WITH the watershed 2013 general elections fast approaching, Zimbabwe's two top political parties, Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, are flaunting job creation as one of their major vote draw cards.
To sway votes in their favour, the parties are targeting employment creation as their draw card in an increasingly stagnant economy which in spite of positive growth in the last three years, has failed to create new jobs.
Official data from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency Zimstats indicates that unemployment is at 10.7 percent while independent reports indicate that over 80 percent of the population is jobless.
The difference in the statistics is accounted for by the differences in the definition of the term employment with the government taking into account those working in the informal sector while the independent critics deal largely with those in formal employment.
Due to economic stagnation and various challenges afflicting the economy as well as the yoke of Western sanctions, most companies continue to scale down operations, while the informal sector remains the major driver of the economy.
Zanu PF, which holds its annual conference from Dec 4 to 9, has set its theme as, "Indigenise, empower, develop and create employment," while the Tsvangirai-led MDC this week launched its economic blueprint dubbed Juice (Jobs, Upliftment, Investment and Environment).
With the indigenisation and empowerment drive already in full gear, Zanu PF is pushing for increased involvement of locals in the economy, while the MDC-T says it is targeting foreign direct investment as the major job creator.
President Mugabe said the on-going indigenisation drive must ultimately push locals to form their own companies, which must dominate the economy.
"The process of taking 51 percent is only a process of empowering our people in companies that exists but the greater part is that of our people forming their own companies," he said.
The MDC-T has accused Zanu PF of stealing its idea on job creation as a campaign strategy, an allegation which party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo on Sunday dismissed.
"How can we steal anything from the MDC-T? They are an ideologically bankrupt party with nothing to offer to the people. They have been in this inclusive government for the past four years but what have they done....We cannot steal ideas from MDC-T because we have always had our own," Gumbo said.
According to Juice, the MDC-T is targeting to create one million jobs in the next five years.
The MDC-T insists that lack of jobs is the economy's biggest challenge.
"We plan to invest massively in the sectors with a potential to make meaningful work available to thousands of young people," Tsvangirai said.
What the MDC-T however failed to explain is where they were going to get the billions of dollars to invest in the economy, given that the inclusive government, which they are part of, with Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is also their secretary general, has failed to get hold of the elusive external support.
The MDC-T has ironically trashed the on-going indigenisation exercise, branding it an "an asset grabbing" exercise but also listed broad based empowerment agenda as part of its policies that will drive Juice.
"The need to reform ownership and control of the economy to benefit the people is an undeniable economic imperative," the MDC-T says in Juice.
While accusing Zanu PF of stealing its ideas, the MDC-T on the other hand, is only using semantics to "borrow" Zanu PF's ideas on indigenisation and economic empowerment and perfecting them.
Juice is also silent on sanctions, one of the stumbling blocks to Zimbabwe accessing external financial support and foreign direct investment.
What is certain is that Zimbabweans need to be economically empowered and also need employment, especially the thousands of graduates from institutions of higher learning.
What is undeniable in spite of the battle of words is Zimbabweans are gravely in need of implementable strategies to make the economy move forward.
The majority of workers are yearning for a day they will be awarded salaries which are above the poverty datum line, which will allow them to feed their families and take care of their basic needs.
It remains to be seen which bait the electorate will swallow come the general elections in 2013.