By Luke Tamborinyoka
From January to mid-February 2017, I traversed the length and breadth of the country with Morgan Tsvangirai in a one-and-a- half months nationwide consultative tour.
Tsvangirai loved engaging the people and relished direct exchanges with ordinary Zimbabweans. We returned to Harare thoroughly exhausted after a taxing nationwide tour where Zimbabweans passionately spoke freely about their challenges and how they wanted the democratic struggle to be prosecuted.
Throughout the country, the demand for a united front of all democratic forces had rung loud from Binga to Mukumbura and from Malipati to Chirundu.
That is how the MDC Alliance was borne; the political behemoth now being fought and undermined by this mercenary, treacherous lot among us.
You cannot fight the MDC Alliance and claim you are defending the legacy of Morgan Tsvangirai, for the Alliance is the epitome of the man’s legacy. The MDC Alliance is a product of the strident, genuine demands by the ordinary people for the democratic forces to coalesce into a broad front.
The grouping of political parties into the MDC Alliance was a fulfillment of a sonorous national call. The shrill call for a broad front came from the humble grass-thatched mud huts in Binga to the mansions in Borrowdale and Gunhill. Notwithstanding their different social stations, they all demanded the formation of a broad political front in the country.
It was during that tour that I first heard the Tonga word kujatana, which means unity.
After that gruelling six-week tour, I sat late one evening with Morgan Tsvangirai to write a message, back to the people, in which he made it clear he had listened to them and that he had heard them.
Today, in his honour, I re-publish his statement to the people of Zimbabwe in which he pledged to be guided by the people’s collective conscience.
I Heard You
By Morgan Tsvangirai
Fellow Zimbabweans, I want to say from the outset: Thank you for making me wiser. After a gruelling one-and-half months tour to all the country’s provinces and listening to your many voices, concerns and inputs, most of them from ordinary people outside the party I lead, all I can say is that it was a chastening experience.
Thank You Zimbabwe.
From Beitbridge to Nyamakate, from Binga to Nyanga and from Plumtree to Chipinge, I wish to say I heard you all.
We sat under trees and discussed many issues about the country we all love. We huddled in round huts, conversed in town halls, sat under trees, inside those hot tents and communed about the past, the present and the future of our beloved country.
We spoke about past State-sanctioned atrocities against the innocent citizens of our country, the present difficulties we all face and the new governance culture we should sculpt if we are to embrace a new future with renewed confidence and hope.
We discussed the next election in 2018 which we all agreed was watershed. We agreed that as political parties and networks, we all need to coalesce into a huge coalition for change that will set a new paradigm for future generations. I heard you well on that score.
We debated on many issues, as we should as a diverse and different people united under one flag. What soothed my spirit on the few occasions we disagreed was that we all meant well, united in the spirit of our common desire for things to work in this beautiful country that we all love.
We hugged and laughed about our situation as we enjoyed all those traditional meals. I am still full with the food that we enjoyed together; those mounds of rapoko sadza , especially the goat meat that I was served in almost all the country’s provinces.
I will never forget the camaraderie and the friendly spirit as you welcomed me and my team into your homes. It all speaks to the hospitable spirit that defines us as a people; indeed the love that glows bright amongst us as an African people, a people always imbued with high hopes for the future of our children.
Pastors, pensioners, chiefs, headmen, village heads; I heard you all and your concern about the endemic fear that has been planted in your communities. You told me about your measly allowances that are now in arrears and how Zanu PF abuses you to discriminate people and frog-march them to polling stations. I heard your cry that this should not happen in our new society after 2018.
To the church leaders and pastors, I heard the concerns about how your churches have been desecrated and politicized by a party desperate to get votes even in those sacred places where nothing else but the worship of the Lord should take place.
You said clearly that we should not allow that to happen in the new Zimbabwe after 2018.
To civic society and the many groups that serve in our communities, I heard your prayers for peace in our land and your wish for a government that truly cares for its people.
To the civil servants, I heard you. I share your concerns about your collective dignity that has been eroded under this uncaring government, a government that now responds to your very genuine grievances only when you threaten a crippling strike.
To the Venda, the Kalanga, the Ndebele, the Tonga, the Shangani and the Ndau, I heard your cries about exclusion; your fervent prayer that the new society we must create after 2018 must be genuinely inclusive. You demanded a society that makes everyone feel proud to be Zimbabwean once again.
Those with broken spirits; victimized and orphaned by State-sponsored atrocities, I heard your cries that we should slam the door shut on such violence and say ‘ Never Again ’. I heard your cry that we should put closure to State-sponsored violence; that we should heal our traumatized communities through community reparations so as to at least allow your battered souls to forgive—-but not to forget.
I heard your cries about the new society you want us to create; a society underpinned by unity and togetherness, growth, peace and development.
It is that solidarity that will enable us to bravely march into the future; the solidarity of a united community. I was charmed by the sight of a glued community working in unison in one village in Binga, even after the tragedy of lightning had struck and killed those six innocent souls at a funeral.
That unity defines us. We always rise or fall collectively as a people!
All the people who made invaluable contributions during my tour on the kind of society you want and what you want us to do as a political leadership, , I heard you; the despondent artisanal miners in Redcliff, I still carry your voices with me. The pensioners, men and women who spoke in impassioned voices about the desperate need for a new governance culture in our country, I can assure you your words made a lasting impression on my spirit.
To all those resolute families that sunny afternoon who stood in defence of their rights as our private meeting was invaded by armed riot police in Nyamakate in Mashonaland West province, I salute your courage.
To the patriotic Zimbabweans with whom I enjoyed a meal in Hauna, those patriotic chiefs and headmen in Plumtree and that courageous woman, vaChihera , who spoke with passion and courage in Chimanimani West, I will not forget your conquering spirit.
The forsaken elders in Mukumbura; traumatized by both the Smith regime and the Mugabe regime of the freedom fighters that you clothed and fed, I assure you I still carry your touching concerns about what we must address in the new dispensation that is now almost upon us.
Fellow Zimbabweans, what was soothing was that we all agreed that 2018 is a perfect opportunity for the nation to start afresh; to build a new country and gather the broken smithereens of our scattered hope. It was comforting that regardless of all your legitimate and genuine grievances against this regime, you still hold the hope for our country and its future; the hope that 2018 shall be the year we all start afresh.
To the youth and the students with whom I conversed, remember you are the real stakeholders of the future. You must shape that future, your own future, by participating in the politics of your country. Remember we agreed that the onus is upon you to register to vote, to vote for a leadership of your choice, to make your voice count and to secure and defend that vote.
You cannot outsource your future to anyone.
Fellow Zimbabweans, I want to assure you that I heard you all.
Henceforth, the decisions I will make both before and after the next watershed election shall be shaped and informed by the very rich engagements that I had with you in the past one-and-half months.
To the old man in Binga, your wise words to me, said with passion and conviction, will always ring in my mind: “ Don’t follow in Mugabe’s footsteps !”
At a personal level, you all shaped me. I want to assure you that your rich contributions will guide me and shape the decisions I will be making going forward.
Yes, I heard you all, my fellow countrymen and countrywomen.
Thanks for the memories!