Munyaradzi Mlambo Correspondent
The election season is upon the nation. It is time when political parties suspend the comfort of operating in confines of brick-and-mortar spaces and return to grassroots to gather support.
They will embark on whirlwind tours across the country, fervently preaching policy positions and implementing other various strategies with overarching goal of winning hearts and minds.
When Zanu-PF Politburo sat recently, part of what was discussed was the party manifesto. While the nation awaits the detailed contents of this document, a careful analysis of several addresses by President Mnangagwa provides some foresight into the probable core message Zanu-PF will ride on.
The ruling party is showing no sign of deviating from people-oriented policies to improve lives. As a liberation party, Zanu-PF has always had its ideology firmly rooted in prioritising the wishes and aspirations of the people as guarantors of its stay in power. The party also understands the importance of jealously guarding natural resources against foreign exploitation so that they equally benefit rightful owners and this position looks set to continue.
It is worth noting that President Mnangagwa’s recent addresses have strayed from long-time message of indigenisation.
In Davos, he repeated what he said during his inauguration speech that trade and international cooperation will be centrepiece of administration priorities.
After years of slow growth and lagging behind, it is vital that the country catches up with regional and global peers. This new position is born out of the understanding that people’s standards of living are low at the moment because of policies that hindered foreign capital to come in.
This new pro-investment and pro-capital approach is yielding fruits quickly.
Addressing party supporters recently in Mashonaland Central, the President said because of the business friendly environment currently existing in the country, Zimbabwe had already attracted over $3 billion in Foreign Direct Investment.
This is a testament to investors growing confidence in Zimbabwe as a safe haven for capital. With Government committing to further address ease of doing business, Zimbabwe will in the foreseeable future become a continental epicentre of trade.
Zanu-PF is showing strong signs of wanting to improve infrastructure which had crumbled. Strong and modern infrastructure underpins commerce and any prospects of economic growth without it is not in sync with reality.
The revival of NRZ, which had hit ground zero, sets in motion infrastructure modernisation agenda.
A functional rail transport system allows speedy movement of bulky raw materials and finished products. Zanu-PF should then premise its infrastructure message on encouragement of new investments in construction of roads, airports, bridges, schools, solar power grids and expanding telecommunication coverage.
In the same breath, institutional investors must be courted to take up stakes in undercapitalised IDBZ so that it has a strong balance sheet that allows it to fulfil capital intensive infrastructure projects.
Agriculture and mining will be major drivers of economy recovery and President Mnangagwa has made known his intention to make major reforms in the former.
The President already has a solid track record when it comes to promoting the agriculture sector. His signature Command Agriculture programme tackled all challenges that bedevilled farmers for long time which are lack of farming inputs, equipment and financial resources. The result was a bumper harvest of two million metric tonnes of maize in the last cropping season.
Zanu-PF must now ride on the message of consolidating the gains of Command Agriculture through increasing productivity on farms. It must redistribute underutilised and idle pieces of land. The inconsistency in rain patterns calls for investing in irrigation and water harvesting, which can only be brought about by building of larger dams.
On the mining front, the Government has done the sensible thing to retain the 51 /49 approach so that locals have major stake in exploitation of their mineral resources.
Whilst the country has already seen an influx of foreign inquiries in mining sector, it is imperative that Zimbabwe does not exchange finite resources for money without mandatory development of areas where these resources are being extracted. The Government needs to take a tough stance on expatriation of profits by these foreign firms and ensure they are fairly paying taxes.
The $1,4 billion lithium deal Government recently struck should economically benefit communities in Matabeleland North first, then the rest of Zimbabwe.
Zanu-PF will be championing beneficiation of mineral resources judging by President Mnangagwa’s recent Botswana visit.
Processing of minerals allows Zimbabwe to realise more monetary value to fill foreign currency reserves.
The party will need to address the slow implementation of value addition policy.
As mines such as King Mine and Shabani Mashava Mine prepare to resume operations, beneficiation of asbestos should be the gospel so that the country retains full value from its resources.
2018 elections are also unique in a way that many new young voters will be voting for the first time. This youth demographic is being tipped to have the deciding vote and Zanu-PF is aware of that.
The youth launch of “ED has my vote” reflects that the ruling party is cognisant of the need to appeal to this “swagger” age group.
To this effect, message of provision of educational loans, capital to start small businesses and mortgages as well as employment creation will be key in order to win this important vote.
In 2013, Zimbabweans voted Zanu-PF largely because of the party’s indigenisation and people’s empowerment policies.
But in 2018, the party will win votes on message of opening up the country for business, enhancing international cooperation, growing the economy and creating jobs in the process.
The party will need to take this neo-liberal approach for the good of the nation.
President ED has already demonstrated that he does not have anything to hide by inviting everyone interested in monitoring the election to come and do so.
The man believes in respecting the will of the people as he equates their voice to that of God.
And with all that is taking place in the opposition circles, Zanu-PF’s path to landslide victory has been cleared.