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I am sorry Mr Chamisa, but my vote isn't yours

by Radar
09 Jun 2018 at 15:40hrs | Views
To begin with, I must applaud the MDC Alliance for coming up with a splendid document.

It does take some effort and concern and obviously all the issues at the heart of the Zimbabwean are hard to summarise in a mere 106 pages. So let's accord them their kudos. You will understand this article seeks to critique, so whilst debating the negatives I have picked up, I am not saying there are no positives. I will, however, try to balance between the two for the sake of the article.

The first issue I have is plagiarism. I question the originality of the document (or parts of it) because given the rather too much copy-and-pastes from Shutterstock, one is made to think the mass of the document came from online sources or other documents in existence.

However, I make the assumption that this is 100 percent original as I could not prove the actual extent of plagiarism.
My next issue is that whilst we have before us a splendidly-written document, how much different is it from previous ones?
It is surely no lie that we have become good at crafting political manifestos, yet not so good at doing anything related to them (zanu-pf are good manifesto writers).

The next and major point I have to make is that whilst the Smart manifesto suggests "change" quite frequently, I really do not find implementation pathways in the document (except for, but a few practical demonstrations like the devolution component spoken on page 17, the Emergency Economic Rescue Programme (Page 29) and the SADDSA (p. 41). However, while these programmes are indeed honourable, my perspective is that the real issues affecting Zimbabweans have been talked about only, or mostly not even at all.

Even zanu-pf has "committed" to deal with corruption. Even zanu-pf has spoken about rural development, industrialisation, maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure, electrification, sanitation and even employment creation! What we need are demonstrable practical actions like ndichabvisa Constable nhingi kupolice kupedza corruption ndobva ndazotengesa imba yanhingi kuti nyika iwane back mari yakabiwa, ndozovharisa maEcoCash agents nekuti ari kuovercharger vanhu ma30 percent.

Pamavendors tichadai . . ., etc (these are examples). It might initially seem like joking or too small, but these are the things our nation is struggling with. The only real thing they mention is when they talk about the filth in roads like Robert Mugabe and Chinhoyi Street (p. 19).

A manifesto is a political document, so perhaps we must not scrutinise it too academically. But then some issues are too gross to be ignored. For example, the MDC Alliance says Zimbabwe will return to legitimacy by political and institutional reforms (p. 10). They also say we will have "strong" State institutions. Should this make us happy? By all means no. We all know the problem with African politics is the "personalisation" of the political process by the incumbent. Perhaps not only in Africa, many states have had political contenders promising things like "democracy" or "transparency" or even "development", yet the real problem starts when they are in power. It never starts when they are yet to take power.

Yes, we may give them the benefit of doubt, but not when we are faced with an electoral choice. So the bulk of the promises made in the document become just that – promises – which we cannot be sure will come to fruition.

Examples include when the alliance talks of justice and national healing, stating that "In order to move forward, wrongs of the past must be corrected, but in an inclusive, just and non-vindictive way. The future must not be a prisoner of the past, but equally so, past grievances must not be sacrificed at the altar of future dreams" (p. 10).

How do you become just and non-vindictive? In what ways will it differ from the current political dispensation? How do you resolve the land question (p. 31) because we have been told that before, and not only once? (Actually the land issue is quite relevant and will be discussed later).

How do we deal with the influx of cheaper foreign products that the MDC Alliance mentions in manufacturing (p. 51)?
The only answer given there is technology, nevertheless, how when we already have companies like Dairibord Zimbabwe that are actually ISO certified?

The zanu-pf regime provided stimuli packages for companies as the MDC Alliance mentions (p. 52), how is the alliance's stimulus different from the zanu-pf stimuli? What's new? What's different?

The same goes for the MDC Alliance's FDI strategy where it states that it will attract FDI through "a return to good governance, constitutionalism, upholding the rule of law and respect for property rights" (p. 59-60). Is that not what the current President ED Munangagwa is already doing? Why would it make sense for us to replace him with someone who will do the exact things he is doing today?

Can we not find the "widening of the tax base through the formalisation of the informal sector and the growth of SMEs" (p. 43) as one of the current aims of Zimra?

My third point is that there must be stark differences between a given political contender's manifesto and those of another. This is what creates the unique selling point which will capture and motivate voters to vote for that particular person.

I must give credit, the MDC Alliance's manifesto does talk of unique things like devolution (credit must go to Professor Welshman for that), "Chamisacare" (though I would say it's plagiarised from Obamacare, which actually had its own deficiencies). I will analyse this "new" gospel shortly below.

But then there are a lot of similarities with zanu-pf's Zim-Asset.
Talk of value addition, providing title deeds to land reform beneficiaries (my God zanu-pf has been singing hymns about this), farm mechanisation (p. 47), the protection of private property rights, etc.

I actually think on land issue there are a lot of loopholes. On land issue, all I heard was the land audit (I agree to the urgent need for this) and the sub-division of large farms (p. 48). However, there are a lot of new questions that arise, especially since the MDC Alliance commits to "occupation by new commercial farmers and settlers" (p. 49).

A new land reform? And who are the new "farmers and settlers"? From which demographic or constituency? Selected on what basis and to achieve what? Apa pakaipa. Show me one current farmer who feels encouraged by the words that the MDC Alliance "will immediately focus on ensuring adequate food supplies from both local and foreign sources till the 2018/ 2019 summer crop harvest period, while making adequate preparations for the 2018/ 2019 season through timely provision of supportive infrastructure, technical services and affordable inputs to farmers" (p. 45).

Obviously, we also have issues of funding, especially given the MDC Alliance's aims of building a US$100 billion economy in a decade.

The alliance identifies key areas of funding, including international financial institutions (IFIs), public private partnerships (PPPs), natural resources revenues, foreign direct investment and Diaspora remittances, among others. But mubvunzo wedu wekuti HOW still comes into play. For example, how will they enter the PPPs? Which ones have they identified? Who are the partners? Should I be convinced by the promise that "the MDC Alliance government will enter into public private partnerships (PPPs) on Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis" (p. 59).

Don't we have PPPs already? What lessons have been learnt from them? What needs are there, which areas have specific, willing partners? Should we treat the "HOW" part as their privileged knowledge or intellectual property that we ought not to know? But then where will be the accountability and transparency? I would expect a promise like "We will engage a company called X Resources to construct 5 550 schools in Zimbabwe between 2019 and 2022, with the PPPs bringing in US$200 million for this task." If you think that's too much to ask of a prospective leader then what is a manifesto about?

On FDI, the Alliance makes mention of getting the help of the World Bank (p. 34). Is this the magic wand? Maybe ask our experienced politicians in ZANU-PF about their encounters with this financial institution and her sister named the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the early 1990s. Yes, we cannot ignore them, but we also can't trust them as the wipers of our economic mess.

Then on the issue of workers, I also find some challenges that our Alliance comrades fail to effectively articulate. The Alliance makes mention of a Health Insurance Plan (HIP or "Chamisacare") which they say will merge "supply and demand side factors to health delivery" (p. 61-62). Whilst I like the idea of "twinning the Health Insurance Plan with hospital institutions across the world particularly in specialised health areas where the skills and expertise may not be available in Zimbabwe," I still feel this plan is one of the many interventions that might burden the worker unnecessarily.

The current state of affairs isn't that the workers do not have meaningful health service plans, but the service delivery has been affected by the macroeconomic challenges in the country, leading to hospital understaffing, drug and resource shortages, equipment breakdowns, etc. Are we saying the worker will bear the costs of all this, both supply and demand-side? Or the Alliance will bring in investors and other "well-wishers" to fill the gap? The workers' salary will remain untouched? Why don't I trust that, especially given the fact that the HIP will be compulsory? Apart from the issue of healthcare, nothing material seems to come out of the document despite the obvious need for better working conditions, salaries and the general welfare of workers. Perhaps Chamisa is sticking to his guns from the Zuva case.

Then of course there are a myriad unclear promises made in other sectors, public service delivery being one of them. Whilst pledging development in water provision, I for one was looking for the issue of cleaner water for major cities like Harare as well as ensuring water availability (killing the dry weekends most cities often go through). Some of the statements in the document are mere politician rhetoric which will not take us anywhere. For example, the Alliance says "Zimbabwe's transmission infrastructure is archaic. The MDC Alliance government pledges to source through the private sector the sum of US$300 million that is required to modernise our grid" (p. 91). I don't understand what that statement is supposed to make us believe.

Will they construct a new power plant or not? Will they invest in other energy forms like solar or wind or not?
Then we have a technological section which might seem lucrative to some but isn't so to me. The Alliance pledges "universal access to broad band and Wi-Fi service" (p.92) and goes on to cite innovations like cloud computing, Block Chain technology, 3D printing and the Internet which I am pretty sure we all know by now." In fact, I can even argue that the Alliance's pledge to "recognise as legal tender virtual currencies such as cryptocurrencies and bitcoin" (p. 39) is as dangerous to us as the legalisation of the current cash black market.

Cryptocurrencies are neither a proxy for a tangible asset such as an exchange traded fund investing in gold, nor a security, such as a common stock. Such risks as the absence of valuation, absence of stability, loss of monetary control as well as various cyber-security issues associated with these currencies pose a policy challenge and in fact, cryptocurrency regulation is still a matter of academic and policy research that for a government to promise their immediate, full-fledged adoption puts the citizens and the economy at risk. Do they know cryptocurrencies can actually be an effective currency to facilitate international crimes like human trafficking, terrorism and drug trade?

Apparently, it's exciting to make promises. There are a myriad in the Alliance's manifesto. For healthcare they say we will provide "an efficient and well-funded referral system will be put in place to complement the public and primary health care approach" (p. 65). Is that supposed to make us believe the current hospitals cannot refer patients?

Among others, in education they are "emphasising in the curriculum to make it more vocational; encouraging learning of sciences and technological sciences and encouraging the teaching of sports, arts and culture in schools" (p. 65). BUT is that not what is being done currently? What's new please?

Housing they say, among other promises, to "capacitate the national building society so that it becomes a fully-fledged empowered independent national housing bank for middle to low-income housing" (p. 67). Zvakusekesa manje. You mean the Alliance is there to continue the work of ZANU-PF? Is ZANU-PF dead kuti igarwe nhaka? No thanks, we would rather deal with the originators of all these ideas, not ana muchekadzafa. NBS was put in place not so long ago and given time, it will meet its objectives.

To sum up, I really am not convinced that the MDC Alliance is any change at all. In fact, someone has already said the only smart thing about the SMART policy is the use of the word smart itself. In fact, I actually am obliged to ask where have these politicians been to speak of something "new" now?

Chamisa himself has been an active member not only of the MDC-T but even of the Parliament. What makes him, of all people, say something as self-defeating as the notion that "for 38 years Zimbabweans have survived in a broken, failed and fragile state paralysed by a crisis of leadership, poor governance, non-inclusive institutions, low capacity and absence of a common vision" (p. 1)? Has he not been part of the leadership? And his comrades in Tendai Biti and Welsham Ncube?

These dwellers of glass houses cannot surely start a stone war? How should we trust them to deliver something new? If someone sits in the august House are they not supposed to put in their full effort to represent the masses? Do you put half effort simply because you are not in the presidency? Zvirikumbofamba sei apa? You only become more patriotic because you want to be president, yet you weren't when the people trusted you enough to make you their MP?

From where I stand, I am sorry Mr Chamisa, but my vote isn't yours.

Source - the herald
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