White City stadium, Bulawayo
Introduction and context
Today is a big day. It is a day to celebrate the 17th anniversary of this great people’s movement but given our current context of poverty and repression, this day is just going to be an occasion for commemoration and not celebration.
We meet at a time when the people are under State siege for daring to exercise their basic freedoms and rights enshrined in a Constitution they made themselves after so much pain and sacrifice. We are meeting at a time when the State has declared war against innocent citizens for simply daring to express themselves. However, fear not my fellow Zimbabweans, because we are on the eve of a new dispensation.
That is why today, we are commemorating our 17th anniversary under the theme: MDC@17: Re-defining the end-game. This is the end-game and all we have to do is to re-define it so that it reflects the true aspirations of the patriotic sons and daughters of this land.
In spite of this brutality and sustained attack, the people have however remained united, peaceful, committed and resolute. That has been the nature and character of our struggle for the past 17 years. Armed only with our bare hands and determination, we have succeeded in pushing an armed, brutal regime into a corner through our sheer determination in demanding the respect for our basic rights and freedoms.
As I have said, that has always been the hallmark of our struggle----clean, peaceful, legitimate and innocent but forceful.
In the face of the current unmitigated provocation by the State, the people have remained resilient. I want to thank you, my fellow Zimbabweans for your clarity on the significance of our political moment. We all do not wish to plunge the country into anarchy; all we seek is for the State to hear the voice of a despondent people and to respond to our grievances.
Despite the current suffering, I wish to extend my congratulations to all of you, my fellow Zimbabweans. What we have seen in the past few months and weeks is that this nation has broken free of the ghost of fear. We have broken the siege, a feat we in the MDC achieved when we kicked off public protest marches in the country with that demonstration in the streets of Harare on 14 April, 2016.
As a nation and as a people, we at times under-estimate our gallantry and fail to celebrate our achievements. The new Constitution and its broad rights and freedoms, written and endorsed by the people themselves in a referendum, is a major achievement worthy of celebration. We must congratulate ourselves for creating a new charter for this land, which charter this brutal regime is not keen to implement.
The people have suddenly found their voice and have begun to loudly express their displeasure at these visible signs of collapse around us. The sheer incompetence, the ghost of corruption and the lack of a credible and clear plan to take the country out of this morass are there for all to see.
The crisis is firmly located in the highest office in the land. It was ironic when we heard that the Office of the President was now responsible for the fight against corruption.
Surely a mosquito cannot cure malaria. A fish rots from the head. It all starts and ends with leadership. The scourge of corruption is one of the many challenges facing this nation and the President’s Office is not only incapable of dealing with this cancer but is the direct cause of it.
The nature of the crisis
At the centre of our crisis is the crisis of legitimacy, arising out of a disputed election that failed to inspire confidence nationally, regionally and in the broader international community.
The economic crisis, through the current challenges such as inadequate revenue and dysfunctional industries is just but a window through which the political crisis of legitimacy is manifesting itself.Inadequate revenue has crippled recovery and severely affected social services such as health and education, with referral hospitals such as Harare Hospital having shut down critical units.
Corruption, policy inconsistency and a clueless leadership exemplified by a 92-year old still clinging to power showcase the mammoth nature of the crisis we face as a nation. Added to that is an indifferent region where only one leader has spoken out against the rot and expressed concern that the wheels have come off in Harare.
The 17-year journey of the MDC
We meet here in Bulawayo today to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the MDC. Indeed, it has been a tenacious journey of blood, sweat and tears.
Along the way, we have lost friends and comrades, some through death while others walked away for different reasons. The majority, however, remained focus on the major task at hand; that of completing the unfinished business of the liberation struggle.
It is a journey in which we have lost a lot but also gained a lot. It has been a journey with an odd mixture of tears and laughter, tears and joy.
As we continue our growth politically, both individually and institutionally, we gain invaluable lessons every day that make us better people and a better party. The 17 years have indeed been a learning curve and the party is now in far much better stead to deliver meaningful change by virtue of its experience.
The cadres we have lost over the years, the tears we have shed, the laughter in our moments of joy and the continued brazen theft of the people’s mandate in our disputed elections have indeed given us fundamental lessons on what to embrace and let go. Given our invaluable experience, we are now clear on what to do and what to avoid. Indeed, we now intimately know the contours of our unique political terrain.
Thanks to 17 years of tenacious struggle, we no longer take things for granted anymore, just as anyone can also take us for granted at their own peril.
Indeed, we have seen it all and lived both extremes. As a people and as a leadership, we have been tortured and brutalized so we know the pain of prison. We have been in government and we have taught our colleagues how power could be used to unleash positive change in the lives of the people. Indeed, the people can testify to the MDC’s positive contribution during our stint in government. They can only look forward to how much more we can do when they give us an exclusive mandate in the next election.
We have done it before so we will do it again.
We are not commemorating our birthday here by accident. Bulawayo means “a place of killings.” In 2013, for all the electoral shenanigans they employed, we overwhelmingly defeated Zanu PF here. We murdered any prospects of Zanu PF ever resurrecting to lie again to the people. We are here to celebrate their demise not only here in Bulawayo but in the whole country as we seek to re-define the end-game.
Fellow Zimbabweans, I wish to add that as a party and as a leadership, we continue to derive comfort in the emerging national convergence on the myriad challenges facing our country. Not only is there emerging consensus on the nature of the beast but there is indeed national agreement on how together, regardless of our diversity, we need to collectively put ourselves back on track so that we can poise the nation for growth, prosperity and development.
The emerging national convergence
The entire nation is now speaking the same language.
A broad coalition of opposition parties is now fighting as a common front for comprehensive electoral reforms in the country. A few years ago, this was inconceivable. We welcome that unity of purpose. Genuine war veterans, for years used to brutalize and fight the common man and woman, have now seen the light and have come out in the open that they will never engage in another crusade against fellow citizens.
At a personal level, I have had fruitful discussions with the leadership of these heroes and heroines of our struggle. We both realized we share more in common in terms of our vision and aspirations for our country. Morgan Tsvangirai meeting with veterans of the liberation struggle was inconceivable a few years ago because of misconceptions and propaganda. Indeed, we must welcome them for their bold move to come to the side of the people they liberated 36 years ago. There is one Zimbabwe that we all love and we are all patriotic sons and daughters of this land, regardless of our different social and political stations.
So the nation is slowly coming together. Citizens, war veterans, vendors, civil servants, political parties and civil society are all speaking the same language. That convergence must be encouraged and celebrated.
But that convergence is not an accident. When as a party we met for our 4th Congress in Harare in November, 2014, we adopted a roadmap in which we called for national convergence and a big tent of diverse Zimbabweans so we could sculpt the future of the country together.
This is the convergence we are seeing across the nation today and as we celebrate our 17th birthday, we must congratulate ourselves as a party for having realized the intrinsic value in unity and togetherness. Indeed, together we are better, stronger and more formidable. The past is another country and together, we shall build on this emerging convergence and poise our country for unity, growth and prosperity.
The roadmap to legitimacy
Fellow Zimbabweans, given our predicament, what is now urgently needed is a clear roadmap out of the current national mess. As President of a party whose birthday we commemorate today, I am clear on what needs to be done to extricate the country from these plumbing depths of poverty and desperation. We need to embark on a four-stage process that must culminate in a free and fair election as a precondition for a return to legitimacy.
President Robert Mugabe can rant and rave that he was voted in a free and fair election and therefore has a legitimate mandate to govern the country. However, the grim reality is that given his age and his crimes of omission and commission, he must set the stage for national recovery. For the sake of his legacy, he needs to send out a message that the country is more important than individuals. He must retire and set the stage for a new course for the country. If he truly loves this country, his departure will be the first positive sin to set the country on a new trajectory for recovery and growth.
2.Convergence and Dialogue
After that departure, there must be convergence and dialogue by multiple stakeholders that go beyond just political parties. That convergence and dialogue will be centred on the mechanics of the creation of a National Transitional Authority with a very specific and limited tenure and mandate.
3.The National Transitional Authority
In our view, the National Transitional Authority will not run government but will have the executive authority to put in place reforms that will predicate a truly free, fair and credible election. With its limited mandate and tenure, this multi-stakeholder body must be obligated with the responsibility of steering the country towards a credible election that must yield a legitimate government with the confidence of Zimbabweans, the region and the broader international community.
4.Free and Fair Elections
The fourth and last signpost of our roadmap is the conduct of a truly free and fair election. I have written to regional leaders and only last month, we sent a delegation to SADC imploring upon them to support the calls for a free and fair election as the only enduring route to solving the problems in Zimbabwe.
However, we are aware that it is one thing to have a roadmap and quite another to have it implemented. We are aware that it all has to start with President Mugabe moving out of the picture. We owe it to the people to table our plan, well aware of course that all signs point to Mugabe wanting to die in office.
Given the complexity of our situation, we as a party and others will continue to put pressure on this regime to plod the nation towards far-reaching reforms that must return us to legitimacy. We are aware that they have said they cannot reform themselves out of office, but we pledge on this our 17th birthday that we shall not relent.
The people of this country are determined to see this struggle through. If this regime chooses to play hard-ball, then the streets shall be the chosen theatre for the re-definition of the end-game. Come hail come high water, we shall continue to mobilize the people and if they shall not reform, then they shall be forced to reform!
Fellow Zimbabweans, I want to take advantage of our 17th birthday to announce that there is a national sentiment out there that we must never ignore. It is the sentiment that is expecting us to work together to exterminate this repression. The people out there want to see a broad front against Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF and we in the MDC are committed to executing that national sentiment. We agree with that dream.
However, first things first. What is important at this juncture is conditions and not positions. We must work together on key national programmes such as electoral reforms as we build trust and confidence among each other. That is what is important and that is what must precede a coalition, which coalition is now almost inevitable because there is sufficient national consensus on the value of working together. For now, it is important to harp on fighting together for conditions that will plod this country on a path to recovery, growth and legitimacy.
I wish to conclude by saying we are on the last mile of our struggle. We are cognizant of the fact that such phases of the struggle are dangerous both for the struggle itself and for the lives of leaders. Throughout history, it is at such critical phases that some sell out; some lose faith while others are brutally exterminated as happened to Josiah Tongogara in Zimbabwe and Chris Hani in South Africa. I urge everyone to retain their faith and commitment and not to sell out at this critical juncture when we have already lost so much. We all have critical roles to play in the final execution of this struggle.
To the youth out there, the future belongs to you. You cannot afford to be ambivalent about a struggle that will decide your future. I have travelled throughout the country and realized that the youth of this country do not actively participate in politics. I urge you to take a positive interest in the affairs of your country. I urge the twitter generation to play an active part in the politics of the country, to register to vote and to make a loud and bold statement at the next election.
The rest of the country that includes business, labour, women and our old people must retain their faith. We are almost there and all we have to do in our combined sense is to re-define the end-game. We owe it to history to leave a legacy of a stable and prosperous country where the people are free to pursue happiness and to live their dreams.
To the region and the international community, we say Zimbabwe’s crisis has reached a turning point. We cannot walk it alone without the warmth of your empathy and solidarity. We need your support and we expect you to condemn this naked brutality against the people for daring to express themselves.
To all my fellow citizens, we are almost there. Keep the faith and maintain the same spirit of service and sacrifice that has sustained our struggle for the past 17 years.
I know and am confident that soon, and very soon, we shall all be crying the tears of joy. Indeed, I can see the bright horizon.
Happy Birthday MDC and together, let us re-define the end-game.
I Thank You