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Tsvangirai’s opening address, MDC Congress kicks off

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President Morgan Tsvangirai’s opening address to the 4th congress of the MDC

Harare, Friday, 31 October 2014

Members of the MDC’s outgoing standing committee, national executive and council
Provincial leaders and all members of the MDC family here present
Members of the diplomatic corps
Our civic partners
Invited Guests, ladies and gentlemen

Introduction

I welcome you all, especially the MDC delegates to this Congress, cognizant of the fact that you have made great personal sacrifices to be here today. I know that some of you have sold your valued assets to be here because you believe that this party and this Congress in particular, will set in a new trajectory that will provide the answer to the monumental national crisis that we all face.

We were last here, in this very same room, in March 2006 for our second Congress with delegates making similar personal sacrifices because we were again emerging from an internal turbulence. Eight years later, we are here again to mark this 4th meeting of the greatest organ of our great party under almost similar circumstances.

This Congress was scheduled for 2016 but we are holding it today, two years ahead of schedule. We meet today in this scorching October heat at this 4th Congress of the Movement for Democratic Change.

The high summer temperatures are consistent with the heat of the current economic moment in our country, the national crisis that is burning all hope of revival under this incompetent government. We have a blazing crisis that will need not only fresh hands on the national wheel, but a comprehensive roadmap to the next election that will provide hope to the despondent people of Zimbabwe.

After disagreements in the cockpit of the party following the stolen election of July 2013, we took a collective decision to hold an early Congress so that the entire leadership would seek a new mandate from the people.

We took that decision for this early Congress because we knew that as a democratic party, it is the sovereign will of the people that is always sacrosanct, not individual positions disguised as the feelings of the grassroots members of the party who are here today to speak for themselves. It is you, this body called Congress gathered here today that makes and unmakes leaders in the MDC, not individuals and their memos.

Unfortunately, some of our colleagues were too lily-livered to come and face the people even though we agreed together to bring forward this Congress. They lacked the conviction of their ambition and they walked out of the party before we all came here not only to seek a new mandate from you, but to chart together the way forward for the party and the country We, however, wish our former colleagues well in their new political endeavors after they expressed what they called their freedom of dissociation.

As democrats, we must accept and respect the freedom to differ.

But of course, we must ask ourselves whose interests are best served by these rebellions and splits? All problems can definitely be solved internally and breaking away from the MDC can only strengthen Zanu PF and not the democratic movement.

In the end, we will have a plethora of sponsored movements that do not in any way serve the interests of the majority of Zimbabweans who are yearning for democratic change.

We hear former colleagues are launching their party next year. As I said, we wish them good luck. They are not our foes but partners in the struggle. They have attempted to give an impression that we are in competition with them hence the persistent negative campaign especially against the person of Morgan Tsvangirai. We are even ready to assist them grow! At the end of the day it is the people Zimbabwe who will judge, for they know the difference between fact and fiction, real and fake leaders. The people are not gullible.

For some of us, we are here before this Congress because we are a democratic party that believes in the sanctity of the people’s will. Our basic rule is that we must practice the democracy that we preach by consistently seeking a mandate from the people.

But I want to say the people, who are the real owners of this party, also reserve the right to endorse their leaders if they still retain confidence in them. It is your democratic right to elect leaders just as it is also your democratic right to retain those you still have confidence in. I want to thank you for your confidence by overwhelmingly retaining me and some of the leaders unopposed in the recently concluded nomination exercise.

I also want to equally thank you for exercising the same right to nominate several others to fight it out in their nominated positions. This is in line with the major democratic tenet of this great people’s movement that leaders must come from the people.

Our big task at this Congress

Apart from our elections tomorrow, we have come here to transact serious party business in line with the challenges facing the party and the nation. In the country, we are in the middle of a debilitating economic crisis; a crisis that has exposed the lack of political leadership in government. We must as a party debate and agree on our response to that national challenge.

Internally, we have been in existence for 15 years as a party and that history has informed us in many respects. Our challenge is to robustly transform our party into a strong institution with a united leadership that will definitely win the next election.

The national executive and council set up committees to ask people and initiate debate on policy review, institutional review and the review of our party constitution so as to have that strong and united party that will deliver on the people’s aspiration for a new Zimbabwe. The work of those committees and that of a committee that worked on the roadmap to the next election will be debated and adopted by this Congress.

I am personally convinced that this is our last Congress as an opposition party. We have been a popular party since our formation but we have failed to govern because the people’s will has been persistently and brazenly subverted.

At this our last Congress as an opposition, we boldly announce the closure of what has been the frequent and systematic theft of the people’s mandate. That is why we are holding this Congress under the theme: Towards national convergence; the solution to the national crisis. While our internal elections tomorrow will be the icing on the cake, we owe it to history and to future generations to provide the political and economic answers to this restive nation suffering under the yoke of a clueless political leadership and a biting economic crisis.

After thorough and comprehensive debate on the important review and strategic documents, the nation will expect this Congress, through the leaders you elect, to deploy a competent team that will deliver on the people’s expectations and aspirations. We must come up with a team and a comprehensive roadmap that will not let down the national dream of positive political change in the very near future.

Starting with this Congress, we are uniting and stabilizing the MDC as an institution to recreate it into a formidable force capable of winning the next election. That can only be done if we address the inconsistencies in our Constitution, address the issues of role clarity and create a united team. We need that united team and a transformed institution that will refocus us not on personal positions at the expense of the national crisis, but put the MDC on the threshold of winning the next election and positively transforming the lives of Zimbabweans.

The MDC’s tortuous journey

Since the formation of the MDC in September 1999, our enduring cause has always been driven by our unquestionable commitment to free the land from tyranny and illuminate the way for the people of Zimbabwe.

It has been an arduous struggle which saw us losing hundreds of dear comrades along the way, killed by Mugabe and his agents of death. Many of us have been arrested on trumped up charges, tortured, abused and maimed while others were raped and displaced. It has been a long and arduous journey; indeed a painful history which should embolden our resolve to continue the noble fight for a just and free society.

We have scored a number of great successes in the past 15 years most notably during the GNU which culminated in the new Constitution in spite of initial fierce resistance by ZANU PF. We now have a people-driven Constitution. On the other hand ZANU PF, for 34 years has proved that it has nothing to offer to the people of Zimbabwe except continued deception.

So yes, in a mere 15 years we have seen it all! We have known both joy and pain; an odd mixture of achievement and frustration. We have been in prison and in the corridors of government as part of our painful journey towards an exclusive MDC government that is now on the horizon.

The national crisis
Since the contested election of 2013, the economy has not gained any traction. To the citizen, we have seen massive unemployment of over 85 percent, insecure jobs to the few that have them, unfulfilled promises and inadequate remuneration for civil servants as well as the disappearance of any form of savings.

Endemic corruption and unbridled avarice have become an albatross of this economy. And this at a time when the country itself is seriously mired in debt, the external debt alone in excess of $10 billion.

Ordinary citizens are failing to put food on the table while a raft of national grievances is affecting all Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation. These grievances include lack of jobs, endemic power shortages, a declining economy, an acute liquidity crunch, a Constitution that is not being implemented and declining social services, particularly health and education. As I speak, doctors of public hospitals are on strike.

We have a government that has failed to mobilize a rescue package for the productive sector in order to breathe life into this economy. There is unmitigated failure on the part of government to come up with a solution to rescue this abysmal situation.

A recent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Survey painted a very bleak national picture, putting capacity utilization at 39,6 percent. The policy uncertainty and inconsistencies on key programmes such indigenization and economic empowerment is not helping matters in bringing sanity and predictability, the two key factors necessary for economic stability.

There is an acute lack of investor confidence and support by development partners, driven by the legitimacy crisis, as well as a ballooning debt which remains unserviced. Without legitimacy, the country remains exposed to risk and uncertainty, factors that determine investment and economic progress. The government simply has run out of ideas, even in the wake of shrinking revenue collections as a result of a diminishing base.

The purported economic blueprint, ZimAsset, needs funding to the tune of $27 billion, and this at time when we have failed to fund an annual budget that needed only around $4 billion.

Unemployment is at its highest. Corruption is the order of day, we all read about mega salaries in parastatals where CEOs earned obscene salaries with others getting paid in excess of $500 000 per month! Looting of national wealth is rampant from diamonds to gold. This represents a lost civilization!

They continue to wreck our economy with impunity, destroying millions of jobs due to bad economic governance. They promise you 2.2 million jobs but they don’t tell you that they destroy 4.2 million jobs in the process. Now you do the math!

Our grim economic plight as a people would have been surmountable had there been a credible election last year, even if it had meant a genuine and fair loss by the MDC-T. The business sector has been crippled and shackled by a biting liquidity crunch, creating a gridlock that has negatively affected both commerce and the services sector.

Lastly, despite all our shortcomings I believe, a sunrise is possible and that dawn must start within our well-meaning selves through the direction we chart here at this Congress.

Despite Africa’s investment attractiveness and a rising appetite for African products across the world, Zimbabwe has missed out on this emerging optimism on Africa that would have done wonders for our economy.

The most graphic and tragically comic illustration of our sad national predicament is the failure of government to raise the paycheck for civil servants’ and a First Lady who has the luxury to addresses 10 provincial rallies to attack the Vice President while the nation wallows in a deep economic crisis.

Vision and the Way forward

We in the MDC have a clear vision for the country. I personally can envision that new Zimbabwe that we have always aspired for.

Firstly, we must realize the imperative of a new governance culture, as encapsulated in our new Constitution. The tragedy is that we have largely failed to usher in that new culture because our Constitution remains unimplemented, particularly those revolutionary clauses that relate to an expanded bill of rights and devolution.

Devolution will take pressure from the centre and address the important national question that relates to the rights of all people, equal opportunities and control of local resources by local communities.

We must urgently implement our Constitution as the first step in addressing our governance culture.

I see a new Zimbabwe; a new country with the possibility of reconciliation of all peoples, a nation working together to resolve its confidence crisis.

A Zimbabwe with a new ethos, where people live in peaceful co-existence regardless of their cultural, ethnic, racial, religious or political differences. Given our traumatic past, we must learn to tolerate each other and draw a line in the sand to say never again should we slaughter or persecute each other for being different.

We must remain an inclusive, united society that is ready to swim or sink together, where diversity is celebrated rather than punished because it is the celebration of difference that will make our democracy hold. In the new Zimbabwe, there will be no compromise on the dignity of the citizen, which thankfully, is now enshrined in our Constitution. All citizens must enjoy the true meaning of life by being treated equally by government and all state institutions.

Under an MDC government, I see a strong and formidable nation rising from the ashes of both the colonial and the Zanu PF misrule. I see the realization of our national dream; indeed the advent of a new nation that will be a source of pride for posterity in a peaceful land characterized by happiness and abundance.

With our abundant resources, we must see increased productivity and innovation. Resuscitation of industry is a must. Zimbabwe can be Africa’s agricultural powerhouse once again. Nothing can stop us from revamping our commercial farming sector where we can become net exporters of food products once again. We are number two country in the world with the largest deposits of platinum. We have vast gold reserves that are largely untapped. Diamonds and plenty other minerals are everywhere in this country.

With good governance, we can unleash an economy that will put the majority of Zimbabweans back to work. The jobs that are needed are nothing compared to the resources that God blessed us with. We can create one of the greatest economies in Africa. If Botswana did it with their diamonds alone, why can’t we do it with all these minerals? That’s what this President does not seem to understand.

Zimbabwe deserves a working economy where everyone who wants a job can find one. A working economy where every parent will be able to afford to send kids to schools and colleges of their choice and that child will be guaranteed to a good job after graduation.

The theme of this Congress recognizes the emerging national convergence. I want to assure all of you that there are many of our colleagues even in Zanu PF, who now agree with us on the nature of the problem and the solution to our crisis that requires consensus across the political divide. Yes, we are now all agreed that our collective and patriotic desire to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Zimbabwe is definitely more important than the needless focus on vitriolic attacks and selfish political interests that have no place in this digital age.

Conclusion

So we are aware of the crisis facing the nation and we are confident that we in the MDC have the capacity to steer the country to a path of stability and prosperity. Our sad national predicament stems largely from a crisis of legitimacy arising out of the stolen election of July 31, 2013.

The tough lesson we have learnt is that we will not legitimize Mugabe by participating in a sham election in the absence key reforms that will protect the people’s will. We will never again participate in an election with a pre-determined outcome.

Our national crisis can only be resolved by a return to legitimacy which can only happen after a fresh, credible election. The current national reality is that we are now isolated from meaningful investment, capital flow and substantial development financial assistance due to a crisis of legitimacy stemming from a sham election whose serious imperfections were noted by everyone, including SADC and the AU..

Zanu PF’s narrowly focused and confined “Look East” policy has not yielded direct fiscal support for the country.

We have had a myopic foreign policy that overlooks the significance of the broader international community, thereby underplaying the potential of leveraging international relationships in a broad sense.
We must once again rejoin the family of nations, in its wide scope, in mutually beneficial relationships, but largely driven, on our part, by the desire to enhance and further the interest of the ordinary citizen of this country.

Zimbabwe needs friends, strategic partners and promoters in the region and across the breadth of the international community. Our international relations, even at the regional level, require fixing. We have been consistently inconsistent for so long that there are not many takers supporting our plans for the way forward.

The safest bet is to shift our mindset towards new thinking and new pronouncements that are inclined towards mutually beneficial policies. The region and the international community, who all publicly acknowledged serious imperfections in our last election, must not unconditionally re-engage this Zanu PF government.

The international community must not just re-engage without a framework; but must insist on implementation of agreed electoral conditions and the embracing of universally acceptable standards by the authorities in Harare.

What we do not encourage is a mere re-engagement in the absence of a framework that plods and entices the nation towards the respect of full democratic values. The region and the international community must insist on the government in Harare respecting and implementing the national Constitution.

They must insist on the need to respect the rule of law and the conditions sanctioned by SADC to ensure that the next election is vaccinated from the periodic mischief that has blighted the credibility of all our elections.

Any re-engagement must be accompanied by a stubborn insistence by the international community on the universally accepted standards that ensure the guarantee of full freedoms and the enfranchising of the ordinary citizen. They must insist on key reforms that will ensure that the people put in place a legitimate government that will begin to address the challenges facing the nation.

We in the MDC will play our part by insisting on the creation of those conditions that will give Zimbabweans a fresh bite of the cherry as only a legitimate government elected in a free and fair election is the basis of a permanent solution to the challenges we face as a nation. The solution does not lie in meekness and half-hearted attempts at creating a semblance of stability at the expense of democracy.

I wish to restate here that as a party, we reserve our eight to mobilize the people and to support every sector that will engage in legitimate, peaceful and constitutional action to force this government to address the key national grievances that we all face regardless of our political diversity. Henceforth, we will be opting for boldness and not meekness. We would rather fight than wallow in oppression and misgovernance simply because we would have opted to resign to our fate. We will mobilize and galvanize the nation for the endgame.

The solution to the national crisis lies in none but ourselves. Surrender and capitulation to our fate will not help matters!

Fellow democrats, I am making an urgent call today for a shift to action. We cannot allow ourselves to be victims of illusions and phantoms of hope alone. We have to be brave, we have to take action.

It means rejecting the economic misery brought upon us by ZANU PF and reclaiming our share in the wealth of this country which has been a preserve of a parasitic clique in ZANU PF.

It means demanding to see what is not working fixed: from the economy, our democracy, Constitution, rule of law, service delivery, infrastructure, electricity, water, sanitation. Our destiny is in our hands.
For my part, as I stand before you today, I’m forever ready to lead from the front these very troops gathered here today and all those across our nation.

After this watershed Congress tomorrow and armed with clearly defined policies, a new institutional framework to re-energize the party, a leadership with a new mandate, a newly agreed and adopted roadmap to legitimacy and our poise for action, Zimbabwe will never be the same again.

Dear Congress delegates, I am very convinced that we are on the final lap to fulfilling our historical obligation to bring about positive transformation in the lives of the people of Zimbabwe. I wish you happy and fruitful deliberations at this watershed Congress that is set to change our country forever!

I thank you

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