AS THE country gears for harmonised elections next year, political parties are busy formulating winning strategies based on their understanding of what the country expects.
The just-ended Zanu PF conference held in Gweru was partly an annual formality and a platform to come up with resolutions for the future. The majority of resolutions passed were supposedly meant to ingratiate and endear the party with the voting public.
As soon as the curtains came down inside the Zanu PF’s newly-built conference hall, the party’s propaganda machinery went straight to work, starting with the publication of resolutions passed.
Since Zanu PF is a party made up of senior members of the community in terms of age, political experience and positions in government, the country was waiting and expecting a clear guide into the future.
In particular, the electorate was expecting to hear plans to eradicate poverty, tackle health issues, reduce unemployment, improve and mend relations with other countries and providing housing, among others.
Most importantly, people wanted to know the leaders who will oversee implementation of those policies and steer the country out of its current economic decline. A guile and crafty figure, President Mugabe had no opposition in his quest to represent the party in the forthcoming elections. He was confirmed as the party’s presidential candidate - the first mistake coming out of the conference.
The party failed to present a credible alternative to Mugabe whose policies have ruined the once-prosperous nation. Zimbabweans know Mugabe’s policies for the last 32 years. If he failed to deliver a better country whilst he was still young, energetic and in good health, it will take a miracle for him to do that now when he is more worried about his health and old age than anything else.
To make matters worse, the resolutions passed offered very little hope to a country overly expecting. As usual, it became a platform for the party leader to attack his foes, both domestic and foreign, within and outside the party.
Instead of focusing on what his government will do to develop the country, Mugabe dwelled on how the party must win at all costs, hopefully incinerating other contenders such as Tsvangirai’s MDC into political oblivion. The issue became that of winning the elections more than about plans to develop the country.
The core element of Zanu PF’s campaign narrative lies in the empowerment agenda crafted around the indigenisation policy. Although the concept sounds good to a gullible mind, Zanu PF has so far implemented the policy with dissimulating ends, benefiting only a few. In the final analysis, the party’s idea of empowerment has killed jobs and discouraged foreign direct investment.
Zanu PF’s indigenisation and empowerment campaign is the only outstanding policy thrust. The party had to pass a resolution applauding itself for “intensifying the indigenisation and empowerment programmes”. The fact that a party can pass a resolution to applaud itself is quite laughable and telling of what Zimbabweans should expect if they were to re-elect such leadership. Whilst the country was burning from a myriad of problems, the party leadership congregated to pass a resolution to give themselves a pat on each other’s back. How can an institution pass a resolution to “applaud” itself?
Since Zimbabwe is a country struggling to attract foreign investment, access the much-needed lines of credit and mend its relations with other countries particularly the West, one would expect the party to strike a conciliatory tone and promote diplomatic avenues.
Yet, to the contrary, the party resolved to condemn Western nations particularly the US, Britain and the EU. Such a resolution should worry Zimbabweans who want their country to normalise relations with other countries and become part of a responsible global community of nations. And then came the misplaced identification of shortage of power as the single biggest inhibiting factor to economic growth. The fact that Zanu PF can blame electricity as the biggest problem and challenge to economic growth is by itself a reflection of the lack of understanding of what is at stake.
It is quite surprising given that all along the party has been telling people that economic sanctions are to blame. Industries are failing to recapitalise and increase production, not because of electricity shortages but because of lack of finance. It appears the party simply doesn’t get that.
The other surprising move was an attempt to insulate local government minister from criticism. The responsible minister, Ignatius Chombo, is a member of Zanu PF and the party failed to look at one of its own in the eye and reprimand him. Whilst it is common knowledge that ministers’ competences are measured by the performances of their respective portfolios, the party blamed councillors for poor service delivery instead.
The minister has been in the urban councils portfolio for a long time, presiding over the decline in service delivery in the process. The minister has failed to come up with any strategic plans to revive urban councils. Instead of becoming a team player helping mayors and councillors, he has been acting like a referee flashing red cards to mayors and councillors at every turn. In the end, urban councils have been without clear guidance and leadership.
The conference failed to apportion blame at the top where it is due but rather blamed junior councillors for political expedience. Another very worrying resolution concerned an attempt to promote gold panners commonly known as Makorokoza. The party is resorting to gold panning as a way of creating employment regardless of the negative consequences to health and the environment.
Condemning the youth to gold panning instead of creating better employment opportunities must be embarrassing to the party leadership who are trying to convince the electorate that Zanu PF is a party for the future. If there was anyone wondering how the party will create employment, there you have it folks - gold panning is Zanu PF’s answer.
Very little or no resolutions were passed which targeted areas of health and research. In a country ravaged by HIV and AIDS and other health challenges, one would expect serious attention to such issues by way of promoting research either nationally or regionally. The electorate also expected a national development plan by way of well proposed economic blue prints.
When one walks in the information neighbourhood of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai, one comes across a well-defined developmental plan addressing economic and employment issues among others. The JUICE document is sure to see Zanu PF failing to match their opponents in terms of short, medium and long term strategies for the country.
The party’s resolutions presented an opportunity for Zimbabweans to compare and contrast policies of the two main political players - MDC T and Zanu PF. On one side there is a party which believes in seriously fighting corruption through actions (Tsvangirai’s MDC fired all councillors and mayors who were accused of corruption). And on the other, there is a party which speaks about corruption without taking action as evidenced by Mugabe’s empty rhetoric.
On one hand the country has a party that believes in mending relations and making friendship with all nations, becoming a member of such bodies as the Commonwealth, benefiting Zimbabwe citizens in sports, scholarships and networking. On the other, there is a party that believes and thrives on isolation, pulling out of the same bodies such as the commonwealth and attacking other countries at every opportunity.
Most importantly, Zimbabweans have a party that believes in creating gainful employment for the youth through good industry and occupational jobs. That belief is cast in the form of a well-defined economic blue print JUICE. To the contrary, Zanu PF believes employment of the youth lies in them picking up shovels and heading to river banks to do gold panning.
The differences between these two parties have never been this clearer. As people head to the polls next year, they will chose from two parties with fundamentally different visions for the country. For failing to come up with concrete steps towards reviving the country’s ailing economy, Zanu PF conference was a complete failure.
Jacob Nkiwane can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org