BULAWAYO – Tony Blair’s press secretary Alastair Campbell, when the former British Prime Minister was asked about his faith, famously retorted that “we don’t do God,” illustrating the perceived perils of mixing politics with religion.
At a lodge with manicured lawns in Bulawayo’s Matsheumhlope suburb on Tuesday night, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa launched his young party’s first manifesto ahead of the August 23 elections – firmly disregarding Campbell’s counsel from almost 20 years ago.
Chamisa, a lawyer and pastor, not only does God – he does God a lot!
In a 100-page manifesto peppered with references to the Almighty – 19 mentions for God and one for Lord – Chamisa set his stall. God will be an election issue for the CCC, which is aiming to end Zanu PF’s uninterrupted 43-year rule.
“The citizens movement’s philosophy places God first and citizens at the centre…,” Chamisa says in a foreword of his party’s blueprint titled ‘A New Great Zimbabwe.’
It was a theme he quickly returned to in front of Tuesday’s invited audience.
“The Maker needs to be the foundation of the nation. When God is at the centre, we will be one… Let’s be all under God,” he said.
Almost every page has a Bible verse, and in a summary of the manifesto under ‘The Restoration Canon’ – there are 13 listed – the party says: “The restoration canon entails recalibrating, re-energising, repositioning, rediscovering and reviving the country for the greatness of everyone. This canon will inter alia focus on: (1) Restoration of faith and worship…”
In another section outlining how the CCC intends to ‘make Zimbabwe known for leadership,’ the first goal is to “reposition Zimbabwe back into the family of nations.” In the second goal, the CCC says: ‘Making Zimbabwe a God-loving, God-honouring and God-fearing nation.’
Away from its faith references, the manifesto sets out an ambitious 20-point economic and political plan for the first 100 days of a CCC government.
The CCC says it intends to free all political prisoners, “restore sanity in education” by paying decent salaries and also guarantees Zimbabweans “free and universal primary education and primary healthcare.”
The party would also abolish the Zimbabwe dollar, stabilise the economy and tackle corruption through the introduction of tough new legislation and stop illicit financial flows.
The CCC says it will give title deeds to urbanites and all farmers and ensure farmers get a fair price for their produce from the Grain Marketing Board.
There is a plan for infrastructure rehabilitation funded by mineral proceeds, fixing the broken state-owned enterprises and restoring trust in the government.
A CCC government would also reduce border charges and tackle drug cartels and land barons. It would also repeal “oppressive legislation”, end the state broadcaster’s monopoly in the first week and reintroduce executive mayors while “depoliticising the state, government, parastatals and councils.”
The CCC says it will adopt an e-government thrust to set up digital platforms for all government services including passport applications and registering births at birth.
There is a morality clause in the 20-point plan: ‘Restoration of leadership values, manners and ethics.’
“We want to have a president who comes to parliament to answer questions, say twice every year, to answer pertinent issues not a president who is always on planes or drinking whisky,” Chamisa said Tuesday night. ”
The CCC was formed in March 2022 after Chamisa abandoned the name Movement for Democratic Change, the party founded in 1999, which was claimed by rival Douglas Mwonzora following a court ruling.
Chamisa has run an unusual campaign with no formal structures after deferring internal elections, but the vibrancy of his political support on the campaign trail suggests he will in 2023 be as formidable as he was in 2018, when Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner with a razor-thin margin.
After all, “God is in it,” as the party declares on the final page, with a picture of a smiling Chamisa.