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M.R. Tsvangirai: Address to World Summit 2013

Rt. Hon. Morgan R. Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of ZimbabweThe occasion offers me an opportunity to share our people’s reflections, insights and, to tender, our recommendations to the global stage on the critical issues we face as a nation, and as a region within our family of nations. 

To us in Africa, in particular southern Africa, the end of the Cold War exposed deep institutional weaknesses that posed serious dangers to the development of a democratic culture, policy cohesion, national development and sustainable peace.

These limitations often made it impossible to address fundamental imperatives for security and national development through integrated policies and programs.

While we accept that past historical practices blurred the creation of a compelling national vision and were unkind to broad-based democratic aspirations, equally culpable were our founding generations who seemed so overwhelmed by parochial demands that they failed to move out of the box in order to chart new paths for development.

It remains an important milestone of humanity that the people registered tremendous gains by attaining freedom and independence from colonialism. But the numerous challenges our young nations faced at the time made it difficult for them to cast away the contagion of the past.

As a result, the cross-cutting and overlapping agenda for lasting peace and sustainable development as a mechanism for conflict prevention, conflict management and post-conflict reconstruction was never accorded the necessary space in a fast-changing world order, leading to Afro-pessimism; despondency and despair; and a loss in hope for much of Africa.

Today a comprehensive normative framework, born out of the appreciation of the centrality of extended freedom and the need for open societies, has begun to take shape, making human security a major factor of stability, economic growth and good governance.

More than 30 African states -- from Cape to Cairo; Mombasa to Monrovia -- have embraced a new thinking that puts “people” first in their national agenda. These countries, under the guidance of young leaders, are steering the Continent towards a positive era of Afro-optimism.

There is a realisation of the Continent’s potential for growth underpinned by a dormant resource base which, when fully exploited, can easily shift the economic power balance in Africa’s favour.

Further, it is beyond doubt that Constitutionalism and, in particular the sanctity of the rule of law, is fast gaining currency as the basic benchmarks for an emerging value system in all normal societies.

Military interference in politics is no longer celebrated. The political terror scale and all motivations for violence are fast-losing their place as the people re-define their priorities and embrace new cultures.

What this means is that Africa, drawing from the lessons of the past, is undergoing a major political metamorphosis meant to propel the Continent into a new epoch.

Demands for democratic culture are sweeping across the Continent and opening this previously sleeping giant into a promising destination for business and leisure and a centre for global attention.

In this transformative stage, Zimbabwe is among the most recent beneficiaries of the changing African mindset, having negotiated itself, with the help of SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the African Union, out of a failed state status through radical policy interventions that saw the completion of a new draft Constitution that is expected to redefine a new value system for the country. May I point out that in this new Constitution, we have acknowledged the supremacy of the Almighty God, recognizing that we, as humans cannot do it in our own strength.

Today, a new Constitution is currently up for public analysis and scrutiny. This charter, as a covenant, promises to open the way for a democratic election, leading to a new dispensation, in a new Zimbabwe.

I must emphasise that for the first time in our history, we fully recognized the role of women in our society. The charter, which identifies Zimbabwe as a noteworthy player among other nations, accepts gender equality and inclusive human security as necessary Constitutional safety nets in line with universal norms and standards.

However, even with these tentative steps towards a new culture of Constitutionalism, Zimbabwe is a country that is still at risk. As we approach another election period this year, we seek to put in place institutions, legislation, and mechanisms that will deal with the generic inhibitions of patriarchy and other negative social constructions that breed instability and can lead to violence. We are mindful of the fact that Zimbabwe's elections over the past decade have been marked by bloodshed, with women being the primary victims.

We believe our future political responses, in line with international best practice, shall grant us our space as a civilized player within the family of nations. We are desirous of laying the foundations through this new Constitution of a "never again" mindset.

Having avoided a total collapse of Zimbabwe, our priorities are clear. We must build strong institutions and other political “firewalls” to circumvent a relapse.

The year 2013 offers us, SADC and Africa a defining moment for Zimbabwe. We must accept the imperative and manage the final stretch with care and maturity in order to insulate our people from decades of political uncertainty.

As we prepare for an election, the world must continue to nudge us to be open about this transformative process; to be accountable to humanity; to embrace tolerance; and to allow the will of the people to prevail.

What confronts us requires global attention if Zimbabwe is to move away from dinner-table discussions, where it has been dominant, clearly for wrong reasons, for the past few years.

Instability in any part of Africa and elsewhere, no matter how narrow and parochial, can easily spawn jitters and a surfeit of challenges.

From our experience in SADC, growth, convergence and regional solidity became the first casualties of the Zimbabwean crisis of governance.

The crisis short-changed ordinary people, retarded our economic competitiveness and soiled our regional image in the eyes of potential development partners.

Without peace, security, and human development, Africa’s role in shaping the international agenda remains handicapped at a time when the demand for entry into a single global family within the Continent is rising every day.

I come from a region where millions – and, in Zimbabwe’s case, 4 out of 5 young people under 30 -- are leading a “semi-nomadic” life, desperately in search for work.

The Continental average is even more worrying: 7 out of 10 highly educated and ambitious young people are unemployed, the bulk of them women.

Tension and negative energies always thrive in uneven circumstances. To avoid such political depressions, we must redefine the allotment of power in our societies to make way for growing concerns of these young women and men.

I am very concerned about the presence of hordes of active young people roaming the streets without hope for a decent future.

The dilemma is that this is either an untapped resource or a ticking “time-bomb”; an opportunity or a source of political instability in-waiting.

Granted, our founding fathers played a key role in setting the stage for freedom. But, alas, this “greying” generation must accept its inability to cope with the pace, demands, and choices of today’s hyper-active and well-networked children.

In this digital age, our young people have a shared, common value system – unhindered by physical boundaries. That system can only thrive in a democracy; that system believes in a common humanity; it celebrates openness and transparency.

The new generation can easily “crowd-source” solutions out of a global social or economic upheaval. This group has the ability to organize itself quickly, outside traditional bureaucracies or formal conferences and meetings.

Investing in young people must be our starting point. They are different: their appetite for participation; dignity and opportunity; for choice; and for time and space is both insatiable and non-negotiable.

In the case of Zimbabwe, and indeed the rest of Africa, lack of openness and inclusion seem to have been our perennial nemesis.

The society we wish to build shall be based on a raised institutional performance level and secured by infrastructural excellence. A sound infrastructure can lay a solid base for a rapid economic turn-around and absorb millions of highly educated but unemployed young people inside our homes.

Poverty and unemployment have been a prime source of instability and must be contained as a matter of urgency, otherwise peace, security and human development can never be realised.

Zimbabweans yearn for the day when the State ceases to be a source of political volatility – confining itself to an enabler rather than a first choice player in the conduct of ordinary people’s lives. Africans have languished for so long under the shadow of the State, often unnecessarily. This has eroded confidence and affected institutional transformation initiatives.

With strong, people-driven institutions to protect democracy, I believe sufficient safeguards can be assured around citizen security, peace, and justice together with other aspirations of Africans in fragile communities.

The turn-around period, in my view, can be as short as a single generation if we contain the usual negatives which often derail transformation and reform in emerging societies.

These include corruption and other initial post-conflict residues like weak governance structures and poverty. At the core of our policy thrust lies fairness, inclusion and diversity in all aspects of economic, social and political activities and life.

Zimbabwe is today standing at the crossroad. Your solidarity with us as we pull down the years of inequity and injustice will help us to achieve real sustainable peace where every Zimbabwean man, woman and child, can not only be secure , but also enabled to live the life that God ordained for them. With your help we can achieve that society.

For more information about World Summit 2013, click here.