There are defining moments in a nation’s history and students of history will tell us these moments are outstanding for one or both of the following reasons:
· 1) Visionary leader able to pick out the single most important, urgent and critical issue – the big issue of the generation – out of the many other issues clamouring for attention
· 2) Having picked the big issue, the leader must have the patience and perseverance to see the task through in the face of all the temptations to go for the short cuts or, worse, to give up.
Abraham Lincoln’s America and post independent Zimbabwe have each had defining moments in the two countries’ history with two completely different outcomes; the former had a visionary leader in President Lincoln and the later a “flawed and indecisive character” as Chris Dell, former USA Ambassador to Zimbabwe, so aptly described Tsvangirai.
“To end the scourge of slavery and the suffering of millions living in bondage today and millions more yet to be born for all time by a constitutional measure,” is how US President Abraham Lincoln described the big issue of his generation. Lincoln argued that America would never prosper “half slave and half free”.
When President Lincoln was pushing for what is now the 13th Amendment to the American constitution, abolishing slavery, some people argued at the time that he should focus on end the civil war. The Civil War was in its second years and many lives and resources had been lost already. The temptation to drop the slavery issue like a hot potato was enormous; the breakaway Southern States were keen to end the war and re-join the Union provided they were allowed to keep their slaves. Ending the war offered a very attractive bolt hole.
President Lincoln decided to stay the course and abolish slavery. He argued that ending the war without abolishing slavery would be a betrayal all the sacrifice the nation had made in human suffering, human lives, money and resources to afford this unique opportunity to deal decisively with this thorny issue of slavery.
On 31 January 1865 the US Congress passed the 13 th Amendment abolishing slavery and slave trade in north America and the rest of the world was soon to follow America’s lead. Abraham Lincoln seized the moment and changed the course of history of not just the United State of America but of the world, especially those nations that had the cursed honour of supplying the slaves!
Ever since Zimbabwe attained her independence in 1980 the country has been on a steady path of economic decline. Today after 35 years of gross mismanagement and rampant corruption, the economy is in total economic meltdown. Unemployment has soared to nauseating heights of 90%; a nation that exported food before independence is now dependent on food imports, we are starving in the “Garden of Eden”; millions are now living in abject poverty; etc.
Where there is poverty and hunger, disease and death are there also.
Life expectancy, the qualitative and quantitative measure of the nation’s standard of living, has plummeted from 68 years in 1980 to 34 years in 2004 when it was last measured. Today it is a lot worse and, unless something is done quickly, it is set to get a lot worse as the ruling party Zanu PF has given up on economic recovery.
It is not that the nation has been fast asleep and was not aware of the economic decline; the people were aware of the decline, at least by the late 1990s they would have been aware even sooner if there had been free flow of information. All the people’s efforts to change the regime, which is what one would do given the economic decline was due to misrule by Mugabe and his cronies, have come to naught because Zimbabwe is a de facto one party dictatorship.
Mugabe has denies the people their basic freedoms and human rights including to right to a meaningful vote and even the right to life to establish and sustain his one party dictatorship. He has become expert in all manner of vote rigging dirty tricks including murder to maintain his no-regime-change mantra.
The one big issue in Zimbabwe for the last 35 years is simple enough – to restore the people’s freedoms and human rights including the right free, fair and credible elections.
We should have never got into this mess if Mugabe and his cronies had not betrayed the nation by hijacking the revolution to create this corrupt, murderous and tyrannical regime. We should have had free, fair and credible elections from day one!
Zimbabwe’s big issue is simple and clear enough to most people but clearly not to those tasked to deliver the free, fair and credible elections – Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC friends. MDC MPs were first elected in 2000 on a ticket to deliver democratic change but have failed in spite of the many chances to do so.
The best chance for MDC to deliver free and fair elections was at the end of the 2008 to 2009 GNU. Following the wanton violence of the 2008 elections, SADC forced Mugabe to sign the 2008 Global Political Agreement which stipulated a raft of democratic reforms designed to dismantle the Zanu PF dictatorship to ensure the next elections will be free, fair and credible. MDC was tasked to propose the reforms and have them passed by parliament – MDC should have had no problem in this since they had the majority in parliament.
Tsvangirai and his MDC friends did not table even one single proposed democratic reform in parliament. Mugabe bribed them with the gravy train lifestyles plus the $4 million Highlands mansion for Tsvangirai; in returned they kicked the reforms into the tall grass.
SADC leaders reminded Tsvangirai and his friends about the need to implement the reforms but to no avail. SADC leaders warned MDC leaders of the folly of taking part in the 2013 elections with no reforms in place but again their warning fell on ears paid well to hear nothing.
Mugabe and Zanu PF went on to blatantly rig the 2013 elections. The regime has since continued with is gross mismanagement, rampant corruption and to impose its oppressive lawlessness resulting in the accelerated economic meltdown.
Ever since the rigged 2013 elections Tsvangirai and his MDC friends have since come round to accepting that Zimbabwe needs to implement reforms if the nation is ever hold free, fair and credible elections. But instead of reverting to the original 2008 GPA reforms Tsvangirai is proposing wishy-washy electoral reforms because MDC has a better chance of forcing Mugabe to implement these reforms than the tougher original reforms precisely because Mugabe will still have his vote-rigging machine intact.
Tsvangirai’s electoral law reforms have already been ruled “inadequate and incomplete” by Veritas, a Zimbabwean think tank on legal matters. He knows that these reforms will accomplish nothing but he is pushing for them because he wants to be seen as doing something about implementing the reforms.
Since the GPA expired at the end of the GNU SADC cannot pressure Mugabe to implement the GPA reforms; Zimbabweans will have to find the pressure points on Mugabe. The worsening economic situation and the on-going dog-eat-dog infighting in Zanu PF have weakened Mugabe making him more susceptible to accepting change.
A united voice demanding free, fair and credible elections will force Mugabe to accept that there is no other way out. A dithering and confused opposition which does not know which is the nation’s big issue much less how to resolve it is a blessing to a tyrant like Mugabe and a curse to the nation.
If we accept Tsvangirai’s electoral reforms then the nation will be implement more and more of these reforms 100 years from now and still be no nearer to holding free, fair and credible elections than we are today. The demand for free, fair and credible elections will be the big issue for generations more of Zimbabweans to come!