Opposition MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa Tuesday delivered The Zimbabwe 2021 Agenda Presidential Address that touched on a number of issues including the economic and political crisis as well as governance issues in the Southern African country. We present his address below.
Fellow Zimbabweans, I come before you at a time when our nation and the rest of the world are facing a deep crisis due to the COVID19 pandemic.
To date, the world has lost 2.54 million people to the pandemic, with 114 million recorded cases of infection.
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Our continent has lost over 100 000 lives and we in Zimbabwe have lost over 1400 people because of the pandemic.
The last few months have been particularly terrible for our communities. I commend our healthcare workers and all those at the frontline in this fight against the pandemic.
All of us have been affected by the pandemic, due to the lockdowns and associated rules which have been imposed as part of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
We are not alone in this fight. Virtually every nation has had to respond to a scourge that became an existential threat to humanity.
However, it has reminded all of us members of the human family of our shared vulnerabilities and the importance of enhancing our networks of cooperation and assistance in the face of a common enemy.
I commend the excellent work of everyone who has worked hard and invested much to find solutions to protect humanity from this pandemic.
In our context, Zimbabwe is weighed down by twin crises – the Covid-19 pandemic and a bad governance authoritarian pandemic.
Rising authoritarianism has rendered the State unstable and saddled with serious contradictions. Unstable oppressive regimes are dangerous to their own citizens.
The gross human rights violations against regional and international instruments must be seen within this context. But we must not lose hope. Storms make us stronger yet they never last forever.
My fellow Zimbabweans, I do not take it for granted that we are able to meet here today. Our families, communities and nation have been plummeted by multiple tragedies. I stand before you with grief.
It is hard to sleep at night, when I know that there are families that have lost their homes, their land, their livelihoods not because of a natural disaster, but as a result of cruel actions driven by greed, by a lack of empathy and a numbness to compassion.
My prayer is that we never lose our ability to feel for each other. The blows of Covid-19, corruption, a collapse in our Healthcare system demand that we answer to the call of action.
It is in this context that I present to you Zimbabwe agenda for 2021. However, before I do that, I must comment on how we fared in the past year.
We are Survivors
2020 was a difficult year, but we survived adverse forces that we deployed against us, itself strong testimony of the strength of the idea that we represent and the undying spirit of our people.
In 2020, we faced crises from two sources: The first was the crisis that I have already referred to, namely, the crisis of the COVID19 pandemic.
The second was the crisis of authoritarianism whereby the regime embarked on a relentless assault and onslaught upon democracy and our party.
This assault involved the use of state machinery to subvert democracy and the will of the people. The oppressors engineered the expulsion of our democratically elected representatives from Parliament and local authorities.
In their place, handpicked individuals, some of whom we defeated in the 2018 elections were foisted upon the people.
Our party headquarters was forcibly occupied, depriving us of our home. The regime also diverted our funding under the Political Parties (Finance) Act, giving it to its surrogates.
The purpose of all this was to punish our party for resisting the illegitimacy of the outcome of the 2018 elections, which lacked credibility and acceptability.
The oppressors believed by stripping us of our assets and entitlements under the law would dampen our spirits and break us down. This has not worked. It will never work. Zimbabwean people are politically literate and advanced .
They can distinguish between right and wrong. They know that some are being used by the oppressor as a scheme to derail the people’s struggle.
While other governments were working hard to contain the pandemic, the Oppressors in Zimbabwe saw it as an opportunity to restrict political rights. They suspended by-elections indefinitely under the guise of fighting the pandemic.
Therefore, while the Oppressors were allowing the removal of people’s representatives, they closed the channel for choosing their replacements.
This deprived the people of the opportunity to reclaim and correct the injustice by ending the criminal abuse of office and blatant theft. Despite all these attacks on our party, we refuse to be cast as victims.
Rather, we are survivors and winners, for when someone works so hard to destroy you and they fail, it is because you are a winner and you are strong.
We are invincible! We are indomitable and unconquerable.
We are grateful to you the citizens for continuing to believe in us, even as oppressors and terrorists have ganged up against the people and their project.
Consolidation Resilience and Resistance
In 2021, we will consolidate our position as the movement that represents the dreams and aspirations of all progressive Zimbabweans.
Oppressors have tried everything to decimate the us, but we have remained solid, and we are humbled by the fact that your trust and confidence in the us remains unshaken.
We do not regard those who have left as losses, but as an important shedding off of elements that impede and slow down the democratic struggle.
We have identified the strategy of the Oppressors is to create a controlled opposition, a government controlled opposition under their command politics.
This will effectively establish a one-party state in all but name. We are back to the late 1980s when ZANU PF tried to push the one-party state agenda.
Now, Oppressors want to create a façade and charade, with a controlled opposition that obeys ZANU PF dictates and commands.
This is not only the year of consolidating citizen action but also the year of resisting the creation of controlled opposition and the march towards one-party state politics. It is the year of both consolidation of our party and resistance to the regime’s agenda of controlled opposition.
The oppressor can not reform. The oppressors have failed to reform and actually proven to be worse than their predecessor Mr Mugabe.
The year 2021 will be marked with peaceful resistance and resilience. The language of the oppressed to resist the oppression.
We will peacefully resist and oppose evictions, demolitions and any violations of people’s freedom and citizens’ rights.
We will peacefully resist and oppose sustaining businesses and companies that oppress us the people.
We will peacefully resist and oppose institutions that oppress us the people
We will peacefully resist and oppose
We will peacefully resist and oppose all unconstitutional acts.
We will peacefully resist and oppose weaponization of law and the justice system.
We will peacefully resist and oppose the illegitimate, the Oppressors that rigged the election.
The people’s agenda is to maintain the fight for democracy and to overcome the obstacles that have been placed in our way. We will use 2021 to reconnect with the grassroots which remains the anchor of the party, to embark on a major recruitment drive, both at home and the Diaspora.
2021 is the year of CITIZENS CONVERGENCE FOR CHANGE
The Triple C Year
Gore reSungano yevanhu yeShanduko
Umnyaka wombuthano wabantu abalwela inguquko
CITIZENS. CONVERGENCE. CHANGE.
Our agenda for 2021 is to bring citizens together under A NEW CONSENSUS, A NEW CONVERGENCE, A NEW ALLIANCE a broad tent, to speak with one voice, act and win Zimbabwe for change.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. You and I are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
The theme of Agenda 2021 is informed by three key words, namely, Citizens, Convergence and Change (reforms). These three concepts are in turn informed first and foremost by the party’s strategic thrust to locate itself and its program of action with the people.
Secondly, the issue of convergence of citizens talks to the party’s strategy to initiate the formation of a broad alliance of citizen groups and democratic forces to confront the national question as a collective of forces in a manner that should result in CHANGE and REFORMS in the lives of Zimbabweans in particular and the governance of the country in general.
Thirdly, the theme is also informed by the desire of the party to assert its leadership role in the country as the main alternative voice of both reason and transformation.
Let me emphasize our thrust this year.
• Citizens – citizens are the lifeblood of all the work that we do. If I have learnt anything over the years, it is that political power lies in the people. I will never leave the people behind. In our programming, in our decision-making and in our messages – you, the people come first. The MDC Alliance is the people’s party. It is your party. It is my party. Together we must build it and strengthen it as a force for change. Do not get left behind. Join the movement. Get involved.
• Convergence – Unity, collective action and nonviolence are our rallying cry and the catalyst for change in our nation. The MDC Alliance will lead the formation of a broad church of citizen groups and democratic forces to confront the national question. When we demand accountability, speak with one voice and act collectively, we will become a formidable force for meaningful CHANGE in the lives of Zimbabweans.
• Change – Democratic and Transformational change lies at the core of who we are. Reforms and a People’s government are the substance of real change. Real change means taking what is broken and creating something new. We are the alternative voice and an alternative government for this great nation.
The party will through active citizen engagement and participation seek to achieve the complimentary goals of winning elections, attaining state power, and transforming the country.
The 5 key areas of focus for 2021 are therefore as follows,
- THE PEOPLE AGENDA-
- THE CITIZENS NATIONAL AGENDA-
- THE REFORMS AGENDA-
- THE GOVERNMENT AGENDA
- THE GLOBAL AGENDA
- THE PEOPLE AGENDA
Refocusing our fights as a means to mobilize and energize the base and reassert our leadership role as the alternative government. Building a mass based party through recruitment and mobilization. Mobilizing resources to strengthen the party as an institution and to execute the struggle to its logical end.
Agenda for Young People
Zimbabwe is a young nation in terms of population demographics. Nearly 70% of the population is under the age of 35, which is the maximum youth age under our Constitution. However, young people remain on the margins of political and economic spaces.
We are not going to pretend that we know everything about the challenges that young people face in this country. We will also not assume that we know their needs and expectations. Instead, as a party that is built upon the values of consultative politics, we want to embark on a major consultative drive, to engage young people, both in the rural and urban areas, both young men and women.
Our agenda for young people is to construct policies that are informed by their needs and expectations; policies that come from them rather than imposed from the top by those purporting to know what they want.
It is time to recognize that our youth are not our future, they are our today. If we are to harness our full potential, we need to invest in this generation of leadership in Zimbabwe.
Young people, You are the face and force of this nation.Your voice counts. Your voice matters. Your role makes a difference.
We want to give space to you young people, to listen to you, and construct policies that respond to your needs.
One of our nation’s founding fathers, Dr. Joshua Nkomo once said young people will save Zimbabwe; that they would not allow it to die. He was a man of great wisdom.
He would be proud to observe how young people are taking the lead to save this country from the depths of authoritarian rule.
Consolidating our party is built on the recognition of our core strengths and appreciation of points that require improvement. I have already stated how the regime has sought to suffocate us by depriving us of our hard-won income.
The MDC Alliance was entitled to public funds under the Political Parties (Finance) Act. However, these funds have been unprocedurally and unlawfully diverted to another party that had no place on the ballot paper in 2018 and did not earn the right to those funds.
We must therefore rely on our members and supporters to mobilize resources to fund their party. We are therefore going to embark on a major fund-raising drive. We are confident that citizens will respond positively to the call. The resource mobilization agenda will be implemented together with the massive recruitment agenda.
2.THE REFORM AGENDA
We need electoral and political reforms. We need a return to legitimacy and democracy (RELOAD).
Pushing the REFORMS ROADMAP and pursing the reform agenda through our zones of struggle; street (citizen mass action), elections, parliament, local government, diplomacy, courts, media and the state.
The agenda for political reforms has been on the table for many years. When the MDC was founded two decades ago, the agenda was to reform governance in Zimbabwe which was already in terminal decline.
The transformation of governance and society remains at the core of the party’s agenda. However, history has shown that there are impediments to the party’s path to power, hence the need for political reforms to level the political playing field. It is important to have free, fair, and credible elections because they provide the basis for legitimacy.
We have seen that no matter how many elections are held if there is a legitimacy deficit, the country will remain stuck in the doldrums. We need Zimbabwe to return to legitimacy, openness and democracy. (RELOAD)
This is the reason why we continue to advocate for political reforms, chief of which are reforms to the electoral system. Indeed, this is the principal reason for our call for dialogue: it is not to find accommodation in this regime, but to play our part in designing an electoral path that would prevent the risks of illegitimacy that have dogged past elections.
Political reforms are not merely changing the rules of the game on paper. They must be realized in practice. In this regard, human rights abuses and selective application of the law must stop. There has been a spate of petty arrests and detentions of political activists, human rights defenders, and journalists in recent years, all of them based on frivolous grounds. This does not only damage the country’s standing in the community of nations, but it also increases insecurity among citizens.
• We re-assert Zimbabwe’s 5 big, most urgent fights:
• One: The fight for a People’s Constitution and Constitutionalism. This fight will focus on defending the preservation of the 2013 Constitution and demanding that it be implemented with all laws aligned to it with particular reference to such governing issues as devolution.
We will strongly oppose Amendment No. 2 which seeks to entrench and reintroduce an Imperial Presidency and reverse the gains of the Constitutional referendum. We will demand of the executive a culture of respecting the constitution.
• Two: The fight for Livelihoods, dignity and better life. We will champion alternative policies and demands that address the needs and challenges of Zimbabweans, in particular the working people in various sectors such as the civil service, teachers, health workers, the private sector workforce, informal traders and vulnerable groups in both urban and rural areas. The success of this fight will be anchored on alternative economic policies. We will engage citizens to demand sound economic administration.
Distortions and contradictions in the economy must be eliminated. Zimbabwe must dollarize.
We will demand a decent wage and salaries for all the workers.
Our civil servants, men and women in uniform must be well remunerated.
The Economic Agenda
It is well-known that our economy is in the doldrums. This is a result of sheer incompetence and corruption which leads to misallocation and misappropriation of scarce resources.
The national cake is increasingly being privatized into the hands of a small cartel that is associated with the ZANU PF regime. Policy inconsistencies, human rights abuses, insecurity of private property rights all combine to dissuade investors to seriously consider Zimbabwe as a viable investment destination.
More significantly, we continue to hold the view that illegitimacy is a significant barrier to Zimbabwe’s economic progress. As long as the regime suffers a legitimacy deficit, the country will struggle to attract serious investors.
To make economic progress, we must resolve the political questions that have long affected the country’s perception of the family of nations. We must have political reforms that will facilitate legitimate electoral outcomes.
At a substantive level, the ballooning national debt remains a significant albatross on economic recovery. We have been in arrears regarding our external debt for nearly two decades making it extremely difficult to access credit and when we do, it is short-term and expensive. This is unsustainable. Our economic plan involves comprehensive measures to negotiate our way of these arrears.
However, as we have repeatedly said, our national case is made stronger when we resolve our political challenges. When we resolve that we will be in a better position to plead for better terms, even debt forgiveness to enable us to start afresh.
As it is, under a regime that has shown kleptocratic tendencies, our creditors think any deal is akin to throwing money down a bottomless pit. We must reform politically and that what we intend to push for.
Still, on the economy, we want to push ahead with better policies for resource extraction, processing, and utilization. We are firm believers in the idea that local resources should benefit local communities. It is a sign of incompetence and unbridled greed of the elites that communities in places like Chiadzwa remain in abject poverty when they were blessed with diamonds.
These diamonds enriched political elites and their foreign allies. Our agenda is to ensure that natural resources yield dividends to the citizens of Zimbabwe. We will continue to resist the mortgaging of the country’s resources in return for odious debt.
• Three: The fight against Corruption. Corruption is killing us. The people have a right to a corruption-free and uncaptured State. Cartels must fall. The eviction of villagers for commercial cronyism must end. Elite state capture must be dismantled.
The level of corruption in the country has reached alarming levels. The cancer now permeates the whole body politic – from the rotten pinnacle of the state going down to the lowest ranked employee in government and in the private sector.
The cancer of corruption has also now assumed another dimension, the dominance of toxic cartels. All key business engagements by the government are now monopolised by a cartel of a few individuals. This menace has milked the country and resulted in the downstream suffering of ordinary people. The capture of the state also involves the capture of other pillars of the state and agencies including the judiciary and Parliament.
They can never be an inclusive and shared growth in an environment where the state is captured by a few. This fight will therefore be focussed on exposing corruption in the country and demanding accountability from all.
• Four: A fight for Peoples’ Government and Reforms.
We need a new way of governing Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe needs new leaders. We need leaders not rulers.
Leadership is about values ethics and integrity. Zimbabwe won’t have its pulse rate without ethical leadership.
We need to restore the broken social contract. Consent must replace coercion. The authority to govern is derived from the people. The people of Zimbabwe and the international community do not believe that the government formed after the 2018 elections represents the will of the people as expressed during the 2018 elections.
It is evident that this political legitimacy deficit notwithstanding the legal legitimacy bestowed by the court has hindered the ability of the regime to govern effectively because there is no trust between the governed and the governors.
This has caused a massive performance legitimacy crisis and an insurmountable trust deficit. The trust deficit has in turn created a confidence crisis in an economy that is now shunned by both domestic and international investors.
This fight will therefore be focused on bringing to the fore the political legitimacy crisis which has led to a performance legitimacy gap manifest in a non-performing and non-delivering economy with the objective of soft landing the crisis through dialogue and a return to legitimacy.
At the heart of the resolution of the national question is the urgent need for the country to embark on and implement a raft of political reforms.
. The country to date has failed in its re-engagement efforts with the international community because it has been paying lip service to the urgent need for political reforms.
The fight for political reforms will therefore be informed by the party’s policy document PRICE and contributions from alliance partners in the envisaged broad alliance through the exertion of both domestic and international pressure on the regime to reform.
• Five: People’s rights, freedoms, security of persons and rule of law. There has been a marked deterioration in the respect for people’s freedoms and rights and the respect for the rule of law. Democracy has been bludgeoned by the Oppressor’s corrupt, violent dictatorship.
Our fight for freedoms will focus on the deteriorating human rights situation which has seen the state using law-fare to persecute dissenting voices in the country including the leadership of the party.
It is common knowledge that our country has experienced an exodus of large numbers of citizens over the last two decades forming a large Diaspora population. These citizens remain closely attached to their country.
They are dedicated members of our nation. Indeed, last year the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe reported that diaspora remittances were up 45% between January and September 2020. Diaspora remittances are a major source of foreign currency for Zimbabwe.
Therefore, although we lament the loss of skills, we are also benefitting from the remittances from our people.
It’s very good that our Constitution recognizes dual citizenship, something that we fought hard to have despite resistance from ZANU PF. However, the country still does not give enough respect to our fellow citizens.
The electoral system, for example, remains exclusionary meaning that these fellow citizens still cannot enjoy one of the fundamental rights: the right to vote. We will push the agenda for more inclusive policies for the
Diaspora, not only in political participation but also in economic participation beyond remittances. If we can have policies that are friendly to foreign investors, there is no reason why we cannot have targeted policies that promote investment by members of the Diaspora.
3.THE CITIZENS AGENDA- National agenda
Building a broad alliance of citizens for change domestically and internationally in pursuit of the resolution of the national question.
We must focus on Nation-building and Breaking Barriers Initiative by reaching out to all stakeholders in search of a common national agenda.
A collective inclusive National Vision for Zimbabwe is a priority.
A New consensus ,A new convergence of all citizens is indeed urgent business.
We must come up with an Intergenerational consensus.
It is important to come up with an inclusive and non partisan conversation and convergence through a CITIZENS’ CONVENTION or CONFERENCE to define and design a Reform Roadmap and the Zimbabwe we desire.
We will have an alternative Cabinet. We will have a New Zimbabwe policy dialogue forums.
An annual policy conference shall be held. We will have a legislative agenda and local government agenda.
As the alternative government, we are always in a state of readiness to take over and govern when the opportunity presents itself. Our party will continue to develop and update its readiness to govern.
We will also unveil our New Zimbabwe blueprint.
We will be rolling out New Zimbabwe policy dialogue programs. We will strengthen our alternative cabinet. Our SMART policies shall be revised and updated.
This is also an on-going agenda which we must demonstrate through performance in the formal theatres of power such as Parliament and local authorities.
A combination of the two pandemics – authoritarianism and COVID19 has impacted our activities on both platforms over the past year. The pandemic has led to the closure of these formal theatres, reducing their effectiveness.
However, in the case of local authorities, the problem is a system of government that results in the capture of local government by the central government. This is a structural problem that affects the efficacy of local authorities.
The Oppressors have no incentive to make changes that would free local government from the clutches of the central government. This explains why the fight for change at the central government level remains the foremost objective in the people’s struggle for change.
As part of our work regarding government, we are going to raise the level of resistance to the proposed changes to the Constitution, which are retrogressive. We have to ensure that the Constitution is respected and that its terms and values are implemented.
The attempt to change our young Constitution is retrogressive because it reverses the political reforms that were made in 2013 when it was adopted.
Oppressors want to change provisions that have not even been implemented. We are going to lead and resist Constitutional Amendment (No. 2) because it is unilateral, reactionary, counter-revolutionary and retrogressive.
5.THE GLOBAL AGENDA
2021 must and will be different because the steps we are going to take will define the future of this country. It cannot and will not be business as usual.
At all times, we will be guided by our vision – To dismantle autocracy and achieve democratic change by transforming Zimbabwe to a sustainable, just, prosperous, God fearing, ethical and democratic state.
We believe in both internationalism and Pan-Africanism. We are part of the family of nations. We believe that despite our differences, we have a shared common interest.
Indeed, our national interest is best served by working together and cooperating with other progressive nations.
We believe in a NEW AFRICA. As Africans, we recognize our shared history not just of subjugation but also of resistance and triumph against the odds to govern ourselves.
Nevertheless, despite heroic struggles against the colonial order, Africans continue to suffer from the twin challenges of authoritarian rule and a global governance system that still subordinates our nations.
New Africa Focus: we shall emphasize the vision for a New Africa. We shall be building strong networks with emerging young leaders on the continent centered on shared democratic values such as respect for human rights, free and fair elections ( guarding against electoral authoritarianism-elections without democracy)
We have upcoming elections in Zambia, South Africa, Congo, Ethiopia, Libya etc and Africa and the world must not endorse fraudulent elections, another area to focus on in the context of building a NEW AFRICA consensus is on transparent governance especially in the extractive sector in the context of illicit financial flows. The New Africa focus must breathe life into the African Continental Free Trade Area, Agenda 2063.
We support the struggle of African nations to be recognized as equal partners in all spheres and call upon our fellow brothers and sisters to support democratic growth and economic prosperity for all. We detest rigging of elections and dictatorship.
We reject efforts to entrench authoritarian regimes on the continent and to this end, we will forge solidarities with states and progressive movements that are advancing the democratic ideals that we identify with. For Zimbabwe to boost its prospects of recovery, it needs to be fully reintegrated into the family of nations.
This is not achieved by performing a window-dressing exercise or undertaking false reforms. Rather, it needs real and substantive ‘root and branch’ reforms that demonstrate a commitment to good governance, transparency, protection of human rights, rule of law and adherence to the norms that are generally accepted in progressive societies.
The Global Advocacy Campaign-We will mobilize the international community in support of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe in line with our RELOAD and with an Afro-centric focus ( targeting Regional Economic Committees – SADC, East African Community, ECOWAS, IGAD, African Union and individual countries)
International Solidarity: We must not expect to just receive solidarity but to provide solidarity to other pro-democracy struggles globally eg. Myanmar, Hong- Kong etc.We should also work closely with our international partners through The Progressive Alliance and other such platforms to strengthen multilateralism, deal with climate change.
The hour calls for us to step outside of our comfort zones, to use whatever we have, to focus on rebuilding our nation. Driven by love, instead of self interest, community needs over private gain, we have the opportunity to join hands and do the work that needs to be done to stop this cycle of destruction. I believe that we have what it takes to join hands and build.
I believe that we have what it takes to save lives. Every time I look at my son, my heart breaks that we are losing mothers and babies because our health system has failed us. I believe that we are at the apex of our destinies to step into our callings and be the voices that embody justice. We cannot demand in others, what we do not practice ourselves.
If Zimbabwe is to rise from the ashes, we must reflect, reform and transform. It is time for us to clean up our government, our crisis in leadership and demand accountability.
I am appealing to all of Zimbabwe and friends of Zimbabwe, to join hands with us as we work to eradicate poverty; as we work to reform our institutions and as we work to save our democracy.
Zimbabwe will rise from the ashes. Zimbabwe will rise again. Zimbabwe will rise as we work together. I challenge you to look beyond our differences, so we can embrace the opportunity to build our nation together. We cannot do this without each of you.
Finally, I call upon every Zimbabwean to come and join us as we rise above the challenges of our time.
We are all Zimbabweans
Come let us join hands
Come let us reason together to restore the lost dignity in our lives.
Let us work and walk together
Let us fight together to end this suffering and build a better Country, a different Zimbabwe.
Join us to make history
Let this year be the Year for Citizens Convergence for Change,
Gore resungano yevanhu yeshanduko,
Umunyaka wombuthano wabantu obatwela inguquko.
From Zambezi to Limpopo,
Building a Great Zimbabwe
Making Zimbabwe greater.
One people, One Vision, One Nation
Always for a Greater and Better Zimbabwe
Always for you.
Winning Zimbabwe for change! Change that delivers!