Tsvangirai outlines revival programme

HARARE - Daily News political editor Gift Phiri (GP) talked to MDC leader and Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the launch of the MDC policy conference in Milton Park on Saturday. Below are excerpts of the interview recorded before a live audience.

GP: The MDC has just presented its policy document, for you what are the highlights?

MT: As you know, we are just at the end of our policy conference which has been running for the last two days. We are very proud of the policies that we have enunciated.

These are policies that will advance the people of Zimbabwe in terms of socio-economic development. As you know, we are emerging from an economy which has shrunk, the people have faced very serious traumatic living standards and therefore, the policies, the major highlights are: One, that the economic revival of the country will be spearheaded by a programme of revival of the economy with a specific focus on job creation, investment promotion, incomes distribution.

I think this is very fundamental because without a reviving economy, the people of Zimbabwe will still face very dire conditions.

The second thrust of our policies from a jobs plan is, of course, the anti-corruption message.

We are very strong in ensuring that we put a stop to the ongoing malaise that has affected our society.

But above all, this is a social democratic thrust. We believe the State has a responsibility of ensuring that those who are at the lowerend are assisted to catch up with others, that the role of the State is to facilitate not to prescribe measures for socio-economic development.

So to me this is the cornerstone of our policy. But I want to say that we have a society which has experienced trauma, in terms of violence, in terms of impunity.

With a new constitution, we are actually setting up a new value system of governance.

And that value system is to ensure that people enjoy their freedom and that they are able to pursue their dreams in an environment of peace, security and stability.

GP: You talk of a value system and yet critics are accusing the MDC of having traits similar to Zanu PF, corruption, a false sense of arrival, comfort at being in government.

What is your response to such criticism?

MT: Far from it! If the MDC is the alternative to Zanu PF, it cannot have the same narrative with Zanu PF. Zanu PF has already taught us over the last 33 years a culture of centralisation, a culture of impunity, a culture of violence, a culture of closing all space for the people of Zimbabwe.

We are different, we are a different party that has always from day one defined our agenda as democratic change, respecting the people, defining that the people are at the centre of everything that we do as a government.

Now come back to the question that we almost have a sense of arrival.

When the MDC joined this government, it actually saved this country from a precipice.

The country was facing a very dangerous, debilitating situation. We came in to rescue the country, to save the people and therefore to compare us with Zanu PF which has a history of corruption, I think is unfair.

But let me also say that corruption is not a party philosophy, it is an individual failure.

It is an individual who is corrupt and not the party. We as a party have always demonstrated that we can deal with individuals that are corrupt.

It is Zanu PF, for instance; in one or two councils we not only had to fire one or three but to fire the whole council. Those councillors were replaced by (Local Government minister Ignatius) Chombo, later on to be fired by him for the same reasons that we have identified as corrupt councillors.

So if there is going to be a demonstration of having zero tolerance to corruption, it is in the MDC.

In fact the MDC ministers in government, you have never seen such demonstrable integrity of ministers comparable to what Zanu PF is showing the country.

When you look at Zanu PF ministers, just recently three ministers had to use police to stop the Anti-Corruption commission to go and investigate them.

What does that demonstrate? It demonstrates that Zanu PF protects its own, especially its own corrupt ministers.

But for us we are very open, ministers have been there and they have demonstrated that they can also deal with these issues. So I think comparatively we have demonstrated that we can deal with corrupt officials that have been deployed by the party.

GP: Having come this far, what is your personal vision for the “new Zimbabwe” you often talk about?

MT: What kind of society do we want to create? Surely not the kind of society we have experienced in the last 33 years.

We want to create a society where people are able to pursue their desire, their dreams for peace, prosperity, for happiness.

This is what has been absent from this society. And if we can create that society, I think that is the society that I have struggled for and I will continue to struggle for.

GP: What has been the most traumatic personal experience and what would you say was the worst experience for your party the MDC?

MT: Well from a personal point of view I think I can only highlight a couple of them. I think the most traumatic was the loss of my wife. I could have died in that accident also but through the grace of God, we had one tragic death in the family. It has been quite traumatic.

The other one was to go in a police station where people are supposed to be protected and to be subjected to one of the most humiliating battering that you have ever seen.

GP: You mean what happened on March 11, 2007 at Machipisa Police Station?

MT: Yes. From a party point of view, I think we have had several tragic deaths in the family, this family of MDC. We have lost some of our key supporters and I have had the misfortune of being at any, if not all of them, to share these grieving moments with families.

We have lost loved ones in circumstances that are horrendous.

I have witnessed people coming into the Avenues with bodies lacerated.

I know of Tichaona Chiminya who unfortunately died in my absence but had to face a situation where he had to be burned alive.

These are very tragic moments for the party. I just want to take this opportunity as a party to say we remember those people with a deep sense that we will not betray them.

But whatever happens, we are going to make sure that the objective that they died for is achieved.

GP: What would you say has been the positive contribution of the MDC to this inclusive government and what have you learnt?

MT: Gift, let’s look at 2008 and analyse and say, what was the State of the people? People had no food, people had no money, people were scrounging for a living, scavenging for a living.

In fact the reason why President Mugabe went for 10 months without appointing a Cabinet was because he knew that he had lost an election, and he knew that he could not proceed without bringing in the MDC in order to resolve the problems that the country was facing.

Indeed these problems were quite apparent.

Inflation was running over the roof, shelves were empty, people were eating roots for survival.

In fact, we could have easily said go ahead because you claim to have won the election, go ahead and rule the country without us.

But because of our sacrifice and our commitment to serve the people, we said we would better serve the people than serve ourselves and by our involvement we will actually serve the nation.

Look at the way we have dealt with the hyperinflation conditions, look at the way we have dealt with collapsed social services, look at the way we have even begun to resuscitate some of the production in the country.

I mean these are very positive contributions by the MDC.

In fact if there is anyone who has benefitted out of this inclusive government; it is president Mugabe, because he was clueless as to how to take the country forward.
GP: Now, let’s say that you are voted president, what is it that is different that the people of Zimbabwe should expect under your leadership?

MT: You know Gift, from my background as a trade unionist, I have always believed in consensus, collective participation.

I have always promoted the fact that a social contract, engaging all sectors of the economy, is very important for building national consensus.

However, as a person, as president of the country, I believe in servant leadership. I believe that one of the distinctive marks of leadership style is that I am not a dictator.

I believe that what the people have suffered is not the kind of leadership that the people expect.

They expect leadership that is clear in its vision, clear in its delivery, and also clear in the sense that leaders are there to serve the people and not serve themselves.

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