ZIMBABWE – He stood firm, calm and composed, though a little anxious as he accepted the mandate to lead the newly formed People’s Democratic Party (PDP) outfit in the early hours of Friday the 11 of September 2015.
A man known for his illustrious career as a labour lawyer, a fervent debater on policy issues, one of the leading activists in the two decade long opposition to Mugabe’s rule and arguably Zimbabwe’s best Finance minister since independence. That was Tendai Laxton Biti, known in circles as either ‘Wananchi’ or ‘Chibadura’.
His acceptance speech capped a rather dramatic and action package 14 months since parting ways with the mainstream MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
First it was the ‘expulsion’ of Tsvangirai in April 2014 after the Mendel Meeting, then the attempts at unity with Welshman Ncube’s MDC, then the expulsions from parliament, the split with Elton Mangoma’s RDZ and then the formation of the PDP.
All this in just 14 months, it has indeed been dramatic!
The Convention itself was peculiar. For the first time, we witnessed a revival of the spirit of sacrifice in the activists and party hierarchy.
There were no ‘fat’ transport reimbursements and luxurious hotel bookings as we had become accustomed to witnessing when the mainstream MDC was still united.
The delegates had to sleep on the floors of the City Sports Centre for an incredible two nights. A great sacrifice by any measure.
It is a spirit that must be nurtured even when resources do avail themselves, the people’s movement needs to reflect the lived realities of people and not to get lost in unnecessary luxuries of living beyond its means. The people must own their struggles and only then can they succeed otherwise they would be hijacked as we saw happen to the MDC.
This spirit of sacrifice, responsibility and collective duty which the delegates showed was ably reflected in the content of the Convention documents and subsequent elated discussions. PDP presented two documents that would be central to guiding the party policy in the next 5 years namely the Holistic Programme for Economic Transformation (HOPE) and the Agenda for the Restoration and Rehabilitation of Electoral Sustainability (ARREST).
HOPE is the party’s economic blueprint anchored on the party’s motto of ‘Another Zimbabwe is Possible’. The vision of another Zimbabwe is summarized in the party’s vision of a ‘renewed, inclusive, tolerant, democratic developmental; state with a socially just green economy in which people shall pursue happiness and equal opportunities’.
Such is the great aspiration of HOPE whose key pillars are the rule of law, transitional justice, healing and reconciliation, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure development, regional integration, labour, social service delivery and rural development among others. This is the blueprint which according to a hopeful Biti will ‘enable us to pursue happiness as a people’.
ARREST is a complimentary document to HOPE but which focuses on the political roadmap to a sustainable Zimbabwe. It narrates zimbabwe’s political legitimacy challenges and unpacks the imperatives to solve the same.
Central to the ARREST document is the formation of a National Transtitional Authority (NTA) to ‘stabilise the country until the next election is held’.
One of the major functions of the NTA would be to attend to the restoration of the Social Contract, national vision and managing the electoral framework of the next election.
In essence, Biti is calling for a second GNU but this time one which instead of being ‘a dinner for three’ is inclusive of the church, civic society, workers, students and youths as well as the broad sectorial interests across zimbabwe’s civic political devide.
It is itself quite a huge hopeful dream but one worth thinking and postulating about.
A key attraction in ARREST is the formation of ‘coalitions against dictatorship’ which would bring in both the old and the new in zimbabwe’s politics i.e. the genuine veterans of the liberation struggle and the youth leadership of the post liberation movement, all combining to form the ‘third force’.
All in all, the key outcome of ARREST, again as aptly put by Biti is to ‘convert Zimbabwe’s vicious cycles of exclusion into virtuous circles of inclusion’. It is indeed a worthy effort by any measure!
Underlying these hopeful ideas and ideals, according to Tendai Biti is the great belief in our self as a people as symbolized in our faith, hope and love for one another.
‘The great socialist and democratic movements of the world speak of solidarity and camaraderie. In simple terms they speak to love.
Its time we learn to love one another as a nation. We must start to do so as a party’ he eloquently put it as part of his acceptance speech.
It is clear that Biti has reemerged as a more thorough and even more people centred politician than ever. He has once again regained the campus and mojo to take on the challenges of the day but albeit in a new revolutionary way.
Listening to his speech, it is almost impossible to escape, what American President Barrack Obama calls, the audacity of hope. It is indeed a Great Audacity of HOPE.
To HOPE to build a formidable party in conditions of authoritarianism. To HOPE to Build a coalition in the face of so much divisions in the opposition. To HOPE to make a change in a world of great intolerance, greed and corruption.
For now the HOPE is load and clear what we wait to see as again Biti himself put it is ‘leadership with a sense of responsibility and duty’ to carry this HOPE forward and share it with Zimbabwe’s long suffering masses.
Indeed another Zimbabwe is possible through such actions for that is what people power is all about!