Augustine Mukaro/ Ray Matikinye
THE ruling Zanu PF’s 25 year-rule faces its stiffest challenge as its main political rival in the March 31 parliamentary election, the Movement for Democratic Change (MD
C), adopts a populist and delivery-centred manifesto dubbed “Our promise to the people of Zimbabwe”.
The battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate starts in earnest this Sunday when the MDC launches its manifesto that promises a rebirth of Zimbabwe.
A draft manifesto in the hands of the Zimbabwe Independent shows that the MDC is set to restore the country’s former status through creating a rational economic environment that will restore stability and growth in the manufacturing, mining and agricultural sectors. The manifesto will be launched in Masvingo on Sunday.
The manifesto, largely drawn from an earlier publication released in January last year titled Restart, emphasises reconstruction of the social fabric and economic infrastructure. It seeks to transform the economy as well as society to achieve equitable, inclusive national development.
The MDC says the revival of key productive sectors will ensure the maintenance and creation of jobs in which workers would be paid a living wage above the poverty datum line.
According to the manifesto, the MDC will seek international financial support and engage the donor community in its bid to reduce inflation and stabilise the foreign exchange by generating greater inflows.
“An MDC government will engage the international community and negotiate debt relief and debt re-scheduling,” reads the document.
But the opposition party says it will audit the national debt first with a view to
repudiating dubious obligations. It will renegotiate a rational repayment schedule.
The MDC says it will facilitate comprehensive programmes of rehabilitation and development of the national road network — bridges, railways — power stations, hospitals and clinics, schools, boreholes and dams as a priority.
“Rehabilitating the nation’s infrastructure will provide jobs and skills training to over 250 000 people as well as reopen our rural areas whose roads have been neglected during the 25 years of Zanu PF rule,” the manifesto says.
In a policy similar to its major election rival, the MDC is also preaching the gospel of access to land by all those who need it and the development of a vibrant agricultural sector to ensure food self-sufficiency. But the opposition party says it will rationalise land redistribution and immediately implement a well-executed, comprehensive programme.
“An MDC government will ensure the recovery of the agricultural sector as a major component of the national economy so as to once again make the country the breadbasket of the region,” reads the manifesto, adding that this will be achieved through “providing all farmers with access to agricultural inputs, technical and financial support and extension services particularly to improve the livelihoods of those in communal and resettlement areas”.
Zanu PF has promised to resettle 400 000 people in the next five years, a target it has dismally failed to achieve in the past five years under its often violent fast-track programme. It achieved a mere 154 000 under both A1 and A2 resettlement models. The ruling party’s much-touted land reform programme has seen agricultural production plummeting by over 80% since 2000.
The MDC says it will promote security of tenure to promote investment in farming to stimulate productivity.
The MDC promises to stimulate tourism through the restoration of the rule of law and providing security to both locals and foreigners in every corner of the country. “Our aim is to restore the number of tourists to 1999 levels within two years, thereby creating 200 000 jobs,” the manifesto says. Tourism has witnessed a major slump in arrivals as the international community declared Zimbabwe an unsafe destination.
And although the two major protagonists in the forthcoming election promise the electorate near identical ideals in social services such as housing, health and education, the MDC seems to have an edge of credibility over its opponent. Its manifesto appears to ride on the back of past failures by the ruling party while the incumbent seeks scapegoats to justify blunders of the past two decades.
While the MDC promises to transform the lives of Zimbabweans through pro-people policies, Zanu PF tries to win supporters by peddling cheap anti-Tony Blair mantras.
While the MDC promises to restore the collapsed social, health and education sectors, ensuring access to affordable services, Zanu PF has blamed its failure to deliver housing on people in the opposition who took control of most major cities and urban centres in local government elections only five years ago.
“An MDC government will provide free primary education for all, allocate significant subsidies for secondary and tertiary education as well as respect freedom of choice and fully protect the rights of private schools to operate without hindrance and interference from the state,” the manifesto says.
On the issue of governance, the MDC promises to set up an anti-corruption commission in a drive to expose and eradicate all forms of corruption. It also promises to restore the rule of law, personal security and that of individual property.
The MDC promises to restore the rule of law in all dimensions as a fundamental requirement for the envisaged growth of the national economy, a return to political legitimacy and personal liberty.
The opposition admits restoring normalcy is not an easy task. “We in the MDC are not promising any quick-fix solution. The crisis is too severe and deep-seated to allow for instant recovery. What the MDC is offering is Zimbabwe’s best chance to return to normality within a bearable time-frame,” says MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.
Inequalities in access to resources as well as income-generating opportunities and redistribution of national resources, the MDC manifesto says, have seen a tiny minority aggressively enriching itself at the nation’s expense.