7 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Remarks By Tvangirai At Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Convention, Kenya

Photo: Zimbabwe Independent
Supporters of President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

press release

Mr Chairman,

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, the Rt. Hon. Raila Amollo Odinga,

Members of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM),

Cabinet Ministers,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished Guests,

Convention delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen

I feel honoured to be part of this august occasion; an occasion at which we all reaffirm our resolve to seize the moment and to promote a holistic extension of the ideals of Africa's liberation struggles in order to transform our societies into relevant global players.

The new generation of Africa's leaders like you my brother Rt Hon. Odinga, have a compelling duty and deep-seated responsibility to take off where our brave, nationalist legion deposited the baton in the fight for the extension of freedom; economic emancipation; and the social visibility of the African person as an essential performer within our entire humanity.

We are not extinguishing the spirit of liberation; rather, we are building upon it, with the ultimate purpose of making independence more meaningful to the lives of ordinary men and women.

Mr Chairman, like all new generation leaders, kindly allow me to salute our Africa's leading icons of the struggle against colonialism for paving the way for the recognition of our identity and position in our continent.

Fighting colonial and racist rule, the nationalists left a legacy of profound patriotism, determination and sacrifice for our birthright.

That legacy has inspired the new generation after realising that many of our founding fathers immediately sunk into a cesspool of intricate political mud-spots arising from history; external factors, primarily the Cold War; and their own limitations in hunting down for a compelling vision for their people.

While the challenges they faced are a matter of public record, one cannot avoid mentioning a significant shortcoming that played havoc in their style of leadership and shaped their political behaviour. Many either turned onto their own kith and kin through unrestrained intolerance and dictatorships; or simply abandoned all they originally swore to observe and to uphold as sacrosanct.

It is not a coincidence, therefore, that the history of Kenya and that of Zimbabwe shares similar hallmarks before and immediately after independence from Britain.

Unlike their counterparts in Asia, the old generation of African leaders toyed with a range of experiments and ideologies in the search for redressing the inherited colonial imbalances the continent faced with the departure of the racist oppressor.

The otherwise noble quest for redress was not matched with forward-looking policies aimed at modernisation, development and improving competitiveness on the global marketplace. Asian and African countries share a common history of colonisation but the Asian countries have developed faster in the post-independence era compared to their African counterparts.

The difference between the two is that the post-independence generation of Asian leaders like Mahatir Mohamed of Malaysia were guided by a clear VISION. They have, over the years, spearheaded a development model that has advanced the economic condition of their people.

Indeed, some began to mimic the oppressor's way of life as a mode of governance. It was a fulfilment of Frantz Fanon's seminal work, The Wretched of the Earth, in which he wrote so eloquently of the transformation of the liberators from the caring and passionate advocates of freedom into the class of the new rulers who governed their own peoples with the iron fist.

Others fell in the trap of primitive accumulation, openly looting heavily stressed national treasuries and impoverishing millions in the process. The voracious appetite for luxury and personal aggrandisement at the expense of the ordinary men and women was all too apparent.

Some succumbed to unnecessary score-settling against their opponents, real or perceived, in the quest to demonstrate their indomitable power over all they now surveyed. Many remained caked in the past: that as liberators of their nations, they were immune to challenge, national advice and constructive criticism.

In the case of Zimbabwe and Kenya, our economies and the quality of life for our people were once the pride of Africa. I can safely say if it was not for political confusion, greed and avarice our two nations could have easily been part of the newly industrialised world today.

The crisis of governance in both Zimbabwe and Kenya deprived us of a cogent, political and democratic culture, firmly supported by credible and democratic public safety institutions and nationally agreed political practices.

Because of these loosely rooted systems of governance, conflict and confusion often thrive even when they could be easily avoided. This is what we, as new players carrying on the torch of freedom and development, swear to throw away instantly.

To the quest for freedom we have added the developmental agenda, focussed on the upliftment of our people, rooted in systems upon which good governance is constructed.

The days of Afro-pessimism and hopelessness are over and should give way to Afro-optimism and hope. This is the historical mission of this new generation of leaders represented at this Convention. We live in a phase awash with beckoning opportunities; an era where a break with the past is inevitable. It is important that as leaders we must clear the current disconnect between the people's way of life with the practice of government. We must welcome and strengthen acceptable, universal habits of citizenship in the emerging culture of openness, debate and discussion.

We must clear generational suspicions about the negative role of the state in Africa in order to restore trust and confidence in Africa's leadership. We must redefine the relationship between the state and its citizens to be that of respect, trust and accountability.

I have no doubt that lack of faith and confidence in the state and in its institutions always stifle local initiatives and turn away potential partners out of fear of potential instability.

Zimbabwe and Kenya have in recent years been used as guinea pigs and political experiments in the resolution of Africa's stubborn history of national conflicts manifested by a refusal to respect the will of the people after an election.

Taken with hesitation at the beginning, we were all forced into grand coalitions and managed transitions to a free and fair election. I believe what we have gone through has left an indelible mark in the manner in which we should handle our political affairs.

We patiently went through one of the most difficult, post-colonial and generational transitions spawned by the reality of black-on-black oppression and, by extension, black-on-black violence.

This is a lesson that shall remain etched in our souls. This is a message that drives us to respect the efficacy of good governance, as a national insurance premium against conflict and political corruption.

Given our experience, our nations now know the dangers of either political or military conflicts; and that the effective vaccine is a responsive leadership that regards the state as an enabler and facilitator rather than a ruler.

We have both chosen constitutionalism over militarism, recognising that there must be limitations on governmental power to ensure responsibility and accountability towards the governed.

From this new understanding, may I acknowledge and salute the people of Kenya for a successful Constitution-making process.

At home, we have reached the final stages of the same. It is our sincere hope that nothing untoward shall interfere with this cherished dream. I must point out that we have used the Kenyan experience as an example in our own constitution-making process, drawing many lessons both in respect of the process and content of the Constitution.

We commend the people of Kenya for being a source of inspiration that it is possible to redefine our nation-state through the constitution-making process.

The delays in our country in completing this difficult exercise could be attributed to residual traces of nostalgia and a natural but wholly unfounded fear for change. I remain positive that, like their brothers and sisters in Kenya, Zimbabweans shall celebrate a new Constitution in the New Year.

We are mindful of the old saying, as reflected in Paolo Coelho's celebrated book, The Alchemist, that the closer one gets to the realisation of their dreams, the more difficult things become. In the pursuit of the dream, one is constantly subjected to tests of persistence and courage. We cannot be tempted into haste and impatience.

The challenges in our way are not designed to make us fail but to test our strength of character and the depth of our desire for what we are seeking to achieve.

It is our historical obligation to deliver the new constitution for Zimbabwe, just as the nationalists of yesteryear delivered the Lancaster House Constitution that brought our independence. The new Constitution is our window into redefining the future of the country, just as the new Constitution of Kenya has played a key role in the current transition.

Allow me to qualify this celebration of the new constitution by saying that freedom demands more than just beautiful words on a piece of paper. As the celebrated American judge, Justice Learned Hand reminded us; "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it". These words remind us of our historic obligation to take charge and carry the spirit of liberty.

With the rapid changes in the global economic and political environment, Africa must stand out and move with the times. Our people are always looking inwards, looking at themselves more closely.

A democratisation wave is still sweeping across the continent as ordinary people, through civil society and other interest groups are demanding their political space; and access to national opportunities.

Gone are the days when might, armour, force and the gun were fashionable instruments for regime change. That leads us to where we are today, with open but secure ballot being the most preferred means to confer legitimacy to any credible regime.

This phase is still fraught with its own problems as the continent struggles to come to terms with competing demands of the ordinary citizen and the die-hard elements still trapped in the past.

The Africa I envision, starting from the new Zimbabwe in my mind, is a place where there is a healthy fusion of a culture of unhindered participation in all aspects and spheres of life by every person, from a peasant to a president.

I see a region where ordinary people and politicians alike openly gather and share rewards of their national heritage and the abundant opportunities in our societies.

This means the creation of an environment in which our differences are respected and tolerated while our diversity becomes a source of unfettered celebration and national strength. From our station we have observed with admiration, Kenya's great advances in the technological revolution which is shaping the future of business, uplifting rural and urban communities alike. These are lessons we are also emulating in Zimbabwe.

We must change our approach and focus on economic and social development and not just raw politics. But this depends on leadership having a non-negotiable focus on the people and on national needs; and not on just staying in power for power's sake.

An area of key interest to both Zimbabwe and Kenya is the management and exploitation of natural resources, which must be people-focussed. We believe resources must be exploited to benefit not just the few elites but the majority of the population. Africa is endowed with an excellent reservoir of natural resources and for that reason remains the envy of much of the world.

We must guard these assets jealously ensuring that their exploitation is for national development rather than for the enrichment of the few in privileged positions.

With these remarks, Mr Chairman, allow me to congratulate Prime Minister Odinga on his nomination as the Presidential candidate for ODM. I know he is ready, much as I am, to take on the reigns of the state.

Finally, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this important gathering. I pledge to work hard to strengthen the relations between our two parties in general, and our two countries, in particular.

Thank you

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