WHEN the ruling Zanu PF officially launched its 2023 election campaign in Chipinge on 24 June, avid watchers of Zimbabwe’s politics could not help but make a critical observation: the party was going into the contest without first unveiling a manifesto.
Having been in power for an extended period, the party appears to be facing challenges in generating fresh ideas or innovative policies.
Against the backdrop of shifting African and global political landscapes, Zanu PF lacks the dynamism to transform into a formidable 22st century brand.
The party — as the late pro-demicracy icon Morgan Tsvangirai often observed — is caught in a time warp. It is stranded on a desert island, unable to outgrow its backward analogue instincts in a world that has long gone digital.
Like the extinct dodo, Zanu PF has failed to adapt to changing circumstances.
How did we get here? The party of Herbert Chitepo and Eddison Zvobgo has been mostly hijacked by political charlatans who are out to grab the next free meal.
When you listen to President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressing a campaign rally, you are left astonished by his hollow rhetoric, zero policy content, cringeworthy jokes and unpresidential deportment. The man is simply unconvincing.
On 12 July, at the US-Africa Business Summit in Botswana, Mnangagwa was granted a few minutes — alongside other leaders — to present a pitch for Zimbabwe’s trade and investment proposition.
What did he proceed to do? He launched into a dreary monologue on the virtues of “Pfumvudza”, an ancient farming practice. There is a stark realisation — even within Zanu PF circles — that when you uproot Mnangagwa from his hired audience, he really has nothing useful to say to self-respecting people who are not easily swayed by cheap trinkets like a free T-shirt or a morsel of food.
Zimbabwe is currently bang in the middle of a global scramble for strategic minerals, including lithium. This mineral is crying out for a competent government. As it is, the country’s lithium will be looted by foreign entities and, a few years from now, we will be staring blankly at the sky and asking each other what Zimbabwe benefitted from the “white gold”.
The resource curse is nothing new in this neck of the woods. Diamonds in Chiadzwa — which were once celebrated as the biggest gem discovery in a century — were mercilessly plundered, with the end result that the local communities in Manicaland province were left grasping at thin air. But we digress.
Zanu PF is not the only culprit when it comes to the failure to release an election manifesto.
The opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) has also not unveiled a detailed, well-articulated document explaining why the electorate must vote for the party.
Amazingly, Nelson Chamisa appears to be the only visible CCC leader in the 2023 campaign. Where are the other opposition luminaries?
The opposition cannot claim to be an alternative government yet it has not released a manifesto, a month before the 23 August general elections. A manifesto is important in communicating a party’s vision and policies. It serves as a comprehensive document that outlines a political party’s vision, goals, and proposed policies.
It allows parties to communicate to voters what they stand for and their plans for governance if elected.
Zimbabweans have to develop a culture of transparency and accountability in politics. How do voters hold a party accountable if the election campaign’s goals and objectives are not stated in black and white?
In a country where political elites believe they are untouchable and beyond reproach, manifestos provide citizens with a basic template for assessing the performance of public office holders.
In that connection, manifestos serve as a contract between political parties and the electorate. By presenting specific policies and objectives, parties make commitments that voters can hold them accountable for if they come into power.
In the current campaign season, political parties are often gloating over the sizes of their rally crowds, instead of outlining their policy ideas in a coherent and convincing manner.
Manifestos encourage open and robust political debate. They would serve as a starting point for discussions and comparisons between different parties’ ideologies, policies, and visions for Zimbabwe. This fosters a more informed and engaged electorate, enhancing the democratic process.
Zimbabwe’s political parties and independent candidates have an obligation to come up with election manifestos.
That way, a roadmap for governance can be tabled and thoroughly discussed while informing the voters, promoting accountability, stimulating political debate and contributing to the building of trust and credibility.