Fellow Zimbabweans, our schools are opening tomorrow and our industry or what is left of it is due to open starting end of this week. We begin this watershed year amid a lot of promise and mammoth national expectations for bright and positive prospects for this great country that we all love.
Last November we all united, for a patriotic cause, to orchestrate a huge fall of an intractable political edifice that had for decades stood between the people and their collective hope.
We all saw and reveled at the fall of a strong man who had ruled this country with an iron fist and bludgeoned the people for selfish political ends.
In came a new administration on the back of a military-backed effort that still raises very valid and genuine questions about the constitutionality of allowing soldiers to dabble in civilian political affairs.
However, despite the palpable and justifiable national relief at the fall of Mugabe, huge challenges remain for the new administration.
Firstly, the new administration has to articulate a clear and comprehensive roadmap to legitimacy that includes implementation of the much-needed reforms to ensure free, fair and credible elections in a few months time. It is disheartening to note that we are already behind schedule and last week, I raised these concerns to President Mnangagwa when he made an impromptu but welcome gesture to check on me following my public disclosure that I had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon.
This new administration has to earn its legitimacy through a proper election. It must seek the people’s mandate. The new government has to break away from the past and genuinely chart a new trajectory to a dispensation of clean politics that truly puts the country and its people first. It has to respect diversity and to appreciate that despite our different political formations, we are all patriotic Zimbabweans who yearn for the best for our country.
For me, that visit to my residence by the new President was significant not only in terms of the content of what we discussed but in the import of its overall relevance.
The visit signaled what must be the bane of the new politics of our time that an opposition party, especially one represented in our national Parliament, does not in any way constitute an enemy of the State. The opposition is just as patriotic and aspires and wishes for the best for our people.
Indeed, my engagement with President Mnangagwa must herald a new page in our politics—-a page in which the opposition is considered a partner and not an enemy of the State. The visit can be built upon by truly well-meaning Zimbabweans to herald a new politics of engagement in our country.
Political difference must be celebrated and the people must be allowed to express themselves. That is why I was shocked by the new regime’s iron-fist response two weeks ago to Zimbabweans in Bulawayo who sought to alert the government of the deep-seated wounds that are still festering since the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s.
That response was wanton, unjustified and shows that the Mnangagwa administration still has a lot of work to do to earn our faith and trust.
Fellow Zimbabweans, we begin the New Year mired in deep economic problems from which we need urgent extrication. The cash crisis, price increases, the liquidity crunch, the huge budget deficit and the lack of faith and trust in the sincerity of government and all its institutions remain a somewhat permanent cancer in our body politic.
The onus is on the new administration to inspire hope and confidence in the nation.
True, there appears to have been some effort in tackling corruption but one hopes that the fight against graft and avarice truly becomes wholesome and ceases to be part of a retributive agenda against the ousted faction in Zanu PF. One hopes that the crusade against sleaze and corruption becomes a genuine crusade being fought in the national interest and not to punish a few selected individuals.
Fellow Zimbabweans, we are on the verge of what could be an exciting year especially as we reflect on the great potential we have as a country and as a people.
At a personal level, I feel an air of satisfaction as I reflect on the great journey we have travelled together even as I seriously ponder about the future.
You, the people have travelled with me a journey that had its own tribulations. Yet it was also a journey in which we worked hard and achieved so much together. I am in the process of writing a book that is set to be a collective national treasure on the great things we have achieved together over the years in our journey of service and sacrifice.
It was a journey that began at the ZCTU Congress in Gweru in 1988 when, with a few hours before the elective congress; a delegation knocked on my hotel room in the middle of the night and persuaded me to run for the post of secretary-general of the country’s national labour federation.
I was to win that election and the first task that we achieved together was to extricate the ZCTU from the clutches of government by making it a genuinely autonomous labour body that represented the interests of the country’s workers.
We fought that battle together and achieved that true independence and autonomy of the ZCTU.
When the government introduced a toxic IMF-foisted economic structural adjustment programme that was not in the interest of the workers, we fought together and the government began to take the voice of the workers seriously.
In 1998, together, we turned the workers’ voice into a sonorous national chorus that could shout for a national shut down to articulate the genuine concerns of the country’s workers. Together, we galvanized the workers into a formidable force that could blow out the smoke from our productive industries to clamour for national attention.
The government began to take us seriously.
We achieved that together.
In 1999, through the national working people’s convention, together with the workers of this country, you clamoured for a workers-driven political party.
The country could never be the same again.
That working people’s convention gave birth to the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. Since then, the party has become a perennial people’s voice in Parliament. It became a formidable political force that administered the country’s major cities and towns and Zanu PF—- to this day—-remain visitors and strangers in the country’s cities, towns and other rural enclaves where the gospel of change has made a huge imprint.
We have achieved that together.
In 2008, we defeated Robert Mugabe and we showed–through an inclusive government—that it is possible for government to be an arena that can bring positive and palpable change in the lives of the people.
We achieved that together.
In that government we turned around the economy, stabilized prices and gave a battered nation the reason to hope again.
We achieved that together.
Above all else, we wrote and affirmed in a referendum a new Constitution for the country; a Constitution that determined the way we want our affairs managed and our country governed. At the heart of this supreme law is a comprehensive Bill of rights almost second to none in Southern Africa and beyond.
The challenge for the new administration is to give life to that governance charter that we made ourselves.
That new Constitution was no mean task and we achieved it together.
Beyond what we have achieved together, we ought to leave a lasting legacy where the baton can be changed peacefully, in a tranquil and cordial atmosphere of unity and togetherness.
At a personal level, I am using this New Year not only to reflect on the onerous journey that we have travelled together but also to peer with renewed hope into a bright future.
I am looking at the imminent prospects of us as the older generation leaving the levers of leadership to allow the younger generation to take forward this huge task that we started together so many years ago with our full blessing and support.
It was therefore not by accident but by design that when I disclosed to you my health status, I also took a bold step to appoint an additional two Vice Presidents to assist me. As I have said before, while politicians only think about the next election, true statesmen think about the next generation, for current leaders are only but caretakers for future generations. We do not have any entitlement to lead but we have a duty to serve.
We must recognize the imperative that new hands, with the full blessing of the people, must take this struggle and this country forward with the destination remaining the same – a society that prides itself for not leaving anyone behind in their pursuit of freedom, prosperity and happiness. That is the only lasting legacy and precedence that we must leave to future generations.
As we move towards the upcoming elections, we must not lose sight and misinterpret what happened in November 2017. The departure of Mugabe resulted in a change of guard at the helm of our state but #ChangeIsNotEnough. This country requires transformation of both our governance culture and the way we do business.
Our war war cry therefore for the upcoming elections is simple “Munhu Wese Kubasa” – “Umuntu wonke emsebenzini” – “Everyone to Work”. Whether you are an investor, a commercial farmer, an industrialist, a teacher, a banker a worker or a peasant farmer, lets all go back to work in order to prosper. We need to produce in order to grow our economy and create new jobs.
For that to happen, we need both domestic and international investment capital which must be guaranteed a safe, predictable, secure and corruption free environment underpinned by the rule of law, constitutionalism, respect for property and human rights and freedoms. The starting point for this envisaged take off for our great nation is a return to legitimacy through a free, fair, credible internationally supervised and monitored election whose outcome is not contested.
Anything short of this will spell doom for our great nation. I therefore call upon the interim leaders of our country not to miss this opportunity by dipping their heads in the sand and wish away our crisis by not implementing the necessary reforms required before elections——for history will judge you harshly.
Lastly, I would like to urge those who have not registered to vote to take advantage of the extended registration exercise to register so that you can participate in shaping your new destiny.
God bless Zimbabwe.
President MDC-T/MDC Alliance