HARARE – With the country’s political and economic rot escalating at an alarming rate as Zimbabwe hurtles towards the crunch 2018 national polls, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says despairing citizens should remain calm but vigilant — “comforted by the knowledge that victory is certain”.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, the buoyant and fit-again Tsvangirai also reassured edgy Zimbabweans that it was a matter of time before the planned opposition grand alliance — to take on the warring ruling Zanu PF in next year’s elections — was knit together.
“When we began this journey (struggle for a better Zimbabwe) almost two decades ago, we always knew that it would be difficult and challenging, requiring much hard work and sacrifice.
“The good news is that it’s not much longer to go now and long-suffering Zimbabweans will soon get the change that they have long wanted. Indeed, victory has never been more certain than it is today.
“I call on all Zimbabweans to remain calm, but vigilant as our collective political and economic pain grows because of Zanu PF’s thuggery and misrule. Our struggle is not in vain and it’s definitely not long to go now,” the confident Tsvangirai said.
The former prime minister in the stability-inducing government of national unity — and the only man to beat President Robert Mugabe in an election hands down, in 2008 — spoke after he savaged the government on Thursday for arresting activist preacher Evan Mawarire, warning that this was the beginning of a crackdown by panicking authorities on fed up citizens ahead of the crunch 2018 national polls.
“The callous arrest in broad daylight of … Mawarire came as no surprise to those of us who have always known that a leopard remains faithful to its spots.
“This is vintage Zanu PF, and the message coming out of this arrest is that Zanu PF will go for broke in the campaign ahead of the next election. The world must brace for impunity and violence against the innocent citizens of our country.
“I condemn in the strongest of terms the impunity against an innocent citizen of Zimbabwe who has committed no crime. If the regime thinks this arrest will cow the people of this country, then we have news for them,” Tsvangirai said then.
“Zimbabweans will not be intimidated and they will fight for a truly free and fair election in which their voice will count.
“What happened at the Harare International Airport must send a chilling message, particularly to those in the region and in the broader international community who thought Zanu PF was capable of reform.
“There cannot be reform without reformers and this impunity is a reflection of the true character of Zanu PF. However, we have always been a heroic people and we shall not be cowed,” he added.
Tsvangirai also said yesterday that former Vice president Joice Mujuru, who now leads the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), had already proved to be a significant opposition player — and that the two would work together with others to dethrone Mugabe and Zanu PF from power next year.
“We know what Mujuru brings to the table and she knows what we offer, so those who say that a coalition is coming are not far off the mark,” he said.
Tsvangirai also said other opposition figures who were arguing that coalition negotiations should be based on a supposed equality of parties needed to be realistic.
“This is a very unrealistic expectation as we are not equal. You can’t punch above your weight. We can be equal in the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) when we are campaigning for conducive electoral conditions, but we can’t be equal when negotiating a coalition.
“The realistic position is that we all have to understand that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. It is therefore important that people bring their strengths, not their weaknesses into the coalition,” he said.
The former trade union leader also reiterated his “full commitment” to the setting up of an opposition alliance after one of his deputies, Thokozani Khupe, had suggested that the MDC did not need a partner in Matabeleland.
He said it was “okay” that Khupe was expressing her views, adding that in a democratic movement “everybody is entitled to their opinions”.
“However, my party has given me a mandate to deal with the issue of a coalition and I am going to pursue it to its logical conclusion.
“Indeed, I as president am in charge of party policy and am mandated to deal with that, and what the vice president was saying reflects her opinion.
“We have already been talking to many parties and their leaders, and the fundamental issue is that the alliance must be based on respect for each other, as well as an acceptance of the reality.
“I know what the national mood is (like)and an alliance will take place for the next election. It will be a dereliction of duty if I were to fail on this having been given this mandate. We cannot fail to have an alliance,” Tsvangirai emphasised.
He urged Zimbabweans not to despair because of the tough political and economic conditions prevailing in the country, saying despite past experiences where Mugabe had refused to cede power after losing elections, there was renewed hope that a peaceful transfer of power would happen next year.
He said two of the key issues that would ensure victory next year were the question of motivating young people to participate in electoral processes and a level electoral playing field.
“People must not be dispirited to the extent of losing hope. I am an optimist and in spite of everything, we are now talking about a post-Mugabe democratic transition and hopefully we can all invest in making sure that this happens and that it is peaceful” Tsvangirai said.
He said the MDC was working hard to ensure that all Zimbabweans would feel that their future was secure and not threatened when change happens — as not doing so would provoke negative reactions, particularly from those who wanted to protect the status quo, as had happened in 2008.
“When people feel threatened they start to look at issues like what will happen to us if the opposition wins yet that should never be the case.
“We need to build confidence that the future we are building will benefit even the sceptics,” Tsvangirai said.