Keynote Address by the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, the Right Honourable Morgan Tsvangirai at the occasion of the launching of the Panel of Zimbabwe Elders

morgan_pmThe Panel of Elders
The secretary-general of the SADC council of NGOs Mr Boichoko Ditlhake and your colleagues (Pictured: Morgan Tsvangirai)

The executive chairman of the Centre for Peace Initiatives Africa, Dr Leonard Kapungu

Government ministers here present

Traditional leaders

Members of the diplomatic corps

Invited Guests, Ladies and gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today on the occasion of the launch of the Panel of Zimbabwe Elders, one of the many brilliant initiatives to ensure that our country achieves peace. Many a time, we have often failed in Africa to live in peace amongst ourselves because of conflicts arising from differences based on tribe, race, religion or political affiliation.

We have fed the stereotype of a violent Africa because of internecine wars, conflicts and our desire to mete out violence on political opponents. We have confirmed the negative belief held by Africas critics by decimating each other through political violence orchestrated mainly by organs of the State.

Indeed, ours has been a story of violence and conflict from the Sudan to Somalia, from the Ivory Coast to the Saharawi Republic and from Libya to Zimbabwe. And that is why every Zimbabwean should join me in celebrating the creation today of this body of elders that is prepared to work towards achieving peace and harmony in Zimbabwe.

We must celebrate these ambassadors of peace; brave men and women from across the social spectrums, who have decided to work towards promoting a peaceful Zimbabwe. I notice that the panel is rich in its diversity. It comprises people of diverse backgrounds who include university professors, church leaders, businessmen and women, academics, chiefs, retired judges and retired senior military personnel.

This inclusive body of elders working together to prevent violence in our country is a great story unto itself and a clear testimony that collective effort is important to ensure that the citizens of this country live in peace, with neither fear nor coercion.

We all want a new era in this country; where knives, machetes, knobkerries, guns and booted feet as instruments of violence and repression are no longer fashionable. As a country, we have been forced to walk the painful road of violence and hatred 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 peoples 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, too, have personally experienced this violence and I understand the pain of brutality and indignity.

Zimbabwe cannot afford to slide back if it is to reclaim its rightful place among the civilized family of nations. Across the political, tribal, religious or racial divide, we all want to live in peace and harmony; in a tranquil environment where our rights and basic freedoms of assembly, speech, movement and association are respected and protected.

The challenge of the new crop of Africa leaders is to kill this culture of violence against defenseless citizens so that governments concentrate on pressing national issues such as eradicating poverty, creating jobs, growing the economy and delivering quality and affordable service to the people, especially health and education. A new Zimbabwe where political or religious differences are not an excuse for violence and unnecessary conflict; where state institutions promote peace and unity – not war and violence against defenseless people.

Our current situation is being compounded by the war psychosis-the constant reference to Chimurenga and the war language associated with it. It puts the country into an unnecessary war mode because any war environment necessitates the suspension of the Constitution and the undermining of the civilian authority. The civilian authority becomes substituted by partisan organs of the State and the whole country is thrown into fear and insecurity.

We cannot have peace unless all these issues have been dealt with. Statements by service chiefs that they will not respect the expression of the peoples will, as well as statements in the press today in which a senior army officer is trying to determine the date of the election, only serve to confirm the uniqueness of our situation and the importance of vaccinating State organs from acting like political entities.

Unnecessary election talk leads to disfunctionality and polarity in the country. It polarizes Cabinet, Parliament and the security sector and leads to unilateral actions and selective application of the law. We must all understand that peace is a major ingredient in the creation of a conducive environment for investment, economic growth and development. Peace is a precondition in any endeavor to promote and improve peoples lives.

Peace must be everyones clarion call and I urge you to leave no stone unturned in rallying everyone to support the creation of a peaceful nation. I notice that among the terms of reference of the panel of elders is to come up with strategies that enhance a peaceful environment by intervening to stop violence at every level and spearheading a public campaign against politically motivated violence.

I am glad that your policy document considers free and fair elections as the best way out of the current political, economic and social challenges in the country. I am also glad that you are seeking co-operation with all actors nationally, regionally and internationally in securing peaceful and free conditions ahead of the next election.

Surely, these are noble initiatives in which all of us are agreed and I would be surprised to learn that there are others who hold the strong view that a peaceful election and a peaceful country are not in the best interest of the people of Zimbabwe!

I wish to thank SADC and the facilitator, President Jacob Zuma, for their patience and hard work. Despite unnecessary provocation, they have retained their firm and unwavering commitment to the crafting of a roadmap, with clear benchmarks and time-bound milestones, to ensure a peaceful electoral environment that will not breed another contested outcome in Zimbabwe.

Yes, we need a free and fair election under a new Constitution. So we must all be able to support that roadmap and to fight violence in every quarter. Let us fight for peace in and among political parties, peace in the homes and peace in the country as a pre-condition for creating a better society and a better foundation for future generations.

I wish to thank the people of Zimbabwe for investing their faith in this transitional arrangement that has given us a modicum of peace; 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 am aware, however, that the peaceful foundation we have tried to lay is being threatened by those that want us to slide back to the conflict and violence of 2008. I know they will fail! I have traversed the length and breadth of Zimbabwe and spoken to villagers, farmers, students, church leaders, businessmen, cross-border traders and factory workers. I have talked to bankers, investors, housewives, the youth, women and minority groups and I have been humbled by their unequivocal support for a peaceful country,a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning.

As we embark on this last mile to full democracy, I urge the church and everyone committed to peace to take a leading role in committing our country and its leadership to God. I urge all God-fearing Zimbabweans to unite in prayer and ask God the Almighty to bless our country.

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 have no place, where we are united in 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 fight for peace, dignity and prosperity should continue to drive us in in the coming year.

The uniqueness of our situation means that bringing Zimbabwe back to legitimacy and peace is both a national and international issue. In the words of Psalm 122 verse 7:May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. It is my singular honor and privilege to declare the Panel of Zimbabwe Elders officially launched.

I thank you

MDC Information & Publicity Department

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