The past four years have shown that it is possible to have a Zimbabwean government that serves the people
Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change recently commemorated its 13th anniversary at a ceremony in the city of Bulawayo. Contrary to popular belief, my political party had much to celebrate.
Four years ago, Zimbabwe was nearly a failed state. Hyperinflation had reached a historic peak. Freedoms were stifled at every turn. Starvation ran rampant and cholera had spread to a near-epidemic level. Schools were closed, many for an entire year. The ratio of students to textbooks was 15 to 1. Political institutions were in large part—if not totally—to blame for a lack of both vision and accountability.
We can point to the past, and the international community often does so. We’ve been told that the atrocities of 2008 continue to justify economic sanctions hindering our forward trajectory.
But in the past four years, we have taught our colleagues at home and around the world that it is possible to have a Zimbabwean government that serves the people. In that time, we have grown dynamically. Bolder, lasting reforms are on the way.
We realize that Zimbabwe as a global actor is often seen as being irrevocably divided. Our political process, including the steps ahead of finalizing our national constitution, has been scrutinized for focusing on reparation rather than reconciliation.
But it is important to recognize that Zimbabwe is undergoing a sensitive process of political, economic and societal revival. We are bringing about a new culture of governance. We have curbed hyperinflation while enhancing our economic infrastructure. We are rehabilitating our education sector—the ratio of students to textbooks is now 1 to 1. We are providing food security and fortifying a skill-intensive labor market.
In a time of unprecedented mineral wealth, we are seeking to improve extraction oversight, audit the distribution channels for domestic revenue growth, and encourage social responsibility from the private and public sectors. We understand the need for technological innovation to compete in the global sphere, and know that expanding telecommunication investment will have a unifying, progressive effect on our nation.
Obviously, there are still clear and present challenges to such modernizations. Targeted smear campaigns and censorship imposed by our political opposition have created a incessant assault on our brand. Though marginal achievements have been made in the bureaucratic realm, ZANU-PF remains devoted to destructive tactics when elections loom. Working with ZANU-PF and President Robert Mugabe in cabinet has not been easy.
We recognize, however, that diversity and dissent are healthy signs of growth. Though the “Zimbabwe situation” is often used to evoke frustration, let us redefine it as an everlasting confidence in the future, a confidence inherent to our culture. We have been the breadbasket of Africa and have proven ourselves ready to participate again at the global forefront.
Five years ago, I was a battered prisoner locked away in a police cell. Today, I serve as president of the Movement for Democratic Change and prime minister of a nation on the upswing. We encourage the Zimbabwean diaspora, our partners in the Southern African Development Community, and the international community to take a closer look at Zimbabwe. They might be surprised at what they find.
Mr. Tsvangirai is Zimbabwe’s prime minister.