MDC-T policies offer recovery hope

THE policies that will soon be launched by the Movement for Democratic Change party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) will go a long way in addressing a myriad of governance issues that have stalled growth and progress in the past decade.

The MDC-T policies offer a glimmer of hope to a nation that is distressed and a people who have suffered for too long at the hands of a corrupt and self-serving Zanu PF leadership. The MDC-T will enunciate its commitment to cleaning up the mess of the previous decades and restore Zimbabwe again on a sustainable path to recovery.

MDC-T policies on political and economic governance will fix, once and for all, the problem of corruption which has become a national cancer in our country. The MDC-T’s realisation that poverty cannot be addressed without resolving the weak and corrupt systems of governance is commendable.

The policies come on the backdrop of rampant corruption particularly in the extractive industry where the proceeds from diamond mining are not being channelled to Treasury. Finance minister Tendai Biti is on record saying that the money from diamonds is being used to sponsor a “parallel” government run by some securocrats and Zanu PF officials.

The time has now come for all Zimbabweans to reclaim their resources and entrust the management of these public resources in a national leadership that is responsive to people’s needs. This situation calls for a committed leadership that is ready to tackle the challenges head-on without fear or favour.

MDC-T’s attempts to inject a new culture of accountability in the government of national unity (GNU) has been frustrated at every turn by Zanu-PF. Although there has been a modicum of reforms in the GNU, the tough battle lies ahead to ensure that the new constitution and national institutions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) are allowed to execute their mandates without any hindrances. This is why Zimbabweans should be careful when they make their choices in the forthcoming general elections.

Some public officials in the GNU became rich overnight and cannot explain how they amassed their riches. On the other hand, Zacc, which is supposed to carry out investigations and bring corrupt officials to book has been suffocated and denied quasi-judicial powers to enable it to prosecute the offenders. In other countries such an institution is given space to do its work without political interference.

The MDC-T policy blueprint will address the problems of corruption, patronage and cronyism which have led to collapse of service delivery and failure by government to fulfill its obligations of providing basic goods and services to its citizens. The conflation of the state and Zanu PF has led to a deliberate weakening of state institutions.

The MDC-T policy thrust will address this governance deficit by making sure that all appointments to public office are done above aboard in a professional manner. Due diligence will be taken by an MDC-T government when making appointments to key positions like permanent secretaries, ambassadors and cabinet ministers.

The MDC-T policy blueprint states: “Over the past three decades the standards adhered to by government in the sphere of governance has steadily declined. Today, corruption is widespread at all levels of the state; there is a general attitude of impunity and the justice system has deteriorated to the point where people no longer expect their grievances or the violation of their rights and the basic laws of the country to be respected. The state has become highly centralised and autocratic and our democracy, the result of a hard-won Independence struggle, is totally compromised.”

Many Zimbabweans are excluded from participating in national issues because of violence and an intolerant political culture. Over the past three decades, Zanu-PF implemented exclusionary policies which discriminated against and excluded MDC-T supporters. Today women and young people still cannot participate meaningfully in the affairs of their country because of a gerontocratic and patriarchal leadership that has no respect for women and the equal participation of minority groups in public affairs.

The culture of violence that has characterised our politics since the colonial era will be eradicated through reforming the abusive state institutions, particularly the state security apparatus. In a new Zimbabwe, which the MDC-T envisages, the public service will employ professionals who are ready to serve the country and not political parties. Those who are responsible for instigating rights abuses of a nature and on a scale that we have witnessed in the previous elections will be brought to book.

If given the mandate to govern in the forthcoming general elections expected later this year, the MDC-T government will do away with a top-heavy government such as the one currently running the affairs of the country. A top-heavy government is an unnecessary drain in the fiscus and a luxury that Zimbabweans cannot afford at the moment. The MDC-T government will trim the number of ministries and only retain a few core ministries which will help to promote economic growth, human security and development.

The policy blueprint further states that: “(The) MDC-T has learned while it has been in government, that institutional transformation is not easy. However, it starts with leadership at the highest levels of the state who must be required to be open, accountable and responsive to the people’s needs. MDC-T is committed to these principles and will hold all leaders, in all spheres, to such standards.

In addition, the principle of service delivery, client needs and integrity in all areas of public and private life will be demanded of all public servants.”

Public officials are accountable to the citizens; they are in office to serve the people and not private interests. The MDC-T recognises the need to re-orient public leaders so that they are open, accountable and responsive to the needs of the people. The leadership question is a critical one if corruption, patronage and cronyism are to be addressed.

In the past, we have had instances where public officials are appointed not on merit, but because they share the same totem or come from the same district or province with the president. The MDC-T policy will allow individual citizens to scrutinise the names of individuals recommended for public office. This commitment to involve citizens in choosing their national leaders helps to deepen democracy.

The MDC-T policy document spells out the party’s commitment to bringing government closer to the people. This provision recognises the importance of involving people in decision-making at the provincial, district and ward-levels. The MDC-T sponsored the debate on devolution during the constitution-making process and fully embrace the provisions in the draft constitution which recognises the need to devolve power and decision-making functions to local and provincial governments.

The policy blueprint further states: “… the MDC-T is committed to supporting all established local authorities that will be granted considerable autonomy, additional functions and resources. In this way, government administration and decision-making will be devolved downwards to where people live and make their livelihoods.”

Devolution of power to the local tiers of government goes far in fulfilling procedural and substantive democracy. Devolution helps local authorities and the provincial assemblies to participate in decision-making, have autonomy and have control over their resources. The involvement of local people in local economies will improve employment, provide food and ultimately empower the local people to have control over their resources.

The removal of party politics from community development structures is important for the country to achieve the status of a developmental state. While mineral resources that are found should be channelled towards national development goals, every effort must be made to exploit these resources in ways that do not prejudice local communities. Local communities should be given priority when it comes to employment and some of the proceeds should be channelled towards developing the same communities through building schools, hospitals, roads, water and electricity.

The indigenisation and economic empowerment policy being pursued by Zanu PF is meant to reward only a few party members while the majority of people continue to wallow in poverty. The MDC-T policy thrust seeks total empowerment of all Zimbabweans rather than a particular section of the population. So far it is largely Zanu PF cronies who have benefitted from the so-called indigenisation policies while the majority of Zimbabweans suspected to be MDC-T sympathisers are denied operating licences in mining, agriculture, tourism and construction industries, to mention a few.

There is now a new bourgeoisie that has emerged post-2000 of politicians and businesspersons who are aligned to Zanu PF who now own multiple farms and have also grabbed lucrative deals in the mining industry. This is the class that is assisting and sustaining Zanu-PF to re-assert its hegemony.

Pasirayi is a DPhil student at St Antony’s College, Oxford University, UK.

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