THE launch of the Zanu PF election manifesto by President Robert Mugabe in Harare last week exposed his party’s policy bankruptcy and his own critical lack of content reflected by his brazen resort to threats, insults and an exhausted nationalist discourse centred on rhetoric about sovereignty and independence.
Opinion by Pedzisai Ruhanya
What came out clearly is Zanu PF’s lack of a sound campaign platform and a flawed foreign policy premised on an outdated concept and understanding of sovereignty.
Mugabe badly spoiled a grand occasion to outline his party’s policies by hurling insults at Sadc facilitation team leader and South African President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu using undiplomatic, demeaning and hate language.
The public expectation was that the president would outline critical policy issues that would convince citizens to re-elect him and his party in the coming elections on July 31 given his awful record of superintending a corrupt and authoritarian public administration for over three decades.
Instead of courting both the domestic and international publics to back his party and what it stands for in the next election, Mugabe did everything to scare away supporters and sympathisers as he faces crunch elections by displaying irrational aggression which has always been part of his style, but is now overused and repulsive.
By threatening to pull out of Sadc while attacking its mediation team, especially Zuma’s key envoy, Mugabe was telling voters that his party was prepared to sever ties with our neighbours and with the country’s leading trading partner, South Africa, despite the fact that it helped in restoring political and economic normalcy in Zimbabwe in the past five years.
The important question to ask is: how will Zimbabwe do business with the rest of Africa if it has no diplomatic and business relations with Sadc, South Africa in particular?
What kind of investment climate is Mugabe promoting and how will he create employment which Zanu PF, through its manifesto, says is an important issue.
Unemployment is part of the legacy of Zanu PF’s 33 years of economic and political assault on the state and its citizens?
It becomes clear that due to old age and lack of foresight, Mugabe is sacrificing the future of the country and its people by attacking friendly regional countries that have been assisting Zimbabwe to move out of the economic and political quagmire that he triggered.
Put simply, Zanu PF’s manifesto is premised on fears of losing power, arrogance and a failure to acknowledge that Zimbabweans want a future centred on domestic economic and political stability as well as sound and cordial international relations with other countries.
Given some level of economic, social and political stability brought about by the inclusive government that was mainly made possible by regional and international goodwill, the country needs further consolidation on all these fronts and not a slide-back to autocracy and economic meltdown.
Political party policies that will secure support as the country prepares for decisive elections should therefore offer a package of economic and political stability to millions of disparate and desperate young people who have no jobs, health insurance and are failing to pay for their education.
Messages of hope, love and a prosperous future are what Zimbabweans expect, not hurling insults on our neighbours and threatening to pull out of Sadc as if the country belongs to a political party or to a clueless and corrupt oligarchy run by geriatrics.
A critical analysis of the Zanu PF 108-page election manifesto entitled The People’s Manifesto 2013, Taking back the Economy, Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment, exposes contradictions worsened by Mugabe’s ranting.
In the globalisation and regional integration era, how does a country’s economy grow and later on create jobs through investment drives for millions of unemployed citizens when the leader of a political party that wants to retain power preaches isolation and fights with its biggest economic partner for starters?
The Zanu PF manifesto says that its policies for the next five years are guided and motivated by what it calls the people’s goals such as independence, sovereignty, unity, security, respect for the values and ideals of the liberation struggle, patriotism, gender equality, respect for the elderly, which is a euphemism for respecting Mugabe and his aging crew, economic prosperity, education for all as well as freedom and democracy, among other things.
What is clear from these goals is that they are just dreams and ideals that the 33 years of Zanu PF and Mugabe’s incumbency have nullified through their behaviour and policies. The party had promised this before and failed to deliver.
For instance, how can Zanu PF talk of freedom and democracy when by its behaviour since 1980 it has abundantly shown that it does not respect the fundamental civil and political liberties of the citizens by numerous acts of egregious human rights violations, including the Gukurahundi massacres, Murambatsvina and violence associated with the sham 2000, 2002 and June 2008 elections.
Zimbabweans cannot believe that a party that does not allow transparent contests for power internally can promote the same at the national level. The party’s primary elections were a clear demonstration of its lack of internal democracy and order.
One of the reasons Zanu PF is grappling with a vicious succession battle is lack of internal democracy and freedom for members to choose and renew their leaders.
Worse still, the fielding of Mugabe as the presidential candidate at 89 and after he has been at the helm of the party leadership since 1977, clearly shows the authoritarian nature of both the party and its leader.
Simply put, the goals of Zanu PF policies and the actual policy pronouncements are a cocktail of contradictions, some that are easily nullified by 33 years of bad governance and most recently by Mugabe’s outburst at the launch of the election manifesto.
Unlike in the past elections in 2000 and 2002, where the emotive and legitimate land reform issue was a solid manifesto item in Land is the Economy, the Economy is Land (despite its simplistic appreciation of the economy), this time around the indigenisation policy is less attractive, particularly given that it is riddled with contradictions and corruption which Mugabe even acknowledged in a birthday speech in March this year.
Zanu PF argues the ideological meaning of indigenisation and empowerment arises from the historical fact of the country’s independence that is linked to the liberation struggle. However, empty ideologies that fail to empirically empower people broadly while creating clienteles would not assist millions of people without jobs and food on their tables.
While it is not disputed empowerment initiatives are attractive and could realistically change the lives of people if well executed, what is clear is only a small group of connected party officials and selected people outside the party have so far benefitted from this policy. For ordinary people in the countryside and villages, as well as townships, it is difficult to talk of the benefits of these elite programmes such as community share ownership schemes. What is the meaning of a share to a villager in Muzarabani, Binga or Mwenezi unless it translates into something which uplifts their conditions of life and well-being?
The manifesto also talks of the achievements in the areas of health, education and the dollarisation of the economy.
The two areas of health and education, in particular given our high literacy levels, could have been success stories if Zanu PF’s failed economic policies of the past decade had not nullified these great foundations. So, this is just idle talk about what could have been given the collapse of health and education facilities.
Some of the proposals such as the US$3 billion economic infrastructure programme which aims to rehabilitate the existing national power grid, upgrade the transport sector, water supply and sanitation as well as water storage are sound initiatives, the current failures in these areas can be put squarely on the Zanu PF regime’s doorstep.
What is clearly missing from the Zanu PF manifesto is the relationship between these policies and the political regeneration of the party. There is need for a symbiotic relationship to avoid contradictions that hurt the economy and the broad institutional renewal of the state.
Zanu PF’s economic policy embraces liberal market values, but in an authoritarian political set-up. It is about marketisation without democratisation. These open contradictions and dishonesty in Zanu PF’s manifesto ahead of elections will not assist the country to move forward in a world that is changing fast.
Ruhanya is the director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.