||Tsvangirai, Morgan (2002) The Zimbabwe Crisis and the Way Forward: Remarks by Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Mass Public Opinion Seminar September: -.
||Ladies and Gentlemen,
The dimensions of the Zimbabwe crisis are mutating and seemingly becoming
more pervasive throughout every aspect of our political, economic and social
life. The regime has consolidated all its arsenal to defend personal
privileges. So that to the ordinary Zimbabwean citizen and international
observer, the forces of democracy have become even more embattled, more
beleaguered than at any time in the past three years. But the democratic
forces have remained resilient and will ultimately wither the storm of
tyranny. The old adage still holds: The darkest hour is before dawn. The
regime has expended all its resources of tyranny and the will of the people
shall prevail. However in the context of this onslaught, there are some
fundamental questions, which every Zimbabwean democrat and democratic forces
Has the democratic movement in Zimbabwe hit a brick wall or is it in a cul
Are we in retreat in the face of this determined tyrannical onslaught?
Are we in a state of paralysis?
In which particular direction are the forces of democratic change moving?
And finally, does the stolen presidential election represent new and
qualitatively different circumstances and challenges, which call for
The answers to these fundamental questions define and condition our agenda
for action now and in the future.
The majority of Zimbabweans looked towards the aftermath of the presidential
poll with rekindled hope. They expected to experience positively changed
circumstances in their economic, political and social lives. They expected
that the aftermath of the presidential poll would present them with
boundless opportunities to forge a new and more enduring political culture.
They yearned for a period of national healing, in which the nation could
come to terms with its traumatic experience and devise strategies to handle
the political demons of the past three years in a mature and constructive
way that would permanently vaccinate against future relapses into tyrannical
evil and darkness. So, to many Zimbabweans, the stolen presidential election
had a much more devastating effect than any physical catastrophe could ever
have achieved. It was a shattering setback for change.
All the visions and hopes for a new democratic political dispensation
appeared shattered by the stolen presidential poll. The cherished agenda for
a new democratic political dispensation and political culture appeared to
have been negatively re-written through sustained state terror and violence.
However, this did not kill people’s hope for change.
In the context of this derailment from the preferred course of deliberate
and positive change, where are we now and where are we going? In order to
chart an effective path for the future, we have to have an accurate picture
of where we are. There is absolutely no doubt that in the aftermath of March
2002, we are in the middle of a ferocious struggle against the massive
forces of a qualitatively different and more dangerous form of tyranny. At
independence in 1980, the people of Zimbabwe regained their national
sovereignty and with it, albeit theoretically, their basic freedoms and
national independence. Tragically since 1980, the Mugabe regime has been
encroaching on both national sovereignty and the people’s basic freedoms.
The stolen presidential election completed this negative process of change.
Today we therefore face vastly changed political circumstances without
precedent in our history of independence. The process of subverting and
ultimately neutralising of the people’s sovereignty has been completed. The
people are no longer sovereign and basic freedoms have been abolished. The
Mugabe regime has redefined national sovereignty to mean that Mugabe is now
sovereign. He has become a benevolent dictator who grants and withdraws
basic freedoms according to the whims of his temper.
People’s basic freedoms are now under quarantine, there are confined to a
political arena that has been effectively shrunk. Through the effective
closure of democratic space, people have been violently forced to depart
from democratic political activity into prescribed spaces defined and
created by the dictatorship. The will of the people as expressed through
their representatives in the legislature has been subverted. One absolute
ruler now wields the functions of the judiciary and law enforcement
agencies. Mugabe’s will is violently rendered the will of the people. The
fusion of the three pillars of state, i.e. the executive, the judiciary and
the legislature, has resulted in the obliteration of the last vestiges of a
civilian administration. This is a veritable coup de’ tat against the regime
’s own shoddy constitution that is in place. Therefore, what confronts us in
Zimbabwe today is an absolute dictator presiding over a civil-military junta
and imposing an illegitimate government on the people. So the new and lived
reality in Zimbabwe today is that after a long and bloody protracted
struggle, Mugabe has completed putting in place a repressive infrastructure
to become an absolute monarch, presiding over a totalitarian state.
This new situation gives rise to two further fundamental questions:
Have the democratic forces lost the struggle for democratic freedom?
Are the conventional methods of democratic struggle still relevant in the
Before answering these questions, let me complete the picture of where we
are today. The total emasculation of people’s political power has been
complemented by another strategy to reduce the majority of the population
economically to the level of Stone Age scavengers available for manipulation
and abuse by Mugabe and his cronies.
At the level of the economy, the impact of totalitarianism has been
devastating. The collapse of the delivery systems for health, education,
other social services and material commodities is almost complete. National
economic output has declined by 11% down from 9% in December 2001. Cereal
production in general and maize production in particular has declined by 69%
and 77% respectively on the 2000/2001 production levels. The national
currency has been eroding at a fast rate than the regime can print the
money; spending on vital services such as health and education has dwindled
while the associated costs to the individual have risen astronomically to
2106% and 857% respectively. The HIV/Aids pandemic is devastating the nation
and the regime has no resources to bring about relief. About 81% of the
people are now living below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) and the
unemployment rate of economically active people is equally high. The young
section of the population entering the job market for the first time has
been hit hardest. For instance there are no jobs available for the over 4000
graduates who graduated from our national universities this year. Although
spending on the army and police has increased by leaps and bounds, this has
not even resulted in any meaningful efficiency in the professional standing
of these national forces. The conditions of service of the ordinary soldier
and policeman have actually deteriorated, while the officer corps has
cornered the major portion of the budgetary allocations for their personal
comforts. Hunger and starvation are decimating the nation especially the
more vulnerable rural communities with few alternatives for survival. Entire
rural communities are being denied food and subjected to an incessant regime
of political violence, because they steadfastly refuse to submit to Mugabe’s
tyranny. The run-up to the local government elections has seen violence and
denial of food relief as the most lethal weapons in the regime’s bid to
snuff out any remaining vestiges of the people’s democratic rights.
What this means is that the regime’s war against people’s democratic rights
is neatly dovetailing into an onslaught on the peoples’ last survival
refuge, i.e. the deliberate destruction and denial of the people’s means of
sustenance. As we all know, poverty defeats all possibilities. In the final
analysis, the regime’s comprehensive strategy is to weaken the population
both economically and politically and render them totally defenceless
against the designs of tyrannical rule.
The battle lines between the people and the dictatorship have never been
more sharply and profoundly drawn. In this combative equation, the biggest
threat to Mugabe’s absolutism is the people’s refusal to be crushed and
their stubborn determination to resist.
WHICH IS THE WAY FORWARD?
We remain resolute in our conviction that the illegitimate Mugabe regime
shall not be allowed to consolidate and make its fraud permanent. The people
must and will reclaim their stolen victory. As a nation born out of a
revolution we know that freedom comes at a price and we have absolutely no
intention of letting the dictator hold the nation to ransom and in shackles
As a political party, which believes in peace and democracy rather than
violent confrontation, immediately after the stolen presidential poll, we
accepted an invitation from Nigeria and South Africa to give dialogue a
chance. We entered into negotiations with ZANU PF even though we knew from
the beginning that the regime regarded the whole exercise as strategy to buy
time and assuage people and that both Nigeria and South Africa were more
interested in managing the crisis rather than its resolution. So from the
very beginning there were no ingredients for the talks to succeed. Whatever
the future holds Zimbabweans and history will absolve us.
We face vastly changed circumstances from those that confronted us before
the stolen presidential election, but it is important to emphasize that the
democratic movement is neither in retreat nor paralysis. The struggle for
freedom under these changed circumstances has just begun. The illegitimate
Mugabe regime is on the run. We must now employ qualitatively different
methods of struggle from the ones that won us the 2002 presidential
elections. Within the MDC, this new phase of the struggle has already
started. As a political party, since our arrival on the Zimbabwean political
landscape, we had never had ample opportunity to put in place solid and
purposive structures to enable us to enter the political fray and come out
triumphant. The process of party building went hand–in-hand with real
political combat on the ground during the parliamentary elections in June
2000, the presidential elections in March 2002 and during the various local
government victories that we registered. The violent onslaught by ZANU PF
found our structures in a state of infancy, but we survived. We fought
battles while simultaneously building the party and we survived. Our first
major task was to reorganise and strengthen the party. That programme was
completed at the end of August 2002 and we are ready to go into mortal
combat against the illegitimate regime.
The starting point of our new struggle must be rooted in our history. We
must go back to the noble ideals of the liberation struggle, which have been
prostituted and monopolized by the illegitimate Mugabe regime. We must
re-dedicate ourselves to the unflinching quest for justice, freedom, peace,
prosperity and the restoration of the supremacy of the sovereign will of the
people. These are the ideals of the liberation movement abandoned by the
Mugabe regime, which have now come to describe the inner soul of the MDC.
This rededication calls for new strategies to galvanise the people of
Zimbabwe to confront the dictatorship wherever and whenever it rears its
In the ferocious struggle that lies ahead, the MDC must undergo a period of
rebirth or renewal. It must go back to its roots, to its cradle, to its
base. As a Social Democratic Party we believe in the strength of purposive
unity of all progressive social forces. The coming mass storm against
tyranny must obliterate all artificial and tactical strategies among the
MDC, the labour movement, the civic organizations and the constitutional
movement in order to forge a purposive alliance for a PEOPLE’S STORM in a
final confrontation with autocracy. We must reach out to all the progressive
forces in society, such as the Church organisations, which share with us the
same values of democracy, peace, good governance and human rights. Each of
the components of the PEOPLE’S STORM must build certain purposive
competences, with the participation of the people of Zimbabwe, competences
that will lead to the last push on the corrupt and dictatorial regime that
has relied on raw power to subjugate the people. The culture of democratic
activism and instinctive resistance to tyranny must be continuously
The question that many of you are burning to ask is whether mass action is
still on the agenda. My answer is that, we shall never acquiesce to tyranny.
The Mugabe regime has been busy over the past few months preparing a fertile
ground for an unavoidable and unstoppable show of people’s power. The
momentum for this is being generated daily by the regime’s actions. We are
impelled by circumstances to move inexorably in that direction. But this
does not call for adventurism, the temptation to which must be resisted at
all costs. During periods of crisis such as the one we are experiencing,
frustration at the seemingly slow pace of events and overall change, might
tempt some sections of the broad democratic movement to abandon the common
strategy and vision and come up with sectional programmes that may appear to
hold the key to the resolution of the crisis, leading to the abandonment of
a common platform for the struggle and the corresponding weakening of the
democratic front. There may be a mistaken view that there could be other
alternative visions out there when it seems that the present shared vision
is taking too long to accomplish. Such individual adventurism is a negative
force in the process of amalgamating and harnessing people’s power. It feeds
on all efforts to galvanise a united people’s front against tyranny. We must
all synchronise and consolidate our efforts in a final show down against
autocracy. Whatever action we take must be strategically calculated to yield
the desired results. There can no room for failure or rearguard remedial
We are aware that the Mugabe regime is putting in place strategies to divide
the united stand of all the democratic forces in the country through such
diabolical schemes as the so-called government of national unity or GNU in
order to avoid an election re-run and compromise the people’s desire to
reclaim their stolen victory. The systematic brutalisation of the democratic
forces that has been sustained since the stolen presidential election is
part of a grand strategy to weaken the opposition and ultimately swallow it
through the so-called government of national unity. To the concept of a GNU
our answer has not changed. We say NO to any attempt to expand and
legitimise fraud. We remain unshaken in our conviction that the only way out
of the present crisis is through a fresh free and fair presidential poll
under international supervision. On that score there can be no compromise or
surrender. We are also aware that the regime intends to imprison or drive
into exile a certain number of MDC legislators in order to enable it to
achieve a two-thirds majority in parliament and thereby facilitate a change
in the current constitution to enable Mugabe to slide into oblivion without
the need for a fresh presidential poll as mandated by the current
constitution. Our response to that ruse is quite predictable. The people
will massively resist any illegitimate tempering with the constitution.
We shall never allow the political proceeds from fraud to be inherited by
Mugabe’s handpicked successor.
Some people may wondering why we still take part in elections in view of the
fact that they are routinely rigged and as such, continued participation in
the electoral charade exposes people to physical danger and demoralisation.
Yes elections have yielded death and destruction, but we cannot abandon
them. Elections are part and parcel of our broad strategy to remove Mugabe
from power. As a democratic movement, which believes in the creation of an
enduring democratic culture in the country, we value the democratic
educative value of elections. They are an essential component of our
national political curricula and political practice to build a democratic
culture. However, should we decide in the long run that this route has run
its course, then we will have to devise other effective non-violent modes of
political combat. But this will mean that the people are organized to the
strength of an unshakeable bundle. Such an alternative course of action must
be sustainable. It cannot meaningfully be just an angry knee-jerk reaction
with no chance of successfully withstanding the inevitable onslaught from
the dictatorial regime. Mugabe has already declared that he is ready to
shade more blood in order to remain in power, so again in this scenario,
adventurism could be counterproductive. Casualties on Zimbabwean citizens
must avoided or minimized. This calls for the leadership of all the
democratic forces to be responsible and minimize chaos.
The final choice on when to change course, strategy and tactics might not
necessarily lie with the formal structures of the organised democratic
movements. It must be remembered that over the past three years it is the
MDC, which has kept the peace in the face of a sustained regime of state
terror and violence. After the March 2002 presidential poll, during the
politically charged and explosive atmosphere that engulfed the nation, we
counselled restraint when people were ready to mount barricades and go into
the trenches. As a political party we chose the legal route in challenging
Mugabe’s electoral fraud, as a practical demonstration of our sincerity in
the quest for peace even though the regime was taunting us to take up arms.
And this is also why we have always had a peaceful political solution to the
crisis, i.e. a re-run of the presidential poll under internationally
supervised free and fair conditions, rather than a call to arms. We have
therefore acted as a restraining force on the people to desist from
confronting violence with violence. But now we have reached a stage whereby
it may no longer be possible to keep the lead on. The people are angry. They
being buttered, murdered, raped, tortured and brutalised on a daily basis
with no end in sight. Whatever happens from now on is entirely the regime’s
responsibility. The people cannot take it any longer.
So the launching pad to reclaim our stolen victory must be the immediate
strengthening and consolidation of all the democratic forces in the country.
Our goal remains the speedy installation of an MDC government.
However we realize that dictatorship is not simply an internal problem.
Rather it is a regional, continental and international problem. The denial
of a democratic entitlement to good governance is a recognised international
problem, which in many circumstances before our own predicament, has jogged
the conscience of the international community and has routinely jolted it
into action. Murder, crimes against humanity and the systematic violation of
human rights are international problems and so is the deliberate sabotage of
We therefore call upon all progressive forces in the region and the
continent to rise up to the Mugabe outrage. Mugabe’s dictatorial project
points to nobody’s future. It undermines collective efforts at regional and
continental advance. We call upon the SADC region to be steadfast and
resolutely confront the Mugabe tyranny. We call upon President Mbeki to rise
up and assume the regional leadership for which we have waited for so long.
We wish to remind him that the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis is not
altruistic, but it is for the common good of all of us. We call upon
President Obasanjo of Nigeria to show the same kind of resolve that he
demonstrated when confronting evil in his own country. To the Commonwealth,
we ask for increased political and diplomatic pressure on the Mugabe regime.
Most importantly, the United Nations should not remain on the sidelines,
when crimes against humanity are being committed by this brutal, corrupt and
murderous regime. To the rest of the international community, we say: we
cherish your past support, please remain with us as we walk the last mile
towards our freedom.
I hold no brief from Mugabe, but his standpoint, like that of all bloody
dictators is simple to grasp: All democratic forces that dare challenge his
autocracy must be literally killed or slaughtered. This is what he considers
to be the final solution to all the democratic challenges to his
illegitimacy. I have a message for him from all the democratic forces in
You cannot destroy an idea that defines the people’s preferred circumstances
and conditions of living. Your bullets cannot stop the tide of change.
Bloodshed from an illegitimate regime can never, and in history has never,
neutralized the potency of change that has to happen.
Finally, my message to my fellow Zimbabwe remains very simple. Freedom is
not free. As that illustrious son of Africa, Nelson Mandela prophetically
said all those years ago: There is no easy walk to freedom. Fellow
Zimbabweans, the remainder of the path to our freedom is still littered with
skeletons and splashed with the blood of innocent people. Lets soldier on
with courage and determination.
I thank you.
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