HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has challenged his arch rival and partner in the coalition government, President Robert Mugabe to a live television debate to discuss their party policies ahead of elections scheduled for next week.
Tsvangirai was speaking to thousands of people who attended the MDC rally at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru yesterday.
In more progressive countries, politicians take part in televised debates where they get the opportunity to articulate their policies to the electorate.
In other mature democracies like the United States of America, such debates have a huge bearing on the outcome of the election.
If Mugabe accepts Tsvangirai’s challenge, it will be the first of its kind in Zimbabwe.
But in the past, Mugabe has turned down such challenges and in the current campaign, the 89-year-old Zanu PF presidential candidate has been criticised for spending campaign hours dwelling on history instead of pushing through his party’s policies for the people if he is re-elected.
“As we move closer to the election, I am also challenging Mugabe to a live debate on television, where each one of us will articulate our policies on how to make Zimbabwe a better place.
“I am challenging all the presidential candidates to a public debate so that Zimbabweans can see who has the best plan to uplift the lives of Zimbabweans,” Tsvangirai said.
The MDC leader said he was not afraid of such a debate as his party had clear people-oriented policies.
“This is a defining election because it is the last mile,” he said.
Mugabe has been resorting to history lectures and has failed to articulate well, the party’s largely unsuccessful indigenisation policy which has benefitted only a few elites in Zanu PF.
In Chinhoyi last week, thousands of supporters walked out as he was delivering one his long history lectures.
The veteran Zimbabwe leader together with his wife Grace, have also resorted to personal insults targeted at Tsvangirai.
Yesterday, Tsvangirai added that Mugabe’s recent attacks on Sadc, a regional bloc which saved his political career after he lost the March 2008 election, was shocking.
“I beat Mugabe in 2008. He admitted as much to me but claimed that “Tsvangirai, you thrashed me but you did not manage to get enough votes to avoid a run-off. Of course, I told him he was saved by Sadc.
“So, I am shocked that Mugabe now wants to pull Zimbabwe out of Sadc. He forgets they protected him. Sadc and I gave him a soft landing. He is an old man so we had to give him that soft landing. Now he says to hell with Sadc. That’s what happens when someone is in a false comfort zone,” Tsvangirai said.
Tsvangirai also promised to transform the governance culture which has been there for the past three decades where Zanu PF failed to separate government business from party issues.
“This has been one of Zimbabwe’s foremost challenges since 1980. Zanu PF had become the party and the government. Even in the distribution of food and services, one was forced to produce a party card.
“When you are a government leader, you don’t discriminate on the basis of political affiliation. You serve the people equally,” he said.
The MDC leader also said government should not rule by fear but should show love.
“You don’t use violence against your own people,” Tsvangirai said.
He said an MDC government would fire all non-performing ministers.
“An MDC government will have zero tolerance towards corruption because corruption has eroded the ability to distribute the country’s wealth equitably. We are a rich country with poor people. Only a few are enriching themselves while the rest are suffering,” Tsvangirai said.
According to Zimstats, 63 percent of people in Zimbabwe are poor while 16 percent are extremely poor and as a result, one in three children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.
“In agriculture, farms were grabbed by a few elites who are failing to utilise the land. We cannot even feed ourselves anymore. Zimbabwe, once a breadbasket of Africa, is now a basket case. We have been reduced to being a nation of beggars,” Tsvangirai said.
Zimbabwe is set to import 150 000 tonnes of maize meal from Zambia to alleviate hunger.
First Lady, Grace Mugabe, while donating maize meal and salt to hungry villagers in Gwanda during a campaign rally, promised she would send more maize to area when stocks bought in Zambia arrive.
Grace’s statement was clear confirmation that the Zanu PF government had destroyed agriculture hence resorting to importing from Zambia, a country which before the land grab exercise used to depend on Zimbabwe for maize.
Tsvangirai said social services like education, health and water would also be transformed into functional entities once his party got into power.
He said women would have free cancer testing and treatment. People living with HIV/Aids will also be entitled to free treatment.