Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocol observed.
Zimbabwe after the disputed 2013 election and the way forward
It is my singular honour and pleasure to be invited to this esteemed forum to talk about my beloved country, Zimbabwe.
For some of us, Zimbabwe is the only country we have. It is with a heavy heart that I stand before you while my beloved country is fast decelerating towards an inevitable economic implosion, especially after yet another controversial election on July 31, 2013.
From the outset, it is important to note that the debilitating economic problems Zimbabwe is faced with are symptomatic of a deep-seated political crisis stemming from a disputed election; a crisis that has not only affected the legitimacy of government but seriously eroded any shred of confidence in the country.
2. The disputed election
The July 31 election was not only disputed in Zimbabwe but in the SADC region, here in Europe and in the United States of America. We in the MDC have produced a comprehensive but disturbing report of how the will of the people was subverted in that election.
We described the poll as a farce and a monumental fraud but had spanners thrown in the works in our legal challenge of that election after we were barred from arguing our case and bringing witnesses to court.
The AU and SADC, while saying the election was credible, raised grave concerns about our election. Curiously and tellingly, while they said the poll was free because there was no evident political violence, the two African observer missions, the guarantors of our inclusive political arrangement, refused to describe the election as having been “fair.”
Such has been our experience with deeply flawed elections that to this day, the courts in Zimbabwe are still to make a ruling on our court challenge of the disputed Presidential election of 2002. By-elections were never held in other parliamentary seats that were nullified by the courts on grounds of Zanu PF-instigated violence in the 2000 parliamentary election. Those seats would have given us a simple majority in the 2000 election that was held a year after the formation of the MDC in 1999.
Zimbabwe’s current economic crisis therefore primarily stems from a disputed poll branded as not having been credible not just by the political players in Zimbabwe, but other countries in the region, in Africa and in the broader international community. One year after the poll, we have not yet received an electronic copy of the voters roll that we ought to have received before the election in line with the dictates of Zimbabwean law.
The polls were deliberately subverted while a special team of senior Zanu PF officials and members of the security establishment was at the centre of systematic emasculation of the vote. The role in the elections of Nikuv, an Israeli company fronted by former Mossad agents, remains murky and unexplained to this day.
In short, it was a heavily militarized election.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, an organisation linked to the Catholic church to which President Mugabe belongs, last week dismissed last year’s poll as having had so many irregularities that compromised the credibility of the election.
“The CCJP concludes that the pre-election environment did not provide a sufficiently conducive atmosphere for a genuinely credible and even electoral contest, the CCJP said in its statement last week.
The supposedly independent electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was a by-stander in the run-up to that election
All evidence points to a flawed election as confirmed by local, regional and international bodies and it is this illegitimate government that has eroded all confidence in the country and spawned a huge crisis that has engulfed the economy.
3. A nation in crisis
A year after the poll, the country is experiencing a serious economic and social meltdown.
A million vulnerable children are out of school because government cannot afford to pay their school fees.
The government cannot afford to meet the wage bill of its workers while the provision of basic services such as health and education has become a luxury.
Only last week, a government Minister ran for dear life after he had told a restive crowd of flood victims that the money meant to compensate them had been diverted to pay civil servants because government was broke.
The Labour Minister only told Parliament nine days ago that the absence of pay dates on the pay-slips of civil servants was not an omission but was due to the fact that government itself was not aware of when sufficient resources for next month’s wage bill would be sufficiently mobilized and did not want to misinform government employees by putting in a date they would not comply with. Such has become the magnitude of our crisis that government itself does not know when it will raise next month’s wage bill.
But even in the face of such evidence that we have a crisis on our hands. In sharp and striking contrast to this uncertainty and apparent leadership failure, we in the MDC are very proud of our record in our four years in government.
Among our many achievements, we posted positive annual growth rates, opened schools and hospitals that had closed and brought predictability and certainty in government and State employees were assured of a paycheck every month.
Now that the inclusive government has come to an end, the country is back on the canvas, back to the collapse of 2008 and every Zimbabwean can testify not only to the order, sanity and confidence we in the MDC brought into the country, but to the certainty and predictability of government service and delivery that we assured.
Some have wrongly assumed we are desperate for a second taste of a unity government but that is not true. We are only desperate for the return to legitimacy, but we are craving for a credible election that will guarantee the true expression of the people of Zimbabwe so that an exclusive MDC government can deliver to the people.
I will just summarize how the July 31 stolen election led to the multi-layered crises at four levels that we are currently grappling with; the crisis of legitimacy, the crisis of the economy, a crisis of governance and the crisis of expectation.
(a) A crisis of legitimacy
The primary catastrophe that has led to the others is the crisis of legitimacy that has eroded all confidence and trust in the government. Zimbabweans do not have any faith in the government in Harare because they know they did not vote for it.
The international community also knows what happened. For the record and to put into perspective the global condemnation of our election , here were the responses of some global players and other stakeholders soon after the sham poll in 2013:
1. US Secretary of State John Kerry
“In light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people”
2. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague
“The irregularities in the lead up to the elections and on election day itself, reported by the observer missions and in contravention of SADC’s guidelines, call into serious question the credibility of the election.”
3. Canada – Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird
“Canada has serious concerns about the reported irregularities and lack of transparency of the democratic process. These irregularities and lack of transparency raise doubts about the results that cannot credibly represent the will of the people.”
4. Australia – Foreign Minister Bob Carr
“Given our doubts about the results, Australia calls for a rerun of the elections based on a verified and agreed voters roll. Without a new election, Australia would not lift its sanctions against Zimbabwe.”
5. The European Union
“The EU is concerned about alleged irregularities and reports of incomplete participation, as well as the identified weaknesses in the electoral process and a lack of transparency.”
6. Germany – Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
Germany joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his call for a comprehensive investigation into all alleged manipulations.”This will cast a long shadow over Zimbabwe’s political and economic future.”
7. The Botswana government’s observer mission report
“Further to the above, it is the perspective of the Government of Botswana that in the context of the preliminary findings of the Sadc Election Observer Mission, as well as the initial report of our own observer team, that there is a need for an independent audit of the just concluded electoral process in Zimbabwe.
There is no doubt that what has been revealed so far by our observers cannot be considered as an acceptable standard for free and fair elections in SADC. The Community, SADC, should never create the undesirable precedent of permitting exceptions to its own rules.”
It is prudent therefore to note that notwithstanding the current keenness by the EU to re-engage the Zanu PF government, it is on record that Africa, Europe herself and the US had great reservations on the credibility of the July 31, 2013 election.
(b) A crisis of the economy
With its genesis from what many believe to be an illegitimate government, the country’s economy is in turmoil. There is a serious liquidity crunch while revenue collections have drastically dwindled, typified by government’s failure to meet its wage bill.
At a time when our economy needs a massive capital injection, no one is prepared to invest in the country and FDI has dried up.There is absoltely no trust and confidence. This is the same government that five years ago raided and mopped up private and corporate foreign currency accounts that have yet to be repaid.
The first danger warning sign for the economy was when about $1 billion was spirited out of the economy barely a week after the election, the clearest indication of the erosion of investor confidence as a result of that disputed election.
You have the office of the President being at the centre of encouraging lawlessness through needless farm seizures that have caused one farmer and his daughter to lose their lives. The highest office in the land has become a source of insecurity by encouraging more farm seizures in violation of the nation Constitution.
The social services sector is collapsing and urban councils are failing to provide clean water to the millions of citizens that stay in the country’s cities and towns. Whereas in 2008 we were faced with hyperinflationary conditions, today we are in a serious deflation as there is just no money circulating n the country.
I recently published a treatise on my personal reflections, in which I described the country as having been turned into a huge mall of vendors; indeed a highly informal economy in which everyone is trying to sell something to someone. The unemployment level in the country, projected at around 85 percent has become an issue of national stability if nothing is done in the very immediate future.
To sum up our dire economic status situation, the World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranks Zimbabwe 158 out of 183 countries while the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global competitiveness report places us at 133 out of 143 countries.
President Mugabe on Sunday shockingly said the economy was on the mend. The President is so divorced from the grim reality facing the nation to the extent that the nation has simply become a radar-less ship allowing the winds of fate to drift it in the high seas of political denial and uncertainty. No effort to solve the crisis can be made by a President who is so much in denial about the national situation.
(C) A crisis of governance
Our government is not only struggling to meet its basic obligations but has now shunned any pretence towards democratic governance. Chief among its many crimes is government’s failure to align the country’s laws to a new Constitution overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Zimbabwe last year.
In that Constitution, among many progressive provisions, Zimbabweans said they wanted devolution but a year after the election, that revolutionary provision has not in any way been implemented as the governance system remains highly centralized.
What the Zanu PF government has done instead is to appoint Ministers of Provincial Affairs even in the two metropolitan provinces such as and Bulawayo which they do not control.
That Constitution is one of our major success stories as the democratic movement in Zimbabwe but the government is developing frozen feet in living true to the wishes and aspirations of the citizens as expressed in that contract with the people on how they want to be governed.
Ours is a government that is contemptuous of any agreement with anyone and has dismally failed to pay its own debts. We now have an unserviced external debt of over $10 billion. We have not met our side of the bargain on many bilateral and multilateral agreements while companies and other properties owned by foreigners have been seized in violation of BIPPAs.
(d) A crisis of expectation
The other layer of the national crisis is due to the fact that Zanu PF over-promised the people. They claim to have overwhelmingly won the last election but all we have seen is underwhelming delivery on what they promised the people of Zimbabwe.
Every sector received a promise in the run-up to the last election. We were told there would be an annual growth rate of over six percent. Civil servants were promised PDL-linked salaries but nothing has been done and in fact, government is still failing to pay salaries at the old scale.
About 85 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed and Zanu PF promised to create 2,2 million jobs from 2013-18. To date, over 700 companies have closed since the last election and official figures say about 300 workers are losing their jobs every week as companies struggle to survive in the current harsh economic environment.
4.The Way Forward
In light of our multi-layered crisis, many have justifiably asked, Whither Zimbabwe? Since January, when the crisis began to take root, I have been calling for a national discussion by a cross-section of stakeholders to deliberate on the country’s problems and chart the way forward.
In 2009, we agreed to an inclusive government even though we had won the election, but we have learnt that a discussion and agreement by political players alone is an elite pact that remains exclusive of other players who can assist to make a bigger positive difference.
An internationally brokered national dialogue of all stakeholders would be a good starting point to avert the national crisis gripping the nation. While we managed to provide respite to a suffering nation, we are calling for a discussion by a broad church of stakeholders that include the church, students, industry and civic society.
It is that group that must agree on what needs to be done to solve our multi-layered crisis, to bring back confidence in the country and to address the question of legitimacy that is at the epicenter of our national predicament.And I am aware that there are some have sought to give conditions to this national dialogue. But I still maintain that a genuine and well-meaning national conversation should not be handcuffed by subjective and self-serving conditions that demean the people of Zimbabwe who know the truth of what happened in the last election.
The people of Zimbabwe ought to be encouraged to discuss their national predicament and hammer out what needs to be done to extricate the country from this man-made quagmire. Put simply, the domestic solution is unconditional dialogue by a broad section of Zimbabweans to unpack the crisis and chart the way forward.
The international community
The international community still has a big role to play. Gone are the days of lone-ranger antics in a global village. We must rejoin the family of nations. The current national reality is that we are isolated from meaningful investment capital flow and substantial development financial assistance.
Zanu PF’s narrowly focused and confined “Look East” policy has not yielded direct fiscal support. 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 largely driven, on our part, by the desire to enhance and further the interest of the ordinary citizen of our country.
Zimbabwe needs friends, strategic partners and promoters 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.
I am aware that the EU has decided to re-engage Zimbabwe and I know that the people of Zimbabwe stand to benefit from any form of re-engagement.
But 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.
We also notice that sanctions have to all intents and purposes been removed except the travel bans on Mugabe and his wife. This is welcome in that it obliterates and removes any excuse by the government for not delivering services to the people.
What we do not encourage is a mere removal of sanctions without a framework that plods and entices the nation towards the respect of full democratic values.
You must insist on the government in Harare respecting and implementing the national Constitution. You 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.
Any re-engagement must be alive to the past and present acts of omission and commission and the crimes committed against the innocent citizens of the people of Zimbabwe. Individual EU countries must not just call for re-engagement because of the selfish interests of their respective individual countries. They must re-engage to add to global pressure on universally acceptable norms and standards of governance that respect the interests of the people of Zimbabwe.
As I speak, we understand the government wants to mortgage the Great Dyke, a rich mining belt that cuts across the country and our hope is that any re-engagement must be sensitive to the prospect of bad and corrupt deals that will neither serve the people of Zimbabwe nor advance their economic interests. There must be consistent persistence on those conditions that produce a truly free and fair election in which political choices are respected and guaranteed.
I am aware of the complexity of our national situation but rest assured that some of us have chosen to take permanent residence in the trenches until democracy is achieved in Zimbabwe.
We remain committed to elections as the only democratic and legitimate arena through which to wrestle power. But our experience with Zanu PF has taught us that it is one thing to win an election, and quite another for the incumbent to accept the will of the people.
It is understandable that some among us have lost hope after our long history of subverted elections. But despite the setbacks, the majority of the people of Zimbabwe remain committed to the struggle for democratic change. It is our hope the international community will continue to stand by the ordinary people of Zimbabwe in their determination to fight a dictatorship using no other weapon but their bare hands through a free and fair ballot.
We remain committed to the democratic agenda. We may bicker and some may choose to go their separate ways but that is the nature of democracy, to which we are fully subscribed members.
I have no doubt in my mind that with unconditional dialogue by the people of Zimbabwe and with international re-engagement premised conditionally on universally accepted standards, we will forge a way out of the current morass.
As I have always done, I will continually re-ignite the embers of the crackling fire of the collective democratic struggle of the people of Zimbabwe. I have no doubt in my mind that we have come close to the fulfillment of the people’s dream for positive change and transformation.
I have been traversing the country since September 2013, meeting ordinary Zimbabweans and being inspired by their hope that continues to spring even in the current dispiriting economic turmoil.
Those ordinary people across the length and breadth of my country continue to give me strength and lift my spirits. We have traveled this tortuous road together and we are all convinced we have neared its end. The world must assist us to put back on track an arrested and derailed transition; a delayed transition that is not just political and ideological, but also generational.
I can clearly see that we are on the brink of the sunset of our struggle, a sunset soon to be replaced by a new dawn of a new country, a new leadership and new and abundant opportunities for every Zimbabwean.
I see Zimbabwe successfully unshackling the dark and grisly chains that tie her down to this despicable fate among the wretched of the earth.
I see a new Zimbabwe proudly taking her place in the family of nations.
I am convinced that our hope is not in vain.
I thank you