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Is Morgan Tsvangirai Planning to Step Down?

FILE - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai stresses a point during an interview with the Associated Press at his home in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s opposition icon Morgan Tsvangirai, currently afflicted with cancer of the colon and receiving treatment in South Africa, has hinted of a possible retirement.

In a new year message, covering topics ranging from the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, the 2009 Unity Government, political processes in Zimbabwe, the departure of former President Robert Mugabe from the political scene to current issues affecting the country, Tsvangirai said he is looking forward at prospects of the old generation passing the baton to the new generation.

“Beyond what we have achieved together, we ought to leave a lasting legacy where the baton can be changed peacefully, in a tranquil and cordial atmosphere of unity and togetherness. At a personal level, I am using this New Year not only to reflect on the onerous journey that we have travelled together but also to peer with renewed hope into a bright future.

FILE: President Emmerson Mnangagwa meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai at the opposition MDC-T leader's house last Friday before Tsvangirai left for South Africa for medical purposes.
FILE: President Emmerson Mnangagwa meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai at the opposition MDC-T leader's house last Friday before Tsvangirai left for South Africa for medical purposes.

“I am looking at the imminent prospects of us as the older generation leaving the levers of leadership to allow the younger generation to take forward this huge task that we started together so many years ago with our full blessing and support. It was therefore not by accident but by design that when I disclosed to you my health status, I also took a bold step to appoint an additional two Vice Presidents to assist me. As I have said before, while politicians only think about the next election, true statesmen think about the next generation, for current leaders are only but caretakers for future generations. We do not have any entitlement to lead but we have a duty to serve.”

He urged his followers to “recognize the imperative that new hands, with the full blessing of the people, must take this struggle and this country forward with the destination remaining the same - a society that prides itself for not leaving anyone behind in their pursuit of freedom, prosperity and happiness. That is the only lasting legacy and precedence that we must leave to future generations.”

Political analysts said Tsvangirai’s message indicates that he is preparing to leave the post of MDC-T president and let members of the party choose a successor.

On the political front, he noted that with the forthcoming general elections “… we must not lose sight and misinterpret what happened in November 2017. The departure of Mugabe resulted in a change of guard at the helm of our state but #ChangeIsNotEnough. This country requires transformation of both our governance culture and the way we do business.

MDC-T officials and supporters.
MDC-T officials and supporters.

“Our war war cry therefore for the upcoming elections is simple ‘Munhu Wese Kubasa’ – ‘Umuntu wonke emsebenzini’ – ‘Everyone to Work’. Whether you are an investor, a commercial farmer, an industrialist, a teacher, a banker a worker or a peasant farmer, let’s all go back to work in order to prosper. We need to produce in order to grow our economy and create new jobs.”

He said for that to happen, Zimbabwe needs both domestic and international investment capital which must be guaranteed a safe, predictable, secure and corruption free environment underpinned by the rule of law, constitutionalism, respect for property and human rights and freedoms.

Tsvangirai said the starting point for the envisaged take off for Zimbabwe is a return to legitimacy through a free, fair, credible internationally supervised and monitored election whose outcome is not contested.

“Anything short of this will spell doom for our great nation. I therefore call upon the interim leaders of our country not to miss this opportunity by dipping their heads in the sand and wish away our crisis by not implementing the necessary reforms required before elections -- for history will judge you harshly.

Zimbabwe voter registration 2018 election
Zimbabwe voter registration 2018 election

He urged those who have not registered to vote to take advantage of the extended registration exercise to register “so that they can participate in shaping your new destiny”.

According to Tsvangirai, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new government has to earn its legitimacy through a proper election through seeking the people’s mandate.

“The new government has to break away from the past and genuinely chart a new trajectory to a dispensation of clean politics that truly puts the country and its people first. It has to respect diversity and to appreciate that despite our different political formations, we are all patriotic Zimbabweans who yearn for the best for our country.

Mnangagwa last Friday visited Tsvangirai at his residence to check his health condition.

“For me, that visit to my residence by the new president was significant not only in terms of the content of what we discussed but in the import of its overall relevance. The visit signaled what must be the bane of the new politics of our time that an opposition party, especially one represented in our national Parliament, does not in any way constitute an enemy of the State. The opposition is just as patriotic and aspires and wishes for the best for our people.

FILE: President Emmerson Mnangagwa (center) flanked by his just sworn in vice presidents at the State House, Harare, 28 Dec. 2017.
FILE: President Emmerson Mnangagwa (center) flanked by his just sworn in vice presidents at the State House, Harare, 28 Dec. 2017.

“Indeed, my engagement with President Mnangagwa must herald a new page in our politics -- a page in which the opposition is considered a partner and not an enemy of the State. The visit can be built upon by truly well-meaning Zimbabweans to herald a new politics of engagement in our country.”

He further noted that political difference must be celebrated and the people should be allowed to express themselves.

“That is why I was shocked by the new regime’s iron-fist response two weeks ago to Zimbabweans in Bulawayo who sought to alert the government of the deep-seated wounds that are still festering since the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s. That response was wanton, unjustified and shows that the Mnangagwa administration still has a lot of work to do to earn our faith and trust.”

Several members of Mthwakazi Republic Party were beaten up last week when they staged a peaceful protest at a church convention attended by Mnangagwa, who they accused of being part of the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s when the Mugabe government claimed that it was cracking down on dissidents allegedly linked to Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu party.

Over 20,000 people were killed in the massacres.

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