Prime Minister Tsvangirai's Address to University of Witswatersrand Business School

FULL TEXT – Thank you to the Director of the Wits Business School, Professor Ncube and Group Executive of Barloworld Ltd, Ms. Kweyama.

This address comes at a particularly poignant time, on the eve of the inauguration of your fourth president in the 15 years since the birth of the new South Africa.

This is a healthy sign for any democracy and presents a stark contrast with so many African countries, where inaugurations of new leaders can be many decades apart and fraught with conflict.

As South Africa enters a new era of leadership, so we in Zimbabwe are coming to terms with a new type of leadership. A type of leadership that believes Government should be accountable to the people and that is there to create the environment in which the people can craft their own destiny.

It is now almost 100 days since my inauguration as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and, I am pleased to report that we have been able to make progress in a range of areas. Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has suffered a total dislocation of all economic fundamentals and all key indices were, at the beginning of this year, comparable only to post-conflict situations.

Therefore the progress that we have made should be viewed in the light of where we started from in February.

In March, the Cabinet adopted a Short Term Economic Recovery Programme and this was followed in April by a revised national budget. The macro economic reforms that followed these two major initiatives have succeeded in halting and reversing inflation and restoring some value to the people’s disposable incomes.

At the same time, we are creating an environment that posses the minimum conditions for doing business – an environment where the role of the State is minimal and where markets are encouraged to flow freely.

In fact, we have been able to bring our rate of inflation from a world-record breaking rate of 500 billion percent to minus 3% as at the end of March.

We were able to pay all civil servants a basic living allowance that enabled us to reopen our schools and hospitals and provide a much needed stimulus to our ailing economy.

At the same time, only 5% of our population is currently in formal employment and even those working outside of the civil service earn an average wage significantly below that of their regional counterparts – a stark reversal of the situation that existed only a decade ago.

The past 100 Days have seen all basic necessities return to the shelves and with the rationalisation of our currency base, prices are gradually returning to more competitive levels.

However, a symptom of continuing market distortions is that the price of locally manufactured goods is often above the retail cost of their imported counterparts.

In the sphere of international relations I am also pleased to note significant improvements signified by the willingness of the international community to engage with our new Government and to match the progress that we make with increased assistance. Direct contact with the multilateral donors represented by the African Development Bank and the Breton Woods institutes have also been re-established.

Of particular importance is the increase in bilateral assistance which in 2008 reached US$607 million and in the first quarter of this year averaged just over US$100 million per month. For this, Zimbabwe is grateful to the countries involved for their continued assistance.

However, it should be noted that this assistance remains primarily in the form of direct humanitarian relief rather than development aid or direct budget support.

The reason for this is simple. There is a reluctance displayed by some parties to the Global Political Agreement to fulfill all the conditions contained in that agreement. While this reluctance may be natural in a coalition, it cannot be allowed to obstruct the countries development.

Indeed, while progress has been made in the areas mentioned above, there remains a key area in which progress has been frustratingly slow.

That is the area of the restoration of the rule of law.

What continues to plague Zimbabwe can be best described as a reluctance to accept the reality of the changes taking place within the country.

This residual resistance from a small faction of those who had authority in the former regime, represents an unwillingness to accept the fact that the new political dispensation is not only irreversible, but also offers the country the only viable way forward.

This faction, who, for the past decade treated Government Ministries as their private businesses and our national assets as their family treasures continue to exhibit a culture of entitlement and impunity that presents a real and tangible obstacle to progress.

It is this attitude of entitlement and impunity, not the so-called sanctions, that reduced Zimbabwe to a beggar nation forced to appeal to the region and the international community for assistance.

It is an attitude that views the new political dispensation as an annoyance that will pass and the Inclusive Government as an irritation that will soon stop itching.

They are wrong. The fact of the matter is that the Inclusive Government is here to stay and those that do not wish to abide by the Global Political Agreement will find themselves irrelevant to the country’s future.

The MDC’s role in this Inclusive Government is not to facilitate the removal of sanctions and then allow destructive practices to be resumed. The MDC is committed to this Government as an equal partner, which has the capacity to attract donor support, unlock the country’s economic potential and fulfill the democratic mandate we received from the people of Zimbabwe.

In this we need a clear message from the new South African Government, the SADC and the AU, to the effect that the GPA is there to be implemented by all its signatories in both its letter and its spirit.

There is no doubt that Zimbabwe does require international assistance to rebuild its infrastructure, to re-energise industry and get our agriculture sector productive again – but much more important than this is the work that we can do as Zimbabweans to restore the rule of law and the rights of our people.

It is violations to the rule of law and the GPA that prevents the inflows of development aid, obstructs a progressive legislative agenda and continues to keep Zimbabwe mired in poverty and the fear of persecution.

In the light of these obstructionist tendencies, the achievements made by the new Government to date are more remarkable. The frustrating fact is that we could be doing so much more, so much faster if we were working as partners in Government rather than as opponents with different agendas.

When the MDC signed the GPA, we were aware of its imperfections, we felt that it did not fully represent the wishes of the people as expressed on March 29th 2008, but we were also cognizant of the fact that it offered Zimbabwe a soft landing from the political crisis then crippling our nation.

The MDC entered into the agreement with the honest intention of implementing and abiding by what we had signed and we remain committed to it. The small but significant improvements that the new Government has been able to make in the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans prove that we were correct to enter into this agreement.

As different political parties, it is natural that we have different political agendas. However, as co-signatories to the GPA, we should be united by our agenda of Governance and delivering essential services to the people while simultaneously promoting their freedoms.

What Zimbabwe needs now from the regional community, more than we need aid or bailout packages, is an unequivocal message that the Global Political Agreement is the fundamental driver of progress in Zimbabwe and it must be implemented in its entirety and abided by in full.

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, returned recently from a visit to the United States and Europe where he met with political leaders and the key multilateral funding institutions. The political leaders and the different donor bodies were united by their desire to help Zimbabwe but they were also united by their concerns over the failure to implement key aspects of the GPA.

Minister Biti is doing all that he can do to shore up donor confidence, including establishing the Multi-Donor-Trust-Fund, but the inflows to this fund are dependent on what we achieve at home in respect to the rule of law, promoting the issue of property rights and driving the democratization agenda.

In spite of these obstacles, I firmly believe that Zimbabwe’s progress is assured because the political dispensation that has been put in place is irreversible. Thus while our development may be slow currently, it will not be stopped.

Therefore Zimbabwe today represents a genuine investment opportunity for business people from all sectors and from all countries, but most obviously from South Africa.

This is especially true in the light of the current global economic crisis. Potential growth in Zimbabwe can provide additional investment opportunities as well as markets for South African goods and services that will help to mitigate the international downturn.

Most of our industries are now operating at below 20% capacity as a result of the years of economic uncertainty. There is a great need for recapitalization across all sectors, from finance, manufacturing, mining, tourism, agriculture and services.

Opportunities exist for win-win partnerships with your Zimbabwean counterparts, in the form of lines of credit for working capital and equipment rehabilitation needs, as well as in joint ventures and partnerships. My Government, and my office in particular, stand ready to facilitate any mutually beneficial initiatives in this respect.

Your investment in Zimbabwe will also help the country to begin to resume its rightful place within our regional family. A strong region helps to promote a strong South Africa. Our futures are inextricably linked and we want to grow with South Africa and the region and no longer be a burden or a source of embarrassment.

Despite the frustrations I have mentioned I remain committed to, and hopeful for, the future of our beautiful country.

Despite those that wish to inhibit our progress as a Government, we have managed to work constructively with the Ministers from the other political parties to produce our development plan for the next 100 Days. This Plan, which has been approved by Cabinet and which will be launched next week contains defined and deliverable targets that each Ministry has committed to meeting over the course of the next 100 days.

This will also allow investors to examine the direction our government is taking and identify potential growth opportunities. More importantly, the 100 Day Plan represents a commitment to delivery to the Zimbabwean people to which they will be able to hold individual ministers and the government as a whole accountable.

This represents a significant change in the culture of governance that prevailed in Zimbabwe prior to the signing of the GPA.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am aware of the obstacles my country faces but I am neither disheartened nor discouraged. In fact, I am more determined today to strive for the type of Zimbabwe that our people demand and deserve.

I know that this new Government has the support of all Zimbabweans and I know that we also have the support of people such as yourselves.

I know that the will of the people is stronger than the resistance of the few and I am hopeful for our future because the belief of the people in their right to live in a democracy, free from fear, hunger and poverty is stronger than the false culture of entitlement and impunity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the very near future, Zimbabwe will take its rightful place, once again, in the family of nations and we look forward to standing alongside South Africa as a proud partner in our region’s development.

I thank you.