We meet today amid a serious national crisis where ordinary Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet and to put food on the table.
We meet in the context of a grim economic and social reality in which families are struggling to just survive, at a time when a simple loaf bread has become a symbol of luxury and affluence. The millions of vendors eking a living on our streets by selling anything capable of being sold are the true human expression of the extreme national suffering characterizing Zimbabwe today.
There is tension in the homes as families can barely are barely survive as they have no food while the massive power cuts have become a leveler; with no distinction between the rural and urban areas. The darkness itself has also assumed a metaphorical dimension as those in charge of government grope in the dusk of their helplessness; with no solution to solve the acute suffering of the people.
I have travelled around the country and seen for myself the national poverty with my own eyes.
I have spoken to students, housewives, the recently retrenched as well as civil servants some of whom are wondering when the promised axe after what the government chose to euphemistically call “rightsizing.” when it fact is pending retrenchment.
I was in Binga two weeks ago and I saw the desperation of the people; with citizens there being branded “poachers” for fishing in the Zambezi, the only means of survival they have known throughout their entire lives.
In Mahuwe, I saw a desperate community staring starvation in the face as floods had ripped open their fields in that desolate valley alongside the Zambezi, leaving people desperate and starving.
In Chipinge, Mudzi, Lupane and Gwanda, I saw a people on their knees, struggling to make a living in an economy that has simply collapsed. Of course, the party in government is certainly on another planet, seemingly oblivious to the desperation in Mbare, Makokova, Chipinge and Gokwe.
Closeted in his delusional world, Mugabe had the audacity to tell us that the economy is registering “modest growth”, leaving the nation wondering whether the President was still living in this country.
People are suffering, the few remaining workers are facing retrenchment, civil servants are uncertain about their future while students lucky enough to have their fees paid are looking forward to a life of vending after graduation!
Such has become the people’s life in this our beloved country of birth!
Discerning Zimbabweans know that the collapsed economy and the sad national story around us are just but a window through which the results of the stolen election of 2013 are manifesting themselves.
Our sad national predicament is therefore a direct consequence of the crisis of legitimacy. Disputed elections do not only lead to illegitimate electoral outcomes but cause a serious dent on national and international confidence, all of which have a serious bearing on the economy.
The current crisis and the disputed election
At the MDC Congress in October last year, the party’s supreme decision-making organ drew a line in the sand and resolved that this party will only participate in a truly free and fair election where the people’s sovereign will is adequately guaranteed and safeguarded.
Since that decision, many have been asking the specific reforms we are demanding. In the party booklet we unveil here today, we go in detail on the specific reforms that should be instituted if we are to have truly credible elections that do not breed contested outcomes.
Free and fair elections are the basis for a legitimate government to begin to transact the business of the people; with the full confidence that it has the necessary national and
international support and confidence.
The huge crisis we face today; the current collapse evidenced by all those vendors on the streets and the fully-stocked supermarkets full of goods that the people cannot afford to buy are serious issues related to the illegitimate election of 2013.
Zanu PF may try to deny it, but there is a clear nexus between our current national dilemma and the fraudulent election of 2013. Through this document we launch here today, we make it easy for all concerned to fully appreciate the contentious issues at the centre of our perennially disputed polls.
The current national crisis we face can only be resolved through a return to legitimacy, which can only happen if the people are allowed to express themselves in a credible election.
The country call ill-afford to get it wrong next time, whenever that next time will be!
National Convergence on the need for reforms
There is emerging national consensus on the need for comprehensive electoral reforms in Zimbabwe. Everyone, including even former Zanu PF members who only last year were MPs and senior leaders in the party, is now singing the national chorus of the imperative of electoral reform.
Details coming out in the electoral petition by former Zanu PF chairman for Mashonaland West and Hurungwe West MP, Themba Mliswa vindicate our position. The emerging revelations point to an event that was certainly not an election, but a well-choreographed security operation that was led by named people in the country’s security structures, in violation of the national Constitution.
Apart from the revelations by these former Zanu PF leaders who have now smelt the coffee, it should be noted that the case for reforms is not just a demand by the MDC and other political players, but an issue that began with SADC leaders during the era of the inclusive government.
In July, 2013, we went to an election without reforms despite the resolution of SADC Heads of State in Maputo in June of that year that reforms had to be implemented first.
After the contrived Jealousy Mawarire court case had led to July 31 being proclaimed as the date for the election, regional leaders told us as the collective leadership of the government to postpone the election until reforms that had been agreed under Global Political Agreement (GPA) had been implemented.
The reforms never saw the light of the day due to the intransigence of Zanu PF and the whole nation was stampeded to elections in the absence of reforms. So our demand for implementation of reforms is also a SADC demand that was never complied with. We are simply restating what we all agreed under the auspices of SADC.
As I said in my treatise entitled Personal Reflections, we in the MDC were wrong in participating in that election on the assumption and belief that the sheer numbers of Zimbabweans would overwhelm whatever shenanigans Zanu PF had planned to subvert the will of the people.
We were wrong in 2013 and we cannot afford to be wrong again in 2015. This time, we are insisting on the implementation of what we agreed together as political players under the auspices of the regional body.
It is pertinent to note that even after that election of 2013, SADC refused to endorse the polls as having been fair, only saying they were free and credible, and not the three-some of free, fair and credible as stated in the SADC guidelines governing the conduct of free and fair elections in the region!
So the demands and reforms contained in the booklet we launch here today are not just MDC demands. They are national demands because of the convergence that has arisen across the political spectrum in the country.
They are also SADC demands because what is in this document is what SADC had insisted we should implement in 2013.
Given our experience, it cannot be business as usual.
The document we launch here today confirms that we in the MDC believe in the electoral route. We are a democratic party and we believe that any party that wishes to govern must win an election, but we insist that the election must truly be a free and fair election which reflects the sovereign will of the people.
A summary of the issues
The demands we launch today are nothing new, but have been restated over the years. The document we launch here is entitled WReNE (Without reforms No Elections). It is an apt summation of the electoral reforms that should be instituted in the country.
The issues covered in the booklet and deserving urgent attention include environment issues of the election such as the need to ensure there is no violence and intimidation; that traditional leaders do not frog-march people to vote for certain political parties; that there is no intimidation and that citizens are free to vote for parties and candidates of their choice.
Our demands also include that certain technical issues with a bearing on the credibility of elections be addressed.
These include the independence and impartiality of the election management body; the neutrality and non-partisanship of all its staff as well as transparency and full accountability on voter registration, the voters roll and the printing of election and voting materials.
We saw recently in elections in Namibia and Zambia that it is possible to have representation from all contesting parties at the printing and transportation of all voting materials, even if the material is printed outside the country where an election is taking place.
We make a case in our demands for unbiased accreditation of election observers. You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide and we believe the non-accreditation of certain observers is based on our own fears because we are not confident of the transparency of our electoral processes.
Finally, our elections must be in conformity not only with international best practice, but must strictly adhere to SADC and AU guidelines governing elections. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the people of Zimbabwe.
In their millions, they wrote a new Constitution, which addresses most of the electoral reforms we are demanding but that Constitution is not being implemented by the party in
government---the beneficiary of a murky electoral process.
Zimbabweans wrote a Constitution that broadened the rights of citizens and we now have political rights, with the Constitution specifically saying citizens have a right to belong to political parties of their choice and those choices must be guaranteed protected.
Our Constitution deals with the security sector, specifically emphasizing that our uniformed forces and intelligence services must be professional and non-partisan and that they must not advance or diminish the interests of any political party.
So security sector reform is now in the Constitution. Media reform too is addressed to a certain extent, especially the conduct of the public media which should represent the diverse interests of all Zimbabweans and enjoy editorial independence and non-interference from the government or any political interest group.
Thus, immediate implementation of the Constitution and alignment of all laws with the people’s charter will go a long way in addressing most of our reform demands and ensure that citizens enjoy the rights that are due to them.
In conclusion, we in the MDC are aware of the sanctity of a free and fair election and that it is only a credible poll that guarantees legitimacy.
Zimbabwe ought to get it right at the next election so that we are not saddled with disputed outcomes and a legitimacy deficit that affects both national and international confidence. We will do all that is possible to ensure that the people’s will is respected and guaranteed.
We shall continue to take our campaign to all corners of the country; to the region, to Africa and to the broader international community so that as a country we cease to be the square peg in a hole that we are!
The national convergence that is emerging around this issue is very encouraging. We in the MDC have decided to shy away from crying and chorusing about stolen elections every time the country holds it poll.
These clear and public demands we are launching today confirm that as a party, we are now in solution mode. These demands will be the solution to the crisis we face; which crisis is grounded on illegitimacy of government as a result of a disputed election. Once we implement these far- reaching reforms contained in this booklet we launch here today, this country would be good to go.
My last word is that yes, we in the MDC and the people of Zimbabwe will do everything to ensure a credible poll the next time around.
And I mean EVERYTHING that can be legitimately done, to ensure that these reforms so that we vaccinate the next election against the vagaries of electoral theft. It is my singular honour and my pleasure to declare the MDC’s WReNE document officially launched!
I Thank You