Stop the World, I want to get off!

On Friday Zanu PF launched its manifesto and campaign for the elections now fixed for the 31st July. A good friend read the manifesto and said that at first he found it funny, then as he reflected that this was a serious attempt by a political Party which had been in government for 33 years and had in its ranks more PhD graduates than almost any other Party in Africa, his mirth turned to despair about the future of Africa given this sort of leadership.

His despair was compounded by the speech that attended the launch. In his speech, President Mugabe managed to alienate and anger almost everyone. He referred to Lindiwe Zulu, the senior facilitator on the South African mediation team as being stupid, a streetwalker (prostitute) and a silly young woman. He threatened to take Zimbabwe out of SADC and lambasted the President of South Africa and other leaders of southern African States.

In the manifesto Zanu PF makes three main proposals: they promise to take over, without compensation, 51 per cent of the shareholding in 1139 companies and lists the sectors that will be involved (380 in mining, 244 in tourism) and claims that this will yield $7 billion in cash for the revitalization of the economy; they would use some of these resources to refinance the Parastatals; and then finally they would bring back the Zimbabwe dollar – after consulting Dr. Gono and arranging for the new currency to be backed by gold.

So in one sweep Zanu PF managed to alienate just about everyone – women in general, Ms. Zulu in particular, the South African government and all SADC leaders including several who were trying to help him, the African Union, local business, international business, every ordinary Zimbabwean who lived through the hyperinflation crisis up to 2008 and who had their life’s savings wiped out by the machinations and madness of the Reserve Bank under Dr. Gono.

The immediate reaction of my friend to the issue of taking over those companies was that this was the urban equivalent of the farm invasions. Like the latter, which has left the agricultural industry in a state of collapse and struggling to maintain just 20 per cent of historical output, any such wholesale take over by the State of these companies would similarly lead to the final and more complete collapse of what is left of the industrial and commercial economy.

The promise to bring back the Zimbabwe dollar and to back it with gold raises the specter of where from? Will they simply take the gold from the miners without payment? They did that before and the industry collapsed completely. Otherwise it simply opens up the possibility of once again allowing Dr. Who at the Reserve Bank to do his thing in the basement and print money that will buy nothing, but in the process will destroy the value of everything.

As for the proposal to refinance the Parastatals – how many times have we done that in the past only to see the management steal and waste the new money with little or no benefit for anyone except a corrupt few and the Minister responsible. These outlandish proposals would not only bankrupt the State, crush the economy and destroy what is left of our international reputation; it would reverse the gains of the past 4 years, give rise to a further flight of capital and people, and destabilize the region.

Who is advising Zanu PF? Have they not learned anything in the past three decades. Does Mr. Mugabe not understand the sensitivities of these issues? Do they really want to win this election or are they determined to throw the race – but in return for what?

I am told that about 7000 people attended the Zanu PF rally in Harare at the historic Zimbabwe grounds in Highfield. I am also told it was lackluster and devoid of energy and vitality. It was broadcast live on all ZBC and ZTV channels.

By contrast our launch was held in the small town of Marondera in Mashonaland East and attracted a capacity crowd – you could not have got anyone into the stadium after 13.00 hrs. The town was pumping – crowds in the streets, singing MDC songs and celebrating. Local Zanu PF leaders had threatened to disrupt the meeting with organised violence and the Police were out in strength – but the whole event went off without a hitch and was cheerful and full of vitality.

Our manifesto was not all that it should have been, I am afraid – a bit disappointing but it is backed by the main documents we call ART and JUICE – together some 300 pages of detailed and comprehensive policy proposals for all sectors of the economy. The manifesto is really a campaign document for political purposes. Even so the difference was startling – we plan to open up the economy, restore our international relations and deal with our debt. Our adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law with full respect for all human rights is paramount. At the same time we promise an economy with a human face in a more equal and egalitarian society. But most of all, we offer a servant leadership that will listen to the people.

Today we have 22 days to go the elections. Registration of new voters ends tomorrow. We do not have the reforms promised and SADC has so far failed to act effectively to ensure that the elections will be free and fair. But based on what I saw on Sunday I still think that whatever Zanu PF might try to do to rig this election, they are going to be swamped by a national sentiment that simply says “go, and let us get on with the task of rebuilding our shattered lives”.

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