Former prime minister and founding Movement for Democratic Change president, Morgan Tsvangirai, says leaders like President Robert Mugabe are responsible for xenophobia attacks that recently left seven people dead in South Africa.
In his state of the nation address on Saturday, Tsvangirai said, “South Africans are not responsible for xenophobia – leaders like Robert Mugabe are directly responsible and yet continue to deny this fact but are quick to blame others. That is typical.”
He said Zimbabweans continue to leave the country in large numbers to South Africa and other nations due to the current political crisis and harsh economic environment in the country exacerbated by infighting in the ruling Zanu PF party.
“Fellow Zimbabweans, there will be consequences for this multi-layered crisis currently facing the country. One of these, will be an increase in human flight as thousands of Zimbabwean economic migrants flee to countries who offer opportunities denied in their home country.”
Xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008 left over 60 people dead and thousands displaced.
He said another consequence of the “collapse of the economy is the massive growth in our informal business sector which they (government) are now calling the ‘new economy’ in order to once more, blame exogenous factors for the problems they have clearly created.”
According to the former prime minister, today, only eight per cent of all adults are formally employed in Zimbabwe with 92 per cent of the country’s population depending on informal business activity for a living.
He said there are about 700,000 small-scale peasant farmers, 2,5 million street traders, 500,000 small-scale miners, 180,000 cross border traders and 10,000 minibus operators who, despite the continuous harassment by the police, must move the nation every day with amazing ingenuity and efficiency.
“Today, more money circulates in this ‘shadow’ economy than in the formal sector and it makes a huge contribution to our collective welfare and being albeit informal. Without this army of hard working small business persons and without remittances from the estimated five million Zimbabweans now living outside the country, things in the country would be very much worse. In fact, they would be disastrous!”
He further noted that any attempts by the government to mount a second “Murambatsvina” will be strongly resisted and the MDC, which commits itself to the protection of all informal business persons, their inclusion in the economy and to making it possible for them to grow and prosper.
Zimbabwe is currently attempting to remove vendors from streets in urban areas saying they have become a nuisance in cities and towns that were once clean before a decade-long crisis which temporarily slowed down when the country had a unity government between 2009 and 2013.
Tsvangirai said the governance MDC yearns for is social democracy with policies underpinned by the sacrosanct values of justice, solidarity and freedom.
Contrary to the Zanu PF philosophy, he said, Zimbabwe cannot have policies centred only on distribution of limited assets at the expense of production. “In the absence of economic production, there is nothing to distribute.
“The primitive emphasis on re-distribution of limited assets, rent seeking mentality with unjustified entitlement is what has brought this economy and this country to its knees. As a nation, we had done well by writing our own Constitution to infuse the values and culture under which the people said they want to be governed. This is the only governance culture which will spur our national development and prosperity.”
Zimbabwe’s feared indigenization program compels foreign owned companies to transfer majority stakes to local people.
Tsvangirai also urged the ruling party to urgently harmonize all old laws with the new constitution saying this would ensure the speedy democratization of the southern African nation.
“It must be noted that if this process is concluded in a responsible and legal way, most of the reforms enshrined in that Constitution would return Zimbabwe to sanity, economic recovery, freedom and democracy.”
He said his party would continue boycotting national elections as there is room for rigging in favour of the ruling party in the current set up in which the electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, is widely regarded by opposition parties and civil society organizations as an extension of Zanu PF.
“Until that is achieved to our satisfaction we can confidently promise our people that we will not participate in any election. In the past year, virtually every political party except the MDC has disintegrated, leaving the people with neither leadership nor hope. We in the MDC committed ourselves in 1999 to changing our government democratically, within the law and without violence.”
Tsvangirai said the MDC has stuck to those principles and “we have neither beaten one policeman nor broken a single window in the past 16 years while we ourselves have been beaten, abducted and killed.”
He noted that he is not sure whether the MDC can maintain that stance into the future.
“One thing is for sure, the present situation is untenable and unacceptable and perhaps the time has come for us to take matters into our own hands and force the changes that are needed. I know that there are many in Zanu PF today who share that sentiment that the future is indeed in our hands.”
He expressed anger over the abduction of Itai Dzamara, leader of Occupy Africa Unity Square, who was allegedly abducted by state security agents more than three months ago.
The government was ordered by the High Court to look for him soon after his disappearance but nothing has come out of their investigation. Dzamara was calling for the resignation of President Mugabe saying he has failed to properly run Zimbabwe.
The former trade unionist further stressed that his party is willing to work with all opposition parties and progressive Zimbabweans in bringing democratic and economic change in the country.
He noted that President Mugabe appears to be unfazed by what is going on in the country as he has, since January, visiting various nations as African Union and Southern African Development Community chairperson.
“On the few occasions that he is in the country nowadays, we wonder if the president takes time to even think about the monumental economic and social crisis engulfing the nation and the suffering that we the ordinary people are going through. It is evident that Mugabe does not care and if he does, he surely has a funny way of showing it! Our country is on autopilot to nowhere.”
He said the MDC believes that the national economy contracted in 2014 and the contraction in economic activity is accelerating by the day.
“This view is supported by the decline in national tax receipts to $3,8 billion in 2014 and the revised budget of $3,5 billion in 2015. It seems as if Zanu PF has learnt nothing from its 35 years in power.”