Today is Africa Day, that significant day when the sons and daughters of Africa celebrate the unparalleled gallantry that as citizens of Africa, we continue to exhibit in surmounting the huge challenges that fate continues to throw on our path.
Africa Day is a day to celebrate this continent of heroes and heroines, who successfully fought colonialism and foreign domination; a continent that continues to fight repression wherever it manifests, even among ourselves.
Today, we must reflect on the vision of the founding fathers, who gathered to form the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, which we transformed into the African Union and has scored some successes and met with challenges in other areas.
Indeed, we have had an odd mixture of both proud and sorry moments, but today is a day to celebrate our achievements and the numerous challenges we have surmounted to become the continent of hope that we are today. As we celebrate this day, it is also a moment for sober reflection.
Firstly, given the continent’s vast mineral wealth and its wide base of natural resources, it is without any rationality and justification that we must continue to have such poverty among ourselves.
Notwithstanding the great strides we are making as a continent, it is true that our ruling elites have pillaged national resources, while many in our communities, particularly women and children, continue to live in abject poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day.
This is unforgivable, especially given the vast wealth our great continent possesses.
Africa’s wealth must benefit the simple and the ordinary, who continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water while the ruling elites enjoy the fruits, nay the tree, of our vast wealth.
Indeed, the values of empathy and solidarity with which we supported each other during our various national struggles for independence must continue to flow amongst us as African nations.
It is in that spirit of African solidarity that it behoves upon me on this great day to appeal to the people and the leaders of Africa to keep Zimbabwe in their prayers and to feel obliged to continue to redirect us towards stability, inclusivity, growth and democracy.
As Zimbabwe braces for a watershed election next year, Africa must be in solidarity with the Zimbabwean people and not necessarily with the Zimbabwean leadership.
Given our history of violence and disputed elections, we pray for once that the rest of Africa will support all efforts for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in the run-up to 2018.
Africa has done it before and we trust that they will be with us again next year to ensure that the people’s will is freely expressed, respected and guaranteed.
We have a leader in the sunset of his life; a national and continental hero, who played a huge part in the development of this country and the continent, but who has now turned into a villain through his misdirected leadership that has since started eroding his own legacy.
By dint of his age and his long stay in office, his leadership is now on an alarming stretch of diminishing returns, with the country now hanging precariously on the precipice of almost being a failed State.
My plea today is to plead with Africa to support a democratic transition in Zimbabwe for the sake of its people, particularly the young generation that faces a bleak and doomed future if we don’t start on an even keel next year.
The leadership and the people of Africa must support our domestic efforts for a truly free, fair, genuine and credible election so that the millions of our sons and daughters, who have fled the country, can come back home and serve their country.
Yes, Africa needs to support Zimbabwe’s quest for free and fair elections.
Only free, fair and credible elections will yield a credible leadership with uncontested legitimacy that can begin to transact the business of the people.
I am heartened by the fact that the theme for this year’s Africa Day celebrations is Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.
Given the youth bulge on the continent, including in Zimbabwe, where even university graduates are on the street pavements eking out a living as vendors, we urgently need to invest in the future of our young people.
We certainly need to create opportunities for them so that they make a positive contribution to the country and the continent.
The youth are the future, but that future can only be ensured by our conscious decisions today to put in place policies and mechanisms that guarantee their active participation both in the politics and the economies of their countries.
That is why, in our country, I and the party I lead, are urging the young people, who constitute 60% of the population, to register to vote so that they can determine their own future through their direct participation in next year’s election.
The youth need our support and the continent certainly needs to harness that demographic dividend for growth and prosperity.
Happy Africa Day!
Author: Morgan Tsvangirai