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Issues at stake in the next elections

IN the next 12 months Zimbabwe will hold elections but we need to ask ourselves several critical questions. The most central concern is what these elections will really be about. Are these elections merely going to be about removing President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in as far as the MDC formations are concerned?

Report by Dumisani Nkomo
At a more critical level, what is at stake for ordinary Zimbabweans and will elections change their lot? Does the MDC-T — which according to the Freedom House survey has plunged in popularity ratings —  deserve our vote and will they deliver real change or will they perpetuate the Zanu PF legacy of kleptocracy, dictatorship, corruption and poverty?

Does Welshman Ncube’s MDC have anything to offer and does his party stand a realistic chance of making an impact in the elections? Will these political parties proffer quality candidates and quality policies beyond the tired “Mugabe must go” mantra when people are beginning to ask, “and then what after that?”

Or will this be an election without a choice given Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Ncube?

Without a shadow of doubt, the rallying call for elections in 2000, 2005 and 2008 has been the “Mugabe and Zanu PF must go” slogan. The major beneficiary of it has been MDC-T and Tsvangirai.

While it is quite obvious to all right-thinking Zimbabweans that Mugabe and Zanu PF do not deserve another term of office, it is increasingly becoming clear that the electorate needs political parties and leaders who offer much more than promising to remove Mugabe  without a clear plan of how they intend to govern the country afterwards. This probably explains why possibly Tsvangirai and the MDC-T’s support is now dipping. They have not really offered much beyond the “Mugabe must go” refrain.

Political parties have to offer serious and quality policies through which they intend  to transform the country from a poor authoritarian to a prosperous democratic state, and possibly a regional economic giant. Parties have to lay on the table clear policies on how they are going to deliver socio-economic reform and change. This must go beyond shallow and deceptive party manifestoes that promise everything and deliver nothing.

The electorate has to know how the MDC formations, Zapu, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and other parties will create industrial growth, activate the potential of the extractive sector and unlock value in the tourism sector, for instance. Voters want to know how these parties are going to formulate policies that will lead to economic recovery, growth and employment as well as effective efficient service delivery.


Whoever is running for president must convince us that he or she has a holistic plan for the revival of infrastructure, the health delivery system, education and to combat the ever-growing threat of unemployment and poverty.


Candidates for the presidential elections should as is the norm in democracies debate issues that affect the nation and the electorate. The days of demagogues’ ranting and raving through political monologue at rallies will come to an end as the voters mature and start demanding answers.

Zanu PF – which the Freedom House survey claims is recovering lost ground – appears articulate in terms of ideological clarity concerning land, indigenisation and a unitary system of governance even though their policies are discredited. This is regardless of the fact that their policies and positions on these issues is steeped in the authoritarian politics of social engineering and political control which has systematically decimated the economy. What is troubling though is the inability of alternative political parties such as the two MDC formations to clearly articulate alternative policies covering these and other issues.

Because of this, sadly some of Zimbabwe’s urban and emerging young populace, particularly the generation which was young when the MDC was formed in 1999 and may not necessarily share its vision (whatever that is) may fall for the Zanu PF empowerment bait in the absence of clear alternatives from other parties.

Critically though, as we head for the elections it is cardinal for parties which want to be taken seriously to be coherent in their vision and strategy concerning the following issues:

Parties must come up with well-though-out policies and programmes on re-industrialisation,competitiveness, value-addition, enhancing regional and international trade, productivity and how to situate Zimbabwe in the changing global economic landscape.

We do not need them to talk about de-industrialisation as we are sufficiently and practically informed about what has been in that area.  Parties thus should prescribe solutions to de-industrialisation, not just outline and harp on the problem.

Parties must convince the electorate that they have strategy to restore reliable, efficient and effective service delivery through a governance system that ensures equitable and sustainable resource allocation, responsiveness to citizen–consumer demands and good governance.Given the critical role of energy in how the economy functions and people live, parties must proffer solutions to the endless challenges we have been experiencing in accessing regular and efficient supplies of power.


They have to convince us that they have a plan to ensure there is alternative “green energy” in the context of what is happening around the world. The debate on “green energy” in Zimbabwe is disappointing and the political leadership does not seem to be providing leadership or direction on this matter. In fact, the stalled and controversy-ridden Chisumbanje ethanol project shows government leaders, including ministers, simply don’t understand these things.

Parties also need to give clarity on how they will address issues relating to water supply, infrastructure and transport, among other things. Any political party that does not provide a clear plan on how these issues should be addressed face rejection by the people.

Civil society and the media will play a key role in giving space to various political players to articulate their policies through public debates, inter-party dialogue, opinion pieces, live debates and broadcasts, and internet communications.  Obviously, there is a huge challenge in Zimbabwe because the electronic media is firmly in the grip of Zanu PF but this is not an excuse for any political party to fail to articulate its policies in this age of the internet.

Linked to the above issues, leaders and their parties must commit themselves to building a democratic and developmental state anchored on a good constitution which protects civil and political liberties, human rights, rule of law, good governance and accountability. They also need to rebuild democratic institutions and foster a new political philosophy, culture and value-system which embrace diversity and tolerance.

To achieve these things, parties must field quality candidates during the elections.  I am not necessarily referring to educational or academic qualifications, although they are a key component, because it is quite possible to have academically capable suitable but functionally illiterate leaders.


In essence we need leaders with a track record of leadership and delivery in their life endeavours. These leaders must be social entrepreneurs (people able to respond creatively and proactively to relevant situations) who have the ability to tackle socio-economic challenges in their constituencies.  They should have basic social intelligence as well as ability to engage in complex national and policy issues. It is simply scandalous and counter-productive to blindly vote for leaders who lack leadership credentials and capacity to deliver.

In short, Zimbabwe desperately needs serious and effective leaders to rise from its ruins. The country has great potential but lacks visionary leadership and direction.



  • Nkomo is CEO of Habakkuk Trust and spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil  Society Forum. He writes in his personal capacity. Email:dumisani.nkomo@gmail.com and dumisanionkomo.blogspot.com

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