|Era of competitive politics dawns
by Kondwani Chirambo and Hugh McCullum
Harare, 18 June 2000
The second of the last two main rallies of Zimbabwes parliamentary elections campaign, drew a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the labour-based opposition party which offers the toughest challenge to the ruling Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZANU-PF) in 20 years of independence.
Promising an equitable, fair and legal land redistribution programme if his party is elected into government, the MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai told a 30,000-strong crowd at Rufaro Stadium in Harares oldest township, Mbare, that he would set up a land commission for resettlement.
The problem of land redistribution to thousands of landless peasants has been one of the main campaign issues in Zimbabwes sixth parliamentary elections, The occupation of 1500 white-owned farms by veterans of the 1970s liberation war, leading to deaths of at least four farmers. A racially biased land policy under the minority regime of Ian Smith left 75 percent of the countrys land in the hands of 4500 white farmers.
War Veterans who support ZANU-PFs argument that places the former colonial power Britain at the centre of blame, first for constructing structures in the independence Lancaster House Constitution that protected white privileges, and for making half-hearted pledges toward financing the land redistribution programme.
The MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, however told his chanting supporters that his party would draw funds from the national budget, introduce a new tax on under-utilized land and raise additional finance from stakeholder and international development partners. He also said MDC has pledges of US$71 million to assist in resettling peasants.
Legal, internationally supported, land reform will involve the building of vital infrastructure such as roads, schools, clinics, staff housing, boreholes, public toilets, telephones, electricity and woodlots, he said.
Tsvangirai said his partys land policies would help women, youth, farm workers and war veterans and improve productivity of both black and white farmers through intensive training and extension exercises.
We do not want a situation where somebody owns 10 farms whether they are black or white; he said and pledged to uphold the rule of law.
Like President Robert Mugabe the day before, Tsvangirai called for the final week of the campaign to be peaceful after weeks of inter-party violence which has led to the deaths of at least 30 people.
Both leaders have predicted victory for their partys in the June 24 and 25 elections, the most competitive polls in the countrys history.
In the just dissolved parliament the opposition only held three of the 120 elective seats. According to the Zimbabwean constitution, the President appoints 20 non-constituency members, with an extra 10 coming from the house of chiefs.
The opposition argues that this presents an unfair advantage to the ruling party and Tsvangirai in his speech, said we will not allow these 30 seats to be appointed; we shall prevent that legally or politically.
The MDC is largely seen as being strong in the urban areas while ZANU is thought to still maintain a strong grip of the rural areas, where 70 percent of the 12 million people live.
The opposition, political analysts say, they need to work extra hard to cancel ZANU-PFsuperiority in the rural zones.
Referring to Zimbabwes troubled economy, Tsvangirai promised to restore it to health within five years and emphasized job creation as one of MDCs key issues. He called for a social contract between labour, business and government to address the current economic instability. He added that a minimum wage would be introduced and called for a reduction in the size of government, promising a cabinet of no more than 15 ministers.
On the other hand, he assured civil servants of job security. The army, police and security forces were national institutions which must serve all the people and he said the country needed a national defence council to assess any external threats to Zimbabwe and make recommendations to government on how to transform our defence forces into the protectors of the people.
Foreign policy would be determined by national interest; we realize we live in a globalised world but in the short term, an MDC government would focus on domestic issues."
We trust that our regional partners will help us rebuild Zimbabwe; we need to build solid regional links with our neighbours , he said.
In the areas of health and education, in which the ZANU-PF government is generally seen to have performed well, Tsvangirai said his party would ensure that did not produce unemployable graduates and that hospitals would be well-stocked.
MDC is the first opposition party to field candidates in all the countrys 120 constituencies since independence in 1980. (SARDC)
Mail Editorial for comments and queries.