By Nelson Chamisa
In a few months, Zimbabweans head to the polls to decide on their future.
There have been many elections before, all of which have not brought the change we desire. So, I understand why, for many of our people, voting may seem like a futile exercise. However, history tells us that nothing lasts forever. We have reason to be confident that this is a special year, one in which millions of our people will cast the liberation vote, a freedom vote, and a restoration vote.
The odds are stacked against us. Yet, moving around the country, and speaking to people across all sectors of society, I am encouraged by their resolve to make sure that this will be the year of our national rebirth. Since we announced our new movement on 24 January 2022, it has grown beyond all expectations. Ours is a citizens’ movement, that draws on the glorious history of the liberation struggle and those that came before us-our forbears. The struggle for our liberation was indeed a citizens’ movement, with its roots in the mass movements and unions led by luminaries such as Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Benjamin Burombo.
Today, the libration agenda has been either abandoned, checked halfway and utterly bastardized . It is our duty to reclaim and restore that liberation legacy and preserve it.
Recently, I laid out the Zimbabwe agenda for what a Citizens government will do, when the voters and citizens accord and afford us a clear and clean mandate.
This agenda was not crafted by a few elites in a boardroom. It came from listening to citizens, and their wishes for a better Zimbabwe.
Our agenda for a New Great Zimbabwe comes from the working people who are struggling to feed their families and the students who are worried about their future. It is about the mothers giving birth in hospitals with no lighting or basic medicines, and the farmers who are not being paid enough for their hard work.
Our agenda for a New Great Zimbabwe has been inspired by pensioners with nothing to show for their years of service, and the war veterans living in poverty in a land they fought for. We stand for the professionals whose only dream is to leave the country, and the businesses that are struggling to stay afloat because of poor leadership.
In building our agenda for a New Great Zimbabwe , we began by building firm grassroots programmes, all led by citizens on the ground.
Our Citizens Change Volunteers programme is recruiting new voters for change. As they do this, they are listening to communities. This is informing our community assistance strategy, which aims to provide targeted support for the most vulnerable.
Our new democratic community consensus candidate selection process is structured from the ground up, because our citizens and communities know their leaders. It pivots from the philosophy and principle that places the citizens at centre , citizens first-CITIZENOCRACY.
The young people in the Citizens movement have come up with the “Register, Elect and Protect” campaign (REAP), to encourage more youths to register to vote and take charge of their future.
The Women For Change campaign is speaking to women across the country to vote for a new Zimbabwe that affords them equal opportunity.
What are we doing to push for electoral reforms? Through our representatives in Parliament, we have crafted an Electoral Amendment Bill, which is now before Parliament. This Bill carries our demands for electoral reforms: respect for the right to vote, including implementation of the diaspora vote; accessible voter registration; a credible voters’ roll; the security of polling material; the security of the vote and clear dispute mechanisms; independent and credible polling staff; transitional mechanisms; credible results management system, including allowing parallel voter tabulation; and demand media reforms.
These demands will ensure that our country finally lays to rest the ghost of disputed elections, allowing us to finally move forward.
I wish to commend all our citizens working for change. Our meetings are routinely banned by those who fear us and our message. We are undeterred.
As we head toward elections, I wish to send out the following messages.
To our competitors ZANU-PF, we are one. As we begin our campaigns, let us be civil and peaceful. We mean no harm. We do not hate you. We just love our nation more. Once we execute the citizens’ mandate, you too will enjoy the benefits of a strong economy, a currency you can be proud of, and the freedom to support the party of your choice.
To the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, may I remind you of your constitutional duty to protect the sanctity of the vote and ensure that elections are free, fair and credible. Do not plunge the nation into anarchy because of bias. The citizens will be following closely your management of elections. We urge you to release the voters’ roll and comply with the law. Give everyone an equal opportunity to register to vote and stop voter suppression.
For our state institutions, we call on you to serve all citizens without discrimination. Under our government, you will be better capacitated to serve. We will not loot state resources, but we will use them to strengthen your institutions and pay you a dignified, living wage.
To traditional leaders, you are the custodians of our culture. You belong to all people. You have the authority to refuse any orders to commandeer your subjects. In our new Zimbabwe, we will support and honour you, and protect you from political abuse.
To veterans and liberation war heroes, we love and honour you for your sacrifice. We know of the neglect that you are suffering. You are wallowing in poverty because of looting and corruption by a greedy few who betrayed the struggle. We will restore your dignity.
For the Church, pray for peace and harmony. We thank the churches who have stood with the people. Churches must not be abused by politicians. We will support the church in its role of speaking truth to power.
To the SADC region, all we ask for is that you defend the principles governing free and fair elections agreed to by all nations in the region.
Do we have a plan for the country? Yes, we do. Our movement is ready to govern excellently. We are ready to lead and usher in a under a new era of the Citizens Government.
We have a national agenda that is ready for implementation on Day One of the citizens’ mandate.
We have a plan to build new infrastructure, through efficient stewardship of our resources and prudent fiscal management. You are voting for an energy plan that includes credible guarantees to Independent Power Producers, flexible licensing for renewable energy investors, accelerated investment in large-scale power projects, and an overhaul of our transmission networks.
Our people will be voting for a modern health plan, where our budget meets the Abuja Declaration on budgetary allocations to health, keeping our health workers at home through better pay, and harnessing the vast talent pool in the private and public sectors.
Our farmers are voting for our agriculture policy which rewards them for their hard work. Our policy does not rob farmers through opaque programmes that benefit the elite. You, farmers, are voting for title deeds to your land, and better prices for your crops.
With just 50% of the authority under the inclusive government-The GNU, we proved that we can change your lives for the better. Imagine what we can do when you give us 100% of that mandate.
We will restore our dignity as a nation.
Zimbabwe will be a great country. We will restore our pride. We will make Zimbabwe a normal 21st century modern country. We will be an attractive business and investment destination under your leadership. New factories. New industries! New jobs!
The sun will rise and shine in Zimbabwe. Change is in the air. Hope is coming back again. The citizens are ready to take back their country.
Come let us reason together. We are one people! It’s possible. God is in it.
Nelson Chamisa is the leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change