It might have taken long in coming, but the past few months have seen the much-awaited resurgence of the democratic movement in Zimbabwe.
Opinion: Morgan Tsvangirai
For a long time, this is what the people of Zimbabwe have been clamouring for; in the hope that such a convergence would provide the much-needed fillip for change in a country now tottering on the brink of becoming a failed State.
The pace might not be breath-taking, but slowly, the convergence of the country’s democratic forces is becoming a reality.
It is pertinent to state from the outset that, as a party, we have played our part in this congregation of the democratic forces.
Indeed, contrary to the misinformed refrain by our detractors, we have shown that we have never bandied ourselves the big boys of the democratic movement.
In the past few months, we have shown that we truly believe that everyone has a part to play in the democratisation of our country, notwithstanding the stubborn fact that of all the democratic forces, we have the biggest representation both in Parliament and in Local Government, where we control major cities, towns and rural district councils.
However, we have not allowed these unstinting facts to stand in the way of the urgent need for all the democratic forces in the country to coalesce and mount a formidable challenge in the next election.
We were the first, through the resolutions of our fourth congress in October 2014 to come up with two important resolutions.
The first was urging all people to come under one big tent; the second was to publicly call for the coalition of like-minded groups in order to liquidate the palpable mis-governance and cluelessness that has overwhelmed the seat of government.
Since then, we have been up and running up until our national council gave legs to the congress resolutions by adopting principles and a framework to guide the process of alliance building.
After all, working with others runs in our blood.
The formation of the MDC was in itself a product of the alliance of the labour movement, the constitutional movement and the student movement.
Hence, our commitment in 2014 to working with others was simply a restatement of our totem.
Following the adoption of the principles guiding the alliance-building process by the national council, I then began a nationwide consultation with ordinary Zimbabweans including traditional chiefs, headmen, village heads, civic groups, housewives, vendors, students and women’s groups in all the provinces.
It was important to de-elitise the alliance-building discourse by devolving it to the people; to the villages, the farming communities and the town halls so as to tap into the wisdom of the ordinary people.
As the one mandated by my party to lead the process of alliance building, I can say with confidence that I found the consultations very enriching as I received further direction from the ordinary people, who expressed their wish to see the broader democratic movement working together.
From Hwange, Binga, Plumtree, Beitbridge, Gokwe to Bikita, Chimanimani, Mudzi, Mount Darwin and Nyamakate, they were all very emphatic on the need for a huge national coalition for change. I know because I personally engaged the people. And I heard them.
As a party, we have been engaging others in the broader democratic movement, far much more than those with whom we have signed memoranda of understanding in line with the directive from the people. We have been very clear from the outset that the alliance we seek goes beyond just political parties to include networks such as the church, war veterans, students, vendors, traditional leaders and women’s groups whose sonorous instructions are still ringing in my mind.
Indeed, we want to build a huge coalition for change that goes beyond party slogans; a coalition rooted in the people in their various social stations where they continue to slug it out under very difficult circumstances.
As we prepare for the voter registration exercise, we must encourage each other to register and determine our own future. This election is no longer about Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe, Welshman Ncube, Amai Mujuru, Simba Makoni or any other political leader for that matter. This election is about us as a people and it has now become a national obligation for all of us to turn out in our large numbers and use the opportunity of 2018 to poise the country for positive change.
The task ahead
Once we have built this alliance — and we are well on course — we must agree on a credible policy agenda as a key signpost to the positive change we seek.
We must not only have a pre-election pact about seats and other relatively petty matters, but we must agree on the fundamentals of the policy agenda that we will embark on after the next election.
Given the comatose state of our industry, our dilapidated infrastructure and the country’s despicable and tenuous predicament, it has become imperative that we embark on a transformation and not a recovery agenda. Recovery is an understatement of what we need to do. We simply need to start afresh.
Indeed, our predicament is now well beyond any patchwork. It is now about the massive transformation of all facets of our economy. It behoves upon the nation to appreciate that the new administration faces a really daunting task.
Yet it is a task that must be done.
All alliance partners need convergence on that transformative policy agenda that must yield a people’s manifesto with details on the key tenets for transformation, not recovery. As I have already stated, given our parlous state, we simply need to start on a new slate.
Even in our once-thriving industrial sector that has since collapsed, the technology has simply advanced way beyond the archaic, idle and obsolete machinery that we still have in the country.
I say this because we cannot commit the same grievous mistake made by our colleagues when they came into office in 1980. They thought the attainment of independence was the destination when, in fact, 1980 actually marked the beginning of a critical phase of the struggle. They came in without a cogent plan, but we have to be very clear about what we will do well ahead of the next election.
Our colleagues failed to realise that political independence, while it was important, was insufficient. It is always the stretch beyond liberation and political independence where the real work lies. The magnitude of the mammoth work beyond a people’s liberation must not be lost in the excitement of the fall of the strongman!
In our case, it is not just about consigning Mugabe and Zanu PF to the dustbins of history. The real work begins the morning after and we have to be very clear from the outset what we will to do. And because time is not on our side, we need to agree on that transformative agenda now so that after the next election, it is all about implementing an agreed programme of action.
Indeed, discussions around this issue are taking shape, tapping into the knowledge of sharp policy minds in the country and on the continent as well as the experience of other countries that have at some point hit rock bottom, as we have done.
Fellow Zimbabweans, I wish to restate that we are on course, even though the pace might appear slow. The broader democratic movement has awakened and is slowly coming together.
In my case, I have met with the church, political leaders from across the spectrum, the army, war veterans, civil servants and leaders of various social networks and civic groups who all converge on the need for a positive trajectory for this country that we love.
We are very much aware, of course, that the stakes are high and that the regime will invest scarce national resources into nothing else, but power retention.
We must be ready for them, armed with no other weapon except our sheer unity and a collective resolve for change.
All we need is a formidable unity that spans from the top to the very grassroots of our nation.
And we are getting there!
The huge task ahead is to ensure that the people freely express themselves in a credible election.
To that end, we have shattered our petty differences in the democratic movement. We have found each other and we are now working together under one huge banner of the Zimbabwe National Electoral Reform Agenda. The aim is to ensure that the people’s free expression truly holds and that the country undergoes a peaceful transition where no one must feel their life is endangered.
The change we seek will be good for every Zimbabwean, even for those who have tenaciously fought and frowned upon any prospect for change over the years. I wish to restate that we mean no harm to anyone and none of us should feel endangered by the change we seek.
For some of us, the debate around the next election should never be about positions but about conditions! Who holds what position in the new administration is a petty debate being foisted on the nation by small minds, opportunists and detractors of our people; the true sell outs of the people’s struggle.
The next election has always been about Zimbabwe and its urgent quest to move forward, without tainting that clear discourse with a needless debate about positions and personalities.
We in the broader democratic movement are all agreed on one thing; that we cannot let this one chance slip or else future generations will not forgive us for letting them down.
The democratic movement is on the resurgence and indeed, a new Zimbabwe beckons on the horizon.
Morgan Tsvangirai is the president of MDC-T