HARARE - The lasting image of the last election that has remained largely ingrained in my mind is of the mammoth crowd that gathered in Harare on what we dubbed the Cross Over rally on July 29, 2013.
It is an indelible image of a nation that was geared for change, a determined people on the brink of crossing over to a new country with new opportunities under a new and competent dispensation.
Now it has been 11 months since the election on July 31, 2013 and the swearing in of the current government of Zimbabwe; but the situation in the country is dispiriting.
On September 3, 2013, I began a national conversation with the people of Zimbabwe. I have travelled across the length and breath of our nation, engaging in dialogue with people from all walks of life and holding rallies that attracted multitudes.
In my visits to the various districts after the election, I have seen and witnessed the pain of Zimbabweans, the palpable despair among the people as they contemplated a future for themselves and their families under the Zanu PF regime.
The ordinary people of this country are simply failing to cope with life in the current socio-economic circumstances that are upon us.
I spoke to pensioners that have found themselves disenfranchised and smothered by the debilitating economic policies.
I saw parents struggling to pay their children’s school fees and healthcare; men and women emasculated by Zanu PF’s failing policies and company closures.
I saw previously employed citizens and those seeking work who now cannot sustain a meaningful life, including university graduates vending airtime vouchers and anything else that can be sold.
Indeed, the nation has become one big mall, a huge ‘‘Siyaso’’ market with everyone trying to sell something to someone just to make ends meet.
I saw villagers struggling to buy basics for their families, huge families surviving on far much less that $1 per day.
The question on everybody’s mind is how so much pain, despair and desperation can immediately follow what our colleagues in Zanu PF would want to call a resounding victory that gave them an overwhelming mandate?
From where we had started since the formation of the inclusive government in early 2009 and where we had reached by 2013, notable progress had been recorded and hope for a brighter future sufficiently generated.
My heart is heavy, as we accelerate towards the same economic turmoil from where we had rescued the people of Zimbabwe some five years ago.
Closeted at State House, President Robert Mugabe remains marooned from the reality of the national situation, oblivious to the daily predicament facing Zimbabweans as they struggle to survive.
As the elections drew nearer, much of the intelligence we had gathered had pointed to the reality that the shenanigans from Zanu PF were at play.
But we had judged that our sheer numbers were going to overwhelm the electoral mischief Zanu PF had planned.
Put simply, we underestimated the level of subversion of the people’s will that had been planned.
I remember my meeting with Mugabe on the eve of the election, a meeting facilitated by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo at which I tabled a copy of a couple of pages of the shambolic voters’ roll that was to be used in the elections the following day.
Mugabe’s response was — Ivo vanaMudede vanombozvifambisa sei? (How is the Registrar-General Mr Mudede doing his work?).
He said this as he retracted into his chair, feigning ignorance of what was about to happen.
Despite our much-concerted efforts to get the electronic voters’ roll on time and not getting it, we eventually participated in the elections without the said voters’ roll.
As the results of the elections became clear to our people on the ground, the nation had once again been shortchanged in yet another electoral fraud.
It appeared to me after 2008 that Zanu PF had begun to appreciate the overwhelming impact of illegitimacy on all sectors of the economy.
We all thought Mugabe had come to desire a dignified exit. And again, that is as far as my humanity had judged. We were wrong.
But I want to restate that we remain determined people.
Naysayers may be prematurely writing our obituary but we remain focused on what we set out to achieve in 1999.
Since the contested elections of 2013, the economy is failing to gain any traction.
To the citizen, we have seen insecure jobs to the few that have them, unfulfilled promises to civil servants and inadequate remuneration as well as the disappearance and diminishing of any form of savings.
Systemic corruption and unbridled avarice have become an albatross of this economy.
And this at a time when the country itself is seriously mired in debt, the external debt of which is in excess of $10 billion.
There is unmitigated failure on the part of government to come up with a solution to rescue this abysmal situation.
Without legitimacy, the country remains exposed to risk and uncertainty, two factors that determine investment and economic progress.
The government simply has run out of ideas, even in the wake of shrinking revenue collections as a result of a diminishing tax base.
The purported economic blueprint, ZimAsset, needs funding to the tune of $27 billion, and this at a time when we have failed to fund an annual budget that needed around $4 billion.
The business sector has been crippled and shackled by a biting liquidity crunch, creating a gridlock that has negatively affected commerce and the services sector.
True and honest leaders should know that at any particular time, the success and failure of nations can only be located in the mindset of the national leadership in the seat of government.
Despite Africa’s investment attractiveness and a rising appetite for African products across the world, Zimbabwe has missed out on this emerging optimism on Africa that would have done wonders for our economy.
As the leader of a great people’s movement, the MDC, and with a mandate derived directly from the people, it is my desire to drive this struggle to its logical conclusion.
But I am saddened by the preoccupation with false narratives that are meant to divert us from the real problems facing the people.
One such preoccupation is the pursuit of the issue of my assumed weakness with women.
After my wife died in a car accident back in 2009, life has not been easy going — that fateful day will not leave me.
As you all know, due to extensive publicity in the media with respect to my relationships with women, an attempt has been made to portray my perceived errors to be the sum total of who I am.
It is possible after such a loss for one to be on an emotional roller coaster.
This becomes more acute as one grapples with the adjustment to a life without a partner who anchored you socially, at the same time laden with the burden of national responsibility to address an intricate national crisis.
As a leader, I have come to terms with the nature of public office as requiring public accountability.
I am continuing to reflect and strive to live up to those high expectations.
I have fought for the proliferation of media in Zimbabwe, as I am a firm believer in the necessity of the checks and balances that the media provide.
I have since moved on and now share a commitment with my wife, Elizabeth.
The other false narrative is that I want to die in office.
I will state unequivocally that I have no intention of staying a day longer at the helm of the MDC without the people’s mandate.
But I will also pronounce, with the same vigour and vehemence, that I will not be hounded out undemocratically through a hostile take-over outside a people’s process called a party Congress.
Our national council has taken a position to bring forward our party Congress from 2016 to October this year.
It is at that platform where all positions, including the Presidency, are open for contestation and I urge fellow party members to understand that it is that forum that elects and removes leaders.
I make a guarantee that no one will be stopped from contesting for any position because we are a democratic Party.
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.
Zimbabwe needs friends, strategic partners and promoters across the breath of the international community.
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 see a great nation rising from the ashes of Zanu PF misrule.
I see the possibility of reconciliation of all peoples; a nation working together in resolving its confidence crisis.
I envision a Zimbabwe with a new ethos, where people live in peaceful co-existence regardless of their cultural, ethnic, racial, religious or political differences.
Given our traumatic past, we must learn to tolerate and reconcile with each other; to draw a line in the sand and say never again should any citizen be slaughtered on ethnic, racial, political or any other grounds for that matter.
We must be an inclusive, united society that is ready to swim or sink together. In the new Zimbabwe, there will be no compromise on the dignity of the citizen, which, thankfully, is now enshrined in our Constitution.
We aspire for a Zimbabwe characterised by economic prosperity, with notable increases of GDP and individual income levels.
A country with increased productivity through strategic investment partnerships in the agricultural, manufacturing and mining sectors; productivity that will ultimately benefit the ordinary citizen.
We aspire for a new nation with an accountable government; a country where a prosperous economy prevails underpinned by the rule of law, political stability, policy consistency and predictability.
We must build a corrupt-free Zimbabwe with a government that is at the forefront of aggressively tackling systemic graft and dismantling the rise of unjust scales.
We strongly believe in the sacred commitment to our liberation war and democratic struggle heroes and heroines.
I pledge that these will be fully recognised as the champions of our country’s struggles and mechanisms will be put in place only not to celebrate and honour them, but to respond to their family and welfare needs through sustainable means.
In January this year, I made a state of the nation address in which I spoke of the need for dialogue to address the debilitating economic and social crisis that we face.
I notice the emerging consensus on my call for dialogue.
There is an urgent imperative for a national conversation of more players than just political parties.
The important aspect is that our dialogue must this time be broadened to include the trade unions, the church, students, industry and other stakeholders.
Those outside of our struggle who are impatient for a solution outside of well-meaning dialogue must recognise that democracy without stability leads nowhere, but equally, stability without democracy and dialogue cannot lead to national prosperity.
We have walked this tortuous road together, we bear permanent scars from this our tenacious quest for peace, prosperity and development in the country of our birth.
Zimbabweans bear testimony to my personal desire to see the fruition of the people’s struggle for positive change.
I cannot even begin to count the personal loss to each one of us in our pursuit of happiness, democracy, stability and prosperity in a new Zimbabwe.
For I too have borne the brunt of repression as a reward for my unstinting patriotism.
I have been beaten up, faced serious trumped up charges, lost a loved one and endured the loss of so many cadres in this tortuous journey towards our democratic transformation.
But beyond our painful collective national experience lies a new country with new hope and abundant opportunities.
The sunset of our struggle will lead to a sunrise of abundance and success.
In spite of our deep scars, we shall persevere to the very end.
They have failed to break our collective spirit, I have no doubt in my mind that regardless of how long it may take, we shall eventually overcome and cry the tears of joy.
*Tsvangirai is the president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)