Open letter to Sadc heads of State

HARARE - Your excellencies, we welcome you to Zimbabwe, hoping that you will enjoy your short stay among the hospitable people of this great country.

I am aware that you are fully updated on the deteriorating political and economic situation in the country.

And of course, by virtue of your status, there won’t be any power and water cuts at the places you are staying, meaning you will be sufficiently cushioned from the dire situation we the ordinary citizens are braving everyday.

Even the roads may have been nicely patched on the stretch of the roads you will be using during this summit.

Apart from the briefings from your diplomatic missions based here, I am aware that the MDC leader, president Morgan Tsvangirai, has twice written to you in the past eight months, first on the 18th of August 2014 and recently on the 14th of March, 2015.

But, sadly, the situation has continued to worsen in this country governed by the AU and Sadc chair and I know that he might find it impolitic to apprise you of recent but sad developments that have happened in the past few days.

As I write, the MP for Budiriro Constituency in Harare, Costa Machingauta has just been  discharged from the Avenues Clinic in the city where he was battling for his life following a vicious assault by Zanu PF thugs last week.

Earlier in the day on Thursday last week when he was attacked, several MDC activists, including elderly women, had been assaulted while on their way to a rally in the Glen View Suburb of Harare that was addressed by MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Your excellencies, as you deliberate and enjoy your teas during the summit, spare a thought for Sheffia Dzamara, whose husband Itai was abducted by state security agents on Monday, March 9, 2015.

To date, no one knows of his whereabouts and the nation fears for his life. His two young children, Nokutenda and Nenyasha, continue to ask where their father is.

On Sunday, more than 1 000 Zanu PF youths disrupted a church service at the Anglican Church in Chitungwiza, just outside Harare, demanding “their own share” from the church land.

Now there are reports that two headmen are missing in Hurungwe West ahead of a by-election in June, and if these reports are true, there is no prize for guessing who is responsible.

While it is noble for the heads of State of Sadc to be discussing industrialisation, a key challenge indeed in the region, you may have noted the irony of discussing that subject in a country saddled with all those teeming millions vending their wares by the street sides of Harare.

Some of them may have visited your hotels, hoping you could spare a penny and buy their wares so they could feed their families.

So as you discuss industrialisation, the reality of our situation is “vendorisation”, where company closures have meant that the majority of our people are resorting to vending, with even employed civil servants selling jerseys and other wares in their offices to supplement their meagre income.

It’s a pity that even those running away from xenophobic attacks in South Africa are coming back home to join these teeming millions now eking a living in this new, thriving  “industry” that has sprouted on very roadside in this country.

Since this is a summit on industrialisation, you may as well include for discussion this new, innovative “vending” industry that has substituted wealth creation and meaningful economic production in factories and manufacturing firms, most of which have since shut down.

The assortment of wares and products on our pavements are in sharp contrast to the message and meaning of their backgrounds, from used undergarments neatly spread out in front of butcheries to contraceptives on the entrance to church buildings.

Such is a chocking reality of the poverty being displayed on our roadsides that audacious hawkers are even peddling both horse and human hair on the doorsteps of bakeries and confectioneries.

And talking of industry and industrialisation, it appears politics has become an industry unto itself where power retention at any cost by President Robert Mugabe’s party has subordinated the free expression of the people in a fair end credible poll.

You may recall, your excellences, how we have had the bitter experience of contested polls in this country since 2000 and how in 2008 the region went to great lengths to resolve the crisis in this country.

As things continue to worsen, we urge the region not to abdicate its responsibility but to instead insist on a return to legitimacy through a free, fair and credible poll.

Yes, the economic crisis is just a window through which the political crisis of legitimacy is manifesting itself.

Notwithstanding the fact that the culprit is currently the chair of Sadc, we remain hopeful that the credibility of this esteemed regional institution and the independence and objectivity of individual countries will not be unduly compromised when it comes to the issue of Zimbabwe.

Before the 2013 election, it is Sadc that advised that reforms be implemented first and as a party; we have now realised the folly of our previous decisions to participate in the absence of the same.

Our congress, the supreme decision-making body of the MDC, has now drawn a line in the sand and has taken the position not to participate in any election whatsoever, be it by-elections or the next general election, if far-reaching reforms are not implemented.

It is important to note that some of these reforms are now enshrined in our Constitution which the current Sadc chair’s government is however, refusing to implement.

I wish you happy deliberations at your summit, only hoping that during the current meeting, the Sadc chair has not asked for a wheelchair to be on standby as he did only last week at another summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.

As proud Africans, we will continue to maintain great respect for our elders and we hope that this summit, or any other engagements for that matter, will neither strain President Mugabe nor further compromise his apparently failing health.

And we thank those among you who continue to be shining examples, such as President Hage Geingob of Namibia who, together with his wife, declared their assets even in the absence of any law that obligates them to do so.

This is in stark contrast to your chairman, your excellences, whose family has appropriated the whole of the Mazowe farming area just outside

Harare, evicting the inhabitants to make way for his wife’s private family ventures in this rich, prime land.

But since you are discussing industrialisation, it may be that corruption and primitive accumulation have become a new industry in this country.

The Sadc chair is in a better position to brief you on this during this summit.

Once again, I wish you a happy stay in Zimbabwe, hoping that even as you return to your respective countries after this summit, you will take time to give serious thought to the deteriorating situation in this country.

Our crisis is indeed a ticking time bomb.

*Tamborinyoka is director of communications in the Movement for Democratic Change.

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