first round.  And we won the first round. So we are ready for an election and not a war.

We are only ready for a free and fair election, a peaceful election where violence, rigging, intimidation and a biased public media have no space; where our soldiers, our police, our central intelligence officers and our war veterans remain impartial actors that respect the Constitution of Zimbabwe. A free election where losers hand over power and winners begin urgently to transact the business of the people and to set in motion policies that will guarantee a prosperous future for us and our children.

So we will only participate in a free, fair and violence-free election. But we will not participate in a war. We are simple defenseless citizens of this country fighting for change through peaceful and democratic means. So we will not participate in a blood-soaked event masquerading as an election.

On 16 December 2010, our national council took a position that the outstanding electoral business is the unfinished Presidential election of 2008. There was no contestation on the outcome of the Parliamentary and local government elections. This means Zimbabweans should be given a chance to vote for a President of their choice in the next election. We have been forced to walk the road of violence and we are not prepared to walk it forever more.

We have lost relatives. Our homes and property have been destroyed. We have seen State agents actively engaged in shameful acts of violence and the unbridled violation of the people’s rights and freedoms. But we have all refused to be cowed and to be distracted from the urgent national assignment of fighting for democratic change in Zimbabwe.

I, like every other Zimbabwean, have personally experienced this violence and I understand the pain of brutality and indignity. As a nation, we cannot afford to slide back if we are to claim our rightful place among the civilized family of nations. There have been disturbing and treasonous statements by a parasitic minority in Zanu PF that they will not allow an election to decide the future leaders of this country. The people of Zimbabwe, with the active assistance of SADC, must ensure that the people’s will prevails if we are to entrench a new culture of democracy in our country.

A false impression has been created that the MDC and its leadership are fighting our national security institutions. We have nothing against our soldiers, our  police and our CIO officers as long as they stick to their Constitutional mandate of protecting the people of Zimbabwe. But we have a problem when the same institutions are used for partisan interest, to intimidate and mete out violence against innocent and defenceless citizens.

So we need a roadmap to a free and fair election, with clear benchmarks and time-bound milestones that will ensure the people’s views will be respected. We derive comfort in that at the SADC meeting in August in Windhoek, Namibia, regional leaders agreed to charting a clear roadmap to ensure violence-free elections in Zimbabwe. President Zuma is currently leading a regional initiative to ensure that we come up with a charter for a free and fair poll in Zimbabwe.

We need SADC to guarantee the process leading to the next election by maintaining massive presence in the country six months before and six months after the election. Our regional brothers must ensure there is no violence and that our security agents stick to their Constitutional obligations.

We need a transparent, biometric/ digitalized voters roll and a genuinely independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with a credible secretariat, an electoral body that ensures that the people’s will is respected, the results announced expeditiously and power transferred to the new authority. We cannot have credible election with the same secretariat that was at the centre of the chaos of 2008.

The major lesson from 2008 is that all this cannot happen without the active role of SADC and the African Union; the guarantors of the GPA. The major lesson from the spectacle in Ivory Coast is that Africa needs strong regional bodies that are ready to defend the people’s verdict. We applaud the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which has stood firm in its defence of the legitimate will of the people of Ivory Coast.

Africa risks becoming a laughing stock if it continues the disturbing trend that we have seen in Kenya, Zimbabwe and lately the Ivory Coast, where losers take advantage of their incumbency to refuse to hand over power even after losing a free and fair election. The will of the people is sacrosanct and it must always be respected.

I wish to thank the people of Zimbabwe for investing their faith in us; for choosing hope over despair, peace over violence and a bright future over a troubled past. The civil servants, peasants, workers, farmers, housewives, students and everyone across the social spectrum have stood resolute in support of the peaceful foundation we have laid for a bright future.

I have traversed the length and breath of Zimbabwe and spoken to our parents, brothers and sisters. I have spoken to farmers, students, church leaders, businesspersons, cross-border traders, factory workers, bankers, investors, housewives, the youth, women and minority groups. I have been humbled by their unequivocal support for our great movement and our collective quest for real change, a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning.

So as we celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas and look forward to a new year, we pray for peace, hope, security and prosperity in our country. As we embark on this last mile to full democracy, I urge the people of Zimbabwe and the leadership of the church to take a leading role in committing our country and its leadership to God, submitting ourselves to the supremacy of the Almighty.

I urge all God-fearing Zimbabweans to race alongside me in this last mile as we unite in prayer and ask God the Almighty to bless our country. Join me in this last mile to pray for a peaceful election and the cursing of the demon of violence; where we allow each other to vote for a party and a leader of our choice.

Let us join hands  in this last mile as we all walk united in our collective quest for a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwe where war and violence are alien and have no place; where we are united and celebrating our diversity and where every Zimbabwean has the freedom to pursue  and live their dreams..

Our faith in the Lord and our fortitude in waging this great struggle for democracy and real change should continue to drive us in 2011. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. (Psalm 122, verse 7).

I wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous 2011.

God bless Zimbabwe. God bless Africa.