|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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13 July 2004
PRESIDENT TSVANGIRAI’S TUESDAY MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE OF ZIMBABWE
I spent three days in Chimanimani and Chipinge at the weekend, meeting ordinary people, community leaders, village heads, chiefs and spirit mediums. Provincial officials, NEC members Giles Mutsekwa and Innocent Tinashe Gonese and Members of Parliament Roy Bennet, Sydney Mukwecheni and Mathias Matewu Mlambo, accompanied me.
In a direct act of provocation, Zanu PF activists, armed with sticks, stones and knobkerries attempted to stage intimidatory meetings near our rally venues, in one instance, less than 100 metres away. At Mutema in Chipinge, the local Zanu PF officials tried to bribe the people with maize as an inducement to shun our meeting, an attempt that was spurned despite the hunger in the area. At Hot Springs in Chimanimani, police watched from a distance as village heads and MDC supporters were intimidated and ordered to ignore our meeting. Again, these coercive measures were resisted.
Chipinge and Chimanimani are in a class of their own. The level of political development is fairly advanced. People, clad in party regalia and openly stating their political choices, villagers eased through business service centres in full view of their Zanu PF compatriots, secret service agents and the police. Fear is not as serious a factor as it is elsewhere.
Roy Bennet, earlier confirmed as the Chimanimani MDC candidate in 2005, received a further seal of approval as chiefs, headmen, village heads declared that he was one of them and should have nothing to fear. You will recall a few weeks ago Zanu PF decreed that Bennet was banned in Manicaland and banished from Chimanimani. We were together in Mutare, Chimanimani and Chipinge on Friday, on Saturday and on Sunday. Traditional leaders assured him in the presence of thousands of their subjects that Zanu PF has failed to stop the desire for change. Change is an idea that cannot be wished away.
The MDC supports our traditional institutions out of the realization that nearly 70 percent of all Zimbabweans still value their role in our society. Traditional leaders maintain stability and social harmony in their communities. They attend to spiritual needs of their people, regardless of their political or religious affiliation.
The point was made clear at Mutema in Chipinge and at Nedziwe in Chimanimani when the chiefs and spirit mediums categorically stated that they were apolitical and embraced all shades of political opinion from the people. To demonstrate their seriousness, before we started our meeting at Mutema by paying tribute to Ndabaningi Sithole, the late doyen of Zimbabwean nationalism and leader of Zanu who was denied a heroes status by the Zanu PF regime.
The chiefs told Mlambo and Bennet that they were willing to entertain Zanu PF, MDC and any members of any political parties in their communities without fear or favour. They are against violence. They vowed to do all they can to stop violence in Chimanimani and in Chipinge.
The chiefs were incensed by claims in some quarters that a political party or a single politician could be the primary source of life, liberty, happiness and the pursuit of development. As paragons of virtue, traditional leaders cannot perform their traditional functions in societies without essential freedoms 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. They are ready to stop the rot.
Any chief who supports a dictatorship risks alienating himself from the people. In Smith’s Rhodesia, some chiefs co-operated with the regime and lost out. They learnt a rough lesson. Let us avoid a repeat of that sad history. I was particularly encouraged by the stance taken by the chiefs in Manicaland. They intend to remain apolitical, representing the interests of all their subjects. We expect our chiefs to earn the respect of their communities and to be above reproach.
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 and compartments 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 social and political security.
The nation traded away its freedom for empty nationalism and Zanu PF privileges. That approach has backfired. The regime was unkind to dissent and opposing views. The regime replaced the value of the individual to his or her society with a central, authoritarian accumulation of power resulting in a wholesale usurpation of basic freedoms and dwindling initiatives for wealth creation. The evidence is there for all to see: hunger, poverty, under-development, collapsing rural businesses and a democratic deficit.
The dilemma facing Zimbabwe’s rural areas today stems from our political experiences of the past five years. Will it be possible this time, the people asked me at Wengezi Junction in Chimanimani, for them to register their political affiliation, to vote freely and to meet without harassment?
The people dread a harsh campaign period; the prospect of being forced to line up behind their village heads and chiefs on the voting day. That will not happen in 2005. We have the assurance of the people that they shall resist any attempts to influence the outcome of the vote in such a way. The people said they detest the practice of assisted voting, arguing that the majority of Zimbabweans aged 50 and above were literate.
My experience in Chimanimani and in Chipinge showed that Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF have failed to deny the people new ideas, to side-step reason and to alter attitudes towards the MDC despite the physical and mental cruelty involved in the regime’s propaganda and coercive approach. The people are now clear that the regime has no intention to treat everyone as an end. The regime is not ready to attend to their needs or to listen to their demands.
I told the meetings that it is a national wish that we have a genuinely free and fair election. The security of the voter and that of the candidates are non-negotiable requirements for any legitimate elections. If Mugabe proceeds with the election under the current conditions, then Zimbabwe will join other failed states.
The MDC has a comprehensive turn-around plan to restore the dignity of Zimbabwe and that of Zimbabweans. We are determined to implement an all-inclusive programme that respects individual contributions to national development, a programme that respects our diversity and creative energies of all Zimbabweans regardless of race, ancestry and social station.
We believe in a political dominated social formation such as Zimbabwe, any economic revival programme that fails to address issues of poverty, underdevelopment and redistribution is as irrelevant as it is anachronistic.
An MDC government shall promote the concept and practice of social justice in our communities. The past five years have been painfully devastating for the majority. A mere eight percent remain in formal employment. The runaway HIV/Aids pandemic sits on top of our national crisis. We are committed to reversing this negative trend.
What I witnessed in Manicaland is sufficient proof that we can win a free and fair election and form a formidable majority in Parliament after March 2005. The support we have is strong and overwhelming.
Together, we shall win.