Today is a great day as the MDC family gathers here in Chivhu to celebrate the party’s 16th anniversary. More pics here http://www.mafaro.co.uk/
That we are celebrating this year’s anniversary in a rural area is particularly significant because contrary to popular belief, this party is very strong in the rural areas where thousands of Zimbabweans have borne the brunt of violence for believing in this project of change.
I want to pay tribute to the rural people of this country who are braving the serious national crisis we face today. I know that the economic crisis is always worse in rural areas where people have very little means and options for survival.
Given the current state of the economy, I know most of you cannot afford basics such as food, medical care and education for your children. I am a father with school-going children and I know what I am talking about.
While the crisis is huge even in the urban areas, I know and I am certain that is worse here in the rural areas where we all grew up. I know that the impending starvation will be felt more in the rural areas, what with the current grain shortages as we face yet another bleak agriculture season. So we are here for a special reason on this party’s 16th birthday. We are here to pay homage and express gratitude as a party and as leadership to the rural people for standing by the MDC since its formation in 1999.
This party’s strong and resilient supporters are in the rural areas; the ordinary men and women who have been brutalized in the villages for simply believing in the idea of change.
Our 16 year history has been a story of untold brutality against the people of this country, mostly in the rural areas.
There are common stories in almost all the villages in the country where people have had to flee into the mountains as Zanu PF declared war on the citizens for simply believing in the MDC as a credible vehicle of change and positive transformation. Every village has a sad story to tell and that is why this year we thought of coming to the villages to celebrate our 16th anniversary with the rural people who have borne the worst brunt of Zanu PF violence and aggression.
Indeed, I salute you and all the people in the country’s rural areas for your resilience and unstinting belief in this great people’s project!
A special tribute to Mashonaland East province
As we celebrate the 16th birthday of this party, we must all take time to reflect and remember all those who have suffered for democracy, stability and progress to take root in this country.
Today, we take time to remember the heroes of the liberation struggle who fought for the independence of this country---those heroes whose struggle we in the MDC wish to complete by insisting that the freedom they fought and died for must indeed be lived and enjoyed by all Zimbabweans.
But just as remember true liberation war icons like Solomon Mujuru who came from around here, we also remember and salute the heroes of our democratic struggle who have suffered Zanu PF violence, including those who have paid the ultimate price.
The whole country has suffered Zanu PF-instigated violence, including the Midlands and Matabeleland regions during Gukurahundi-- a senseless and violent clampdown that was spearheaded by some who today want to brand themselves as reformists when we all know they are hardliners whose hands are dripping with the blood of innocent citizens of this country.
These are the same people who spearheaded untold violence on MDC supporters over the years, particularly in 2008 after we had defeated Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in an election. And among the provinces that suffered the worst violence in 2008 was Mashonaland East, which Zanu PF erroneously considered one of its stronghold areas.
From Chivhu to Mudzi, MDC supporters were terrorized, with some murdered simply for their political beliefs. Mashonaland East bore the brunt of that unmitigated State-sponsored thuggery of 2008.
I know that Felix Mazara, a headmaster at Mbowe primary school here in Chivhu was brutally murdered in 2001 in Hokonya, just at the turn-off to the Masunda area.
Only as recently as 2013, Regis Mahara of Chikomba Central was murdered for wearing MDC regalia.
Across the province many people were brutalized, including of course Cephas Magura who was murdered in Mudzi and became a key issue for discussion at one SADC summit after we in the MDC had raised that the security of the citizen that had come under serious threat, especially after we had defeated Zanu PF in an election in 2008.
Today, the man whose whereabouts remain a mystery; the man who was abducted by people in handcuffs, Itai Dzamara is a man who comes from Mutoko, also in this province.His whereabouts remain unknown, six months after his disappearance. And we in the MDC hold the State responsible.
So we are proud to be here today, in a province that has been synonymous with the struggle from the liberation struggle to the latest struggle for democracy, prosperity and national progress.
The national crisis
So we meet for the 16th anniversary of this great party in the throes of a debilitating crisis of monumental proportions. We are celebrating our 16th birthday, three days ahead of the President’s opening of the next session of Parliament.
The last time he was in Parliament a few weeks ago, he proved to be out of touch with reality. Among his many treasonous statements was to proclaim, even in the middle of this unmitigated national poverty, that Zimbabwe’s economy was registering “modest growth.”
The nation expects him to take bold steps to arrest the simmering crisis, to proclaim himself on the missing Itai Dzamara and to come clear on when his government will implement the new Constitution so that Zimbabweans begin to enjoy their rights.
That Constitution that we spearheaded and drove while in government remains one of our proud achievements as we celebrate our 16th birthday today.
The new Constitution is a revolutionary governance charter that should poise the country for a new era of tolerance, democracy, growth, progress and development. It is now over two and a half years since the new Constitution was adopted and implemented as our supreme law.
Only three attempts have been made to bring legislation into line and none of these have either been drafted in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution. The new labor legislation is a prime example. The General Laws Amendment Bill that is before the House is flawed and poorly drafted. Government seems to have no plan, no capacity and no appetite for the changes needed even though the people of this country spoke in their millions on how they want to be governed.
For Zanu PF, new legislation is often clearly drafted, not to give the new Constitution legs in legal terms, but to subvert it so as to maintain the party’s grip on power and to keep its failed policies in place.
The second major issue for the attention of the President and his government should be an address to the needs of the rural population of Zimbabwe. The main issues here are the failure of Zanu PF to develop the agricultural industry as a whole.
Since 2000, this failure has been exacerbated by the illegal and destructive land reform programme in commercial farming districts. The facts are that output from both the commercial farms and the communal areas has declined by 75 per cent (three quarters) since 2000. The 2014/15 season has been the worst for many years with Zimbabwe importing 80 per cent of its food needs.
This winter, the failure of agricultural policies has been exacerbated by the failure of the State to ensure that farmers are paid decent or reasonable prices for their products. The main examples of this are:
Cotton prices have been set at 30 cents per kilogram by an illegal cabal of cotton companies, including the Cotton Company and other international players who are selling cotton lint for $1,50 a kilogram and enjoying massive profits (Ginning costs are about 23 cents a kilogram). Most of the businesses involved are Zanu PF-controlled. Farmers need at least double this price to pay back their loans and make a profit.
Maize prices for rural farmers have been set at $150 a tonne by the Millers who control the local market. This is in a situation where maize from Zambia is costing $280 to $300 a tonne.
Imports from other counties will cost over $320 a tonne. Maize meal prices are averaging about $500 a tonne and millers are making massive margins. Again this sort of activity (price fixing) is illegal but because most millers are either controlled by large companies or Zanu PF businesspersons, nothing is being done to protect farmers. The GMB price of $390 means nothing as the beleaguered State-controlled company does not have the money to buy the grain.
Tobacco prices have also fallen this year – not to the large scale farmers but to the tens of thousands of small scale growers.
They have borrowed money to grow the crop and now 80 per cent cannot even pay back their loans.
Cattle prices are generally at half the level that they should be in rural areas because the whole marketing system based on the CSC has collapsed. In the past the CSC has guaranteed prices to all farmers no matter how large or small, paid the cost of transport to town and ensured farmers were paid on time and in cash.
The total cost of these failures to the rural community this year will be
Product Production Short Payments
Cotton 100 000 tonnes $30 million
Maize 300 000 tonnes $39 million
Tobacco 110 000 tonnes $250 million
Beef 150 000 head $67 million
Total 660 000 tonnes $386 million
But the most serious aspect of this massive theft of rural farmers’ resources is that these farmers will not have the money this year to buy food for their families, pay school fees for their children or finance their next cropping season.
Because so many areas had very poor rains this past season we face a critical shortage of food in all but a handful of districts and what makes this situation worse is that there is food in the stores, mainly due to the inclusive governemnt and MDC intervention at a national level after the failure in 2008. But our people cannot afford their needs.
To compound this situation the State President has failed to ask the international community for help. He does not ask his friends in China and Russia for aid – he prostitutes our resources to them. He knows full well that relations with everyone and not a particular geographical area will help the poor in Zimbabwe when their Government fails them.
Because Mugabe failed to request help, the international agencies have no money for Zimbabwe and fewer people will receive assistance this year.
In addition to this failure, which will bring starvation and hunger to our people, Zanu PF has turned our traditional leaders into agents of the Party and requires them to force their people to support the Party or face the loss of privileges and even their positions.
The MDC respects our Chiefs and Headmen and will never again force them to do anything that their people do not want. We respect our leaders as true spokespersons for the rural population and the guardians of our culture and traditions.
All we ask these leaders for is to respect the views and their people and to act in their interests and not the interests of any outsiders when it comes to the needs, welfare and interests of the rural community.I also know that there are traditional leaders in this area who have not been getting their allowances on the suspicion that they are MDC.
Defining the final moment
After 16 years, Zimbabweans want an end to the democratic struggle and there is emerging national consensus that we need to chart a new path for the country. We are holding this year’s anniversary under the theme MDC@16: Determining the defining moment. And indeed we are on the threshold of a defining moment for this country.
Our side of the struggle is getting many new players every day. There is now palpable national consensus that indeed, we must collectively define the determining moment of the people’s struggle.
The vision of the MDC has always been about a united, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. We have had to bear the brunt of sustained attacks and violence against us for believing that vision and for holding it dearly.
But today, we are heartened that there are more of us with the same vision, including others who were formerly with Zanu PF.Everyone has their Damascene moment and they must be encouraged.They deserve our support for their new sense of patriotism and the realization that together, we are bigger, better and more formidable.
In conclusion, I want to say that our 16th anniversary has come on the cusp of a new trajectory for the country’s politics. Indeed, we will be collectively determining the defining moment together as a united front of patriotic Zimbabweans.
As we celebrate our 16th anniversary, Apostle Paul, in his first book to the Corinthian s, states that there are 16 distinct things about the quality of love that God has and that he wants us to have as well.
The 16th time the word "love" is used in the book of John, it says, "There is no fear in love . . ." (1John 4:18).
The number 16 is a combination of the energies and attributes of the numbers 1 and 6.
The number 1 resonates with new beginnings, striving forward and progress, self-leadership and assertiveness, self-reliance, achievement, inspiration and attainment.
The number 6 elates to love of home and family and domesticity, service to others and selflessness, responsibility, reliability and providing for the self and others.The number 16 resonates with personal willpower, independence, initiative, action and overcoming obstacles.
Today, we must remember all those who have suffered and died in this struggle.
We must reflect on the journey we have travelled and the cusp of the defining moment that beckons to us.
Happy birthday, MDC!