|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
11 May 2004
PRESIDENT TSVANGIRAI’S TUESDAY MESSAGE TO THE
Zimbabweans finds themselves in a political quagmire today mainly due to their inability to exercise their basic rights. For the past 24 years, the people have had to rely on a highly centralised state system for privileges.
Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF proclaimed themselves the primary source of life, liberty and the pursuit of development. Only last week, Mugabe promised traditional chiefs all kinds of material benefits in return for their recognition of his regime. He wants to buy them out with monthly allowances of up to $1 million, electrified homesteads and new vehicles. Why has he decided to do that today, 24 years after independence and on the eve of an election? Has it suddenly occurred to him that our chiefs need these facilities?
Mugabe told the chiefs that they were paragons of virtue. How does virtue exist in a society without essential freedoms necessary for the people to make basic moral choices? Can virtue flourish in a climate of coercion? Our chiefs have witnessed some of the horrendous acts of Mugabe’s brutality. Since 2000, there were mass displacements in villages; Zanu PF activists banished teachers and other civil servants from the rural areas; several homes were burnt down; businesses collapsed and thousands were brutalized. Our traditional leaders and chiefs know all this. They know that Zimbabweans are crying out for a virtuous social environment in order to cast off the nation’s pariah status.
Any chief who supports a dictatorship risks
alienating himself from the people. In Smith’s
Only yesterday, traditional chiefs were sidelined during the so-called fast track land redistribution exercise. They were denied a voice in the selection of beneficiaries and in the acquisition process. What is it that has changed today? A pending Parliamentary election?
As long as there is no peace and security, our chiefs will find it hard to perform their duties in their communities. Our chiefs will always fail to pacify a hungry constituency. Our chiefs will never live in peace as long as unemployment, poverty and political violence continue to stalk their communities.
The loss of our rights and freedoms started soon after independence in 1980 with government exhortations that everybody must belong to some kind of co-operative society. Villagers were organized into tiny committees run by Zanu PF chairpersons; capitalism and private initiative was shunned and discouraged; and Zanu PF or the party, as it was called, was the ultimate provider of security and happiness. In short, the nation traded away its freedom for empty nationalism and Zanu PF privileges. These experiments failed us.
Organized social and economic structures, including traditional leaders, trade unions, the church and the rest of civil society, inherited from our past were substantially weakened. The regime was unkind to dissent and opposing views. The regime replaced the value of individual to society with a central, authoritarian accumulation of power resulting in a wholesale usurpation of basic freedoms and dwindling initiatives for wealth creation.
As a people, we made a serious mistake to allow a tiny elite to use force to intervene in our lives. We lost confidence and interest in ourselves. We lost our rights.
The emergence of the MDC in September 1999 rekindled the people’s hopes and dreams. People renewed their interest in elections; people felt confident to prepare and direct change in their lives; people defied the patronage system and sought their freedom.
There was a radical shift in attitudes compared to the 1996 Presidential election when a mere 27 percent of the people came out to vote. In February and in June 2000, the country was abuzz with excitement. Voter apathy, which had progressively set in for 20 years, had suddenly ended. That worried Mugabe and Zanu PF. The result is now common knowledge.
As we prepare for the 2005 Parliamentary election, let us reflect on the potential for our vote to change our lives. The election gives us a second chance to take on the regime and reclaim our dignity. We must be ready for it.
Notwithstanding our reservations on the conduct of the polls, we must realize that the only way we can correct 24 years of denial and decay is through the ballot box. We must prepare for that box. We must be in a state of election preparedness.
We agree that Zanu PF will leave a legacy of misery and poverty. We accept that once we allow peace and security to flourish, once we embrace freedom as an indispensable aspect of development, and once we recognize our past mistakes as danger signals we can turn our misfortunes around and celebrate our efforts in March 2005.
Our experience shows that Mugabe and Zanu PF are reluctant to grant the people their freedom. We should not expect a tyrannical regime to be a giver of rights and freedoms. We possess these rights.
We have the power to grant a government of our choice the necessary legitimacy through the exercise of these rights, regardless of the impediments the dictator may wish to place in our path. Our rights are not negotiable.
Our rights are superior to any legislation the regime has put in place; they are superior to any forms of violence and coercion Mugabe and Zanu PF might contemplate to distort reality.
The conferment of the primacy of rights on each Zimbabwean through a clean reclamation of those rights from a minority elite leads to a legitimate government. A legitimate government is only possible through a free and fair election.
That Mugabe and Zanu PF have grudgingly accepted a multi-party political system means that as individuals we have a right to pursue a variety of values and to exercise our freedom of choice. We cannot allow the regime to impose a single set of values in our plural society. For that reason, let us get ready to change the status quo by making sure that we campaign for a conducive climate for the 2005 Parliamentary election. We need to remain resolute until we achieve our objective.
We entered the political fray fully aware that the rules of the game were stark against democracy. Since 2000, we participated in all the by-elections because of our firm belief in taking over power through democratic means. We have not deviated from that course.
The regime’s five-year propaganda programme to demonise the MDC has failed to shift our mindsets from our objective. The spirit for change is still high. We are encouraged by the people’s resolution to fight on in spite of the odds against them.
Zanu PF thrives on apathy. Last week thousands of officials from Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede’s office were dispatched countrywide to register voters. In open societies, the responsibility for the mobilization of voters lies with everybody, including political parties. High schools, churches, universities and technical colleges must be involved in voter registration. In the rural areas, traditional chiefs and political party activists must urge eligible persons to register.
History shows us that any voter registration process carried out by Mudede lacks transparency. We have constantly argued that a non-partisan Independent Electoral Commission should conduct a clearer exercise. Mudede is unsuitable for the job. The lack of publicity surrounding the current campaign could be the opening shot in attempts to influence the outcome of this crucial poll.
We believe an Independent Electoral Commission
should have handled a transparent process. Irregularities around voter
registration could lead to serious constituency manipulation that would impact
negatively on the election outcome. Existing urban constituencies could be appended
to rural communities as a Zanu PF way of eating into the MDC’s support
In the 2002 Presidential election, the regime used the voters roll as the main rigging tool after thousands were disenfranchised through deliberate exclusion. We need sufficient publicity and an independent infrastructure for mass registration of voters.
Our campaign for an improvement in the conditions is gathering momentum and we hope to have an election conducted in terms of the SADC norms and standards next year. These standards require sitting governments to create conditions that guarantee specific political rights to contesting parties.
We are getting positive responses from the people. I am confident we shall have an election run according to international standards. Fighting a dictatorship requires a sustained effort. Our strength is in our support.