Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has called on Zimbabweans to ring fence their input into the new constitution and to secure their vote in the next election.
Addressing the business community and civil society organisations in Bulawayo last week, Tsvangirai said the people must stand by their views and protect their input on key issues such as devolution and the Bill of Rights.
The Prime Minister, whose life has been dedicated to fighting for people’s rights, said Zimbabweans must put in place mechanisms to ensure the security of the person, the security of the vote and the security of the people’s will.
He said key issues that the people must safeguard include the Bill of Rights, devolution, national healing, including compensation for Gukurahundi and other victims of State sponsored human rights violations.
“The security of the vote, the security of the people and the security of the people’s mandate is very critical in the next election. If we overcome that hurdle, Zimbabwe should have a bright future. If we have that then we have a free and fair election,” he said.
Chief among the issues that the Prime Minister said people must defend is the nation’s desire for a devolved state which has torched a flame among proponents of a centralised State. Tsvangirai said people must defend their input into the Constitution currently under review.
“Any step forward on constitutional reforms is what we have been fighting for, for the past ten years, the Constitution that will be out soon may not be the ideal one that we fought for but it will be actually a step forward,” he said
“To retain the status quo is actually to negate the reforms that we have fought for over the last ten years. Any step forward is better than nothing at all.”
He said an entrenched and expanded Bill of Rights would guarantee the people’s basic freedoms. The Premier, who leads the majority party in Parliament, said it was fundamental to safeguard devolution of power in the new Constitution.
He said the constitution making outreach had shown that more than 80% of Zimbabweans wanted a devolved state. Devolution had become an issue because many provinces feel marginalised.
“It doesn’t matter if it is Manicaland or Matebeleland, people want devolution, although the chief advocates have been people from Matebeleland. I understand that there has been some form of agreement on this national issue,” he said.
Tsvangirai said there are five fundamental keys in any devolved state. Devolution involves establishing provincial structures, and should answer the question: what is being devolved, is it authority or responsibility?
Both aspects are significant aspects for a devolved state, he said. The third aspect, is how to share the national cake. People were fighting because they were “hungry”. There is a feeling of centralisation, the Premier said, and it was important that the devolved state controls a budget.
“The fourth is that there has to be some form of executive authority that exercises executive power in that devolved entity. Where ever you go, from Kazungula to Tamandai in the east, the people are clear that they want a devolved state.
“I am aware that Mtshabezi water project stalled because of the cumbersome tender procedures which have been worsened by the fact that all decisions have to be taken by the procurement board in Harare,” Tsvangirai said.
He added: “I was in Binga last year and I was told that some projects had stalled because even a decision to buy a 5 litre tin of paint has to be taken in Harare. In the near future we hope to adopt a constitution which is revolutionary and with those tenets that speak to a devolved state.
“I am aware that Zimbabwe will not be the first one to have a devolved state, South Africa our neighbour has a devolved state,” the Premier said.
On national healing, Tsvangirai said dark spots in Zimbabwe’s history where the State rose against its people must be discussed freely. He said Gukurahundi must not be swept under the carpet.
“Why should we make Gukurahundi a sacred cow? We need to talk about these things if we want to heal the nation. We cannot heal the nation if we try to sweep things under the carpet as if it is a taboo. We must compensate those who lost loved ones in these State sponsored murders,” said Tsvangirai.
There have been attempts by some people in President Mugabe’s party to suppress discussion on Gukurahundi and other state sponsored atrocities. Mugabe has in the past admitted that Gukurahundi was a “moment of madness”.
More than 20 000 people were feared dead during that most violent state sponsored killings in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Tsvangirai told business executives, civil society and the press in Bulawayo that the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Area’s Fund (DiMAF) had so far disbursed more than $4 million for the resuscitation of industry.
“The purpose of this money is to get new equipment and raw materials for you to become competitive. I know as a former textile worker that a lot of machinery in the industry is outdated and obsolete. I am glad to report that both the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Finance have to meet as directed by Cabinet and speed up the release of funds under this facility,” he said.
“Government is concerned about not only creating jobs but saving the existing companies and that is the purpose of DiMAF,” he added.