Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Morgan Tsvangirai speaks from the grave
Exactly four years ago to the day, the doyen of the country’s democratic struggle died. It was only befitting that Morgan Richard Tsvangirai would die on Valentine’s Day—on the day that the power of love is celebrated worldwide— for the man was an iconic patriot who not only loved his country but was reputably a man of love in many other respects.
As per tradition, today’s column is a special dedication in remembrance of Morgan Tsvangirai, a man I served for 10 years as his spokesperson and trusted lieutenant. He was a father, a friend and a boss all rolled into one.
Tsvangirai loved his white wine. He would invariably become free-willed and would open up his mind after several glasses of wine, which he loved just as he loved his golf. Morgan Tsvangirai did not partake any type of beer. While on a trip from Mberengwa to Zvishavane late 2013, I asked him if he had ever taken any type of beer and if so, why he had kicked the habit. He only told me that something embarrassing had happened after he and others had drunk to the advent of a new country in the promising and celebratory days of the roaring 1980s. Since then, he said he had vowed never to drink beer again. I had dutifully refrained from pressing him on the intimate details of the embarrassing episode as it was clear he was not keen to shed any more light on the shameful misadventure, whatever it was.
We sat down one evening in 2014 as he exhorted me to write a piece of his personal reflections, almost a year after the stolen election of 2013.
He told me several talking points that touched on the election that had been brazenly stolen against the background of an inclusive government that had engendered so much hope and promise for the country; he frankly spoke about his family, his love life and the despondency he had seen in the countryside in a nationwide tour in which we had together traversed the whole country and engaged citizens in the immediate aftermath of the stolen plebiscite of July 2013. He also spoke about the naive assumption in 2013 that huge voting numbers in the absence of comprehensive reforms would overwhelm any Zanu-PF rigging plot, itself a cardinal lesson for us as the CCC leadership not to lose focus on the reform agenda.
It was a candid and honest exchange that evening as he told me the talking points for his envisaged message to the people of Zimbabwe. He specifically instructed that I should dub the message his “personal reflections”. We agreed that the op-ed would carry his byline so as to befittingly shorn it with the requisite intimate, personal touch.
Deep in my mind, I had attributed the candidness and jovial looseness of mind to the half-empty bottle of white wine that arrogantly stood on the table before him.
However, my conjecture could be wrong. It may not have been the wine as he would later exhibit the same frankness and free-spiritedness when I routinely interviewed him on a wide range of issues for a book that is set to be published in the coming months. For Service and Sacrifice, my forthcoming book, contains hitherto unknown details about his personal views on a wide array of matters, his work in government as well as his interactions and his working relationship with Mr Robert Mugabe, particularly during the tenuous era of the inclusive government.
But the forthcoming book is a story for another day.
That discussion that evening in 2014 for a candid opinion piece under his byline will forever remain ingrained in my mind. Here was the true Morgan Tsvangirai speaking from the heart. Unrestrained, free-flowing, unadulterated and genuine.
Today, in his memory, I republish the epic piece in which he reflected on his love life as well as a despondent country in the aftermath of a stolen election in which Zanu PF had made so many promises but delivered nothing.
Today, having come from yet another stolen election in 2018 in which Zanu-PF promised to do so much and yet has delivered nothing , the country finds itself in the same space in which Dr Tsvangirai wrote the piece below.
Indeed, we are in the same political moment in which Dr Tsvangirai reflected on a diverse array of issues, particularly on a weather-beaten people in the aftermath of an election in which Zanu PF had promised so much and conspired to disappoint.
In his memory, amid a striking congruency in the moment in which his op-ed was written, I will allow Dr Tsvangirai to yet again address a similarly stressed nation from the grave!
By Morgan Tsvangirai
The lasting image of the last election that has remained largely ingrained in my mind is of the mammoth crowd that gathered in Harare on what we dubbed the Cross Over rally on July 29, 2013.
It is an indelible image of a nation that was geared for change, a determined people on the brink of crossing over to a new country with new opportunities under a new and competent dispensation.
Now it has been 11 months since the election on 31 July 2013 and the swearing in of the current government of Zimbabwe; but the situation in the country is dispiriting.
Starting on 3rd September 2013, I began a national conversation with the people of Zimbabwe.
I have travelled across the length and breath of our nation, engaging in dialogue with people from all walks of life and holding rallies that attracted multitudes.
In my visits to the various districts after the election, I have seen and witnessed the pain of Zimbabweans, the palpable despair amongst the people as they contemplated a future for themselves and their families under the Zanu PF regime.
The ordinary people of this country are simply failing to cope with life in the current socio-economic circumstances that are upon us.
I spoke to pensioners that have found themselves pauperized, disenfranchised and smothered by the debilitating economic policies and unmitigated mismanagement by the Mugabe government. I saw parents struggling to pay for their children’s school fees and health-care; men and women emasculated by Zanu PF’s failing policies and company closures.
I saw previously employed citizens and those seeking work who now cannot sustain a meaningful life, including university graduates vending airtime vouchers and anything else that can be sold.
Indeed, the nation has become one big mall, a huge ‘ Siyaso ’ market with everyone trying to sell something to someone just to make ends meet.
I saw villagers struggling to buy basics for their families, huge families surviving on far much less that US$1 per day.
The question on everybody’s mind is how so much pain, despair and desperation can immediately follow what our colleagues in Zanu PF would want to call a resounding victory that gave them an overwhelming mandate? From where we had started since the formation of the inclusive government in early 2009 and where we had reached by 2013, notable progress had been recorded and hope for a brighter future sufficiently generated.
The desperate times of the crisis era of 2008 had become a distant memory and a new sense of hope had crept in the country by the time we held the last election.
The past had become another country.
We all thought that the election was going to result in the consolidation of the hope and the progress that had set in the country after 2009.My heart is heavy today, as we accelerate towards the same economic turmoil from where we had rescued the people of Zimbabwe some five years ago!
Closeted at State House, Mr Mugabe remains marooned from the reality of the national situation, oblivious to the daily predicament facing Zimbabweans as they struggle to survive.
The last election
As the elections drew nearer, much of the intelligence we had gathered had pointed to the reality that the shenanigans from Zanu PF were at play.
But we had judged that our sheer numbers were going to overwhelm the electoral mischief Zanu PF had planned. Put simply, we underestimated the level of subversion of the people’s will that had been planned.
I remember my meeting with president Mugabe on the eve of the election, a meeting facilitated by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo at which I tabled a copy of a couple of pages of the shambolic voters roll that was to be used in the elections the following day.
Mugabe’s response was – Ivo vana Mudede vanombozvifambisa sei ? (How is the Registrar-General Mr Mudede doing his work?). He said this as he retracted into his chair, feigning ignorance of what was about to happen.
Despite our much-concerted efforts to get the electronic voters roll in time and not getting it, we eventually participated in the elections without the said voters roll. As we in the MDC have said, we had assumed that our sheer numbers were going to overwhelm the rigging plot. With the benefit of hindsight, we were wrong!
As the results of the elections became clear to our people on the ground, the nation had once again been shortchanged in yet another electoral fraud.
That election was the beginning of the unprecedented uncertainty and we must budget for more such uncertainty under this dark cloud of illegitimacy. All the hope that had been generated for the nation has simply disappeared.
It had appeared to me after 2008 that Zanu PF had begun to appreciate the overwhelming impact of illegitimacy on all sectors of the economy. We all thought President Mugabe had come to desire a dignified exit. And again, that is as far as my humanity had judged. We were wrong.
But I want to restate that we remain a determined people. We are confident that the change we seek will definitely be achieved well within our lifetime.
Naysayers and doomsayers may be prematurely writing our obituary but we remain focused on what we set out to achieve in 1999. And we will achieve it.
I have great faith in the people of Zimbabwe. We are a heroic people that will not tire until we achieve the peace, stability, democracy and prosperity that our country desires and deserves.
Since the contested elections of 2013, the economy is failing to gain any traction. This single issue has brought about an array of problems as the symptoms below reveal.
To the citizen, we have seen insecure jobs to the few that still have them, unfulfilled promises to civil servants and inadequate remuneration as well as the disappearance and diminishing of any form of savings.
Systemic corruption and unbridled avarice have become an albatross of this economy. And this at a time when the country itself is seriously mired in debt, the external debt of which is in excess of $10 billion.
We have a government that has failed to mobilize a rescue package for the productive sector in order to breathe life into this economy. There is unmitigated failure on the part of government to come up with a solution to rescue this abysmal situation.
The policy uncertainty and inconsistencies on key programmes such indigenization and economic empowerment is not helping matters in bringing sanity and predictability, the two key factors for economic stability.
There is an acute lack of investor confidence and support by development partners, driven by the legitimacy crisis, as well as a ballooning debt which remains unserviced. Without legitimacy, the country remains exposed to risk and uncertainty, two factors that determine investment and economic progress.
The government simply has run out of ideas, even in the wake of shrinking revenue collections as a result of a diminishing base. The purported economic blueprint, ZimAsset, needs funding to the tune of $27 billion, and this at time when we have failed to fund an annual budget that needed around $4 billion.
The ZimAsset programme, supposedly the panacea to our economic success, has failed to attract any funding whatsoever.
Our grim economic plight as a people would have been surmountable had there been a credible election last year, even if it had meant a genuine and fair loss by the MDC-T.
The business sector has been crippled and shackled by a biting liquidity crunch, creating a gridlock that has negatively affected commerce and the services sector.
Do nations fail due to the inflexibility of mindsets and do nations succeed due to the flexibility attitudes? True and honest leaders should know that at any particular time, the success and failure of nations can only be located in the mindset of the national leadership in the seat of government.
Lastly, despite all our shortcomings, I believe a sunrise is possible and the dawn must start within our well-meaning selves.
Despite Africa’s investment attractiveness and a rising appetite for African products across the world, Zimbabwe has missed out on this emerging optimism on Africa that would have done wonders for our economy.
A man greatly misunderstood
As the leader of a great people’s movement, the MDC, and with a mandate derived directly from the people, it is my desire to drive this struggle to its logical conclusion.
But I am saddened by the preoccupation with false narratives that are meant to divert us from the real problems facing the people. One such preoccupation is the pursuit of the issue of my assumed weakness with women.
After my wife died in an accident back in 2009, life has not been easy going– that fateful day will not leave me. But despite sad experiences, life continues.
As you all know, due to extensive publicity in the media with respect to my relationships with women, an attempt has been made to portray my perceived errors to be the sum total of who I am.
It is possible after such a loss for one to be on an emotional roller coaster. This becomes more acute as one grapples with the adjustment to a life without a partner who anchored you socially, at the same time laden with the burden of national responsibility to address an intricate national crisis.
As a leader, I have come to terms with the nature of public office as requiring public accountability. I am continuing to reflect and strive to live up to those high expectations. I have fought for the proliferation of media in Zimbabwe, as I am a firm believer in the necessity of the checks and balances that the media provide.
I have since moved on and now share a commitment with my wife, Elizabeth. I have taken ownership of my responsibilities, which I continue to meet within my resources.
The other false narrative is that I want to die in office. I will state unequivocally that I have no intention of staying a day longer at the helm of the MDC without the people’s mandate.
But I will also pronounce, with the same vigour and vehemence, that I will not be hounded out undemocratically through a hostile take-over outside a people’s process called a party Congress.
We cannot be self-contradictory as to claim to be democrats when at the same time we want to remove elected leadership through a coup de tat . Our national council has taken a position to bring forward our party Congress from 2016 to October this year. It is at that platform where all positions, including the Presidency, are open for contestation and I urge fellow party members to understand that it is that forum that elects and removes leaders.
Party members know that even the Presidency is open for contestation by any nominated member and I make a guarantee that no one will be stopped from contesting for any position because we are a democratic Party.
Our international Relations
The current national reality is that we are isolated from meaningful investment capital flow and substantial development financial assistance.
Zanu PF’s narrowly focused and confined “Look East” policy has not yielded direct fiscal support.
We have had a myopic foreign policy that overlooks the significance of the broader international community, thereby underplaying the potential of leveraging international relationships in a broad sense.
We must once again rejoin the family of nations, in its wide scope, in mutually beneficial relationships, but largely driven, on our part, by the desire to enhance and further the interest of the ordinary citizen of this country.
Zimbabwe needs friends, strategic partners and promoters across the breath of the international community. Our international relations, even at the regional level, require fixing.
We have been consistently inconsistent for so long that there are not many takers supporting our plans for the way forward. The safest bet is to shift our mindset towards new thinking and new pronouncements that are inclined towards mutually beneficial policies.
I envision a new Zimbabwe.
I see a great nation rising from the ashes of Zanu PF misrule. I see the realization of our promise for a better future for our children and our great grandchildren in a land full of happiness and abundance.
I see the possibility of reconciliation of all peoples; a nation working together in resolving its confidence crisis.
I envision a Zimbabwe with a new ethos, where people live in peaceful co-existence regardless of their cultural, ethnic, racial, religious or political differences.
Given our traumatic past, we must learn to tolerate and reconcile with each other; to draw a line in the sand and say never again should any citizen be slaughtered on ethnic, racial, political or any other grounds for that matter. We must be an inclusive, united society that is ready to swim or sink together, where diversity is celebrated rather than punished.
It is the celebration of our differences that will ultimately make our democracy hold.
In the new Zimbabwe, there will be no compromise on the dignity of the citizen, which, thankfully, is now enshrined in our Constitution. All citizens must enjoy the true meaning of life by being treated equally by government and all state institution. The equality and dignity of all citizens will be the cornerstone of our democracy in the new Zimbabwe.
We aspire for a Zimbabwe characterized by economic prosperity, with notable increases of GDP and individual income levels. A country with increased productivity through strategic investment partnerships in the agricultural, manufacturing and mining sectors; productivity that will ultimately benefit the ordinary citizen.
I envision a new Zimbabwe with a modernized transport infrastructure that includes the resuscitation of the competitiveness of our national airline. We need to invest in upgrading our airports to promote commerce, trade and tourism.
I see a new Zimbabwe where the participation of women and the youth in mainstream economic activities is guaranteed and encouraged.
We aspire for a new nation with an accountable government; a country where a prosperous economy prevails underpinned by the rule of law, political stability, policy consistency and predictability.
We must build a corrupt-free Zimbabwe with a government that is at the forefront of aggressively tackling systemic graft and dismantling the rise of unjust scales.
An efficient public service is the cornerstone of an efficient government.
There is need in the new society we envisage to de-politicize the public service; to harness efficiencies and new competences as well as implementing institutional transformation to prepare public institutions with the onerous role to efficiently serve the people of Zimbabwe.
Efficient social service delivery will engender happiness among our citizens by ensuring the provision of affordable and qualitative clean water, healthcare and education across the nation.
We strongly believe in the sacred commitment to our liberation war and democratic struggle heroes and heroines. I pledge that these will be fully recognized as the champions of our country’s important struggles and mechanisms will be put in place not only to celebrate and honour them, but to respond to their family and welfare needs through sustainable means.
In January this year, I made a state of the nation address in which I spoke of the need for dialogue to address the debilitating economic and social crisis that we face.
I notice the emerging consensus on my call for dialogue. The same call has been made by international institutions, Cabinet Ministers, economists and civic society.
Given our current economic paralysis, that national conversation to rescue the nation has become more urgent than ever before.
There is an urgent imperative for a national conversation of more players than just political parties. The important aspect is that our dialogue must this time be broadened to include the trade unions, the church, students, industry and other stakeholders.
The broad spectrum of stakeholders in that important dialogue must discuss, find consensus and map the way forward on the current economic crisis, the endemic poverty across the length and breadth of the nation and the massive unemployment in the country.
Those outside of our struggle who are impatient for a solution outside of well-meaning dialogue must recognize that democracy without stability leads to nowhere, but equally, stability without democracy and dialogue cannot lead to national prosperity.
Lastly, we have walked this tortuous road together. We bear permanent scars from this our tenacious quest for peace, prosperity and development in the country of our birth.
Zimbabwe is the only country we have.
Zimbabweans bear testimony to my personal desire to see the fruition of the people’s struggle for positive change.
I cannot even begin to count the personal loss to each one of us in our pursuit of happiness, democracy, stability and prosperity in a new Zimbabwe.
I know only too well what it means to be a true patriot driven only by the desire for a prosperous, democratic nation.
For I too have borne the brunt of repression as a reward for my unstinting patriotism. I have been beaten up in a police station and faced serious trumped up charges, lost a loved one and endured the loss of so many cadres in this tortuous journey towards our democratic transformation.
But beyond our painful collective national experience lies a new country with new hope and abundant opportunities. The sunset of our struggle will lead to a sunrise of abundance and success.
In spite of our deep scars, we shall persevere to the very end.
We are a heroic people.
We will certainly outlive our current setbacks and the dark and traumatic experience of political violence, our burnt houses, the rapes and the murders we have suffered along this painful road. They have failed to break our collective spirit.
I have no doubt in my mind that regardless of how long it may take, we shall eventually overcome and cry the tears of joy.
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change led by the people’s President Advocate Nelson Chamisa . You can interact with Tamborinyoka on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.