The Chinese have a proverb which says “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. This Working People’s Convention represents the first step towards wrestling back the power that we vested in our political leadership.
Unfortunately, that power has been abused, to the extent that we, the king makers, are now being stripped of our liberties. We are not allowed to ask: What has happened to our economy, what has happened to our human rights, what has gone wrong in our society, that the tail has the temerity to wag the dog .
When we gained independence in 1980, one mistake we collectively made was to ask our political leadership to go and fetch tails for us, believing as our liberators, they would think of us first.
We conveniently forgot the fate of the rabbit. As we all know the story, the Lord of the animals called all of them to go and get their tails.
Instead of going to get its tail, the rabbit asked the squirrel to bring its tail. The squirrel obliged and instead of bringing the rabbit its tail, it joined the two tails to make a nice tail for itself.
Even to this present day, rabbit is ugly, without a tail. For the past 19 years, we expected development to be delivered by those we put in power. But 19 years later, we all realise we are no better off than we were in 1980.
The few that have access to power have plundered every fund that was created in our name. We all know the fate of the War Victims Fund, Housing Fund, Social Development Fund, District Development Fund, ZIMDEF, Development/Drought Levy, Indigenisation Funds, you name them.
They were created in the name of developing the people, but alas, the funds evaporated into thin air! Recently, a cabinet minister had the guts to tell the nation that the $750 million, $400 million and $100 million allocated to so-called indigenous people disappeared – government cannot even trace those that got the funds. And yet these are funds borrowed on behalf of the people.
I believe we are all here today, because we want to claim our tails. We realise after 19 years that we will never get our tails delivered to us, but instead, we have to go and claim them.
Development is about people, and the best way to measure it is by looking at what has happened to their rights to food, shelter, good health, transport, living incomes, leisure etc and not by looking at the Gross Domestic Product.
In Zimbabwe, the majority of our people have no access to means of production, namely, land, relevant skills, capital, technology and the ability to organise these factors of production. Because they do not have the means, they are reduced to poverty.
Isn’t it obscene that in a country that is as well endowed with resources as Zimbabwe, 75 percent of our rural people live in abject poverty and 61 percent of Zimbabweans are considered poor and 23 percent of our people do not even have access to safe water. We could very well say the majority of our people qualify to be on social welfare.
Is that the development we seek?
This convention has reminded us that none but ourselves can liberate ourselves. The fault is not in our stars that we are ruled this way.
The time has come that we realise it is not the elite that has the power, it is us the people. Coming together and working as one, the way we did during the past two days has convinced us that there is hope, and that hope lies in ourselves.
It lies in our realisation that together as civil society, we can build the Zimbabwe we want. The lively discussions we had in our groups and plenary sessions, has proven that the answers to our problems are with the people.
The chefs are now caught up in their own mess and have proven they do not have the answers to our problems. The institutions created for the purposes of dialogue, are nothing but a ploy to buy time – we now need institutions that are created by the people, not those imposed from above.
We have spent so much precious time in these institutions, talking development, but as soon as we get out of the comfort of the 5-star hotels where these meetings are held, we are confronted by the reality of a deepening economic and political crisis.
I personally found it more comfortable working from the tents here, than attending the numerous meetings and conferences organised at 5-star hotels. But this is just the first step. We have to build on this momentum. As we leave this place, we should take the message back to our communities. We should take it upon ourselves the duty of conscientising others about the wind of change blowing in our nation.
For use to create a formidable force, we should guard our unity jealousy, realising that: We may have many dreams but we ought to have one vision, we may have many faces, but we are one nation.
Speech by Nicholas Mudzengerere deputy secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. This was his vote of thanks at the end of the meeting of the working people’s convention where the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change was mooted.